Monthly Archives: August 2015

A NEW LIFE, BRINGS A NEW JOB

God has changed us, with the purpose of making us his instrument of change in others

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: “We implore you on Christ’s behalf – be reconciled to God”’.  2 Corinthians 5:17-20

We are a “New Creation”

God has changed us significantly, eternally and wonderfully

When we received a new nature, the change was not subtle or just along the fringes of our life. The Bible says, “all things have become new”

We have a new relationship with God

To be “in Christ” means we are connected to what He has accomplished: his death, life and perfect obedience

Our identity is now forever ‘in Christ’; everything we receive from God is connected and secure in Him

We have a new understanding

If we look at ourselves without seeing supernatural differences – we have a false perspective

How we value what we are and do, is literally turned upside down

This change is not all finalized, but it is complete

Although we are not yet perfected, in the plan and sovereignty of God it is finished

“God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”  Ephesians 2:6

Serving God is a matter of living out what he has already done

Examples of this are in Ephesians 6:11 “take up the whole armor of God” and Romans 13:14 “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”. In these examples we are not carrying out a new work, we are joining in the work Christ has accomplished for us

God provides all we need to be fruitful

We have the Holy Spirit, who is the fullness of God, residing in us.  It is impossible to have greater help!

We have the Word of God which has an extraordinary power to work change (Hebrews 4:12)

We have the Church, a community operating by supernatural principles of support and encouragement (Ephesians 4:16)

What is the result of all this?

We are always blessed abundantly

We are always thoroughly loved

We are always in midst of God’s gracious purpose

But if we stop with God working in us, we have stopped halfway

The process of spiritual blessing and growth are not merely about ourselves

Our salvation places us in a ministry role

The “word of reconciliation” and “the ministry of reconciliation” are ours instantaneously (we see an wonderful example of this in John 4:39-42)

God immediately turns us into His representative or “ambassador”

Being called an “ambassador for Christ” presents a specific word picture

We represent someone else in what we do; God’s agenda is now our agenda

We can declare the gospel of Christ with the authority of Christ. Look again at v20; it is “as though God were pleading thru us”

This indicates the depth of God’s commitment in using us

And it tells us that if we are to represent God, we should have a whole-hearted participation as his Ambassador

What high honor we have to represent Christ in his work of making broken lives whole

Although ministry has labor to it, it brings joy and vitality into our life

God has given us the most significant and satisfying labors possible

So what are we doing?

 

QUESTIONS THE BIBLE ASKS YOU #2

For many of us worry is as much a part of life’s routine as the daily sun rising of the sun. We think worry is inevitable, necessary, and a part of our life responsibility.

However, obeying God and then trusting His sovereign care is a much better way to approach the responsibilities of life.

Jesus sought to burst our misguided sense of needing to worry when he asked this question:

Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Here is Jesus question from Luke 12:22-31 in its full context:

(Jesus) said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

How do you answer Jesus?

WHO IS THE BIGOT?

by Adam Ford:  Adam4d.com

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MOUNTAINS OF GRACE

If we have come to faith in Christ, we know grace. In fact we are immersed in grace. This grace never stops showering our lives, and more is piled up in eternity waiting for us.

Yet, somehow we all can find ourselves forgetful of this grace.

When we doubt God

When we become impatient with others

When we think we our life stinks

When we envy the lives of people who “have it all”

When we think God is asking too much of us

When we think we don’t have enough in us to serve others

When we think a sin doesn’t matter

When we wallow in self-pity

When we don’t feel like praising God

Grace is minimized when we focus on ourselves or on the temporal circumstances of this world. We say to ourselves: “I know that I have received some grace”. But compared with our frustrations, it just doesn’t seem like that much.

In those moments we not only fail to see the magnitude of grace received, we fail to perceive how insulting such an attitude is toward God who has provided and continues to provide abundant grace.

The book of Ephesians is my favorite reading on grace. The first 14 verses of chapter 1 alone present an awe inspiring description of the grace we have “in Christ”.

When grace looks a little thin to you, take the time to peek under the circumstances of life to see what mountains of grace are even now keeping you afloat. Take joy in knowing that soon all that is hidden will soon be manifest and stand forever in all its majestic glory!

 

QUESTIONS THE BIBLE ASKS YOU

We are correct when we think of the Bible as a book of answers. What we may not notice is that when giving us those answers the Bible sometimes asks us questions as a way of helping us look into our own lives.

In an age of science, technology and self-proclaimed enlightenment. It’s easier than ever for pride prone humanity to think we know what to do in order to make life work. God’s word provides “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), yet we so often still want to run life our way. More amazingly is when we actually think we have the capacity to run life our own way.

Of all the people who have walked this earth, we would think no one had more of a right to complain to God than Job. He lost his health, wealth and family in one quick sweep of disasters.

Yet, when Job’s felt capable of assessing God’s actions with his own understanding, the Lord asked this question of Job:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

The full question God asked, is two chapters long beginning in Job 38. I will share the beginning of God’s question from 38:1-7

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?  

In case you wanted to know how Job responded, that is in 42:1-6

Then Job answered the Lord and said:

“I know that you can do all things,
    and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

A CELEBRATION IN GUATEMALA

Evelyn

Earlier this month I was blessed to be a part of a team from Greentree that went to Chichicastenango, Guatemala to be with our mission partners, ASELSI. While we were there we participated in the festivities celebrating the 10th anniversary of the physical therapy clinic established at ASELSI.

My first time in Guatemala was nine years ago when the therapy clinic was only a year old and treated children in a small multi-purpose room.  Today, they have a large, beautiful and well-equipped facility for the therapy clinic to treat adults and children.  God has taken the desire and efforts of the missionaries and workers at ASELSI and had accomplished more than I could have imagined only nine years ago!

At the 10th anniversary celebration I saw many familiar faces of patients and families from my previous visits.  One girl in particular is Evelyn. Evelyn is a now 21 year old young lady who was born with severe spastic cerebral palsy.

When the clinic workers at ASELSI first met Evelyn she had severe contractures in her legs due to being confined to her small home. Children with disabilities in Guatemala are frequently isolated, having no access to wheelchairs, unable to attend school, and often hidden due to lack of services and embarrassment by families.

What impacted me most about Evelyn when I first met her was that even though she had severe physical and speech limitations she had a great capacity and desire to learn.

In spite of very difficult challenges, Evelyn and her mother were determined.  Evelyn was determined to learn and her mother was determined to help her.

The workers at ASELSI understand that every person is created in the image of God has great value to God. Evelyn was treated in the therapy clinic and also enrolled in ASELSI’s school for special needs children.  She has thrived and has learned much and she knows the love of Jesus through His gospel.

To surprise me when I saw her again this year, Evelyn had been working hard to learn some phrases in English so she could talk to me!  With tears in my eyes, knowing how difficult it is for her to speak even in her native language, I listened as she spoke her name and her age, and asked me, “How are you?”, all in complete sentences in English.  Her determination to love me by speaking my language humbled me.

When I first went to ASELSI I believed it was to help the children there but God has also used them to help me to appreciate the value that they have before God and the potential that all of His creation has to be used for His good purposes.

There are people around us who we may not see as not worth the effort to love, serve, or share the Gospel. Maybe it is someone with a severe disability, a child with very difficult behaviors, or a cranky neighbor that everyone avoids.  But we are all created in His image and have value to God. We are not called to make judgements on who is and who is not worth the effort. We are called to love and serve others and God uses it for His good and His glory.

“I’M NOT HURTING ANYONE”

“I’m not hurting anyone”

This a common defense of indefensible behavior. We have all heard it and we have all used it.

Now you may be thinking, “I have never said that”. Well you might not have said it, but we have all eased our conscience while walking into sinful territory with the thought that this activity of heart or hand will not really hurt us.

Determining the “harm” factor in moral behavior is not the clear cut and easily definable line that our culture likes to think it is. A big problem that immediately confronts us is determining what precisely is harmful!

Part of the issue in determining what hurts, is understanding the affects of behavior on society as a whole. The biggest factor is God’s place in the equation. If we were created for God’s glory, then behavior that defies God’s rule is bad and harms what He has created.

Tim Keller gives an outstanding example. If I break a watch while using it to drive in a nail, I cannot rightly then say it is a “bad” watch because it broke. The obvious reason is that watches are not made for driving in nails. The questions “Who made us?” and “For what purpose?”, are central to understanding the true morality and harm of our actions.

This excellent video from The Gospel Coalition featuring Al Mohler, Tim Keller and Collin Hanson is an interesting and helpful discussion on immorality and harm.

STOPPED BY AN EYELASH

This morning I was stopped by an eyelash

I was settling into my prayer time when I felt a stabbing pain in my eye which made it difficult to concentrate on anything, but the stabbing pain in my eye.

It was not a long interruption as I got up found a mirror and removed the offending rogue eyelash. But it was a reminder of how feeble we are. It only takes the wisp of an eyelash to bring my life to a halt.

The truth is we are feeble in all things. Pride blindly leads us down paths of self-sufficiency, unaware that God is giving us every breath and heartbeat. We ignore the experienced reality that at any moment a disturbance can rise up that totally overturns the applecart of our life.

We should find it easy to recognize how desperately we need God’s strength, direction, protection and grace in every step.But we don’t.

Don’t wait for a disturbance to call out to God for help.

Start with Him in the first place. Make this day an opportunity to do things His way, because your way just won’t do.

It would be like trying to carry all the water you need for the day, cupped in your hands – the supply simply will not last long. That fact is so obvious, we would not even try. So why would you try to make today work by what you can be or do?

When we consider the glorious fullness of God, why would we try to do life ourselves? All that God is – lives within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Do not waste this reality by ignoring Him. And don’t be so silly as to ask Him to just follow along in case you need Him in a crunch. Let’s live smart and follow Him.

When we are following God’s purposes we can say:

“I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10


CAUSEWAYS

Those who live near or regularly visit the Jersey shore know all about causeways

Causeways are roads that run through tidal marshes so we can get to the barrier islands with their highly desirable beaches and boardwalks.

If you have driven on these causeways, you can picture the scene clearly: a fairly straight and flat road cutting through a couple miles of mud, marsh and water.

There are no alternate roads on a causeway. They are cut through marshes that no vehicle can navigate. If you veer off the road, there is nothing but mud and swampy ground. In other words, you end up stuck and in a mess.

Now picture that causeway as our life between now and Heaven

It is a clear and straight road paved by the Word of God. Traveling on this road makes our journey safe and direct.

There is no viable alternate to God’s Word. We either follow its perfect wisdom or we end up in the swamp of human ingenuity and logic.

We have all experienced veering off the road and getting stuck in the mud. We mutter with frustration and plead with God to tow us out.

Once we are traveling through life by God’s Word, it shouldn’t be difficult to stay on that road. But somehow we find ourselves time and again swerving off into the mire of neglect and disobedience.

Maybe you end up stuck because you are following people who don’t know about the swamp.

Maybe you ignore God’s Word and are listening to the faulty GPS of the world’s values.

Or, maybe you lazily fail to pay attention to the road God has engineered and built for you.

It is impossible to disregard the causeway of God’s Word and not end up stuck – and yet some Christians keep doing it. A few will even pitch a tent and try to live in the mire, which is as foolish as it looks.

Whatever your reasons for floundering in the quagmire, is that reason worth it? Is life really better when it is lived beyond God’s Word?

We need humility to realize blazing our own trail always ends badly.

We need urgency to recognize that if we are careless toward God, we will get stuck.

Each day, we need fresh grace to simply stay on the road.

God has graciously provided His Word for our safety, encouragement and blessing.

Life is better when it stays on straight paths and solid ground.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 8.03.15

‘What are you building on?’

Matthew 7:24-29

Jesus finishes this sermon with a series of contrasting responses (vs 13-27). The final contrast is a parable about two builders. Jesus is pointing out two ways to walk away from his teaching

There Are Two Builders In Life

Jesus brings his theme of examining our responses to a conclusion

vs 13-14 There are true and false gates in life – Christ, or anything else

vs 15-20 There are true and false teachers who influence the Church – those that lay out what the Bible says, or those who try reshape it

vs 21-23 There are true and false disciples of Christ – those who act on his word, or those who just claim to follow him

vs 24-27 There are true and false ways to build life – on Jesus’ word, or on what we choose

The “house” in Jesus’ parable is how we apply what Jesus said

Putting Jesus’ words into practice is like building on solid rock

If we listen, nod and then move on, it’s like building on sand

Jesus warns us that our responses to him have consequences

v13 the wide gate leads to destruction

v19 the diseased tree growing from false teachers is cut down and burned

v23 on judgment day, Jesus will tell false disciples to depart

v27 the foundation of sand results in a catastrophic collapse of the house

The “storm” is meant to be understood on two levels

1. The primary meaning is the judgment of God; we see this from the context of vs 13-23

Without Christ, we have no standing or protection at judgment

In Christ, we are secure and untouchable by judgment

2. But Jesus’ parable also has implications for what happens in life now

 

Implications From This Parable

#1  Not all choices have equal value

The world accepts this obvious reality for everything but God

Every option is not equal in politics, sports, relationships or investments

But when it comes to religion, all opinions suddenly must be treated with equal value

The world uses this to excuse ignoring God’s Word

These four contrasts by Jesus warn us that choices about God are not all equal

To embrace Jesus’ teaching is automatically and instantly wise

All things have their source and their end in his reign

All other so called ‘wisdom’ is actually foolishness, for the results will be entirely wasted

A hybrid choice of mixing God and the world is also foolish, because rock and sand don’t bind together

Partial obedience to Christ is the acceptance of some foolishness, ignorance and cancer

#2  God is serious in expecting us to accept and apply what he says

Jesus reminds us in vs 24 and 26, these are his words

He entered humanity to bring his word to us – he is the Word made flesh

Jesus entered death and judgment in order to fulfill his word which is to seek and save the lost

Jesus is returning to enforce his word (and this parable)

There is no hope in any pursuit of life where Christ is absent

Nothing will survive this life, except what is submitted to his rule

What are you depending on to keep life from washing away?

The Sermon on the Mount ends by describing the people’s astonishment over Jesus’ teaching (vs 28-29)

People were impressed, but we are not told if they put any of it into practice

What is your track record?

Do you like Jesus . . believe in Jesus . . call yourself a Jesus follower – or obey Jesus?

Putting submission off, or not thinking about it, is a form of telling him “No!”

#3  Our priority should be the foundation of the house, not the ornamentation of it

Jesus’ parable doesn’t mention the beauty or size of the house, it only mentions the foundation

What part of life holds the highest priority for you: financial security, relational happiness, vibrant health?

What are you building on with your family?

What are you hoping will hold them up?

How do the practices of daily life show your priority?

Your life may look admirable to people, but what does God think? (Ezekiel 13:13-14)

The storm is coming, what will life look like afterward?

#4  In Christ, storms are not a time for despair, because our house will not collapse

Despair is for those without hope, which is impossible for anyone in Christ!

Storms are times to display the realities of God

God upholds his covenants

We are his forever

Jesus is always right here

As we display these realities, we can share with people that this hope can belong to them too