Saturday, November 12, 2011

Practical Apps From the Book of Acts, Pt 3: Give Whatcha Got

Acts 3:1-10

1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer — at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man, who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

I want us to look at three particular aspects of this event and see what the Lord would teach us.

1. Peter and John did not have what was requested of them

Look in verses 2 and 3. Money is what the lame man thought that he needed most. Seems natural, doesn’t it since he was not capable of earning his provision? In this case, the apostles could not meet his request. They had no money to give. Have you ever found yourself in this place, where you would like to help someone, but do not have the means to meet there request? I know I have. Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”(Matt 5:42 NIV)

If you take His word seriously, then when you face a situation where you can’t give what the person thinks they need, you kind of go through an emotional turmoil. You know that you can’t meet the requested need but you don’t want to just say “sorry, can’t help” and leave it at that. So, what do we do? Maybe we need to ask ourselves this question: Is it possible that the Lord purposely put a person in our path that had a need we were not able to meet, so that person could have a deeper need met? And maybe it is a need that God could use us to meet? That brings us to point number two.

2. What the apostles did have, was given to them by the Holy Spirit. The result was that they could give something that was better than what was requested.

Have you ever read this account and wondered what would have happened, had Peter and John actually had some money to give this man? Would they just have given it to him and been on their way to prayer? That certainly could have been a good thing. I am sure that the man would have been happy just to receive some money. That would have helped him for a time. The apostles could also feel good about it. After all, they would have given what had been asked for and still made it to prayer on time. It would have all been very spiritual, right?

I know that I have done that many times. Doing only that which would meet the requested need, but not taking the time to see if the Holy Spirit was directing me to do something more, something that makes an eternal difference in someone’s life, not just temporal. It is obvious that what Peter did completely changed this man’s earthly life, but this event affected His eternal soul as well. In verse 8 we see that the man gave praise to God, not Peter, so apparently he knew where the healing came from. Look at verse 16

(Acts 3:16 NIV) By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.

Since Peter was being led by the Spirit, not only did the lame man benefit, but so did others who were watching. It gave Peter a chance to preach a gospel message and it says in Acts 4:4 that many who heard the message believed. By the way, isn’t this a great example of Romans 8: 28? Again, what they received was not something temporal, but eternal. They received the gift of salvation. What could be better or more valuable than that? Now, on to point number three

3. We are only called to give that which we have already received.

It is important to realize that God does not ask us to give something that we have not received. For example, when it comes to financial giving, we are only asked to give a portion of what He has already blessed us with. Since this is not a treatise on financial giving, let me just briefly point out that in the OT they were asked to give from the first fruits of their labor. (Dt 18:4, 26:2) In the NT we are told to give with a cheerful heart (2 Co 9:7) and in proportion to what God has given us. (9:10) Nowhere does the Bible teach that we are to financially give something that we have not been given. I believe this principle holds true for all things that we are to give out. After all, how could we give out something we have not received? It is not like have a spritual credit card, where we can give it out now and receive it later. We give out grace to others as we have received it already.

In Mt 10:8 Jesus sent out the disciples to the lost sheep of Israel. He told them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and drive out demons. They were only able to do this because they had been given this power by the Lord Himself. Jesus said to them, “Freely you have received, freely give.” But, you say, “Jesus doesn’t give us that same power, does He?” That has been a matter of some debate but there are things that we know that He has given all of us. What are they?

Well, if you are a Christian, then you have received:

1. Salvation by Faith – (Eph 2:8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

2. So, if you have been saved, it is through the gift of faith that God has given you. You have been given a measure of faith.

3. You have received the Holy Spirit – (1 Cor 6:19-20 NIV) Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

So then, all of us have the Holy Spirit and He gives us gifts. In Romans 12:6 Paul states we have these gifts, “according to the grace given us” Lists of these gifts can be found in Romans 12 and 1Cor 12. Everything we have been given can be considered a part of the measure of grace we have been given, including spiritual gifts and talents.

A few examples of these gifts are wisdom, counsel, guidance, supernatural knowledge, discernment, exhortation, mercy, serving and yes healing,. Paul tells us that these gifts are meant to be used for the building up of the body of Christ. (Ro12:12) He also tells us that we all have different gifts given to us. We are only expected to use the ones we have received. I will tell you though, that when you open yourself up to be used by the Holy Spirit, He may give you a gift that you have never before had, in order to meet the need presented to you.

Then Paul goes on in Ro 12:9-21 to give you a bunch of ways that we give of ourselves in obedience and service to God. You see, what God really wants is for us to give our entire being back to Him, Body, Soul and Spirit. (please read them) Then in Rom 12:1-2, he says this, 2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Do you sometimes wish God would use you more than you are being used? Do you look at the example of the apostles and think, “Gee, I wish that God would use me in that way?” Well, a big part of receiving from the Lord is our asking Him. We should ask Him to pour out His grace abundantly and give us all that He desires for us to have. James says we have not because we ask not, but we also need to put some effort into the receiving and be ready and willing to give out what He gives us. Let me give you an example:

Acts 8:26-35 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road — the desert road — that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. 31 "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth." 34 The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

You see here that Philip was prepared. He was led by the Spirit, he knew the Scriptures and was willing and available to be used. Part of offering ourselves as a living sacrifice is that we spend time in bible study and prayer, receiving from the Lord so that we will be ready to give it away. When you do, you will truly understand what Jesus meant when He said that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20) When we do that, He will give us all that we need, in order to use us to “give” to others. So, let’s review these points




But let’s remember, it is our job to put ourselves in a place where we are ready to receive all that God wants to give us. And as we give it away, may God get all the glory!

God bless, Coach

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Practical Apps from the Book of Acts: The Church

Did you ever wonder what a true, “Christian” church should be like? We seem to have lots of different ideas today on “how to do church.” (By the way, I really hate that phrase but it seems to be used a lot.) As usual, I don’t want to seek out the opinions of man, but would rather look to the Bible for my answer to this particular question. There are many passages in various books of the New Testament that teach us about how the church should operate and I don’t think most of it was cultural or only for a certain time period. I think that they were given for all of the body of Christ, for the entire church age, to help keep us on track. If you look ahead, to the book of Revelation, you will see what seven local churches got commended for and what they were rebuked for. I truly believe, that following the examples and instruction given to us in God’s Word, will bring the commendation of the Lord, but straying from that will bring His rebuke. So let’s look at our earliest example of “the church” of Jesus Christ.

At the end of chapter 2 (starting in verse 42) in the book of Acts, we get a good look at this first body of believers. Remember, this was immediately after a huge harvest of souls. Three thousand believers were added to this church in Jerusalem after Peter preached the gospel, accompanied by signs and wonders. The author of the book, Dr Luke, then goes on to tell us what these believers did.

In verse 42 we are told that they devoted themselves to four things; the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. The words “devoted themselves” (NIV, ESV), are translated “continued steadfastly” in the KJV and NKJV Let’s take these one at a time.

1.    The apostles’ teaching: A good question then, is what did they teach? Well, each in their own way, inspired by the Holy Spirit, taught the gospel (good news) of salvation by grace, through faith, by the completed work and shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. They could do this because they were handpicked by Jesus for this calling.  By inspiration of the Spirit, they were able to show how the Old Testament scriptures foretold the coming of Messiah and pointed solely to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of those prophecies. We find this as we read the rest of the book of Acts. This, along with the letters directed to the churches, became the New Testament Scriptures.

2.    Fellowship: The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. The construction literally is translated “fellow participant.”  These believers were participating with each other in their Christian lives. That demonstrates to us that Christianity is not a solitary experience but must be shared with others. The next two points, I believe, give us some of the ways they experienced that fellowship

3.    Breaking of Bread: This was an expression of eating together, but it may also have meant sharing of communion, which Jesus had instituted on His last night with the disciples. The act of eating together in this culture was huge. It represented a close bond with the person or persons you shared that meal with. That is why the Pharisees were so upset at Jesus, who would eat meals with anyone, including “tax collectors and sinners.” To them, it meant that he was one of them (Mt 9:10-13), which was abhorrent to a devout Jew. This shows how important the sharing of meals was in this culture.

4.    Prayer: Now prayer would not be a new thing for these early Jewish believers. In following the law, they would most likely pray often. How they prayed though, surely changed. Jesus had given the disciples a model for prayer so that they would not speak out the vain repetitions that they were used to (See Mt 6:5-13), but in a meaningful, relational way with their Heavenly Father. In the rest of the New Testament, we can see how the apostles had constant and intimate prayer lives.

It is interesting that one more thing is mentioned about what these early believers did. Look at verses 44 and 45. It says that the believers were together and had everything in common, even to the point that they would sell their possessions and goods, giving to those who had need.

Now this practice, I believe, has been misinterpreted and led to some people believing that Christians should sell all their worldly possessions and live in communes. In fact during the Jesus People movement of the 1960’s and 70’s, many young Christians did just that. Though well intentioned, most of these turned out to be, well, let’s be generous and say, problematic.

If you look closely at what the early believers really did, it was quite different. First of all, they did not all live together. Verse 46 shows us that they were together in the temple courts. It then says that they broke bread together in their homes. When it talks about selling their goods, it was voluntary and the money was not distributed evenly to everyone, it was given to those who had need. It certainly does show a willingness to give sacrificially to the needy among the believers; however, we do not see this practice continued for a long period of time, like we do the other four practices. It may be that the first believers were anticipating the soon return of Jesus and so were not very materially oriented.

Either way, we can see what the early church thought was important and it gives us a wonderful picture of what should be important in the “Body of Christ” today. I don’t think that it is an accident that the first practice mentioned is the study of the Word of God. If we do not have one single basis for doctrine, we will certainly go astray. We see that clearly by what is happening in many so called evangelical churches today. If the Bible does not contain infallible, absolute truth, what should we base our beliefs in?  We can make up any type of religion we want and call it Christianity. No, we need to follow the lead of the early church and continue steadfastly in the study of God’s Word.

It is also essential for us as Christians, to maintain the practices of fellowship. Breaking bread together has such an impact on our relationships. It is hard to not get along with folks that you share meals with. Remember that Jesus said that they (the world), would know that we are His disciples by our love one for another. (Jn 13:34) I believe that this also included communion. The Lord’s Supper brings us together to remember the sacrifice the Lord made for each one of us and together we proclaim His death until He comes. (1Co 11:2)

Now, whether or not Luke was speaking of individual prayer or corporate prayer, we need to be involved with both. Praying together will help bring us together, because we put aside our own will and seek the Lord’s will in prayer. That is why Jesus, in teaching the disciples how to pray, included, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” The chief objective of prayer is get our will aligned with His will, not the other way around.

Notice also in verses 46 and 47, that they were glad, had sincere hearts, and praised God. The result was that the Lord added daily to their number. You see, the Body of Christ, when following this pattern will result in fruits of evangelism. People are naturally attracted to others who have joy and sincerity in their lives.

 We seem to want to make this idea of what “church” should be very complicated. I would very humbly like to suggest that it is not. We have a beautiful model of the effective church. I say, “Let’s follow that.”

Game plan: Read the scripture references listed above. Ask the Lord to reveal to you where you fit into this picture and if you are not currently in fellowship with other Bible believing Christians, seek one out immediately and get involved.

May God bless you as you continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ


Friday, August 5, 2011

Practical Apps from the Book of Acts: Worth the Wait

Ahhh, the Book of Acts. It seems that over the years this book has become controversial. I find that very interesting. It begs the question, why? I think it is because so much of Acts has to do with the miraculous works of the Holy Spirit. Let’s face it; many people today just don't want to believe in a supernatural power that is still working in today's world. As usual, I could be wrong.

Unfortunately, because of that perception, many people overlook or completely ignore the book of Acts. Some even say that it is only history and should not be used to teach theology. What? Look at what it says in 2 Tim 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

So let's put that debate to rest once and for all!

I believe that the book of Acts, though it certainly does tell of the mighty and miraculous works of the Holy Spirit, has a plethora (if I might use a word borrowed from El Jefe in the Three Amigos) of practical application for us. I hope you will join me for the next few weeks and soak up the amazing amount of insight and application that the book of Acts has to offer.

OK, but you titled this one “Worth the Wait?” What is worth the wait? I don't have time to wait. I have too much to do. Got to get the kids to practice, stop off at Taco Bell to grab some food, get my dry cleaning(does anybody do that anymore?), and check my facebook posts. I can't wait! Sound familiar?

We live in a fast moving society today and waiting does not seem practical and sometimes it is even frowned upon and looked at as non productive.

But, God says that sometimes we should wait on Him.*

In Acts 1, Jesus had appeared to the disciples after His resurrection. Before He ascended into heaven, He instructed them to wait in Jerusalem. What were they to wait for? Let's read the verses. Acts 1:4-5
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.
5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

If you follow the narrative, the disciples seem to ignore what Jesus says. They don’t ask Him anything about what the baptism of the Spirit is all about. Instead, they ask Him the question that has continually been on their minds, even before His death and resurrection. They want to know if that means He will then restore the kingdom of Israel. They still don’t understand the purpose of His life, death and resurrection. Why?

Because they have not yet received the very promise Jesus is making to them now, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Without that, they cannot understand the nature and purpose of Jesus’ mission.

So, what happened? Well, the disciples did return to Jerusalem and waited as they were instructed, but I can’t help but think they still got a little ahead of themselves. Before they received the promised Holy Spirit, they decided to choose one to take the place of Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed the Lord and then committed suicide. They used a traditional method of praying and asking the Lord to show them who to choose by casting lots. The interesting thing about this is that you never hear of that method being used again. It was the Old Testament way, under the Old Covenant. Jesus had told them in the upper room that they were to live under a New Covenant. They would no longer rely on the old methods, but instead on the guidance of the Holy Spirit that they were supposed to be waiting for.

The result of this is that they chose a believer named Matthias. It is interesting that you never hear about him again in scripture. As we will find our later, God had someone else in mind.

So where does the “worth the wait” come in. Just read Acts, chapter 2, verses 1-13. In those verses, you will see the beginning of the miraculous works of the promised Holy Spirit of God. On the day of Pentecost (feast of harvest or day of first fruits), the Holy Spirit descended upon them and they began to speak in languages that they themselves did not know, but that people from different nations understood. Wow, would that be worth waiting for? Well there is more to the story.

Peter began to preach the gospel, explaining what was taking place and three thousand people became believers in Jesus Christ! The church, that Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against, had begun in earnest. I think you would agree that would be worth the wait! From this point on, the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of the disciples, who would now be called apostles, to the message of the gospel. It was not just about the restoration of Israel to its’ former glory. It was about bringing salvation to all who would trust in Jesus Christ for that salvation.

The application is simple. We should not be afraid to wait for the moving of the Holy Spirit. For us, in the fast paced society we live in, it can be difficult but it can surely be worth it. Often times, we move before the Holy Spirit has directed us to. That can lead to failure and discouragement. I know, because I have done that many times in my own life. When we follow His timing, it leads to victory and joy. I admit, sometimes it is hard to know when to wait and when to move. I can only say that this is something you learn by walking closely with the Lord and continually seeking His will and His timing.

But, I can say this with great confidence. When you do wait on the Lord and seek His perfect timing, it is always worth it!

Ps 27:14, 33:20, 37:7, 37:34, 38:15, 119:166, 130:5. Isa 8:17, 40:31. Lam 3:26. Zep 3:8, Ro 8:23, 25. 1 Co 1:7, 4:5. 1Th 1:10. Tit 2:13. Jude 21

Game Plan: Read the above verses as well as the passages in Acts. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your reading and teach you about what it means to wait on the Lord

God bless you as you continue to study His word and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Time for a Sabbath

Coach is taking a short break. Look for new posts coming in August.
God bless,

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Servant's Heart, Pt 2

In the last post, we began looking at some characteristics of a person who displays the heart of a servant. We left off looking at instructions that Jesus gave to those who would follow Him, contained in Matthew 16:24.
Probably the most misunderstood portion of that passage is, “take up your cross.” I admit it can be difficult to know exactly what that expression might mean to us. In order to discern what any passage of scripture means to us, we first have to know the context and what it meant to those to whom it was originally addressed.

In this particular case, Jesus was speaking to his twelve disciples. Peter had just received a revelation from God about who Jesus really was. Jesus had first asked them, “Who do men say that I am?” Then he asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ (Messiah), the son of the Living God!” Jesus then explains that Peter’s answer came from his Heavenly Father.

Only a few moments later, as Jesus was telling the men how he must suffer, die and then be raised from the dead, Peter began to rebuke Jesus, saying, “ Never Lord.” Think about that for a second. First you acknowledge that Jesus is God, and then you rebuke Him? Well, Peter often had “foot in mouth” disease. I guess that is why many of us relate to him so well, right?

The point is, that this is the context of Jesus’ statement concerning picking up your cross. In Peter’s case, he literally did take up his cross. It is believed that Peter was crucified for his obedience to Christ.
In the Roman culture, those who were going to be crucified were made to carry their own cross. It was a form of suffering. At that time, a Christian could be crucified for calling Christ their king rather than Caesar, so the believers suffered great persecution for the cause of Christ
When we follow Jesus and truly become His servant, we are willing to deny our desire for safety and comfort, and are willing to suffer for a time, knowing that we await an eternal reward. That is how we can “pick up” our cross.

The Desire to Serve
The third characteristic I see in one who truly has the heart of a servant, is closely related to the first two. Throughout the epistles of the New Testament, we find a recurring theme. It is summed up well by Paul in Phil 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” You see, when we have surrendered our hearts to the Lord Jesus, we will have the desire to serve others. Why? Because that is exactly what Jesus did while He was here on earth. He is still doing that today.
Romans 8:34 says that He is at the right hand of God (the Father) interceding for us. He is still healing, still teaching and still ministering to our needs through the Holy Spirit. He puts that same desire in our hearts. I am sure that many of you have felt that desire. Why is it though that we often have the desire to put others first, but then don’t do it? It’s because we still have a sin nature, at war with our spirit, telling us “Take care of ME, ME, ME!” It is not an easy thing to put others’ needs above our own, but that is what having a servant’s heart is all about.

I spent thirty five years of my life as a football coach, sixteen of them as a Head Coach at the high school level. I must admit, that for many of those years, even though I was a born again Christian; I did not always have the heart of a servant.

The first part of that verse in Philippians says, “Do nothing of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” Although I cared deeply for my players and wanted to see all of them come into a relationship with the Lord, my desire to win games and championships was just as important to me. Don’t get me wrong, it is not sinful to want to win, but if that becomes more important than being a servant to those God has put in your path, then it becomes selfish ambition and vain conceit.

All this is easier said than done. It is hard not to want to receive accolades for being a winning coach. It means you are good at your profession and we should all strive to be the best we can at what God has called us to do.

You know it’s interesting, that as a Head Coach, my greatest success came after I finally figured out that it was about serving my players, not my ego. When I began to really focus in on truly putting their needs above my own, I found much more joy and satisfaction in coaching. The bonus was that we won lots of games and some championships as well!

So, to all of you that are reading this that are believers in Christ, I would like you to ask yourself these questions.
1. Do I have humility or do I exalt myself?
2. Am I willing to deny myself, pick up my cross and follow Jesus?
3. Do I desire to put the needs of others above my own?

In essence, you are asking, “Do I have a “Servant’s Heart?”

It’s not really an option for a true Christian. Jesus said to his disciples after washing their feet, “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:13-15)
When our Lord tells us we should do something, we should do it! But look at how He follows that up in verse 17. “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” Amen and Amen! There is no greater blessing in this life than following Jesus and being His servant! I pray that you will commit yourself to that end and receive the blessings God has in store for you!

God bless and keep you,

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Servant’s Heart

I was thinking (a very dangerous prospect for me); if I had just one topic I could write about to believers, that I might only get one chance at, what would that topic be? What aspect of the Christian walk do I believe is of utmost importance to the Body of Christ right now? It actually didn't take that long to decide. Though I am certain that there are many topics that are of utmost importance, I picked the one that the Lord has been teaching me about for a period of years. I know what you're thinking. He must really be a slow learner if it takes years. What can I say? You are right. Hope you learn faster than me!

Obviously, you already know the topic since you read the title, brilliant observers that you are. This message is based on Matthew 23:11, " But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant." Now Jesus actually made this statement to the Pharisees of Israel while rebuking them. Their idea of greatness was having the appearance of righteousness. They were always concerned about how things looked on the outside, but as Jesus said, inside they were full of dead men's bones, corrupt and decaying. I am pretty sure that they had no idea what Jesus was talking about. So what did Jesus mean by this statement?

I titled the message, "A Servants Heart," because all through the gospels we see that it is our heart that Jesus is really after. Not what we appear to be on the outside but we are on the inside. In the Jewish mind, the term heart is used to describe the very center of our being. Today, we might tend to think of this as the combination of our mind and emotions, that which controls our actions.

So, what would a servant's heart look like, when seen in the life of a Christian? I would like to bring out three major characteristics that I believe a person who has the heart of a true servant will demonstrate. I am not saying that these are the full measure of characteristics in a servant, but they are certainly way up there on the list.


Jesus demonstrated His humility to us so often that we have a perfect example of what it means to be humble. From His birth, in the most humble surroundings imaginable to His death on the cross, He always demonstrated humility. Remember how He humbled Himself and was baptized by John? Jesus had no need to be baptized. John's baptism was a declaration that one had repented for his sin (Matt 3:11). Jesus had committed no sin. He said that it was to "fulfill all righteousness," and so allowed a mere human being to baptize Him.

Then, on the night before He died, the disciples gathered at the Last Supper. Jesus, who was God in human form, the creator of earth and all that is in it, knelt down and washed the dirty feet of His disciples. This was a job that was usually performed by slaves, but Jesus did it willingly and lovingly as an example to them and us of humility.

Humility really means that we don't exalt our self! The bible warns us many times about exalting ourselves. Matt 23:12 says, "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." He repeats this almost word for word in Lk 14:11 and 18:14. Peter says in 1 Peter 5:6, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time… OK, but how do we keep from exalting ourselves? The apostle Paul answers that question in Phil 1:20. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

You see, when the goal of our life is to exalt Christ instead of ourselves, then we allow Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish that goal. We continually give God the credit for what He is doing through us, rather than taking credit ourselves. That is humility.

Denial of Self

The second characteristic I see in a servant's heart is found in Matt 16:24, " Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." To be a servant of God, we must first deny ourselves. That can be a loaded statement, meaning different things to different people so we better take a close look to discover what Jesus was talking about

The Greek word used here for deny- is arneomai. The basic meaning according to the Greek scholar, Kittle is "to say no" in answer to a question or to "refuse" in relation to a claim or demand. I love that! It means, when our own desires begin to place their demands on us and we know that it may keep us from serving Christ, we say NO! We refuse to give in to our flesh, which is demanding us to put self above Christ

What I don't believe that it means, is to hide away somewhere, like some of the monastic believers did, trying to avoid any temptation to sin. That is fruitless. You can't hide from temptation anyway. When did Jesus face His greatest temptation? It was when He was alone in the desert. Satan showed up and gave it his best shot, trying to get Jesus to bow down before him. So hiding out is not the answer.

Besides, look at the last part of the verse. He says "follow me" Jesus certainly did not hide away, but instead went out teaching, healing and ministering to all he came in contact with. If you follow Him, you too will be out in the world, not hiding from it! I believe that Jesus is simply saying that in order to follow Him, we are going to have to give Him control of our lives. He makes that clear in the next verse Matt 16:25, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

We tend to think that our plan for our lives is what will bring us happiness and we want to hang on to that plan.
Jesus is telling us that if we give up our plan to follow Him, we not only have eternal life, but abundant life.
A life full of peace, love and joy.
Not that we don't face hardships, we are guaranteed that we will.
But we face them, knowing that the God of the universe is on our side.

Well, I hope you are learning a little about the heart of a servant. In the next post, we will find out what Jesus meant by "pick up your cross," as well as looking at the third characteristic of a person with a servant's heart.

May God bless you as you seek His face and surrender your life to Him.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Is the Church Emergent or in an Emergency?

I am sure that most of you by now have heard or read about the so called Emergent Church. I really didn't want to write about this subject, but my heart is grieved whenever false doctrine is taught in the body of Christ. The hardest part of dealing with this particular movement is that it has reached churches in various degrees and forms. There are some who seem to represent the movement, but many who don't want to acknowledge that what they are teaching is "emergent doctrine." It may be hard to pin down exactly what this movement stands for.

It is not my purpose here to write a treatise on this subject. There are many places where you can go to get more detailed information about it. But I do have some thoughts concerning their views. The basic tenet for existence of this movement is the belief that the church must change in order to be relevant to the modern age and culture and thus we must have a "new way" of looking at Christianity.

Hmm, seems to me that a man named Joseph Smith had a similar view. The church had been wrong for centuries, but he would straighten it out. I am always a little suspicious of "new ways" that man comes up with.

Their leaders try to convince us that because our pre-conceived theology, we have not been asking the difficult questions that arise about sin and salvation and especially about how a loving God could send anyone to hell.

Really, you mean because we believe what Jesus said about sin, salvation and hell, we haven't really thought about it much? I am sure that Martin Luther, Francis Schaeffer and Billy Graham would beg to differ.

They say that they don't challenge the authority of scripture but they are not sure about its inerrancy.

If I thought the Bible was full of errors, I think I might have a problem with its authority. How about you?

Some have espoused universalism, which basically says that all are saved by the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, regardless of whether or not they have surrendered their life to Him

I have a question. What then did Jesus mean when he said to those who had even done miracles in His name, "depart from me, you workers of lawlessness (Mt 7:23). Also in the parable of Matt 25:41, He says to depart you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Sounds to me like maybe not everyone is going to live in eternity with Christ.

One of the most recognizable statements you will hear is that Christianity is a "conversation." This is to keep anyone from being dogmatic about any theological construct. They say we cannot truly understand the Bible

I wonder, who is this conversation between? Man and man? So if we converse enough with each other about God, we will be able to come to the knowledge of the truth? I think that I would rather study the book that claims to be inspired by God and has the convincing proof of fulfilled prophecy to see if there is some absolute truth I can depend upon. If I thought that the Bible could not be understood, why would I bother reading it at all? Why would it have any relevance in my life?

As far as man's wisdom is concerned, let's see what the Bible says.

1 Cor 1:22-25

22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

1 Cor 1:27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; NIV

Personally, if I were going to church to hear man's opinions instead God's word, I would go play golf instead!

As I said before, I really am not anxious to berate anyone but this movement is extremely dangerous. Some of these churches have grown in large numbers and its leaders tout that as evidence that their message is resonating with the postmodern culture. That is true, it is and that is the scary part. Look what Paul has to say about this in 2 Tim 4:3-4:

3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. NIV

This is a warning to all of us. My biggest heartache is over the many people who have never been taught the true gospel because they are in a church that looks good on the outside. The church may be involved in many in good works. It will appear wonderfully tolerant and politically
correct. After all, if God does not punish anyone for sin and no one goes to Hell, then there is no offense to anyone. Go ahead and live your life any way you choose because there are no eternal consequences

Now I am sure that someone will think this an oversimplification of this issue and it may be. I said at the beginning that it was not going to be a treatise. But, my purpose here is to make my readers aware of the danger in any teaching that does not give the highest view of the Bible as the inerrant, inspired Word of God. When you pick and choose which parts of the Bible you will believe and which ones you won't, you put yourself in the place of designing a god of your own choosing. You will end up making God in your image, instead of the other way around.

The most damaging effect of this whole movement is that it says your questions about sin, salvation and eternal life cannot be answered adequately, so let's just keep an open mind about it all. That premise is not true. The Bible speaks very clearly about these subjects. Leaving questions unanswered leads to the doubt of God's word. Remember Satan's words to Eve in the garden? "Has God really said?" What follows is the rejection of His word, "Surely you will not die."

It does take some time and study to find out what God does say about these subjects, but the answers are there. Historical Christianity has been able to agree on these basic tenets for centuries. Instead of looking for "new" ways of looking at Christianity, I suggest we look back to the faith of the first century believers, who were willing to go to their death for Christ. They were certain that the debt for their sin had been paid in full at the cross and that they would be with the Lord Jesus Christ for eternity!

Let me close with the words of Paul in Gal 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (ESV) This is a serious warning to all who claim to be teachers of the gospel of Christ. I pray for any that have fallen into this category, that they will repent and turn back to the true gospel of Christ and Him Crucified.


PS: if you would like more detailed information on this subject, there are many good websites to go to. Here are a couple


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fear Not!

Earthquakes and tsunamis in the Pacific, revolts and unrest in the Middle East, talk of economic collapse here in the U.S. Even as this is being written, we wait for a nuclear plume to make its way over Southern California. It seems as though every morning when we wake up, a new crisis awaits. Fear is gripping people everywhere and why not? Does anybody seem to have a good answer for solving these problems or are we destined to succumb to these events, living our lives in anxious desperation about what will happen next?

There is no doubt that we are living in precarious times. The problems we face in the world today are significant. There are no easy solutions to the issues before us. As believers, we have to ask ourselves a question. Will we face these days with fear or with faith? All right, all right. I know that you all immediately responded, "With faith of course!" I am always glad that I write to such super spiritual people out thereJ

The thing is, I can't help but remember a guy named Peter, who basically said the same thing, right before he bailed out on Jesus. I know we have good intentions, but will we be found faithful in the eye of the storm or will we be fearful when it hits.

The past few posts have been about putting our faith into practical situations. It is going to take a great deal of that faith to handle what is coming in our future. As we see society drift further and further away from the Lord, do you realize that we Christians will be tolerated less and less? Many people already think that we are the cause of most of their problems. Christians are being persecuted for their faith all over the world today. Here in America, we see our faith being attacked on multiple fronts. Our public education system, the media and many in our government attack Christianity relentlessly. As we face the future, how do we cope without being fearful and is that would God expects from us?

To be accurate, the people of God have faced hard times from the beginning. The children of Israel have been persecuted for a very long time. A great example of how God wants us to deal with persecution is found in Isaiah, chapter 8. Even though nations were rising up against Judah, the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said, "Do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary;" (Isa 8:12-14 NIV) Look at some of the other things the Lord spoke through Isaiah:

Isa 35:4 say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."

Isa 41:10-13 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. "All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you."

Isa 51:7-8 "Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have my law in your hearts: Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool. But my righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations."

Jeremiah adds this: Jer 30:10 "so do not fear, O Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, O Israel,' declares the Lord.'I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid. "

There is more:

Lam 3:55-57 "I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: "Do not close your ears to my cry for relief." You came near when I called you, and you said, "Do not fear."

Zeph 3:16-17 on that day they will say to Jerusalem, "Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

Hag 2:5 'This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.'

Are you seeing a pattern here? "Wait a minute," you say. "These are Old Testament verses pertaining to the Jewish people. How do we know they apply to us as well?" Good question. Though these verses do apply specifically to the nation of Israel, I think that the New Testament shows us that God has His church in mind as well. The real idea here is that we should fear God, not man. Jesus said, "Matt 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

The Lord does not guarantee us that we won't suffer trials and tribulations, in fact He says we will. The recurring theme is that He will help us through the trials and ultimately save us so therefore, FEAR NOT! You see, if we are like Paul and consider our lives as already dead to the flesh and alive to the Spirit; we don't need to fear whatever comes our way. God is in control of our lives. Nothing happens to us that He does not allow. He knows the number of our days. The only thing we should fear is being out of relationship with Him, but if you have truly surrendered your life to Him, that cannot happen. Remember what Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand." (John 10:27-29 NKJV)

Paul reinforced this in Rom 8:38-39 "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (NIV)

On the night before Jesus was crucified, He told His disciples, who were often afraid, how they would be able to live life unafraid. John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

So, brothers and sisters in the Lord, I say to you, FEAR NOT! Let the peace of God rule your heart and mind as you live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.

May God bless you as you trust in Him and live in His marvelous peace, not fear,


Monday, February 21, 2011

The Life of Faith, Pt 4: More Practical Issues

Applying our faith to the practical issues of life is essential to our spiritual growth. In the past few posts we have looked at what the definition of faith is and how it should affect our lives. We are not to separate our faith from any aspect of our life. Last time we began tackling specific areas of our lives and how to apply some biblical principles of faith to them. I began with finances because so many people tell me how difficult it is for them to really apply their faith to that area.

Some of the teaching going on in the church today has contributed to confusion about how the Lord would have us deal with finances. The doctrine of "prosperity" would have you believe that the evidence of your faith is in direct correlation to how much wealth you accumulate. I am sorry if I offend anyone, but this is not biblically accurate. If it were then we would have to surmise that all the Christians living in the Sudan were lacking in faith. There is nowhere in scripture that teaches the idea that if you just had enough faith, you would be wealthy. In fact the Bible warns of the dangers in desiring wealth or putting your trust in your possessions.

Remember the story of the rich young ruler. You can read about it in Matthew, chapter 19. The bottom line is that this young man loved his possessions so much that he could not give them up in order to follow Jesus. Jesus then commented to His disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matt 19:23-24 NIV) Does it sound to you like Jesus measures your spirituality by your wealth? Look at these two scriptures:

1 Tim 6:10-11 for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

Heb 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

So in following principle #1, (Did you already forget? Its ok, so did I. Look back at the last post. J) we want to correctly apply biblical principles to our financial decisions. I know for many of us, the biggest financial issue we struggle with is what we give back to the Lord. The number one question that comes up is "Are we as Christians required to tithe and does that mean ten percent of our income? If so, then is that ten percent of our gross or net income? Some churches teach that the ten percent must go to the local church and anything you want give to other ministries must be above and beyond that amount. Is that what the Bible teaches? Well, without going into too much detail because it would take a lot more than one post to cover this topic, I don't think so. Now, I am not going to be dogmatic and I respect others who disagree, but I think much of the confusion over this issue is because we miss the whole point of why we give today.

Some of the problem here is because of theology that teaches that God is done with Israel and has replaced her with the church. If that is your belief than you should probably be tied to the Old Testament teaching of tithing. I beg to differ and want to remind you that on the night that Jesus died, he established a new covenant by His blood, poured out for us (Lk 22:20). I prefer to live under that covenant since the instructions came from Jesus. All through the New Testament we see Jesus teaching that what God is after is the heart of man, not ritualistic, legalistic and meaningless adherence to manmade regulations. He gave us principles to follow for all of life, including our giving back to Him. Let's look at these and see if we can be sure of what He would want from us.

Matt 6:3-4 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matt 6:19-21 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matt 6:31-33 so do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

You see Jesus is more concerned with the attitude of our heart than the amount that we give. The reason the rich young ruler went away was because his possessions were more important to him than even his eternal life. When we receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, it means we give everything to Him to do with as He wills. He explained this in the story of the poor widow, who put only two small copper coins into the temple treasury. It was a miniscule amount of money for that time, but look at what Jesus says about that offering; Luke 21:1-4 As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

The fact of the matter is that the word tithe is only spoken about on one occasion in the New Testament. It is recorded in both Matthew (23:23) and Luke (11:42). In this account, Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees for disregarding things that were more important than their tithe of herbs. He does say that they should pay the tithe but not neglect the weightier provisions of the law. Of course, he is speaking to the Jewish leaders, not born again believers. Hardly a proof text for New Testament tithing, yet some pastors and teachers use it that way.

You see God knows us. He knows that if we get locked into the tithe as our only standard, we will lose the joy of giving. Instead, He gave us principles to follow that will lead us into giving from our hearts. Look at these verses;

2 Cor 9:6-7 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Paul encourages generous giving, but emphasizes the attitude of the heart. It is interesting to me that in all of Paul's instructions to the church, he never mentions a specific amount or percentage of income that believers should give to the work of the ministry. I believe the instructions are clear in the above verses. He does say one more thing. "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." (1 Cor 13:3)

The practical advice here on giving of your income to the work of the ministry is that it is a personal issue between you and God. You must seek the Lord, ask for His wisdom and guidance and most of all ask Him to increase your faith through giving. Remember that where your treasure is, there your heart will be. Start with one guiding principle; Jesus is the Lord of my life, therefore everything I have belongs to Him, not me. I promise you that He will provide for you all that you need!

Eph 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

May God bless you as you seek Him in your life of faith,


Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Life of Faith, Pt 3: Practical Issues

One thing that I hear a lot is "how does faith actually affect the practical issues of my life?" So, as promised, I want to delve into that subject. Many people, who call themselves Christians, don't seem to apply much of what the bible teaches about the integration of our faith into our daily life. They separate their "spiritual life" from their "real, everyday life." Maybe they attend church on Sundays but there is no carryover into the rest of their week.

As we defined in part one of this series, saving faith is a total trust in Jesus for our salvation. It seems that some people believe that there is nothing more to it. "Ok, I'm saved, now I run my life any way I want. I've got my fire insurance." But if you look a little closer at the scriptures, there is no evidence you can find, that defines faith in Christ as trusting Him only as your Savior. It is always connected to trusting Him as your Lord. Acts 16:31 says "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." The New King James translation of the Bible uses the term "the Lord Jesus" SIXTY times. If you don't see Jesus as your Lord, It is hard to see how it is possible that He could be your savior. Don't just rely on me though, search the scriptures yourself and put it to the test.

The Greek word for Lord in these passages is kurios. It can also be translated as master and it is defined as supreme in authority. Included in the description of this word is the idea of having power. If we are going to trust Jesus as our Savior, we must also trust Him as our master, a master with the authority and power to actually save us, but also to meet our deepest needs. If we have accepted Jesus as Lord, (master) that would imply that we are choosing to follow and obey Him. That is what Jesus meant we He said to His disciples, "Come, and follow me." So when we look at how faith affects our lives, in a practical day to day sense, we must acknowledge this truth as our foundation.

When we have truly accepted Jesus as our Lord, it will affect every aspect of our lives. We say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20 NIV) Our entire life is one lived by faith, so let's begin to look at that in practical applications. I would like to take examples from the major categories of our life and see how it might work. Before we get to each specific area and how to apply our faith, I want to give you some universal guidelines for applying our faith to all the practical areas of our lives.

  1. Proper application of our faith is explained in the Word of God; therefore I must study the scriptures that teach about the specific areas to which we apply that faith and the scriptures concerning faith itself.
  2. We do not put our faith in faith; we put our faith in Jesus Christ. He is the object of our faith. Whenever we say the word faith, it means faith in Christ (Mk 11:22)
  3. God gives you a measure of faith (Ro 12:3) and your faith in Christ rest on God's power not men's wisdom (1Co 2:5)
  4. We live by faith (in Christ) not by what we see. (2 Co5:7)
  5. When we pray in faith, we know that He hears us and that His answer is always in our best interest. (Ro 8:28)
  6. The Holy Spirit has been given to us for guidance and counsel. Seek His help. (Jn 16:13; 14:16)

I am going to make an educated guess that one of the areas that might you struggle with, is how faith operates when it comes to making financial decisions. Why do I say that? Well, it's a hard one for me so I figure it must be difficult for you as well. If not, you can just go ahead and skip this section. OK, I see you are still here, so let's continue and see how this works.

Let's say you are trying to decide on a major purchase, like buying a house. It can be overwhelming to think about all the ways a bad decision could affect your life, so you want to be sure it is the right thing to do. You also want to be sure that if you do decide to purchase, that you make the right choice, considering space needs, budget, location etc. So how can we apply these principles to making that decision?

Let's start with principle number five. Knowing that God wants what best for you, seek Him in prayer. Ask Him to give you wisdom in this decision. Trust (have faith) that He will, because He promises that to us in James 1:5-7, " If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;" (NIV)

Next, go to the scriptures (pr. #1) and look up the passages that speak about money, possessions, and our responsibilities for its use. You might want to get a topical bible or bible dictionary to help you find those verses. There are more passages about money in the Bible than almost any other subject, so take your time. Ask the Lord to show you what He would want you to learn and how these verses apply to your specific situation (pr. #6).

Do all your practical homework in terms of researching the market, looking at what would best fit your needs and seeking advice from professionals. Once you have done all of these things and you sense that you have a direction from the Lord, don't proceed in fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind. (2 Ti 1:7) Use the knowledge you have gained, the wisdom that the Holy Spirit is giving you and rest in the measure of faith He has provided you (pr. #3).

One thing I have done when making these kinds of decisions is to pray that if I am not doing the right thing, that God would slam the door shut. When I do that, I am just saying to the Lord, "your will be done!" Even if it means I don't get what I thought I wanted, it gives me the confidence that if I do, it was the right thing. I have to admit that sometimes, even after you do all these things, it may look as though the final decision turned out to be wrong. Maybe you didn't get the house you desired or maybe you did, but now it looks as though it was a bad decision. Look again at principle number four. Sometimes a good decision can look bad, but we must walk by faith, not by sight. Remember, Jesus said in Matt 7:9-11 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (NIV)

Now it is possible, that even though we followed these guidelines, prayed with sincerity and trusted the Lord, we can allow our fleshly desires to cloud our judgment and actually make a wrong decision. But, I sincerely believe that if you do follow these principles, that such a case will be a rare occurrence. If however, that turns out to be the case, then we confess our sin and He is faithful and just to forgive us. (1 Jn 1:9) We may have to suffer some consequences but remember, God loves you and He will use every circumstance of your life to conform you into the image of His own dear Son.

This is one example in applying our faith in the practical decisions of life. Next time we will look at some other examples of financial decisions as well as other practical areas of life and how we apply these biblical principles of faith.

May God bless you as you continue to follow Him,


Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Life of Faith, Pt 2: What do we do now?

I don't know about you, but I ask that question a lot. You would think that after over forty years of being a Christian, I shouldn't have to keep asking that question, but I still do. I hope that you read part one of this series and are ready to tackle this question. In that post, we learned that putting your faith in Christ means that we trust Him completely. Now we related that first to our salvation. We trust Him to be faithful to what He promises us in terms of bringing us into a relationship with Him that will go on through eternity. (Jn 3: 15-16)

We exercised faith in making that commitment, so, what do we do now? Is that the only purpose of faith, to come to a saving knowledge of Christ or is there more to it than that? Since the title of this series is "The Life of Faith, I am sure you already know the answer to that. In the book of Hebrews, chapter eleven, the writer lists several examples of people who trusted in God. The author also tells us two important details concerning faith. In verse one; he gives us a description of what faith is. Heb 11:1 says "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." The examples that are given to us demonstrate that these "Heroes of Faith" were commended because they were obedient to God even though they had not yet seen the answer to a promise God had made to them. Even so, they were sure that God would fulfill His promises.

You see, God has made many promises to us beyond just our salvation. If we are to follow the examples in Hebrews, we are to be sure that God will fulfill them, even before they happen. You might say, "I can't do that, it takes more faith than I have." You wouldn't be alone in that statement, but it is not optional. Look at what it says in verse six, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." I know, now you are really feeling guilty and maybe wondering whether or not you are even a true believer. Hang on, there is good news coming.

I am sure that you would agree that we all struggle with how much faith we have. Sometimes it seems easy to believe a promise from God and other times we just can't seem to trust Him. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said that if we have a measure of faith as small as a mustard seed, we could tell a mountain to move and it would happen, nothing would be impossible for us. That makes me feel like my faith is really puny. The question then becomes, how do we increase our faith? This is a question that has brought forth much discussion and even some controversy.

There are many people who would try to say that if you just had enough faith, God must do whatever you ask Him to do. They would use verses such as we just read to justify that position. There are some problems however with that premise. First, if God must do whatever we ask, doesn't that mean that our asking is actually a demand rather than a request? I don't think I want to demand anything from God, do you? Second, it makes us sovereign rather than God. In a sense, it puts us in the position of being God. Not a place I feel comfortable in. I have seen what happens to those who would put themselves in the place of God and it is not a pretty sight! Read what happens to Satan in the book of Revelation if you want to know more.

I think that where we go wrong, is in the understanding of what promises God actually makes to us. If he has promised something, He will deliver. That is guaranteed (2 Cor 1:20, "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us." NKJV) Ps 145:13 says that the Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. So there is no doubt that God will fulfill His promises to us no matter how little our faith is. We just need to know what His promises are. That is one reason that living a life of faith is impossible without studying the Bible. How can we know what God's promises are unless we read His revealed Word? You say, "But God speaks to my heart about these things." My question back to you is, "how can you be sure it is God speaking?" The way we test what we believe God may be impressing upon us, is weighing it against scripture and what it has already revealed to us about the nature and character of God. We must study the entire Word, not just bits and pieces, to be able to discern what He actually promises us.

Doctrines such as we discussed earlier, that leave the impression that if we just have enough faith, God must do whatever we ask (demand), usually stem from taking verses out of context and not comparing them to other parts of scripture. Also, we must study the words used and what they meant to the people that they were originally written to. This can help keep us from thinking God promised us something that He didn't. Let me illustrate.

In John 16:23 Jesus says to His disciples that His Father will give them whatever they ask in Jesus' name. Some people conclude then that if they ask for a million dollars, "In Jesus name," then God has promised they will receive it. If they don't, well then, they just did not have enough faith. This turns the phrase, "in Jesus name," into some type of magic formula. That would make me question the legitimacy of that teaching and make me want to study further to understand what Jesus meant by that statement. In so doing, I compare that statement to 1 John 5:14-15, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him. "Since the apostle John wrote both of these verses, they must go hand in hand. In fact, if you did a thorough study on the phrase "in His name," you would conclude that these phrases are really interchangeable. Asking, in His name, really means according to His will. After all, since God knows everything and He will do what is best for us, why would we want anything that is not in His will? That is where true faith is measured, believing that God does work out everything for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Ro 8:28)

So, what do we do now? We spend time with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We study His word and talk to Him in prayer. The better we get to know Him, the more our faith increases and the easier it becomes to believe in His promises to us. We learn as we go that even if we have not yet seen the completion of His promises, it will come to pass. One of my favorite promises is in Phil 1:6 "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Though this was written to believers in the church at Phillpi, it is applicable to all of us. I have yet to see the completed work of Christ in my life, but I have put my (faith) complete trust in Him to accomplish His promise!

Game Plan:

As you study the word, look for the promises God has given. Study them and see if they were specific to just a certain time and person (many are) and how God fulfilled them.

Look also for promises to all believers and ask the Lord to give you the ability to believe and rest in those promises.

May the Lord increase your faith as you continue to spend time with Him, Coach    

PS: Next up will be Pt 3 in this series "Practical Issues in Living The Life of Faith"

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Life of Faith, Pt 1

Well, here we are in the New Year 2011. Wow, sometimes it is hard to believe. It seems like just yesterday that it was January 1st 2000 and we were all breathing a sigh of relief. The dreaded "millennium bug" was declared dead on arrival. You may recall that there were many people who were convinced it would be a disaster of untold proportions, affecting every aspect of our lives. Some even went so far as to buy years worth of food supplies and even generators for their energy source. It was really a pretty crazy time.

So, you are wondering, why I would be bringing this up? Oh, you weren't? Sorry, maybe it was just me wondering why I was bringing this up. I guess I was just remembering that time, when we not only transitioned into a new year but a new millennium and I thought to myself, why did so many people get so wrapped up in believing that the so called "Y2K" bug was going to bring calamity upon us? Was there evidence that we could look at to be sure what might happen or did we just listen to people that we thought knew a whole lot more than we did? Some so called experts seemed very convincing.

Well, that same question comes to mind for many when they are thinking about God. They want to know if there is any real evidence concerning the existence of God and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, or are most believers just listening to other people who sound convincing. I could turn that around and put the shoe on the other foot. The other night, I was listening to a leader of an atheist organization, who was being interviewed on the most watched cable news show in the country. He said, "Everyone knows that all religions are just a scam." When challenged by the interviewer to support that statement, he could bring no evidence whatsoever. He just indicated that it's a well known fact. Pretty lame, don't you think?

It occurred to me that often, when Christians talk about their faith, many non-believers think we are doing the same thing. They hear people say, "you just have to take it on faith" as if we had no evidence whatsoever to support that faith. Some of our so called spokespeople don't help much. I have heard many Christians being interviewed on national television or radio say things like "I can't really explain this to you, I just believe it." My heart is grieved when the Christian faith is represented so poorly. In order to live a life of faith, we need to have a clearer picture of what faith really is.

Let's begin by defining what the word faith actually means. The Oxford Dictionary defines faith as "complete trust in someone or something." This is important because it points out that faith must have an object. We can put our faith in many things. When you sit down on a chair, you put your faith in two things. One, you believe that the person who built the chair knew what they were doing. Two, you trust that the chair will not break when you sit down. Let me ask you a question. The last time you sat in a chair, had you seen or known the person that built it? I am going to take a wild guess and say the answer is no. Why then did you trust that the chair would hold you and not break? Most likely it is because every time you sat on it before, it was just fine. You based your decision to trust the chair because you had good evidence that it would hold you. Your evidence, however, was not complete. You did not know everything there is to know about the chair. You didn't know who made it and how trustworthy they might be. You didn't know if someone else had done something to the chair that might have damaged it and caused it to break. Again, your evidence was good but not perfect, yet you chose to trust the chair.

This is similar to the person who puts their complete trust in Jesus Christ. We have very good, if not overwhelming evidence of the existence of God and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but we don't have all the answers or understand everything there is to know about God. So we have to come to a conclusion based on what we do know. By the way, with honest historical scholarship, we have an unbelievable amount of accurate information. The Bible has been proven over and over again to be historically and scientifically accurate. There are numerous books and websites you can go to and check it out.*

The dictionary also makes this statement about the word faith, "strong conviction in the doctrines of a religion based on spiritual conviction rather than proof." I would have to take some exception to that in the case of Christianity. This again might lead someone to believe that there is no proof that leads to faith in Christ. But there is a sense in which the statement is true. Ultimately, we do make a confession of faith based upon spiritual conviction. In fact, we do not come to salvation by just believing the evidence. There has to be a conviction based upon the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

In Matthew 16, Jesus was asking the question, "Who do men say that I am?" After receiving a couple of different answers, He finally asked, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answers in Matt 16:16,"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (ESV) I want you to pay close attention to what Jesus says next. "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matt 16:17) Now Peter had been around Jesus for about three years. He had seen Jesus perform numerous miracles, not the least of which was walking on the water himself. He had heard Jesus teach and present evidence from the scriptures of who He was. Ultimately though, he had to have the truth revealed to him by God Himself.

Our minds can be filled with knowledge and facts, but true salvation happens when our hearts are changed by the Spirit of God. Just knowing the truth isn't enough. Salvation comes by the grace of God, through faith. (Eph 2:8) Remember, faith is complete
trust in someone or something. We put our complete trust in Jesus Christ for salvation with great evidence, but more importantly by the work of the Holy Spirit revealing Him to us. (Jn 15:26) When this happens, our lives are changed forever and we begin a journey. We can now testify along with the apostle Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20 NIV)

Game Plan: If you have not already done so, ask the Lord to help you put your complete trust in Him. Study the verses in this post and begin looking up other verses that have to do with faith (there are at least 250 of them!)

In the next few post, we are going to look at different aspects of living the Life of Faith. Until then, may God bless you in your journey of living by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, Coach

*For great resources on the accuracy of the Bible, creation vs evolution, life death and resurrection of Jesus, check out these sites: