Christian Character Part 13

The Struggle for Steadfastness in Life

Let us re-read from our Call to Worship, Psalm 95: 6-7, and continuing through v. 11

Oh come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me: they tried Me though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘it is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest.”

This passage is telling us some foundationally important aspects of the struggle for steadfastness of faith and decision in the life of every person, and particularly every man and woman of God. This passage is a foray into the sophisticated and intricate ways in which life challenges our faith, by challenging our double-mindedness. This passage explains how we achieve the stability in life that only comes from bringing ourselves into the Presence of God, into His throne room to receive His Wisdom, His Wise Counsel, believing in Him, in our single-mindedness, not double-mindedness (see James 1:5-8). That stability is a direct result of steadfastness of faith and decision, which only comes from single-mindedness about God’s word and will!

Let’s pick out these foundationally important aspects of the struggle for steadfastness of faith and decision in our lives:

  1. God is God, our God and Creator.
  2. We are His people – corporately and individually.
  3. We are directed to humble ourselves before Him.
  4. We are directed to worship Him.
  5. We see His works and miracles in our lives.
  6. We have a choice, an option, to listen to God, to hear (and read) His word.
  7. We have a choice whether to harden our hearts.
  8. If we make the choice to harden our hearts against God’s word, we are testing God and trying His patience and mercy.
  9. By hardening our hearts against God’s word, if that is the choice we make/made, God will not allow us to enter our rest. Will we be in that generation that rises up, to take its place with selfless faith?.

We know that God’s word says that God is our healer (Isaiah 53:5I Peter 2:24), and many of us have witnessed and personally experienced God’s miraculous healings of our physical wounds and diseases, of our childhood and adult woundings and guilts, or our emotional imbalances and lack of self-control. Thus, like the Israelites in Psalm 95, and in the Exodus and desert travel, we, too, have seen His work! So we ought to embrace, in faith, God for who He says He is, also, because we have seen the proof!! Yet not all do that: many are distracted (yielding to double-mindedness), by an unwillingness to walk away from bondage (our personal Exodus) and through the desert of life with its tribulations, threats and temptations. We are not alone in our distraction to unbelief and resulting disobedience and rebellion against God: in II Kings 1, we have the history of Ahaziah (I Kings 22: 51-53 tells us Ahaziah was King of Israel in Samaria, reigning for only two years, who did evil in the sight of the Lord, made Israel sin, served Baal and worshipped him and provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger). In II Kings 1:2, we learn that King Ahaziah fell through the lattice of his upper room and was injured and sent messengers to go to Baal and inquire whether he would be healed of this injury or not. The messengers returned early because they encountered the prophet Elijah, who told them, as God instructed him (verses 3-4), “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of BaalZebub, the god of Ekron? Now therefore, thus says the Lord: ‘You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up and you shall surely die.’” The messengers reported this to King Ahaziah, and he sent several companies of soldiers, in sequence, to see Elijah and bring him to the king, and he called down fire from heaven to burn them up. The fire came and each of the several companies of soldiers was burned up. The last captain and company of soldiers to come to Elijah, verses 13-14, humbled himself, and acknowledged that Elijah was a ‘Man of God’ and asked that their lives be preserved. In the ensuing verses, we learn, in the history of King Ahaziah, that an angel of the Lord visited Elijah and told him to go with the captain to King Ahaziah and to speak the word of the Lord directly to him. Elijah did so, and King Ahaziah heard it and then promptly died.

You wonder what would have happened here if Ahaziah had repented and changed his life and led the people of Israel in Samaria to Jehovah God, instead of living and dying in the hardness of his heart, in rebellion to Jehovah God.

In the New Testament, in the latter part of Hebrews 3 and in Hebrews 4, we find a further explication of the message of Psalm 95, and I encourage you to review it this week, noting the congruence of the Old Testament and the New Testament.

REVIEW

Now, I am going to review with you a few related Scriptures, and then we will see how they apply to this issue and difficulty of being steadfast in our faith, as we struggle to mature our Christian Character that we may be steadfast in life:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who have Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.

Titus 2:11-15

[Biblical rebuking should be accompanied by Biblical exhortin/encouraging.]

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I John 1:9

But with balance as to Romans 6:1-4

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

[“Newness of life” describes not only the change to life with the risen Christ, in our salvation, but also describes the constant changes as we struggle with our faith, and grow in steadfastness and maturity in our faith, growing in ever-newness of Christian Character!]

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight – if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast (not double-minded) and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard.

Colossians 1:21-23

APPLICATION

We have struggles, perhaps, from time to time, with unbelief, and then with continuing in the faith, in not getting moved away from the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the tribulations, temptations and threats come against our flesh and souls. We must ask ourselves if we are going to have faith without works (James 2:26), if we are going to be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14), we, in order to live righteously and godly in the present age – our generation –(Titus 2:12), we will honor God with humility and worship, and hearing from him, and extending our faith in obedience. Or, Proverbs 19:3, “The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord.” One or the other.

Each of us frequently faces tests of steadfastness in faith: Have we made a mistake of carefulness and been struggling with whether to admit it, own up to it, and accept responsibility for it? Have we made a mistake based on anger, greed, lust or arrogance – a knowing and intentional sin – and been struggling with whether to admit it, own up to it, and accept responsibility for it? Have we allowed (James 1:14-15) our own desires of flesh and soul to fester and entice us away to sin and death, without preemptively (Romans 6:1-2) denying ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:11) and taking those desires and temptations to the foot of the Cross and asking God to remove them from us, from our sight? Have we lied to cover up our mistakes of carelessness and intentional sin (Proverbs 13:5)? Have we nurtured lust in our heart that was adultery – physical, emotional, or spiritual – itself? Have we done any or all these things – or one or more of a myriad of others – without stopping them preemptively or repenting afterwards (John 1:9)? The question really asked is this: (Romans 6:4), Are we – you and me – truly walking in newness of life. Are we ourselves, and other people, and God, noticing that from day to day, from glory to glory, we are not the same today as we were yesterday, we are changed, walking each day in the certainty of our redemption, and in extended faith that we will deal with issues of sin in our lives from a place of stableness, single-mindedness as to the word and will of God, being grounded and steadfast in our faith? It is a struggle, and neither I nor you, nor other Christians are immune from the struggle. It is a struggle for steadfastness in the faith as we mature in our Christian Character into the fullness of Jesus Christ Himself . The admonition is from the song we sang today, and often sing, “trading my sorrows, shame, sickness and pain – in the Glory of the Lord!“. That admonition is also in Hebrews 6:12: Do not become sluggish but imitate those – not King Ahaziah – who through faith and patience inherit the promises of God!

Amen

All these things are examples of struggles of being steadfast, grounded, stable in our faith – which, James 1:5, is wisdom for life! This comes from drawing night unto the Lord, into His Presence, knowing He will draw nigh unto us and guide us in His Wise Counsel, His Wisdom!

And They Shall Know No Fear

The title of the sermon today is: “And They Shall Know No Fear.” This is a sentence referring to a group of heroes in a series of fictional books I have enjoyed for the last couple years. The books are set 40,000 years in the future where humanity is ruled by a deity who united the galaxies known only as the Emperor. The heroes are called Space Marines; they are genetically modified warriors who were designed to be the most perfect instrument of military prowess humanity has ever created. Their job is to protect humanity from the whiles of the Dark gods of Chaos, a lifetime of service and protection until death takes them to the Golden Throne. They are 9 feet tall, built of solid muscle, have 2 hearts, three lungs, and bodies that heal themselves 10x faster than normal humans. They are armed with the best weapons, have the best training, and they are even equipped with the best bodies, but the most valuable weapon they wield is their unfailing, unflinching, and inexhaustible faith in and obedience to the Emperor.

To be a Christian with no fear one most have complete faith in God, be listening to the Holy Spirit for instructions for his life, when those instructions are heard to commit to obeying them and to rely on God for the discipline to make those decisions and the strength to persevere with them till the end. And those happen to be the 3 parts of today’s sermon 1) Faith 2) Listening and Obedience 3) Discipline and Perseverance.

FAITH

Well I figure the best way start off with the topic “faith” is to get some definitions of it. The Bible in Hebrews 11:1 declares that: “Faith is the Substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” From this we know that faith is a thing of substance, meaning that it is a thing of reality and in the verse that it is the substance or reality of something hoped for. This thing that is hoped for, is something that every human feels an unquenchable desire to have, that is love, undenying, all accepting love, the type of love only the Creator who made you could give so freely. The second part of the verse refers to faith as “the evidence of things not seen”, this makes faith not as blind as we may have thought of it was. God didn’t give us the ability to reason and use logic so that we would blindly follow Him just because He claims to be God, but He gave us evidence of His existence and His character through His Creation, from the tiniest bug to the most imposing of mountains, the evidence of God the Creator and His love for us is right at our finger tips so that all we would have to do is use the brain He gave us to find Him. The famous Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines faith as: “the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting on his authority and veracity, without other evidence, the judgment that what another states or testifies is the truth.” Mr. Webster is saying to us that faith is you believing that something is true just because of the identity of speaker. God conveniently gave us His Word in a highly portable and easy to use package, the Bible. Through the reading of God’s Word we hear from Him truth, the truth that God’s actual identity is the Creator of Everything and that He loves every single human He created. Now because truth is reality and reality which is truth cannot be swayed, He gives us the ability to hope in the reality of His Word and therefore the ability to have complete and utter faith in it and in Him. In Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, the entry for May 8 says: “Faith is not a pathetic sentiment, but a robust, vigorous, confidence built on the fact that God is holy Love.” It goes on to say “Faith is the Heroic effort of your life, to fling yourself in reckless confidence on God.” This is my favorite of the three, it is telling us that because we know that God is Love (because 1 John 14:6 tells us so “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”) We have license to run with reckless abandon in Gods perfect will for our lives, like a Space Marine hero charging into battle to show the wrath of the Emperor to his foes.

LISTENING AND OBEDIENCE

When we become Christians we invite Jesus to live in our hearts and to be our master. Now this is all great but we must remember that we have just embarked on the life-long process of continually asking God to mold us, and purify us to conform to his plan in our lives. This process requires constant seeking of God’s will for us and obedience wherever and whenever He asks it. One of the best ways to listen to God is to meditate on His Word. God left His Word on Earth so that we might be able to have a hard copy of his will and a canon to measure what is right and what is wrong. Romans 12:2 says “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.” The only way to be a light to this world is to take the Word of God and let it work in you, if you don’t know what is in the Word there is no way you will be able to know what is good and if you don’t know what is good you’re more than likely going to do what is evil, right? John 14:6 says, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life no one comes to the Father but through Me.” If God is what He says He is, than His word is no different: His Word will show us through truth the way we are supposed to go to get to the life that Jesus has for us. The Holy Spirit is also a way for us to hear the Lord, and as Christians the Holy Spirit is available to us. So now you may find yourself asking … “What does the Holy Spirit do?” John 16:8 sheds some light on the subject “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” And John 16:13 says “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” These verses say that the Holy Spirit is in our lives to guide us in the way of truth and convict us as to what is sin, righteousness and judgment, but just because we know what God’s will is doesn’t mean we are in God’s will- we must commit to obeying the truth God has revealed to us. Matthew 6:24 says “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” You must commit yourself to God by having faith in his truth and acting upon what that truth is, you cannot be neutral with God: you are either marching forward in victory with the Son of Man or you are fleeing in defeat; the choice is yours.

DISCIPLINE AND PERSEVERANCE

Now we come to Discipline and Perseverance, without these two faith and listening and obedience mean nothing if we can’t maintain them. We are not in this battle against the Prince of the Air for short time but like our Space Marine friends we are in it till we are called home to our Maker. This means that the enemy’s tactics are not for the short term but they are to be the thorn in our side, the termites gnawing at our foundation, the rust corroding our armor. They are in it for the long haul and so we must be as well. 1 Timothy 1:7 says “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” With this knowledge we can be firm in the power we wield through Christ and in our ability to use our self-discipline to persevere and to everyday give ourselves to Gods command.Hebrews 12:10-11 says “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” God is a God of discipline and if we let him work in our lives to correct us when we are wrong and give over certain parts of our lives that we cling to the tightest it will reap righteousness and peace in our lives thus enabling us to be a constant light to those around us and have unwavering integrity and judgment at all times. This requires us to be humble and admit our weaknesses and shortcomings by checking ourselves often and having other believers hold us accountable as James 5:16 says “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” We need to do this so that we do not let the Father of Lies gain a foothold in our lives because we were too proud to seek help. If you think your brother will look down on you because of your confessions remember Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Our bodies and everything in the world are dying and are temporary but our souls are not, by having the self discipline to let God work in us not just once or twice a week but day by day, we will be renewed. By fixing our eyes on the unseen (oh my could this be Faith?!) our current troubles will fade because we have an eternal perspective – and no matter what we will choose to obey the Lord.

CONCLUSION

With this knowledge we can …

  1. Have Faith in our walks and in Gods plan for our lives.
  2. Not only Listen to the Lords instruction but OBEY it.
  3. Be Disciplined in our walks and Persevere through its trials.
  4. Go into the battle field of earth and KNOW NO FEAR.

Christian Character Part 12

Carry Your Passport at All Times

When you travel abroad, you must carry your passport at all times. I am told that in Europe and Africa, passports are often used for identification even within countries, as the countries are small and people frequently travel between them, and often have their passports with them at all times, as a matter of course. So, a passport is your personal identification of your country of citizenship, kind of like your driver’s license or your school ID. It tells the world that either by birth, or choice through naturalization, you are a citizen of America or of Russia, or of Malawi, etc. It is an identification of the country to whom you owe your national allegiance, whose laws you are called to obey (for Christians, subject to the things we learned last year in the series on God, Man and Society), the country which is your culture, your history, your home, and probably the country where most of your family lives. So, you always want to be able to, and are required to, produce your passport so, through the passport, others can be assured that you are who you say you are. Thus, you would carry it at all times.

I am also told that some people carry multiple passports, where they have dual citizenship — say their parents were citizens of two different countries, or neither was a citizen of the country in which the child was born, then the child most often would have citizenship in his birth nation, and in the nation(s) of the country (–ies) of citizenship of his parents.

Similarly, diplomats are given fancy papers to prove their appointments as representatives of their respective countries and they formally present those fancy papers, their official credentials, to the authorities in the countries to which they are sent, for such proofs.

Now, we have a similar, but importantly different citizenship structure as Christians, and as Christians, we all, also, are diplomats (we are “ambassadors for Christ”, II Corinthians 5:20). But we don’t have a passport so naming us, nor do we have fancy papers, or imposing official credentials, so naming us. Our fancy papers, our passport, as Christians, is simply the history of our lives, the testimony, our lives as living epistles. What we choose to do in different circumstances, and how we balance those choices, when sinful, with repentance and change, become the passport, the statement of our national identity, of the nation of God, whose laws we are called, and have chosen, to obey, of the country which is our culture, the source of our history, your home, and, indeed, the country where most of our family lives. We Christians each produce that passport, those diplomatic credentials of our ambassadorship, as our mind thinks and decides, and as our heart considers, and as our emotions ebb and flow, and as our body acts in word and deed. Thus, we Christians are always carrying our passports with us, and we produce them even without pulling them out of our pockets or purses. Our Christian passports are self-evident in our lives.

Our US Constitution and other founding documents acknowledge that our Creator endowed us with certain rights, and those rights are held by “all persons born or naturalized” into citizenship in our country. Naturalization is a choice one makes, and one having made that choice (salvation) goes through a schooling process (discipleship), and then renounces other citizenship (loyalty to sin) and pledges loyalty to USA, and then is received into the fellowship of citizenship by naturalization, or choice.

Obviously, that is what we do, in coming through Christ into the kingdom of God. We choose and, if you will bear with me in the metaphor, we are naturalized as citizens into the kingdom of God. And God does not want us to try to hold multiple passports at once. Indeed, His word says we can’t do that! Let’s see.

Jesus, Himself, considered that He was, and is, the King of the Jews and not subject to Roman authority (John 19:9-11). Jesus did not consider that He needed to carry a Roman passport. Paul was a Roman citizen by birth, and He used that natural-world passport to get Himself to Rome to evangelize the Romans, spreading the Gospel of Christ, his true Kingdom, the source of his true passport.

Jesus was, and is, concerned about duality of citizenship, of multiple passports, of one hand with the Christian passport and one with the passport to sin, and He didn’t like it and knew it would not work in the Kingdom of God. See Luke 16:13, Jesus speaking, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Jesus made clear that we had to be clear in our choices of naturalization, of service.

In the history of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, we come to understand three things about God’s view of this issue of duality or, or splitting of, loyalty: First, that our citizenship in the Kingdom of God separates us from citizenship in any nation on earth and, second, that God will not suffer us to be double-minded about our citizenship and, third, that He will always supply His remnant with protection.

Let’s look at this history: Genesis 18, Abraham and Sarah were visited by the Lord with two angels and Abraham and Sarah were promised a child, in their advance age. But, also, the Lord had a discussion about Sodom and Gomorrah, and particularly and in detail about Sodom, where Lot lived with his family. The colloquy between Abraham and the Lord was that the Lord was going to destroy those two cities because their sin was very grave (serious), and Abraham was pleading with the Lord for temperance, so as not to destroy the city of Sodom, where Lot lived with his family, and the righteous remnant living there, even a remnant as small as ten people in the whole of Sodom, and God agreed. God has a tremendous heart of protection of any remnant of faithful believers. However, Genesis 19, when the two angels got to Sodom, and found Lot sitting in the gate of the city, and over the night the angels found that the only righteous man in the whole city of Sodom was Lot, himself. Thus, the angels determined to destroy the whole city of Sodom, in accordance with the agreement the Lord made with Abraham to spare the city if ten righteous could be found there. Then, the angels warned Lot to take his family out of Sodom so as not to be destroyed, and Lot’s sons-in-law laughed at him, so he had only his wife and two unmarried daughters to take to safety. But the angels gave an admonition, a condition, verse 17, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.

So in this history of Lot, we see these three principles of citizenship in God’s kingdom, three principles we must know and understand if we are to sustain this testimony of our Christian passport:  First, that our citizenship in the Kingdom of God separates us from citizenship in any nation on earth (Lot and his immediate family had to leave Sodom and all their property behind) and, second, that God will not suffer us to be double-minded about our citizenship (the angels gave Lot no choice but to leave) and, third, that God will always supply His remnant with protection (God allowed Lot and his women to leave). The underlying sad thing here is the double-mindedness of Lot’s wife, verse 26, “But his wife looked back behind him and she became a pillar of salt.” She violated the first and second principles of citizenship in God’s kingdom and therefore did not enjoy the fruit of the third principle, and she caused her husband and two unmarried daughters to do without her continued life with them. Sad!

The history of Lot and his wife was very important to Jesus, and His explanation to His disciples, whom we are today, Luke 17:32-33. “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

What Jesus was teaching against was the double-mindedness that James told us (James 1:7-8) would keep us from receiving anything from the Lord, would make us unstable in all our ways.

Paul later explained all this in several of his letters: In Colossians 1:21-23, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies (of God) in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and blameless, and above reproach in His sight – if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard.” And in Ephesians 2:11-12, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh – who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands – that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Paul was explaining what Jesus had taught: When we were citizens of the world, when we carried as our essential identity, the passport of the world, we were aliens of the kingdom of God, being without Him, and without hope.

However, Paul continued his teaching in I Peter 2:11 (NIV) that, when saved by the blood of Christ and not moved away from the hope of the gospel of Christ, we supernaturally become aliens and strangers in the world as we have become citizens of the kingdom of God. And in Hebrews 11, speaking of the Fathers of Faith from Abel to Abraham, and Sister Sarah, verse 13 says, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them from afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers (aliens) and pilgrims on the earth.

When we leave behind our earthly citizenship, our earthly passport, and receive in faith our eternal citizenship, our eternal passport, in the kingdom of God, something very supernatural happens to us: we become, like Lot, but not like his wife, willing to be First, separated from citizenship in any nation on earth (Lot and his immediate family had to leave Sodom and all their property behind) and, second, so loving God in obedience that we, too, discipline ourselves and do not suffer ourselves to be double-minded about our citizenship (the angels gave Lot no choice but to leave) and, third, that God will always supply His remnant with protection if we accept his admonitions and conditions to that protection.

In his book, the prophet Isaiah summed this up, Chapter 1:2-20, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know; my people do not consider.’ Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters (not just corrupted, but corrupting others)! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward. Why should you be stricken again (we ask children, and we were asked, are you sure you want to be chastised again?)? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; strangers devour your land in your presence; and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard, as a hut in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. Unless the Lord of hosts had left to us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been made like Gomorrah. (Lot was the male remnant in Sodom, just Lot and his three women! And God protected them, if they would but follow His admonitions and conditions.) Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: ‘To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?’, says the Lord. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs and goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.  Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat of the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword’; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Conclusion

The choice is ever before us, just as Isaiah said, and just as the angels said to Lot and his women. And most people want to make that choice, especially in their early days of salvation, thinking that they can continue to carry their earthly passports, along with their passports in the kingdom of God, keeping one foot in heaven and one foot in sin. But in maturity (perfection, completeness), we have learned that “it ain’t so”. We must, Isaiah 1:17, Cease to do evil, and verse 18, our sins need to be washed away, and verse 19, we must be willing and obedient to God! Only by such maturity – leaving behind double-mindedness and instability – can we truly carry our Christian passport at all times, showing it to God and to all those whom we meet, at all times. Are your walking in that maturity? Are your not but are ready to walk in that maturity? Would you like prayer with me today to walk in that maturity – to be a mature citizen in the kingdom of God? Come now, if you wish, and we will pray.

God bless His word for us today. May it be fruitful and multiply. Amen.

No Doubt

We get our Strength from/in God
God is great. His name is above all names.
We worship Him through all things – good or bad
Because He knows us, and loves us
Only He can save us, we can’t save ourselves no matter how hard we try
He takes care of us, He is our God…

Have you ever been bitterly disappointed in your own life? Ever wonder where you’re going or what it is that you’re supposed to be doing? Ever doubt God? I have found that it is easy to doubt God. To doubt His word and to doubt that I am doing what He wants me to do.

Let’s see, fear…got that. To lack confidence…got that. To consider unlikely…got that. I’ve got doubt in abundance, and it usually shows up about the time God wants me to do something for Him, or often it comes up when I’m being tested…how simple to fail a test, how easy to fall into the world’s view and walk away from God…how acceptable to give in to the temptations of Satan and turn our face from God. See, the foolish thing we think is that we ought to be able to understand God. That we should be able to at least have an idea about what it is God is doing, or what He wants from us. I would have to disagree with that view. God is unfathomable, unknowable, but at the same time, He is our God and He wants what is best for us.

If only God would speak; if only he would tell you what he thinks! If only he would tell you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom is not a simple matter. Listen! God is doubtless punishing you far less than you deserve! “Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything about the Almighty? Such knowledge is higher than the heavens — and who are you? It is deeper than the underworld — what do you know? It is broader than the earth and wider than the sea. If God comes and puts a person in prison or calls the court to order, who can stop him? For he knows those who are false, and he takes note of all their sins. An empty-headed person won’t become wise any more than a wild donkey can bear a human child.

Job 11:5-12

If only He would speak…if only He would tell us what He thinks, what He wants. Anybody ever see the movie “Bruce Almighty?” A part that always stands out in my mind is when Bruce is praying to God for a sign and the pager goes off, then a sign in the street, then another sign and another sign. Every time something happens that is so obviously from God, Bruce would blow it off as something natural, or would miss the point. How often do we miss what God is trying to show us? How often do we take are eyes off God and look at what is in the natural world. Anybody want to take a guess at what happens to us when we look at the world instead of focusing on God?

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

Matthew 14:28-32

But the thing is, it’s ok to be tested, it’s ok when we have to stretch our faith and really search for meaning and guidance. God is ok with us seeking Him and asking for Him to show us His will. He wants to build our character, He wants to strengthen us, He wants us to wait on Him and know that He will take care of it.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 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; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

James 1:2-8

You see, as we are tested, we begin to seek God more diligently, to look for answers from Him who supplies everything. The great thing is that God never asks us to believe Him without sufficient evidence. How many times does God show us that He exists? How can we doubt a God who is always in our lives? How many times in this church are words given that are exactly what is being preached? How often do things just work out for us when there is no way it could ever have happened?

So how do we get rid of doubt? Well, first off, we stay in God’s word, every day. We pray, we fast. We must also be in fellowship with other Christians. We build each other up, we help each other to stay faithful, we save each other from doubt.

But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them. But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

Jude 1:17-25

I have felt doubt numerous times. I have doubted that I’m in the will of God, I have doubted that I’ve heard from God and I have doubted that God cares about me enough to pay any attention. I have made it through these doubts and become stronger in my faith because of the things I have been taught. Scripture covenant, read every day, pick up the phone and call someone, ask for prayer. These are the steps to staying faithful and beating doubt.

Christian Character Part 11

Faith: a Tale of Three Rivers

Continuing in our series on Christian Character, we look back to the last message, on Jesus Christ, where we saw Him as the creator and exemplar of Christian Character, so demonstrated in His last earthly Passover, at the Garden of Gethsemane and his unwavering, though faltering, walk to the Cross at Golgotha. But Jesus is also the author and finisher of our faith.

Today, our focus is drawn to the issue of our faith, because it is only by faith, and in our faith, that, once saved by the Blood of Christ, we are empowered and called by God to walk out our faith, all the days of our lives, in how we live, in what we do, from minute to minute, from year to year.

So, how is this a Tale of Three Rivers? The most important of these Three Rivers is the River of Life (Revelation 22:1), which irrigates the Tree of Life (Revelation 22:2), which brings forth Fruit (Revelation 22:2) and whose leaves heal the nations (Revelation 22:2). We want to live in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2) in which the River of Life which runs in the middle of the street (Revelation 22:2). But to get there, we have to cross two rivers, if you will, and they are, in Biblical History, the Red Sea, and the Jordan River, but we have supernatural help.

To cross both the Red Sea and the Jordan River requires us to act in Faith, because in the Biblical context, both involved danger and thus provoked fleshly fears. The crossing of the Red Sea was stimulated first by obedience to God’s command, to leave Egypt, and then by fear of Pharaoh’s armies sent to bring the Israelites back into bondage. The crossing of the Jordan River was stimulated by hopeful obedience to reach God’s promises in the Promised Land, although it was accompanied by danger and fleshly fears, and the fear – the great fear – of the unknown on the other side of the Jordan River in the Promised Land, and that crossing, after 40 years of wandering in a small desert area, came at a time when the people were undoubtedly weary and discouraged from 40 years of homelessness.

Our frears, weariness and discouragement, our temptations to sin, all – none — are never new “news” to God. He knows, He knew, He understands, He understood, all of them.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him, who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Jesus has authored in us that sufficient “Measure of Faith”, Romans 12:3. And by His Grace, Hebrews 12:1, we can “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus”: He is the “finisher” of our faith, and as we look unto Him for inspiration and encouragement and wisdom in the Holy Spirit, He will help us finish that race, no matter how much endurance it requires to overcome our fears, no matter how much hostility from our fellow sinners we are called to endure, no matter how weary or discouraged we are in our soul realms. Jesus, Himself, ran the race set before Him, all the way to the Cross at Golgotha. He is on the other side of the finish line, encouraging those who follow to run the race with endurance, and to finish it in obedience.

Like running a race, or maybe as part of running the race, the Israelites had to cross these two rivers, the Red Sea and the Jordan River. To cross them, like in running, they had to keep moving, they had to put one foot in front of the other, even when it made no sense in the natural.

The Red Sea history is in Exodus 14. In verses 13-14, with the Israelites’ backs against the Sea and the Egyptian Army, Moses, the Leader, encouraged the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace.” You see here their fears, and the call of encouragement to endure while God finished their faith. I notice here that “hold” is an active verb, not a passive verb, “hold your peace”. There is always a struggle, as Satan seeks to pull your peace from us, and as we struggle to pull it back and hold on to it. That is active, not passive, in life.

Then, in verses 15-16, God instructs Moses, the Leader, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward (that is running the race!). But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go over on dry land through the midst of the sea.” Then, in verses 19-20, the Angel of God, and the pillar of cloud were supernaturally placed between the Egyptians and the Israelites, to protect the Israelites.

Imagine the scene, of these great, high, splashing walls of water, restrained by no visible barrier, but “only” restrained by the will of God. The confidence of the people in God’s miracles in Egypt, and the spoiling of the people with wealth in their leaving – all God’s miracles for His chosen people — had already been forgotten (in verse 12, the people were asking Moses to leave them alone, that they might go back and serve as slaves to the Egyptians again rather than die in the wilderness). In this context, God instructed Moses in yet another set of miracles, and Moses obeyed and called on the people to obey, and you can only imagine in that context their reluctance to take another risk and to walk out onto the bed of the Red Sea. Yet they did! And Hallelujah for their obedience, for their overcoming of fears, weariness and discomfort enough to act in obedience, to run the race, one foot in front of another. Yet they did!

And then at the Jordan. After 40 years of going in circles, you know they were apprehensive, and they were tired and they were discouraged. Scholars tell us that at the season of this crossing, the Jordan would most likely have been at flood stage, outside of its banks, with swift currents, deep waters, and very wide, even miles wide [see Joshua 3:15, “(for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest”)].

Here is how God told them to do it, to cross the Jordan, by His instruction to Joshua, in Joshua 3, in verse 8, “You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you have come to the edge of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.'” And Joshua, understood that the people were to follow the priests and the ark of the covenant into the Jordan, and here is what Joshua told the people, in verses 9-13.

So Joshua said to the children of Israel, ‘Come here, and hear the words of the Lord your God . . . . By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Periizites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jubusites: Behold the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan. Now therefore, take for yourselves, twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from every tribe. And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand in a heap.”

Joshua 3:9-13

And then in magnificent understatement, Scripture next says, “So it was. . . .”

Verses 14-17 give us the rest of that history: All obeyed; the priests carried the ark of the covenant into the Jordan River; nature obeyed its Creator (can you believe that?!), and the upstream waters stood in a heap, causing dry land, over which the millions of Israelites crossed into the Promised Land.

Now, many of these people had not seen the parting and crossing of the Red Sea, but they had heard about it. And they were called to be obedient again to something that made no sense in the natural world of their experiences. But to exercise their faith, they had to be obedient, and God provided supernaturally for them, yet again.

There are messages aplenty here for us. If we make all the decisions of our lives based only on natural wisdom, understanding, knowledge and discernment, it is impossible for us ever to be fully obedient to God! To live in obedient faithfulness, we must extend ourselves beyond the natural into God’s supernatural realms of provision, of healing, of blessings, of favor. That always involves stepping into places where our soul realm screams , “NO, NO, NO!!!” Why, because it does not make sense, in the natural. Our natural fears well up at every such occasion. No wonder, then, why God kept telling Joshua, the Leader, and the children of Israel, “Be Strong and Courageous” (Joshua 1:6, 9, 18).

The core of the faith to disregard the natural warnings and to obey the supernatural instruction is hope. And the core and foundation of hope is truth. Example: confrontation with a poisonous snake – the truth is that if you slap it with your hand you will almost certainly be bitten. But if you back away, the truth is you will almost certainly not be bitten. Yet, if a mosquito lands on your hand, the truth is that if you slap the mosquito you will most likely kill it without harm to yourself. So you take action in each case based on the hope of the outcome, and you measure your degree of hope by the truth you know. When we are called to supernatural obedience, we are called to act in hope based on truth we cannot prove naturally or scientifically or mathematically, indeed, based on a truth we must “know” even without seeing it. So in our lives, it is real important to know where our hope is, where our truth is, because that determines who we will serve, and particularly, whether, how, and to what extent we will serve God, because he will not leave us to serve Him only in the areas of natural truth; He will call us to serve him in reliance on supernatural truth.

Now, no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). That is why the issue of choice has ever been before mankind, as it was before the children of Israel in the days of Moses and the days of Joshua, was before the people of the world when Jesus spoke those words of Matthew 6, and is certainly before us today.

The series of last year, on God, Man and Society, showed us that God intended that we live in Godly society, in obedience to Him in everything, including in the government of Society. The foundation of such a Godly society is Godly men. As a result we have been studying for some time Christian Character, which is the definition of Godly men. Without men (and women) of Christian Character, we cannot have and maintain a Godly Society. So, these two series are intimately and causally (not casually) related.

When the people of a society break covenant with God, He will respond. In Deuteronomy 31:16-17, God told Moses it was time for his death, and He said this to Moses, prophetically seeing into the future.

Behold, you will rest with your fathers, and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then, My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’

Deuteronomy 31:16-17

As we are in a season of great change in our society, we must hope for a profound and pervasive return to God, that our people – grafted into the Blood of Abraham by the Blood of Jesus Christ – will realize that many evils and troubles have befallen us and threaten us , and that we are in trouble because “our God is not among us.” If we reject God, He is still available to our repentance, but we cannot, individually or as a society, a nation, play the harlot in idolatry, and expect God’s supernatural deliverance from our fears, our weariness and our discouragement.

Brothers and Sisters, as Psalm 46:4-5, encourage us, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.” That River is the River of Life; those waters are living waters. In Revelation 7, there is discussion of those who came out of the great tribulation, and it says, in verse 17, that the Lamb is in the midst of the throne, and will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters! Hallelujah!

Today, II Corinthians 6: 16, “(we) are the temple of the living God”. And through the Person of the Holy Spirit, He will shepherd us and lead us to living fountains of water.

How many know that we need those living fountains for salvation, yes, but also to live in obedience to God, to sustain us in His Lordship, if we will so submit, of our lives? We do need those living fountains of water. But we have to cross our own Red Seas, and our own Jordan Rivers, to live out the purposes and plans for which God created us, in the first place, and to which He has eternally called us. To make those crossings we have to put our feet in places that make no sense in the natural world, we have to take natural risks in reliance on God’s supernatural plan and salvation and Lordship. That is the essence of the faith in which Jesus chose to act, for the Joy set before Him, in His walk to the Cross at Golgotha. Only in that reliance on God and His supernatural provision can we run with endurance the race set out before us, only in that reliance can we overcome the hostility of our fellow sinners, and the weariness and discouragement of our own souls. Only in that reliance, in that shepherding and leading, will we cross our rivers of difficulty and faith-testing, and rest in the New Jerusalem at the River of Life. But, here is what we all overlook: We have the River of Life now, supernaturally, and it is to sustain us in our travels and travails, as we trust God to heap up, and hold back, the mighty earthly waters of adversity and forces against us, so we may step out to obey His call, and to put our feet where He wills that we should. When you are living like that, you are living well in Christian Character. Examine yourself and figure out where you are in your Christian Character, and choose to trust God more and more, that in all things, “Not my will, but Thine”, especially when we come to those river crossings in life where God is calling us to hope in his supernatural truth, or what we really call faith. That, brothers and sisters, is the tale of three rivers.

God bless you+

The Making Of Disciples

Barry preached that “America has been lost to the enemy one family, one heart, one soul at a time, and it can be rescued only in the same way, one family one heart, one soul at a time.”

Fill our hearts with the excitement of knowing you … so that we will continue to spread the Gospel of the good news Jesus Christ changing one family, one heart one soul at a time. All across the land, going to every city and village … every city and village in the whole nation. Forgive us that we haven’t done this yet. Barry prayed that God would show us what we all are to do. And give us the courage to do it.

I preached about evangelism: going forth and making disciples of all nations. Going forth. Matthew 28 doesn’t say to we have to save anybody, it doesn’t even say to bring them in to the church. It just says to go and make disciples.

So I have two simple questions this week – 1) How many people stepped out of their comfort zone in the past two weeks and rescued someone? 2) What exactly is a disciple anyway?

A disciple is (a) one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: as one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ’s followers according to the Gospel accounts; (b) a convinced adherent of a school or individual.

I agree with this, though I’m not exactly sure why they included the second part of the definition except that they are referred to so many times in scripture as the 12 disciples. However, there are hundreds of references to Jesus’ “disciples” that could include the hundreds that where following him:.

The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.

Luke 10

Anyway, so how do we make a disciple? What do we need to do in order to become a disciple of Christ and to bring others with us? Relationship. To make a disciple, to be a disciple, you must have a relationship with a person. Whether you are a disciple, or you are making a disciple, it all the same.

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:36-40

Love thy neighbor as thyself … tough concept. Who is our neighbor?

And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:28-37

How many times have we said hello to someone that has come in to our church? How many times have we greeted them and spoken to them? How many times has someone come to our church once and never come back? Oh we talk a great game, we speak nicely to them, we have a great conversation with them, and then what? How many visitors to our church has had a visit from one of us to their home? A phone call? Anything? How much time do we invest in others to make them feel loved or wanted?

I remember when I first came to Christ, I was so hungry for God, and I think everybody here can relate to this, I was so hungry for God that I was constantly seeking. Gene Horne called me every single day, sometimes just to say hello, sometimes to ask me about a scripture passage, sometimes to correct me, sometimes to pray for or with me. The thing is, if he hadn’t done that, would I have continued to come to church? The investment he made in my life changed my perception of him and of Christ. Why would some guy I barely know keep calling me and asking me how I was doing? How was I feeling? Did I need prayer? He showed that he loved me through his actions, just as Christ showed me His unbelievable love for me by allowing Himself to be nailed to a cross.

It comes down to this: most people want to know “what have you done for me lately?”

So, what have we done for others lately?

I have family members that I would love to see come to Christ. I have neighbors that I would love to see come to Christ. I have been convicted of the slackness in my commitment to make disciples.

Last night I went to JJ and Heathers wedding. While I was there I talked to a young lady named Cassie. She is the daughter of a friend of mine named Spuds. She said she never sees me anymore and asked why I never come over since I live so close. And she’s right, they live about 2 minutes away from us and I never go to their house. But Spuds is a great guy, and he is so close to becoming a believer. He’s been going to church sometimes, he was beginning to understand, and I have been so slack that I haven’t even asked him how his walk with God is going, even though I see him on a regular basis. Fail.

We fall into a kind of pattern, talking about God to those whom we know are believers and avoiding offending those who we are not so sure about.

Jesus said that where our treasure is, there also will our heart be. He was talking about treasure in heaven, but how do we build that treasure except by investing in the kingdom of God. A literal translation is that what we spend our time with, what we invest our time in, that’s where our heart is going to be. If we spend time with God, our heart will be turned toward God. If we spend time with the world, our hearts will be turned to the world. If we spend time with our spouse and our kids and our friends…there also will be our heart.

If we spend time with people who we are “discipling” there also will be our hearts. So the key to making disciples is becoming invested in someone, showing interest in their lives, showing them that you love them. Sometimes it’s hard, what with all the other “things” on our busy schedules. But really, what is a 10 minute phone call once a day if it can mean the difference between salvation and condemnation? Our church had a practice activation for the “calling once a day” that God specifically placed on us to ready us for when He would call us to begin to grow our church. I believe that the time is now. We have been waiting for an evangelist to be brought here, or for someone to be given an evangelical anointing, when all the time God wanted for each and every one of us to become evangelists. Call, walk, spend time, go forth, take the gospel, make disciples. We don’t have to go on a missions trip to find people in need, there are as many dying here in this nation as any country on earth, there are as many in need of spiritual rescue in our neighborhoods as anywhere.

Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:33-35

So how have we showed our love for others this past week? What can we do this coming week to show our love to someone else?

Remember that Satan’s evangelists never stop, never get tired, never back down. They lie, they backstab, they pervert God’s word. And they are everywhere. We must be more vigilant, more persuasive, more determined than they.

Christian Character Part 10

Jesus Christ

This is the tenth (sic, ninth) message in our series on Christian Character. It comes to us in God’s magnificent timing on Easter Sunday 2010. Today, we honor and glorify Jesus Christ in the defining process of His character, in which He set His standards for all time for all people. His standards are marked by knowledge of the will of God, by Satan’s deadly opposition to God’s will being accomplished in the life of Jesus Christ, and by Satan’s strategies of deterrence to the accomplishment of God’s will; by Jesus’ human weaknesses, by Jesus’ unwavering commitment to being an instrument of the accomplishment of God’s will, and by the accomplishment of God’ will. In Jesus’ life, His walk from the Last Supper to Gethsemane, to Golgotha, defined His fulfillment of God’s purpose and plan in Jesus’ human life, and revealed His character of making Godly choices at every point along the way, of enduring and persevering, of trusting the Father in Heaven. And what was accomplished through the Christian Character of Jesus Christ is that those – we – who were dead in sin have the promise and hope of forgivcness of our sins, of encouragement to walk out God’s will in our own lives, and of life eternal in the New Jerusalem!

Yes, we are blessed and we know it and we are thankful for it and today we especially celebrate, at what we call Easter, that period after the Passover after which the Cruxificion occurred. Professor Vines, in his study of Biblical words, tells us in Acts 12:4 appears the Greek work “pascha” has been mistranslated in several English versions as “Easter”. He explains that “pascha” is the Greek spelling of the Aramaic word for the Passover, from the Aramaic word “pa-sach”, to pass over, to spare, commemorating God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt, now also commemorating the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ at the Cross.

Just to give you context, New King James reads, however, in Acts 12:4: “So when he (Herod) had arrested him (Peter) to put him (Peter) in prison, and delivered him (Peter) to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.” The phrase “after Passover” in more accurate translations signifies after the whole festival (the Passover) was at an end. So, Professor Vines explains, that the word “Easter” is not of Christian origin; that it is another form of “Astarte”, one of the titles of the Chaldean goddess known as the queen of heaven. Thus, the festival of Pasch – after the Passover — held by Christians in post-apostolic times was a continuation of the Jewish feast of Passover, but it was not instituted by Christ nor was it connected with Lent. And that brings us to Easter, in which we celebrate not just the anticipation of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ at the Cross, but that it actually happened, Jesus actually came, lived here, and went to the Cross and gave the blood sacrifice that enabled atonement for our sins. We have so much more to celebrate than anticipation; we celebrate accomplishment of God’s purposes in Jesus’ life and all that is available to us in and through the Blood of Christ in our lives.

Today, this Easter, I want to share with you some insights from that fateful weekend of Jesus’ life, insights that God intends will strengthen you and me.

First of all, let us look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Luke 22:41: “And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Your will be done.'” Jesus’ knowledge of God’s will for Him was confirmed, in verse 43, when an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him, and then in verse 44 as He accepted that strengthening – even anticipating the agony He would endure – by praying more earnestly and His physical manifestation including sweat appearing like great drops of blood, as His spirit wrestled with his human soul to discipline His body to take the steps set before Him in God’s plan and purpose for His life, and indeed for the lives of all humanity then living and to be birthed!

God does not intend that we would reach all of humanity, in our few human steps but He has intended, and does intend, that we would reach others, and that is vitally important to God’s plans being accomplished – no one left behind, that all men should come to a saving knowledge of the truth which is Jesus Christ.

So, we start in this picture from history by understanding that Jesus knew God’s plan and purpose for His life, and, in Jesus’ flesh, He was resistant to it and fearful of it, but He still chose obedience to God’s will, plan and purpose. That is foundational to Christian Character.

Next, let’s look at Jesus, after the lashings and beatings, bearing His Cross up to Golgotha’s Hill, where (Matthew 27:33) He was crucified. Scripture suggests (Luke 23:26) that Jesus faltered and was unable to bear the Cross by Himself, physically, and so Simon, a man from Cyrene, Africa, was enlisted by the soldiers to help Jesus carry the Cross. What we see here confirms Ruthie’s Scripture and prayer: Proverbs 4:27, “Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil”. Jesus kept on going straight up the path of that Hill, even when He faltered, physically, He didn’t quit, He didn’t give up, He didn’t try to run away, He didn’t try to fight the soldiers. He just kept plodding up that hill, carrying that Cross and dragging it along to a certain death that was God’s will for Him.

Look at the context of Proverbs 4:27, back to verse 20, and following: “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established, do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.” See, Jesus understood the context of that Proverb, that instruction of God’s will and kept it and measured it in His heart with all diligence, putting away the mental deceits the enemy surely brought into Jesus’ mind, and the voices from the crowd, and simply establishing His way by keeping His vision on the path God set before Him, and never deviating to either side. This discipline to obey is foundational to Christian Character, and that discipline to obey is under our control, because it is within our choice realm: As Jesus said, Matthew 20:28, “. . . just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

You would think, if this was happening in our day and age, that one might think, even Jesus in His mind and soul realm, might be led to think, “this is not fair!” God’s will is not always based on fairness – indeed, the whole concept of service, of sacrifice, of obedience, is to disregard concepts of fairness when in conflict with God’s will. But is you are ever so tempted, remember that we have been bought with the blood of Jesus – He saved our lives – and we are obligated to be His bondservants – nothing else – and, through those same choices, that same discipline, we ought to take joy and find peace in that obedience, that service, and whatever sacrifice He calls us to.

Conclusion

In Jesus, as one might expect, we find the greatest exposition of Christian Character that has ever existed. He created and defined Christian Character that night in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the travail of those beatings and lashings, in that painful and fearful walk up to Golgotha’s Hill, in the agony of the Cross. Yet, on the third day He arose, and His obedient service and sufferings raised Him up with a glad heart, a heart of joy as He knew His mission was accomplished, and that God’s will had been done through Him, yes, through Jesus as man, as human, who made decisions through discipline, and that God’s will was accomplished in heaven and on earth. The veil of the temple was now torn from top to bottom, and the sins of mankind, for all time, had been atoned. Hallelejuh!!

As we honor and celebrate the events after that Passover, as we honor Jesus and His Christian Character, let us examine our selves, and our Christian Character. I know you have decisions looming out there in your lives that will define your Christian Character – How will you discipline yourselves to obey God’s will, plan and purpose in your lives? Will you make God’s decisions in your life? Will you, Proverbs 4, give attention to His words and keep them in the midst of your heart; will you keep your heart with all diligence; will you put away a deceitful mouth; will you ponder the path before your feet; will you keep your eyes (and your heart) in focus on God’s will, purpose and plan; will you keep straight to the narrow highway, neither turning to the right or the left?

Many questions, but one answer: God’s will, through Christ, because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And to live is Christ, to die is gain (Phillipians 1:21). Hallelujah! Christ is risen!

The Service of Holy Communion

BIBLE FAITH FELLOWSHIP: AN ORDER AND PRACTICE OF HOLY COMMUNION

Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself; and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all.

He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself, in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world. At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it, or lay a hand upon it; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing wine to be consecrated.

For in the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Likewise, after supper, he took the cup; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink ye all of this; for this is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins. Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Wherefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, according to the institution of your dearly beloved Son our Savior Jesus Christ, we, your humble servants, do celebrate and make here before your divine Majesty, with these your holy gifts, which we now offer to you, the memorial your Son commanded us to make; remembering His blessed passion and precious death, His mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; offering up to You our deepest thanksgiving for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by Your mercy.

And we most humbly ask You, O merciful Father, to hear us; and, by Your almighty goodness, to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these Your gifts of bread and wine; that we, receiving them according to thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion. And here we offer and present unto You, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto You; humbly praying that we, and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive this most precious remembrance of the Body and Blood of Your Son Jesus Christ, be filled with Your grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with Him, that He may dwell in us, and we in Him.

And although we are unworthy, through our manifold sins, to offer unto You any sacrifice, yet we pray You to accept our offerings and service, not weighing our merits, but pardoning our offenses, through Jesus Christ our Lord;

By whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honor and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. AMEN.

And now, as our Savior Christ hath taught us, we are bold to say this the Prayer that Jesus ordained, People and Celebrant

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 6:9-13

SERVICE OF THE MINISTERS

SERVICE OF THE BODY

[The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. [Amen.]

[The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. [Amen.]

After Communion, the Celebrant says, Let us pray.

Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank You that You feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and assure us thereby of Your favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporated in the supernatural body of Your Son, and into the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs, through hope, of Your everlasting kingdom. And we humbly pray You, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with Your grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as You have prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with You and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

Spiritual Search and Rescue

How many of us have been in a tight jam and needed someone else to help us out? How many times have we had a problem that we couldn’t solve ourselves? How many times in our lives have we needed rescuing? I can tell you from my personal experience, the count is pretty high. In the physical realm, in the world, I’ve needed rescuing a number of times. But let’s talk about the important realm, the important part of our lives, the spiritual realm. How many of us have floundered spiritually and needed someone to step in and rescue us … usually from our own silliness, our own mistakes, our own stubbornness.

Last week Barry preached that “America has been lost to the enemy one family, one heart, one soul at a time, and it can be rescued only in the same way, one family one heart, one soul at a time.”

Fill our hearts with the excitement of knowing you…so that we will continue to spread the Gospel of the good news Jesus Christ changing one family, one heart one soul at a time. All across the land, going to every city and village … every city and village in the whole nation. Forgive us that we haven’t done this yet. Barry prayed that God would show us what we all are to do. And give us the courage to do it.

The answer: Evangelism.

So how do we do that? How do we evangelize?

First let me say that I’ve actually been taking a class on evangelism for the last 4 weeks. Great class, fantastic teacher, hasn’t said a word that I didn’t already know but put it together in a way that I would never have figured out without him. I love God. I love that He puts people in our lives that we need at the right time and the right place. He wants to do the same thing with us, He wants us to be in the right place at the right time to help someone else. The person teaching the class is Rick Stem, some of you might know him. He made a statement the first week I was there that changed my attitude toward evangelism considerably. He said: “Evangelism is the top priority of God! It is also the top priority of Satan.” Wow, what a statement. Absolutely true, absolutely scary. The thing is, Satan’s evangelists never stop, never get tired, never back down. They lie, they backstab, they pervert God’s word. And they are everywhere.

So what can we do? God answers that in scripture, we’ve all heard it many times.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

I know this passage, we all know this passage, and this is probably going to offend some of us, we’re going to get defensive and say to ourselves that “I do what I can … I talk about Christ.” That may be the case, it is for me. But ask yourselves this: “How many people have I rescued this week?” How many people have I asked ” Do you know Jesus Christ?” How many people have you rescued this week? This month? This year?

Matthew 28 doesn’t say to we have to save anybody, it doesn’t even say to bring them in to the church. It just says to go and make disciples.

God is clear in scripture that we are to go forth and evangelize the world and preach the good news. Nowhere in scripture does God say: “Sit in your church, praying and hoping that people will come in and give their lives to me.” I know we all try to live Godly lives and influence people that we come in contact with, but how many hours do we spend actively seeking to bring people to Christ? How many hours do we spend on spiritual search and rescue? How many? 1 hour, 2 hours? 20 minutes? Worldly enjoyments yield little time to evangelism.

Barry asked last week that we have the courage to do what God asks of us.

After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’

Luke 10:1-5

Think maybe these guys were apprehensive? I do. Don’t take any money, don’t take any food … just go. Pretty scary orders.

Here’s the thing, every person in here has expressed a desire to go on a “missions” trip. Some even have. Gone to other countries and helped people in need, and all the while there are people in our own neighborhoods who are perishing, dying a slow and painful death leading to eternity in hell. And we sit by and watch them dying because we are too scared to talk to them about Christ.

Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

Luke 24:46-47

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Mark 16:15-18

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

John 20:21-23

This is a change we have to make inside of ourselves. We must change our attitude about how we live if we are to be obedient to God’s word. Can we ever “do enough?” Can we ever say that we are doing everything we can? How hard would it be to give up a Saturday morning sleeping in to knock on the neighborhood doors, asking everyone if they know the saving power of Jesus Christ? How much sacrifice would be involved to give up a Sunday afternoon nap or a trip to the movies, or a volleyball game to bring one person to the kingdom of God? To rescue one person from the spiritual death that they are blindly walking toward. How much sacrifice is it really? We have to stop lying to ourselves, lying to each other, lying to the world and especially trying to lie to God. We have to stop putting ourselves and our wants first and start obeying the word of God.

There’s a song we have sung a few times that says this.

We’ve got our
Marching orders
We’ve got our
Marching orders
Now is the time
To carry them forth

Go forth,
Jesus loves them
Go forth,
Take the gospel
Go forth,
The time is now
The harvest is ripening
Go forth!

Randy Rottwell – Go Forth

Christian Character Part 9

A Prayer for America and God’s People

Lord, we pray in Jesus’ Name, His Holy Name, for America and for God’s people, that You will have mercy on us all.

We live today in a time in Your dialectic of history in which nations conspire against the Godly, when, even in our nation, our leaders conspire against You.  Psalm 2 shows us how You see all this and how You loathe the arrogance of nations, as we know You loathe the arrogance of individual men. Official prayer in school has been declared unconstitutional, and now unofficial prayers and pray-ers are illegal. All across the land, murder of the unborn has been legalized, and by school policies and government policies in the name of “privacy,” parents are prevented notice and decisional control over the reproductive decisions of their children.

The United Nations bullies all nations into Godlessness and other sin and weaknesses. Our Government maliciously would join the United Nations in its manipulations and power grabs.

We cry out to you in hope for your mercy as we consider the fears generated by the pending collapse of the American Experiment: the collapse of democracy, into the coming economic crises of American’s fiscal and monetary policies, the tyranny of socialism in the mask of progressivism, creeping in drip by drip, wave by wave, causing the leveling of our society into one where freedom of assembly is challenged (Arizona and California, last week), where freedom of speech is muzzled (hate speech), where the right of self-defense is given by utopian socialists to international bullies and dictators (Hillary Clinton, Sec. of State, agrees to the UN “Small Arms Treaty”), and the government would claim dominion over our very bodies (Health Care Decisions by the Government), as well as our labor and income, and money and resources (tax policy to redistribute wealth).

This is not the time or place to go into the politics of all of this, but what is noted above are facts of our times, and facts that cause us to cry out, not just as Americans, but as Christians, and say, “Lord, have mercy on us, please, please, have mercy on us.”

We know that our people, Your people here, and all around the world, and even so much as in Israel, your chosen and beloved people into whom we are grafted by the Blood of Christ, have sinned, and do sin, and fall short of Your glory. We all are guilty of self-centeredness and all that it brings (disobedience of You and Your commands, covetousness, idolatry, pride, arrogance, the breakdown of the church as the source, instead of the government, of charity), we are all guilty of traipsing off into our wicked ways, falling into the ditches on the left and right of the narrow, and straight, highway.

Lord, today we know that many of us, many of Your people, have confessed their sins, repented and turned from their wicked ways, and that You have forgiven us and them. Yet, we know that many have not confessed their sins, repented and turned from their wicked ways. We know that many remain double-minded and tainted in their hearts, unstable in all their ways. And Lord, we know that it is that instability, that double-mindedness, has produced not only the fleshly sins of self-centeredness, like adultery and idolatry, but that same instability from double-mindedness has produced spiritual adultery. Many of our people, many of Your people, think that if they merely keep a toe-hold in the Church, if they just nod and bow at the Name of Jesus, their fire insurance for Heaven is assured, and so they can continue to consort with the great Harlot you describe in Revelation 17. This double-mindedness has had two effects on Your people: they are comfortable in their sin, and they have authorized and embraced the government of this land, and the governments of the nations, to be comfortable in national ungodliness and sin. Lord, we know that there is no greater recipe for instability than this.

So, we know that in this time of instability, this time in which tectonic plates are sliding around and causing earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis, that the governmental and spiritual foundations are also being shaken and destroyed. Here is the question: Psalm 11: 3, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” And Psalm 11 (read it) gives us the answer: Be righteous!!!! And He will test us, but uphold us!

Okay, how do we do that? The answer is two-fold: (1) the Blood of Jesus leading to salvation (John 3:16) (Only through Jesus, by God’s Grace, can we receive the forgiveness of God that enables us to be righteous.); and (2) because we, the righteous, have His promises, God’s promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit – all forms of adultery, covetousness and pride – and perfect holiness in the fear of God (II Corinthians 7:1). (We need to live in righteousness being restored by God’s Grace, and our hearts striving for purity and holiness; Hebrews 12:23, “. . . the spirits of righteous men made perfect.”)

I look around at Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, Progressives, and all the subdivisions of American politics and I know that I can change nothing on a national level. So, I am not here to talk about politics, but about how we live and cope with the politics of our times.

I am reminded of Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote, in about 1830, that America was great because it was good, that America was good because it was Christian. He also said that the American Experiment, great as it was, would probably last only a couple of hundred years or so, that it would last only as long as it took for the politicians to figure out that they could get votes by promising payment of taxpayer dollars, public money, to different interest groups and individuals. So, now we have reached a place where in the year since he took our office, our President has not been photographed setting foot in a church, not even on National Prayer Day last year. He had to have his arm twisted and to be talked into allowing a Nativity scene in the White House at “Holiday” or what we call “Christmas”, despite that the White House was full of displays of pagan religions at that time. That is our leadership. Can God use him for God’s purposes? Of course God can use Mr. Obama. God even used Pharaoh, as you remember. We have also, quite obviously reached the place where politicians, from the White House on down, use public money to buy political support in the form of votes and private campaign contributions.

Lord, we and our country are in mess today, and we cry out for your mercy. Please, uphold us, Your righteous all over the world, and please uphold this country, America, in spite of itself, that you given to Your righteous who live here.

We don’t know where our country, our nation, is going, but it doesn’t look good from here. We don’t know the outcome of the political promises of public money leading up to the votes on Mr. Obama’s health care plan today, and we don’t know the outcome of giving away – just printing paper – all this money to businesses that are said to be too big to fail (which started while George W. Bush was President), while small businesses that normally supply about 90% of the jobs in America have been left floundering. We don’t know the outcome of the Government taking control of our bodies through healthcare decision-making, such as cutting Medicare for seniors by half a trillion dollars, and taking even more control over our income (remember 50% of Americans pay no income tax; 40% of Americans pay 10% of the income tax, and 10% of Americans pay 90% of the income tax) and therefore over our labor (again, in effect, over our bodies).

What has really gotten lost in the shuffle of American politics, government and economics, is this: Lord, You are Creator. Not only did you create the earth and the heavens and life itself, but in creating all that, in creating life, you gave people certain inalienable – non-transferable – rights. Lord, forgive our nation, please, forgive America, our nation, that our government, following in the footsteps of Rome, and Russia and China and North Korea, and many other nations, proclaims that rights come from the government, not from You, God, and that therefore our nation, America, has denied You before men; has dishonored and rejected You, the Creator; has corporately, like is said of individuals in II Tim. 3: 2-5, become a lover of itself, of Big Government, a lover of money (because it buys power), a boaster (of what it can do for us that God has not or cannot do), proud, a blasphemer of the Holy Spirit, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, a slanderer of the Truth, with no self-control, brutal, a despiser of Christian goodness, a traitor to You, and the foundations You had established, haughty, a lover of pleasure rather than of You — Yes, our government claiming its own form of godliness, as the source of rights that You gave. But Lord, we know that that our government denies the power of Your Godliness. Still, Lord, we cry out for Your mercy and forgiveness of this nation and its people.

But Lord we know that this American government – just like Rome did to the Jews in Israel and to much of the rest of the then-known world – can actually take control over our bodies and our labor and our money and resources. But Lord we know that the government can only take control of our minds and hearts if we let them do it, and if we do, Lord, then we know we are fully given over to sin, that our double-mindedness will give way to single-minded secularism and sin. And we pray and stand against this slavery of heart and mind with all that we are and have in You.

So, Lord we, Your righteous through the Blood of Christ, know that we are being tested, and so we repent on behalf of America today, we humble ourselves and seek your face, and we, at least, turn from our personal wicked ways and strive to be the fullness of the stature of Christ, living in us, and pray that our fellow Americans and our government will do so, and that you will forgive us, individually and nationally, and heal us and our land.

Lord, we understand that America has been lost to the enemy one family, one heart, one soul, at a time, and it can be rescued only in the same way, one family, one heart, one soul, at a time. So, meanwhile, we ask you to withhold Your wrath promised in Psalm 2, withhold it from America. And we ask you to so fill our hearts, even in these circumstances, with the excitement, the hope, the joy, and the peace, of knowing You, of receiving Your Grace, of living in and with the power of the Holy Spirit, that we continue to spread the Gospel of the Good News of Jesus, preaching it in season and out of season, all across this land, like Jesus did (Luke 8), going to “every city and village” to share Your Truth, Jesus. Lord, please forgive us that we haven’t done it yet, but show us how to do it. Show us, Lord, how to be Your hands and feet and mouths, but most especially how to have the mind and heart of Christ, without double-mindedness and instability, as we stand against the forces of darkness in the earth and its nations, including our own.

God, please show us what all we are to do, other than to go on just eating, and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage (like before the Flood). And, then, Father God, when we have done all we can do, we pray for your strength that we can, and will, and do, stand in faith, still crying out to You. It is You who laughs at the raging conspiracies against you by the nations of the earth, You who hold them in derision, You who shall speak to them in Your wrath, You who shall break them with Your rod of iron, You who shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. It is You Who says, Haggai 2: 6-9, “For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all nations and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. (And by the way) The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, says the Lord of hosts.”

So, God, today, we seek Your instruction, Your wisdom, Your prophecy, Your blessings, as we seek to trust You and to serve You with fear, even as we rejoice with trembling, knowing that the shaking of all nations and of the desires of all the nations, is coming in Your divine power and in Your divine timing and in Your divine perfection.

This is our Prayer today, in Jesus’ Name, a prayer for our nation and for us, a part of Your chosen people. Amen.

The Embarrassment Of Sin

AKA Fail

How many of us here have done something embarrassing? How many times have we done the same embarrassing thing? I’m not talking about: “oh my gosh, I can’t believe I burped in front of my boyfriend or girlfriend…” or, oh man, I can’t believe my pants just ripped.” I’m talking about doing something that was truly embarrassing, not just to yourself, but to your faith, and while I don’t believe God can be embarrassed, embarrassing to Christianity.

EMBARRASS implies some influence that impedes thought, speech, or action <embarrassed to admit that she liked the movie>. DISCOMFIT implies a hampering or frustrating accompanied by confusion <hecklers discomfited the speaker>. ABASH presupposes some initial self-confidence that receives a sudden check, producing shyness, shame, or a feeling of inferiority <abashed by her swift and cutting retort>. DISCONCERT implies an upsetting of equanimity or assurance producing uncertainty or hesitancy <disconcerted by finding so many in attendance>. RATTLE implies an agitation that impairs thought and judgment <rattled by all the television cameras>.

I think that most of us actually think of the word embarrass within the definitions of the synonyms more so than the actual definition of embarrass. Anyway, the embarrassment which I am talking about is the feeling of self conscious distress, almost to the point of an inability to function. Anybody ever been in that situation?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is difficult to embarrass myself, I don’t really have anything to personally be embarrassed about … not usually. There are exceptions, but for the most part I don’ really care enough about my “image” to really be embarrassed by anything that I do.

On the other hand, I have also concluded that I can do things that I am ashamed of, and that can easily become a wedge between myself and God. We the church, and we individually are always being watched, always being judged by our actions. Sometimes we mess up a little…and sometimes we mess up a lot. So how do we handle it? How do we handle it when we mess up SO bad that we feel like we have no business calling ourselves Christian? Calling ourselves followers of God?

I was written up this week at work for a number of things, some deserving, some made up, all of them embarrassing and all of them completely avoidable had I followed the precepts that my faith in Christ dictates.

My boss asked me to do something that I thought was a bit ridiculous, and still do, however, scripture tells us to submit to authority and Christ says to do what we are asked without question. Turn to Matthew 5:38-48: (NIV).

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

And Paul talks about doing things that are unfair in Ephesians 6:5-8 (KJV):

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

But oh my gosh is it hard. Hard to submit to silliness, hard to do things that are SO unfair. But when we don’t, who do we embarrass? Have I embarrassed myself by being written up for things I should never have done, or have I embarrassed Christ, because I’m a follower of His and should never have done anything so stupid?

I’ll elaborate on what I got in trouble for, because I know that if I was sitting out there and someone said they got in trouble for something silly, I would be very curious.

I actually got written up for a number of things, using school resources for unauthorized use: I play email chess without the chess club sponsor at the high school. Playing video games on school computers, sending personal email through my school account, watching a movie on a school computer. All of which I have an “excuse” for, none of which matter.

I was also written up for disrespect, telling my supervisor that his request was silly. He asked me to inventory an entire school, I asked him for a copy of the current inventory to work from, he wouldn’t provide it, I told him it was silly to start from scratch.

All of these things are wrong by the letter of the law, all of them are wrong because I never should have done them, knowing that I am supposed to be the salt of the earth…a light in the darkness. Knowing that everyone else knows that I claim to be a Christian. Fail.

So now what? What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to look people in the eye and continue in my job knowing that I’ve done something I never should have done?

Oh and by the way, my first reaction was anger…anger at the injustice, anger at the fact that my supervisor calls my work sub-standard, anger at the demeaning “performance improvement plan” I’ve been put on to “improve my work attitude.” It has been a difficult couple of days, knowing that I was to preach today and unable to step away from my anger, to forgive, when all I wanted was revenge. And honestly, I’m still struggling with it a little bit. I’m a lot better then I was on Friday, but I still feel like I was treated unfairly in many ways, but I know I’m wrong in my attitude, I know I’m wrong in my anger, I know I’m wrong in the way I have handled it. Fortunately, God redeems, God heals, God teaches, God molds us into useable objects through trials.

We are blessed that scripture has some great examples of what we are supposed to do when we fail so miserably in our walk with God.

Moses murdered a man, and God used him as His mouthpiece for an entire nation. David committed adultery and murder to cover it up, and God called him a man after His own heart. Peter denied Christ three times, just because he was afraid.

So what do these men have in common that God was able to use them all so powerfully?

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.'” So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” Then Nathan departed to his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, “Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!” When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.” So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD[a] will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

2 Samuel 12:7-22

I’m going to read a couple of scripture passages about Peter’s denial of Christ. Matthew 26:75, Mark 14:72 and Luke 22:60.

Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Matthew 26:75

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Mark 14:72

Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.

Luke 22:60

All cover Peter’s reaction to his failure to acknowledge Christ. In all three accounts Peter wept, in two of them he wept bitterly Moses fled, but God didn’t leave him alone.

Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Exodus 3:10-12

So who are we? Who are we that we can fail so miserably and think that God can still use us? We are priests, prophets, kings. We are the redeemed of Lord. We are covered in the blood of Jesus and bought with the death of Christ. We are God’s adopted children. What more do we need, what do we need to learn? What do we so desperately need to understand?

The answer: it doesn’t matter how badly we mess up, it doesn’t matter how embarrassed we are, it doesn’t matter how much we think we have failed God. It doesn’t matter what other people think of us. It just doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we love God, that we repent, that we seek His face, that we answer His call, and that we grow in our faith through every trial.