Not My Will

A few weeks ago, we visited the Lord’s parable about the dinner a man gave for his friends, Luke 14, and we found it was a parable about the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. And, if you remember, we found that the invited guests refused to come, Luke 14:8, citing various excuses of family concern, investments, work and business. Not uncommon for any of us today. As it says there, “But they all with one accord began to make excuses.”

The Holy Spirit is energetically moving around our world, our community, our families, saying, Luke 14:7, to all, “Come, for all things are ready.” Yet, most are of one accord of these legitimate concerns that are turned into excuses in which that invitation, that bidding, to do the Lord’s will, even after we have received it, is declined.

The obvious issue for each one of us is whether we are caught up in the way the world is turning in our lives, whether we are caught up in the activities of our independent urges and ambitions? Have we received an invitation, a calling, a purposeful request, from God in our lives and we have been putting it off, refusing to bring our selves into compliance with our Lord’s purposeful request in our lives?

Family is good. Business and labor are good. Investments are good. But they do take time, and God only allows us 24 hours a day. Do we choose to have time for the Lord and the calling He has on our lives.. And especially in these difficult times, where no pay check is assured, no client or customer payment is assured, we are tempted to choose to allow ourselves to be ensnared by the demands of this world, including a government with a vicious taxation, far beyond that even contemplated in God’s message to Saul, as set forth in I Samuel 8:15.

And you remember the Master’s response, in that dinner parable, Luke 14:21, 24, “Then the master of the house became angry, said to his servant . . . . ‘none of those men who were invited will taste my supper.’”

Jesus was blunt and concise. He was clear and direct, without equivocation or qualification – no excuses, not even good ones were acceptable to the master of the house: This parable is a warning to us, as we discussed in much more detail a few weeks ago, a warning against the temptation of falling in love with the world, or of being captured by fear of it.

The connecting bridge or dot is that issue of love: do our loves and fears keep us away from Jesus and His will? What was the question that Jesus asked Peter, in John 21:15-17, “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these (the other disciples there)? He (Peter) said to Him (Jesus), ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He (Jesus) said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He (Jesus) said to me a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He (Peter) said to Him (Jesus), ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love You.’ He (Jesus) said to him (Peter), “Feed My sheep.’ He (Jesus) to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He (Jesus) said to him (Peter) the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he (Peter) said to Him (Jesus), ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’”

As Christians, we all would share the notion, “Hey, we do love Jesus” and so we would tend to focus on this instruction to feed the lambs of Jesus, with natural and spiritual food.

But Jesus, whom Peter knew, and we know, and believe, knows all things, already knows we love Him, and that Peter loved him, or so it appears. But if you consider this and in context, this was not as simple as it appeared. Jesus was not trying to get Peter to persuade Jesus that Peter loved Jesus: Jesus already knew what he needed to know about that, so what is not so apparent is that Jesus was trying to get Peter to evaluate his love for Jesus; that is why Jesus kept asking the same question of Peter, “Do you love Me?” That is the same question he continually asks of us, of each one of us, “Do you love Me?’

Now, you ask, what troubled Jesus about this man, Peter, this fisherman whom Jesus had called, and who had followed Jesus? Well, Jesus had already prophesied, out of foreknowledge, that Peter would deny him at the time of Jesus’ trial and scourging and leading to the Crucifixion, and Peter in fact did that out of fear of the governing authorities. But also, in this context here in John 21, at the breakfast, Jesus had seen it happen again.

The context here is that we are after the Crucifixion and the Resurrection (indeed, Peter had been one to run to the empty tomb). Peter owned his own boat, a business, and he was the captain of that boat, and even though Jesus was back in the body of the Resurrection and had already shown himself to the disciples, Peter said I’m out of here – I’m going fishing! We can relate to that, right? See the beginning of John 21, and in Verse 3. And several other disciples were there with him and they went out night fishing with nets and caught nothing! (Verse 3). When morning came there was a man on the shore, but the disciples did not know it was Jesus, and Jesus (already knowing the answer) asked them if they had caught anything, and they said, “No.” So He told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat and that they would find some fish. And on that cast, they caught so many fish that they couldn’t pull them all in. Then John said to Peter, Hey, that man on the beach is the Lord, it is Jesus, and Peter dove in and swam to the shore to see Jesus. Peter met Jesus on the beach, the others brought in the boat and the heavy net, and Peter went to the edge of the sea and dragged the net in – pretty strong guy!

It is interesting here that Jesus still allowed Peter’s fishing trip, his business venture to be abundantly successful. Jesus favored Peter with success, even as he guided Peter in where to invest his nets and his energy.

Jesus had a campfire going on the beach and they cooked and ate some fresh fish and then Jesus interrogated Peter about his love for Jesus.

That was the context of the love interrogation. What Jesus was seeing was that Peter was distracted by the opportunities (or perceived opportunities) of his business, or even just by the love of fishing for fish, a worldly activity. We saw this in the love interrogation because in the very next verse, John 21:18, after the third question, “Do you love Me?”, Jesus continued with this: “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked about where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”

Peter, in his relative immaturity, had remained caught up in his selfness, in his own plans and paths, in his own will and fears. He, even Peter, had one foot in the Kingdom of God and one foot in the matters of the world. He was enamored of both! How about you?? Jesus was telling Peter that, as he matured as a follower of Christ, he would not be girding himself in clothing, belt, fishing knife, even sword and going about – big strong man and leader that he was – Jesus was telling Peter that as he matured someone else – Jesus – would gird up Peter – Put him in the armor of God (Ephesians 6), take him (“carry”) Peter to a place beyond and different from Peter’s will and wish. Jesus was saying to Peter, as Jesus Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane had said to God, that Peter would find himself in his maturity saying, “Not my will, but yours.” Indeed, tradition says that Peter was crucified upside down, with his arms outstretched, and John wrote this passage, according to the scholars, after the event of Peter’s death.

Some would interpret this as saying that in his older age, his maturity, Peter would be senile, helpless, blind and tended to my others. John gave us the correct and different meaning, explaining that Peter would need the armor of God and to be carried (like Stephen) through his death, indicating in John 21:19, the same passage we are studying today, “This He (Jesus) spoke, signifying by what death he (Peter ) would glorify God. That would be an occasion of martyrdom, in which to glorify God by not denying Him in one’s death, even by proclaiming, in God’s strength, His Name and His glory, to His glory!!

And there is confirmation in Scripture of this, II Peter 1:13, “I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent (this body), to stir you up . . . .” Peter was at it for Jesus even into his old age! Not helpless and senile, but he needed Jesus’ armor and burden carrying for the martyrdom to come.

And the same sort of thing happened to Paul on the way to Damascus. Paul was certain that, in tormenting, chasing, capturing and killing Christians, he was doing God’s intended work and fulfilling the calling on his life. He had inaccurately figured out God’s calling on his life, and had completely misunderstood God and God’s plan for his life. Paul was rendered helpless and blind. He, too, had to be led around, as Peter would be carried, to places where their wills were set aside for the purpose of obedience to the will of the Lord.

As Pastor David Wilkinson has so succinctly stated, “True love for Jesus must result in the death of all independent self-will.” That is what Jesus was helping Peter to figure out, and what he got Paul to figure out. And it is what we need to figure out! Not my will, but thine, o Lord.

That is also what David said to the Lord, Psalm 139:5, “You (Lord) have hedged me behind and before and laid Your hand upon me.” And in Psalm 139:10, “. . . Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” (“Hold” in the original Hebrew, means “grip”.)

We, too, are called to be in the grip of God, in His hold, apprehended as Brother Gene Lanier would say, boxed in before and behind, and led by Him. And we are called to seek that righteousness first in our lives (Matthew 6) so intently that it is His will that is manifest in the choices, decisions, and actions in our lives. Then, as Jesus prodded Peter, all will know – even the witnesses of our death –that our love of Jesus overcomes, by the purification of our hearts and the cleansing of our unrighteousness, in our maturing like Peter, Paul and David, our personal will, our personal fears and our love of ourselves and the world. We, too, would be a poured out drink offering – all poured out, all spent, for Jesus, as Paul described in II Timothy 4:6, when our time for departure is at hand!

Face, like Jesus made Peter do, the sobering reality of your double-mindedness, of the true extent of your heart of love for Jesus, instead of the things of this world and of you self, your family, your work, career, business and investments. Face up to them, know yourself, and take heed where heed is due, for you do not know the time of your departure, and not only do you want to be ready to go when you are supposed to go, when you are going, you want to have been in the fullness, not the halfheartedness, of your love for Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit: Not my will should be your mantra, your banner, your “go to” adage and reference point for evaluating your decisions and God’s call on your life. Don’t go fishing for fish when you are otherwise called by God!

God bless you and amen+

Set Your Love on Jesus

The Ten Commandments are laid out for us in Exodus 20, and I find it most interesting that the word “Love” does not appear anywhere in those Commandments. The Ten Commandments are supposed to be our roadmap to living life, God’s way. And, as we all know, Love is both the action and the fulfillment of life, so why did God leave Love out of the Ten Commandments? Surely, He did not make a mistake in not mentioning, or requiring, Love in the Ten Commandments! If life is all about Love, how are the Ten Commandments even relevant to Love, realistic to consider in life?

It takes some spiritual maturity to sort this out, I think. Many Christians have read Matthew 22: 37-39: “Jesus said to him (the lawyer), You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” and concluded that Jesus, in His earthly ministry, brought this message of Love to the world. And He did bring the message of Love to the world, but it was a message that was not new in the New Testament. The message of Love which Jesus, in His earthly ministry, brought to the world, was a continuation of the message of love from the Old Testament. Look at Deuteronomy 6: 4-6, “Hear, O Israel, The Lord your God is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.” And look at Leviticus 19: 18b, “. . . you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

These are the exact core of the Great Commandment of Matthew 22: 37-39. Then, Jesus said something in clarification. In Matthew 27: 40, Jesus said “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.” Well, these two commandments are not even in the Ten Commandments, but the Ten Commandments are the foundation of all that Jewish law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, so how do the Ten Commandments and all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments? Oh, and what does it mean to “hang”?

Let’s consider this hanging thing, first. When we put a picture or a mirror on the wall, we usually say that we “hang” it there, right? What does that mean? That the wall is a structure to which the picture or mirror can be attached and from which it will not ordinarily fall down, and on which it can perform its function – to be looked at!

So, this suggests that Love is the wall, or structure, if you will, on which all the Law and the Prophets hang. When you see it this way, it makes perfect sense, at least logically. To this wall of Love, the Law and the Prophets are attached and from this wall, the Law and the Prophets will not fall down, and on this wall the Law and the Prophets can perform their God-ordained functions!

When you look back at the Ten Commandments, you note that the first four of those Ten Commandments lay out the rules for our relationship with God, and the next six of those Ten Commandments lay out the rules for our relationship with people. Well, logically, these are the same two categories – God and people – addressed in Deuteronomy 6: 5 and Leviticus 19:18, and summarized and explained by Jesus in Matthew 22: 37-40.

And the Prophets – what do they do? Gene Lanier went over that with us a few weeks ago: (I Corinthians 14: 4) “He who prophesies edifies the church.” The prophets edify – strengthen, build up, in knowledge, discernment, understanding and divine wisdom, the church. The prophets do not strengthen or edify by adding more rebar to the church or by stiffening the mortar mixture of the church. The prophets don’t do anything physical – they just speak and obey God, and in so doing they manifest faith, courage and strength, and they share with the church God’s knowledge, discernment, understanding and divine wisdom. For it is in knowing those things, those insights, that we who are the church, and who are in the church, know God’s will, and God’s warnings so we can stay on His track, or get back on it, as a church, as a people, as persons, of God. In other words, in bringing us to God’s will and God’s warnings, the Prophets bring us back to God’s Law and to the Ten Commandments.

I see the Ten Commandments as somewhat like our Constitution, in America. The Ten Commandments provide the framework, the reference point, the philosophy, if you will of life as God has ordained it. The Laws just add the detail of rules and consequences for specific details of life.

Now, here is where we can see how Love fits in and how it all works together – Love, the Ten Commandments, the Law and the Prophets.

This tie-in of Love to all this is because of the reality of impossibility. It is impossible for a person to comply with the law, in spirit and letter, or to comply with the Ten Commandments, or to heed the words of the Prophets as to God’s will and warning, unless that person loves God and loves his neighbors. Because, the reality is, even with that Love, we cannot be perfect – only God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit – are perfect in all their ways. But if we have that Love, then in our hearts we do not lord it over either our neighbors or God! And that’s the thing, because Love is founded on a heart attitude of humility before God and our neighbors. And if we don’t have that heart attitude of humility, we can serve neither our neighbors nor God. And here is the kicker: God knows our hearts, and without that humility in which we are called to walk, we cannot walk in repentance, and without repentance, and God’s sure mercies, His faithfulness to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness, we stand eternally convicted before Him or our sins in our failures to comply with the Ten Commandments and the Law, with His will and His prophetic warnings. Yet, if we love Him enough to be repentant, then we will not have covetously put ourselves and trivial gods of our lives before and above Him, and we will have no superiority attitude towards any of our neighbors.

God uses circumstances resulting from our poor choices to humble us before Him and mankind (our neighbors). Many people act with anger and hate when embarrassed by the circumstances resulting from their poor choices, and they do so because they are firm in their heart errors, as they choose to cling to self- righteousness instead of the righteousness of God!

When we are humbled by the knowledge of our failures, and by the knowledge of God’s perfection and His mercy extended through the atoning Blood of Christ, God is offering us His Love, which we can only accept by choosing Love rather than self as the action and the fulfillment of our lives.

That is why in Psalm 91: 14, we see that Love is based on choice, and God calls His bride, His church, and those in it to choose, and to choose firmly, to Love Him and in Loving Him to Love our neighbors: “ Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My Name.” To set our Love is to choose where we are going to put it, like the wall, so the Law of our lives, and the prophetic voices God sends to us can “hang” on that wall of Love, and we can be the people God created us to be and we can do the things he purposed and purposes for us to do in His Will and Sovereignty!

You know the basics of the sinner’s road to salvation, and I encourage you this morning to take another step in maturity and gain knowledge, understanding, discernment and divine wisdom, that if you will choose to set, and if you will apply that choice in your lives, and SET your love on Jesus, He will deliver you from your sin and from the grasp of the enemy and his agents, and He, not you, will SET you on high. If you Set your Love on God, through Jesus, He, not you, will elevate you for His eternal purposes and glory. And the rest of Psalm 91 will be fulfilled in your lives: Verses 14-16, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My Name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.” Then, when trouble comes, even from your own mistakes, you will stand in the Hall of Faith with David and so many other great men and women of God, as David expressed it in Psalm 31: 9-16, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body! For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity; and my bones waste away. I am a reproach among all my enemies, but especially among my neighbors (those whom we love like ourselves!), and I am repulsive to my acquaintances (more neighbors!), those who see me outside (more neighbors) flee from me. I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. For I hear the slander of many; fear is on every side; while they take counsel against me, they scheme to take away my life. But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me. Make your face shine upon Your servant; save me for Your mercies’ sake (not my own).”

The price of God’s Love is simple: it is your Love. Don’t you want gladly and cheerfully to pay that price to set your Love on Jesus, to Love God and to Love your neighbors? Don’t you wan to have the sure mercies of God, the sure forgiveness of your sins, the sure deliverance from Satan and from all your other enemies, the sure deliverance from the sins of your mere flesh, the sure certainty of eternal life in the New Jerusalem?

Jesus, summed it this way in Luke 17: 33, “ Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” Today is a day, today is the day, for you to examine yourself, with this simple question: Have I set my love on Jesus? If so, great, and hang in there! And, if not, then build a wall of love and then hang in there!!

Hope and Change

We live in a season of history in which many people have been captivated by the hope of change. These are universal aspects of life, at least nominally appealing to all men living, for none of us have attained a state of perfection in our flesh from which we would want no change again, ever, and all men hope for such perfection, although all men will tell you that they are willing to settle for something a little less than perfection in this life. The politicians and media of today are no different from all others in this respect: they appeal to everyone’s hope for some changes in their lives. That kind of political advertising plays on those universal hopes for change. But of course not everyone wants – hopes for — the same changes to affect their lives. That is why all advertising – commercial and political — plays on the same ideas of hope and change: “I sure would like that shiny new car, one day; change me and my life by diet, clothes, education, opportunity, relationships, money, status, beauty, power, etc.” So, advertisers try to appeal to their market audiences, and the fringes of their market audiences (the “swing vote” if you will) to promise change to fulfill hopes. An advertising campaign is successful when it connects the hope and the proposed change so effectively that people will invest in the change because they have faith – they expect – that the proposed change will do for them what they are hoping for. But, these human marketing attempts are just that – human. Hence, from Proverbs Chapters 12, 14 and 16, “There is a way that seems right to a man . . . .” But, despite man – actually, for man, God has a plan, Jesus Christ, and because, Romans 5: 5, He has poured out His love (Jesus Christ) in us through the Holy Spirit, His plan does not disappoint!

The Holy Spirit in a recent dream explained it to me like this: All men hope for change, BUT, all men mostly hope in their own plans for change. No man hopes for “no change”. There are other names for change: growth, education, maturity, self-fulfillment, accomplishment, etc. To accomplish such change, most men seek to use and apply their God-given talents and opportunities, unfortunately without much even acknowledging God and His giving of those talents. There is an angst, a hunger, a dissatisfaction that stirs men’s souls when those plans, executed, do not produce the desired results. One way of saying this is “Money won’t buy you love.” Or, “stuff really don’t make you happy.” Underneath all the focus men have on hoping for change in the material aspects of their lives, to produce satisfaction (i.e., such satisfaction that they would not want any more change), even if achieved, just does not, in fact, accomplish changes in the non- material areas of our lives – areas of peace, joy, love, relationships. Such changes do not enable us, as Paul said, to be “content in all circumstances” (Philippians 4: 11). Paul was telling us something there, Paul was explaining and identifying what all people want, which is contentment, being satisfied in being and not just in doing. Paul was reminding us that “being”, which is who we are, is what defines us, not “doing”, which is a measure of our sense of discontent with who we think we are. We need to attain this perspective and keep in balance that loving God and our neighbors is an active life of “doing” – we are not to have idle hands, or be lazy – but the doing part is not to define us. Rather, the being part should define us, and the doing part should flow out of that, for changes in our lives and others’ lives.

Proverbs 11: 7 tells us an adage of wisdom: “When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, and the hope of the unjust perishes.” The reverse is true also: “When a righteous man dies, his expectation willl not perish, and the hope of the righteous man will not perish.” Why is this so? It is because of the Gospel of Christ, the good news for mankind! As believers in the Gospel of Christ we live in the expectation, the assurance by God Himself,Titus 1: 2, “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” You see God is something really special for us, because His “hope’ produces real, and really valuable, priceless, change in our lives. He is the very “God of hope”, Romans 15: 13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” And, as believers, we do so with enthusiasm and eagerness, Galations 5: 5, “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

So, if we become, or have become, repentant and humble believers in, and followers of, Jesus Christ, then where are we? The answer is in I Peter 3: 18-21, “. . .knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

God is very interested in how we, as believers, understand and commit our lives to the issue of hope in Christ, and the process of change. He wants to see our faith in action! What does that mean? Well, Hebrews 11: 1-2, it means that we will take action on the basis of what we hope for when we have no evidence in physical or legal terms to support the risk of taking that action. This passage reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.

So how do we obtain a good testimony, like the elders in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11? Well, we have to run the good race, like Jesus, and we must look to Him and consider Him and His testimony, what He did and, Revelations 19:10, “the spirit of prophecy”, of what, prophetically, we may expect in our race. We run the good race in the choices we make in faith. Those are our steps, choices. Which choices we make, and when and how we make them, determine whether we have run a good race in our life, whether the testimony we have obtained in our lives is good, like the elders of the Hall of Faith, or not. What will yours be and how will you obtain it.

In Luke 6: 31-38, Jesus, in speaking to His disciples (verse 20) tells us how, as believers, to obtain that good testimony that comes only from living risk-taking lives of faith: “And just as you want me to do to you, you do likewise (the “Golden Rule”). But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to receive as much back. (Especially beginning here at verse 35.) But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosim. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” This is how, also, we comply with the Great Commandment, to love God with everything and to love our neighbor as ourselves!. Translation not really necessary, but this is saying, “Don’t make your love a commercial venture, expecting something in return; be as merciful and forgiving to people as God is; keep no attitude of grudge, of judgment, or of condemnation; and give, give and give!”


So, run the good race, II Timothy 4: 7 and Hebrews 12: 1-6, with endurance, looking always unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, and therefore do not become weary or discouraged in your souls, resist sin unto bloodshed (yours), and always be encouraged by the Lord’s corrections and rebukes as He coaches you in your race of life. In this race of your life – and you only get one shot at it, which we call Your Life – Hebrews 3: 6, “hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end”; Hebrews 6: 11, and “show the same diligence (of ministry – verse 10) to the full assurance of hope until the end; verses 18-19, maintaining a strong consolation in the refuge of God, and lay hold of – and don’t turn loose of, the hope in Christ, as an anchor of your soul, knowing that Jesus is our forerunner and intercessor.

Listen to the Holy Spirit, obey the commands of God and Jesus, and let God’s love be poured out in you and through you, back to God, and to people around you, even your enemies, as following your forerunner, Christ, you, too, establish a testimony of prophecy. Let God’s plan, not yours or some advertiser or political campaign, be the instrumentality of change in your life – change in and for you, and change in and for others. Let your risk- taking faith in Jesus be the substance of the hope in your life, and nothing else. God’s plan for you guides you on the narrow and straight path to forgiveness and eternal life through Christ, with God, and your resurrection body! Man’s plan, the plan of the advertisers and political campaigners leads you, Proverbs 12: 15, to the opposite, the real death! Connect the dots of the Golden Rule, the Great Commandment, and the Love Chapter of Corinthians, I Corinthians 13 – Faith, Hope and Love – and follow only Jesus in the race of your life. Then the change you most deeply hope for will be real and your covetous neighbors cannot take it away from you, but you will have plenty enough to share with them, in God’s grace and provision and timing.

God bless you and amen+

Christian Character Part 3

The Ten Most Wanted List

We have started off this year, 2010, in a study of Christian Character, of which this message is the third in the series. We have considered that, as with a New Year and with New Year’s resolutions, a commitment or rededication to Christ is a place and season of New Beginnings, as we are new creatures in Christ, and in repentance and work and reverent awe of God, we seek to bury the old self and put on the new self, wearing Christ on the outside even as He is, in the Holy Spirit, on the inside, of us. Our New Beginning is to be His holy temple. And last week, we studied the need to examine ourselves anew, to determine how we are doing in the construction of Christian Character in ourselves. Today, we address the fundamental characteristic, “character” if you will, of the Christian: Grace, and what that has to do with who we are, how we live, and the people who have to put up with how we live, that is, at the primary level, the people with whom we are in the closest, most intimate relationships.

What I like about the study of character, is that it is a study of how that which is on the inside of you comes out of you: character is not to be hidden under a bushel basket, but to be opened and shared with others. As our character is exposed, it is revealed for what it is, and measures from the outside that which is on the inside of us. Character is the relative light and dark in us. It is where we, others, and God find out what we are made of , who we really are. Character is the grading scale of testing, and it measures that light and darkness in us, and – guess what – everything is a test!

We don’t even get to a discussion of Christian Character lest we have Christ. And, in the first place, we don’t get to be Christians except because of God’s Grace, Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

I take from this passage the foundational principle that we don’t get to be Christians by anything by God’s Grace – not by birth station or status, or race or gender or economic class, or morality or one’s personal goodness in works or in heart. Because of our inherited sin nature, and our sin choices, God, in His holiness abhors acceptance of each one of us, even as He loves each one of us enough to extend His Grace that through faith we may be saved and reconciled to Him! How marvelous – meaning how much we must marvel and wonder at the surprise of that principle, as we grasp its meaning, and truly understand that we can’t get there on our own, but only through God’s Grace. He provided a way, the only way, for us, in His Grace, still keeping true to His nature and character, in the atoning Blood of Jesus.

And we see a second foundational principle at work in Ephesians2:8: Grace is a gift to us. We can’t buy it, we can’t earn it, and we don’t deserve it.

In this I am reminded of the passage (Acts 20:35) where Paul quotes Jesus in assuring us that it is both blessed to give and to receive. And if the gift we receive is such a blessing, how do we respond to such a blessing? Like a birthday, anniversary, or other love gift, do we receive it gladly; does not that gift bind us ever more deeply to the one we love, the one who loved us enough to bless us with a gift?

Now, we ask ourselves, why did, and why does, God want to give us such a marvelous thing, this thing that we can’t get on our own, that thing being salvation from sin? God explained this in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

You see that the foundation of the Character of Grace is Love. It is because of love, because He chose, even beforehand, to love us in spite of who we were, who we are, and who, in our struggle to perfection in Christ, we will be or fail to be. In it all, God chose and has chosen, and will choose, to love us, and out of that love He is Rich, Rich, Rich, in mercy, and out of the riches of that mercy comes forth Grace! And it is through Grace that He rescued us, saved us, changes us, transforms us.

Grace is the sum of the nine fruits of the Spirit listed in Galations 5:22-23. Those nine elements are a description of the ways in which God is gracious to us: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (self-discipline).

Now, any time you see the use of the word, the concept, of fruit, you are into the principles of sowing and reaping, the principles of planting, nurturing, protecting, and harvesting. And there is something cyclical about all of that: with a seed we plant, then we harvest, then we have more seed, which are replanted, but we also have fruit which feeds us. The concept of fruit, or bearing fruit, is not just a concept of being, it is a concept of doing.

The fruit of the Spirit in us does three things:

  1. It is evidence that we have been transformed by God’s Grace and the birth by Christ of the new creature in us;
  2. it shows that our character has been changed from flesh to spirit, so deeply that we express that transformation by extending, in those nine fruitful ways, God’s Grace to others, and, therein, blessing them;
  3. that we are fed by that fruit of being a tree of blessings to others whom our lives touch, and those with whom we live.

There is that simple principle, so simple and so important that it is often taught to the very young: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, the so-called Golden Rule. This is a paraphrase of the Great Commandment, of loving our neighbors as ourself.

The Golden Rule, indicates that we can expect to reap what we sow, the most direct application of the principle of planting.

The Apostle Paul clearly understood this principle, for not only did he sow, and plant and nurture, all over His part of the world and elsewhere, but he knew and explained how it worked. In Philippians 2:3- 5, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” And in Philippians 2:14-16, which we reviewed, I think, last week: “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life . . . .” And in Philippians 1:27 (which is our family’s support verse for Hilton Head Christian Academy), “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ. . . .”

So, when you examined yourself (“What’s up, Dude?”), like I asked you to do during the week since we last met, what did you learn about yourself? What did you find out about yourself? Is your conduct worthy of the gospel of Christ, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us?”

Now, I ask you to look around yourself, at your closest, most intimate, most wanted relationships, and I ask you to be brutally honest with yourself, even at the risk of visiting places of the scarred past in your life, places of current turmoil, and places of fears, hopes and dreams for the future. I ask you to look at each one of your personal relationships. List the top ten relationships you are in with people – if you have even that many! I would call it the “Ten Most Wanted List”, but it could be more, it could be the “Sixteen Most Wanted List” – you will know for yourself. If you are married, you must start with your wife or husband, then go to your children, and the spouses of your children, and reach back to your parents and your siblings, and then to your non-family friends.

When you live in Grace, it is a gift back, your inside coming to your outside, the measure of your Christian Character, to God of the gift He gave you; then, it is God’s and your gift to those on your List, and to all others.

As you look at each one of these relationships, examine and test yourselves, by deciding how the Fruit of the Spirit in you is doing, how you are producing and receiving fruit:

  • is there clear and convincing evidence that you have been transformed by God’s Grace and the birth by Christ of the new creature in us? You can figure this out by asking two other questions: Has sin lost its power over me, and has death – even death of my pride and flesh – lost its sting to me? That’s how you know if you are transformed by God’s Grace through Christ and the Holy Spirit!
  • is there clear and convincing evidence that your character has been changed from flesh to spirit, so deeply that you , in your heart attitudes and the choices you make in your life, express that transformation by extending, in those nine fruitful ways, God’s Grace to others, and, therein, blessing them?
  • is there clear and convincing evidence that you are fed by that fruit from being a tree of blessings to others whom your life touches, and those with whom you live?

This morning, God wants to be up close and personal with you! He cares, in His love and the Rich, Rich, Rich mercy that comes from His love for you, about you and your life. He cares how you must, in truth, answer these three questions; in fact, He already knows the answers, but His knowledge about that does you no good, unless you appropriate His knowledge of that truth into your life. And that same Holy Spirit is here to guide you in the way of all truth (John 16:13), so you can honestly answer those questions and gain the freedom of truth, so you can have in our heart the Fruit of the Spirit, and so you can share it with those top ten people in your personal relationships, and be seed to them, as they are fruit to you. If you are not planting those nine seeds in those top ten people, you will not be harvesting those nine fruits back from those top ten people! That is tough, and requires patience, as sometimes, it takes a while for those seeds to take root in one of those ten people, or several of them, for those seeds to germinate, to heal from the scarrings of an untimely cold snap, or drought, or flooding, or the nibbles of a hungry animal, to be nourished and to grow enough in his/her/their own Christian Character to produce that fruit and feed you. This, in part, is what Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4 are all about: as James there wrote, ” My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience, but let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

God knows, it takes patience to put up with growth in people, even His own children, and you may find that at times true with one or more on your “Ten Most Wanted List”. Measure your character and get right with God and those on your Ten Most Wanted List!

If you have undertaken the responsibility of those ten relationships, and all relationships are responsibilities, or whatever the number is on your list, and you are troubled or unhappy, or not joyful, or not at peace, or not dealing with any one or more of those relationships our of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-discipline, then you are in trouble, and you need to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance into the way of truth, all truth, and to bring you conviction, that you may repent to God for your sins, and ask Him to help you cleanse yourself from all unrigheousness of flesh and spirit, that you may live in reverent awe of God, and in right relationship with those top ten people on your personal relationship list. He is just and faithful to do so, if you, by an honest faith, are faithful to do so, and to mean it.

As God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness have been freely given to us, only as we freely give them to others are we conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, only then are we of Christian Character, only then is God’s Grace, and His graciousness, alive and well within us; only then will we position ourselves to want to harvest what we have sown! In it all, through it all, will you choose to love those Top Ten Most Wanted in your life, as much as God loved, and loves you, that while you were yet a sinner God sent His only begotten Son to die for us that we might not perish, but have everlasting life. Are you willing to lay down your life; to delay, amend or delete your hopes and dreams; to patiently exercise your self-discipline in faith to overcome your fears, all so that you can love these others in your life, these Top Ten Most Wanted ones, because God first loved you? What is the true and honest state of your own Christian Character? If you have examined yourself, and found some shortcomings, don’t be alarmed, but be thankful for the truth of that knowledge, for God’s Grace abounds! You don’t have to keep on in the sins of your flesh, but you need to make a choices, some choices. God explained so clearly through Paul in Romans 6:1-2, when he asked rhetorically, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died in sin live any longer in it?” Dig deep and repent and let God heal you and those around you. Oh, and join Moveon.God! Amen!

Fear or Love, The Choice is Ours – Part 6

Casting Out Fear

Over the past several weeks I’ve been preaching about our relationship with God. I started with a song called Slow Fade. The song is about how we lose our strength bit by bit, as we succumb to our fleshly desires and slowly fade into darkness. How easy it is to just give in to the world and do what everyone else does. Apathy follows, and we begin to just “go through the motions” of being Godly, of being Christian, of believing in God. So easy, so much easier then being what God wants us to be.

Read Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT): “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

So we have to seek the narrow gate, we have to wait upon the Lord, we have to bind ourselves to Him so that nothing can separate us from the love that is Christ Jesus. The song, “Slow Fade,” starts with the line, “Be careful little eyes what you see. It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings.” Is it coincidence that a song about fading away from God, uses strings to bind us to darkness, when God wants us to weave our lives together with Him with the strength of a woven rope?

I ended last week with, so when are we going to learn to rely on His strength all the time? How, or what, is it that allows us to rely on His strength all the time? Or maybe a better question would be: What is it that prevents us from relying on His strength all the time? The answer: fear. Homework for this week was to read 1 John 4, paying special attention to 17-19.

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.

The definition of the word fear is as follows.

  • A feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger.
  • A state or condition marked by this feeling: living in fear.
  • A feeling of disquiet or apprehension: a fear of looking foolish.
  • Extreme reverence or awe, as toward a supreme power.
  • A reason for dread or apprehension: Being alone is my greatest fear.

Agitation, anxiety, disquiet, apprehension, dread. Anybody feel these things on occasion? Before a test perhaps? Before a game? When your mom says, “clean your room?” How about when you have to pray before a meal, or when you’re confronted with a decision about how to act? Godly or worldly? Narrow gate or wide?

Why is it that we are so afraid of what others think, why do we allow the darkness to pull the strings, why do we “Go through the Motions?”

Because we’re afraid. We’re afraid of what others think, we’re afraid of what might happen, we’re afraid of so many things. There’s a song by Matt Redman called “You Never Let Go” that speaks about God, fear, love and why we should never be afraid.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I'm caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won't turn back
I know You are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We'll live to know You here on the earth

Yes, I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

What a fantastic song. Matt pulls together scripture to teach us what fear is, and what casts fear out. We are all familiar with Psalm 23, and we read 1 John 4 this week and this morning. Turn to 2 Timothy 1:7-9 (NLT).

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

God promises us that we never have to fear, that we can build our relationship up with Him by waiting on Him to deliver us. Remember that waiting on God does not mean to simply sit like a couch potato and think that God is going to move the couch to where we need to be. Waiting on God is an active pursuit of binding ourselves with Him in so many ways.

Fear is what makes us give in to the second glance, the slow fade. Fear is what makes us go through the motions, without ever really meaning anything. Fear is what drives us to walk away from God when we should be walking toward Him. God’s love is perfect, casting out fear and allowing us to wait on the Lord, strengthening our relationship and binding ourselves to Him with a cord that cannot be broken.

So my final questions to everyone are: Do we want to allow darkness to bind us and fall to the second glance? Do we want to spend our lives going through the motions? Do we want to give in to our fear of rejection and fear of the world to follow the wide path that leads to hell? Or do we want to claim the spirit of love that God so graciously gave us, the spirit of power that God wants us to have? How long are we going to sit and do nothing, when we could be waiting on the Lord, strengthening the rope that binds us to Him instead of to the darkness? How long until we fall into the love that is Christ Jesus, knowing that through Him we can do all things, knowing that nothing can separate us from His Love.

Fear or Love…the choice is ours.

Fear or Love, The Choice is Ours – Part 5

Strength In God Part 2

We talked about Strength in God last week. I ended with how we seem to get closer to God in times of trouble and stress; we rely on Him so much to get us through the hard times. Then we seem to walk away from Him in the good times, forgetting that He can do the same things in the easy times as He does in the hard times. How easy is it for us to limp along in our own strength when there is no trouble? David understands this concept. He lives this concept. I asked everyone to read and meditate on 2 Samuel 22. David’s Song of Praise. I hope everyone read it at least once.

David’s Song of Praise. David sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. He sang: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. The waves of death overwhelmed me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave he flew, soaring blazed forth. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot arrows and scattered his enemies; his lightning flashed, and they were confused. Then at the command of the Lord, at the blast of his breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare. He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. The Lord rewarded me for doing right; he restored me because of my innocence. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not turned from my God to follow evil. I have followed all his regulations; I have never abandoned his decrees. I am blameless before God; I have kept myself from sin. The Lord rewarded me for doing right. He has seen my innocence. To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the wicked you show yourself hostile. You rescue the humble, but your eyes watch the proud and humiliate them. O Lord, you are my lamp. The Lord lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall. God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God is my strong fortress, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. You have given me your shield of victory; your help in the gutter like dirt. You gave me victory over my accusers. You preserved me as the ruler over nations; people I don’t even know now serve me. Foreign nations cringe before me;as soon as they hear of me, they submit. They all lose their courage and come trembling from their strongholds. The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock!May God, the Rock of my salvation, be exalted! He is the God who pays back those who harm me;he brings down the nations under me and delivers me from my enemies. You hold me safe beyond the reach of my enemies; you save me from violent opponents. For this, O Lord, I will praise you among the nations; I will sing praises to your name. You give great victories to your king; you show unfailing love to your anointed, to David and all his descendants forever.

2 Samuel 22

David is giving everything to God, every bit of strength, every bit of glory, every bit of existence. Knowing that it is God and not himself that accomplishes everything. I wish I had a faith like that. I briefly mentioned that there was another person in scripture that gave God everything and walked in a strength that I can only dream to achieve. That person is Paul. Turn to 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 (NLT).

Again I say, don’t think that I am a fool to talk like this. But even if you do, listen to me, as you would to a foolish person, while I also boast a little. Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool. And since others boast about their human achievements, I will, too. After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools! You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face. I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that! But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again — I dare to boast about it, too. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying. When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me. I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him.

2 Corinthians 11:16-33

Now that’s a resume! How many of us have been beaten for Christ? Whipped? Stoned? Shipwrecked? How many of us have lost a job for Christ? Maybe a friend? Such a little bit of sacrifice, yet we so often feel that we are being persecuted for our belief in Christ … how little we really are.

There are times in our lives that we feel embarrassed about our relationship with Christ. This is a statement, not a question. How many times do we NOT say what we should? How many times do we keep silent when we know we should be speaking for Christ? How many times do we fail to pray aloud, or give glory to God, or pray for someone who is hurt, or sad, or spiritually broken? We see it, I know each and every person in this room knows the Holy Spirit and hears Him clearly on many occasions, yet we are too afraid of what men think to do what He asks us.

So how does Paul do it? How does Paul have the faith, the strength to do what he does?

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:14-21

What is it that gives Paul his incredible strength? His incredible faith in Christ? I know that I struggle and I’m only faced with things like: Should I say God bless you to the cashier at the grocery store, or should I pray out loud for lunch, or maybe a really hard day is when I have to pray for an injured player on the football field. Compared to Paul, I live an idyllic life. Paul has a strength I can only hope for, that I can look to attain, but have as yet, not even come close.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13

But where does the strength he talks about come from? Paul says, “I am strong in my weakness.” We read the last few verses of 1 Corinthians 11. Turn to 1 Corinthians 12:1-10.

This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

1 Corinthians 12:1-10

How is it that Paul is strong in his weakness? I talked about how we seem to rely on God when we are in the most trouble, or the most pain, or the most fear. This is what Paul is talking about. Being strong in our need, because it is then and only then that we really begin to rely on God for everything. When we can do it ourselves, when we can accomplish everything without help, we do not seek God, we do not rely on Him for our strength. HOWEVER, when we are weak, when we are suffering, when we are in need, we cry out to Him and ask Him to hold us up, strengthen us. So when are we going to learn to rely on His strength all the time? How, or what, is it that allows us to rely on His strength all the time? Or maybe a better question would be: What is it that prevents us from relying on His strength all the time? The answer: fear. We are going to continue this next week. Homework for this week is to read 1 John 4, pay special attention to 17-19.

Fear or Love, The Choice is Ours – Part 4

Strength In God Part 1

Remember last week we talked about waiting on God. I ended with, “Now, I think that we can wait, or hope or expect for a long time, but if we do not have strength, if our lives aren’t bound up with God, woven in and inseparable from God, then waiting might be a bit pointless.”

So we must learn to wait on the Lord, we must learn to build our ropes; we must learn to strengthen the cords that attach us to God.

Some of the strands that should be in our rope:

  • Keep your focus on God.
  • Read the Bible daily.
  • Pray daily.
  • Love your enemy.
  • Attend church regularly.
  • Learn from Christian friends.
  • Tell others about your faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Obey God’s laws.

What we talked about gives new meaning to the verses in Deuteronomy, Luke, and Mark.

Read Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” And Christ says in Mark 12:30, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”

So the question of the day is this: Is it our strength … our physical strength referred to in these passages? Is it our spiritual strength? Or is it the strength we get from being woven in with God? The strength that can’t be broken?

The dictionary has many definitions for the word, strength.

  1. The state, property, or quality of being strong.
  2. The power to resist attack; impregnability.
  3. The power to resist strain or stress; durability.
  4. The ability to maintain a moral or intellectual position firmly.
  5. Capacity or potential for effective action: a show of strength.
    1. The number of people constituting a normal or ideal organization: The police force has been at half strength since the budget cuts.
    2. Military capability in terms of personnel and material: an army of fearsome strength.
    3. A source of power or force.
    4. One that is regarded as the embodiment of protective or supportive power; a support or mainstay.
    5. An attribute or quality of particular worth or utility; an asset.
  6. Degree of intensity, force, effectiveness, or potency in terms of a particular property, as:
    1. Degree of concentration, distillation, or saturation; potency.
    2. Operative effectiveness or potency.
    3. Intensity, as of sound or light.
    4. Intensity or vehemence, as of emotion or language.
  7. Effective or binding force; efficacy: the strength of an argument.

I don’t think that any of these definitions really cover what God says we can have in Him, if we wait on Him, if we rely on Him, if we believe in Him.

There are many people in scripture that depended on God for strength. Samson, who lost his strength when he followed his flesh, called upon God for literal strength and pulled an entire building down on his own head, killing 3,000 Philistines. Job called on God for strength to endure the trials Satan had put him through, never once cursing God as Satan hoped, and his wife encouraged, and his friends thought he would. However, the 2 people I think depended the most on God’s strength, leaned on Him through their lives and did things through Him that would and could never be done without Him are David and Paul.David leaned on God for some amazing things through his life. Last week we read Psalm 37. This week we are going to examine some of the other passages about David’s strength in God. David’s first act in Scripture is covered in the 17th chapter of 1 Samuel (NLT).

1 The Philistines now mustered their army for battle and camped between Socoh in Judah and Azekah at Ephes-dammim. 2 Saul countered by gathering his Israelite troops near the valley of Elah. 3 So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them. 4 Then Goliath, a Philistine champion from Gath, came out of the Philistine ranks to face the forces of Israel. He was over nine feet. 6 He also wore bronze leg armor, and he carried a bronze javelin on his shoulder. 7 The shaft of his spear was as heavy and thick as a weaver’s beam, tipped with an iron spearhead that weighed 15 pounds. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons — Eliab, Abinadab, and Shimea — had already joined Saul’s army to fight the Philistines. 14 David was the youngest son. David’s three oldest brothers stayed with Saul’s army, 15 but David went back and forth so he could help his father with the sheep in Bethlehem. 16 For forty days, every morning and evening, the Philistine champion strutted in front of the Israelite army. 17 One day Jesse said to David, “Take this basket” 19 David’s brothers were with Saul and the Israelite army at the valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines. 20 So David left the sheep with another shepherd and set out early the next morning with the gifts, as Jesse had directed him. He arrived at the camp just as the Israelite army was leaving for the battlefield with shouts and battle cries. 21 Soon the Israelite and Philistine forces stood facing each other, army against army. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies and hurried out to the ranks to greet his brothers. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, came out from the Philistine ranks. Then David heard him shout his usual taunt to the army of Israel. 24 As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright. 25 “Have you seen the giant?” the men asked. “He comes out each day to defy Israel. The king has offered a huge reward to anyone who kills him. He will give that man one of his daughters for a wife, and the man’s entire family will be exempted from paying taxes!” 26 David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” 27 And these men gave David the same reply. They said, “Yes, that is the reward for killing him.” 28 But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!” 29 “What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question!” 30 He walked over to some others and asked them the same thing and received the same answer. 31 Then David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him. 32 “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!” 33 “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.” 34 But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, 35 I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. 36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! 37 The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the Lord be with you!” 38 Then Saul gave David his own armor — a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. 39 David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. “I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again. 40 He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine. 41 Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, 42 sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. 43 “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. 44 “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled. 45 David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies — the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! 47 And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” 48 As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. 49 Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground. 50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword. 51 Then David ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill him and cut off his head. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they turned and ran. 52 Then the men of Israel and Judah gave a great shout of triumph and rushed after the Philistines, chasing them as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron. The bodies of the dead and wounded Philistines were strewn all along the road from Shaaraim, as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 Then the Israelite army returned and plundered the deserted Philistine camp. 54 (David took the Philistine’s head to Jerusalem, but he stored the man’s armor in his own tent.) 55 As Saul watched David go out to fight the Philistine, he asked Abner, the commander of his army, “Abner, whose son is this young man?” “I really don’t know,” Abner declared. 56 “Well, find out who he is!” the king told him. 57 As soon as David returned from killing Goliath, Abner brought him to Saul with the Philistine’s head still in his hand. 58 “Tell me about your father, young man,” Saul said. And David replied, “His name is Jesse, and we live in Bethlehem.”

Talk about relying on God for strength. David does this his entire life, and more importantly, he understands that it is God who allows him to accomplish so much. Turn to Psalm 27  (KJV).

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD. Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Can any of us think of a time when we could use God’s strength, a time when we need to rely on God to do something for us, through us, that we can never accomplish on our own?

I can give an easy example … preaching. There is no way that I could do this without God. There is no way I could get up here and speak these words without His intervention, and guidance, and love. He gives me the strength, the knowledge, the words. He does it all; I merely speak the words He tells me.

That is an easy example. There was a time in my life that I needed Him so desperately, that I was so dependent on Him, that there was no way I could even lift a foot to get out of bed without His support. When Kyleigh was born, and she would not eat or better yet, when she could not eat. That was probably the hardest time of my life, but once I fell in God’s lap, and leaned on Him for strength, it was almost like I wasn’t a part of my own life, I just kind of floated through that time, letting God speak through me, walking the way God wanted me to walk and doing what He wanted me to do.

It is funny, but we seem to get closer to God in times of trouble and stress, we rely on Him so much to get us through the hard times, then we kind of walk away from Him in the good times, forgetting that He can do the same things in the easy times as He does in the hard times. How easy is it for us to limp along in our own strength when there is no trouble? David understands this concept. He lives this concept. Turn to 2 Samuel 22.

This chapter is referred to as David’s Song of Praise. We are not going to read this, it’s our homework for the week. Read this passage and pray over it … meditate on it, and we’re going to continue next week.

Fear or Love, The Choice is Ours – Part 3

Wait Upon the Lord

God wants to be known, He wants to be recognized, He wants to have a relationship with us. Why? Because He Loves us.

I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

Revelation 3:19-22

So with all this evidence, with all the visible signs that every single person on the planet can see and know, why is it that we still just go through the motions? How can we change our hearts so that we consistently follow God’s laws?

Answer: stop fighting, give in, submit to God, knowing that He loves you. How easy and how wonderful if we could just fall into His lap and know that He was going to take care of everything.

Read Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV): “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Ok, so now we have this peace … this unbelievable peace that God grants to those who believe and pray and listen to the Holy Spirit. I’ve actually even accepted God’s peace a couple of times, but then something happens, something disturbs me peace, something breaks through and pulls me away from that peace that God gives me and I end up angry, or depressed, or confused. So what do we do now?

Read Psalms 27:13-14 (KJV): “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”

So first we have peace…now we wait.

Webster defines the word wait as follows: “to stay in a place or remain inactive or in anticipation until something expected takes place.”

Good definition, stay inactive, in anticipation until something expected takes place. What do we expect when we wait upon the Lord? Scripture has a number of references to waiting upon the Lord. We sing about it all the time.

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

I’ve done some studying on the word “wait” used in this verse. Steven Wickstrom wrote an article that says the following:

The word, wait, is the Hebrew word, “qavah.” The word, “qavah,” has two definitions or meanings. It has both a literal and a figurative meaning. The literal meaning of the word is “to bind together like a cord.” First let me explain what “to bind together like a cord” does NOT mean. It does not mean to tie a cord around a bundle of sticks to keep them together. Instead, picture in your mind the process of making a rope (cord) by twisting or weaving (binding) small strings together to form the rope. The more strands that are twisted or woven together in a rope, the greater is its strength. Ah, there’s that word strength again. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “[…] a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Now I’ve made rope before, to make a rope, for it to have any strength, you have to weave lots of little pieces of string together, twisting and weaving, over and over and adding more strands to gain strength. Once you weave it together, you have to twist it and pull it hard enough that the strands begin to knot up, otherwise, it all just unravels once you let go. How can we twist and weave God into our lives? How many strands do we need to have in our rope to give us the strength to meet every challenge?

Steven goes on to say:

The literal definition of “qavah” implies strength through numbers. The more strands in your rope, the greater its strength. Just as a rope’s strength comes from being made of many strands, so our strength comes through being united with Christ. The “rope” of our lives gains strength by being twisted or woven or bound together with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The figurative definition of the word “qavah” is “to wait, to hope, to expect.”

John Oswalt, an OT scholar, notes that “waiting on the Lord” implies two things.

  1. Complete dependence on God
  2. A willingness to allow Him to decide the terms

Oswalt writes,

to wait on him is to admit that we have no other help, either in ourselves or in another … [it is] to declare our confidence in his eventual action on our behalf. Thus waiting is not merely killing time but a life of confident expectation.

Oswalt, New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66, p. 74

Now, I think that we can wait, or hope or expect for a long time, but if we do not have strength, if our lives aren’t bound up with God, woven in and inseparable from God, then waiting might be a bit pointless. Some of the verses in scripture that tell us to wait upon the Lord, and how to do so:

  • Psalms 130:5 (KJV): “I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his Word do I hope.” (Stay in His Word)
  • Proverbs 20:22 (KJV): “Say not thou, I will recompense” [repay evil for] “evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.” (Don’t get angry, or seek revenge.)
  • Psalm 123:2: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.” (Expect God to have mercy and love.)
  • Isaiah 8:17: “And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.” (Pray, seek, listen.)
  • Isaiah 30:18: “And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.”
  • Jeremiah 14:22: “Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.” (Know that God is God, and He can do all things.)

So many people use the figurative definition when they try and talk about “waiting” on the Lord, and that’s fine, we should wait, hope and expect. However, I think He means more then just the figurative; I think God wants us to understand the literal meaning of the word “gavah” and how we can apply it to our lives.

I went to a breakfast last Saturday, the guest speaker was the new (relatively) Bishop of SC for the Episcopalian Church. He said a couple of interesting things, one of them was this: Winston Churchhill had a saying, “Play for more than you can afford to lose, it’s the only way you really know the game.”

For us to “really” learn to wait on the Lord, I think we have to play for more then we can afford to lose. Job waited on the Lord, knowing that God was the only one that could save him. Moses waited on the Lord … who else or what other power could ever have delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians, or kept them alive and whole as a nation for 40 years in the wilderness? David waited on the Lord his entire life. Depending on God to deliver him from impossible situations.

Psalm 37, a psalm of David.
Don't worry about the wicked
or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart's desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don't worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper —
it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.
Soon the wicked will disappear.
Though you look for them, they will be gone.
The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity.
The wicked plot against the godly;
they snarl at them in defiance.
But the Lord just laughs,
for he sees their day of judgment coming.
The wicked draw their swords
and string their bows to kill the poor and the oppressed,
to slaughter those who do right.
But their swords will stab their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
It is better to be godly and have little
than to be evil and rich.
For the strength of the wicked will be shattered,
but the Lord takes care of the godly.
Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent,
and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever.
They will not be disgraced in hard times;
even in famine they will have more than enough.
But the wicked will die.
The Lord's enemies are like flowers in a field —
they will disappear like smoke.
The wicked borrow and never repay,
but the godly are generous givers.
Those the Lord blesses will possess the land,
but those he curses will die.
The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
Once I was young, and now I am old.
Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned
or their children begging for bread.
The godly always give generous loans to others,
and their children are a blessing.
Turn from evil and do good,
and you will live in the land forever.
For the Lord loves justice,
and he will never abandon the godly.
He will keep them safe forever,
but the children of the wicked will die.
The godly will possess the land and will live there forever.
The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong.
They have made God's law their own,
so they will never slip from his path.
The wicked wait in ambush for the godly,
looking for an excuse to kill them.
But the Lord will not let the wicked succeed
or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.
Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path.
He will honor you by giving you the land.
You will see the wicked destroyed.
I have seen wicked and ruthless people flourishing
like a tree in its native soil.
But when I looked again, they were gone!
Though I searched for them, I could not find them!
Look at those who are honest and good,
for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.
But the rebellious will be destroyed; they have no future.
The Lord rescues the godly;
he is their fortress in times of trouble.
The Lord helps them, rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them, and they find shelter in him.

So we must learn to wait on the Lord, we must learn to build our ropes, we must learn to strengthen the cords that attach us to God.

Some of the strands that should be in our rope:

  • Keep your focus on God.
  • Read the Bible daily.
  • Pray daily.
  • Love your enemy.
  • Attend church regularly.
  • Learn from Christian friends.
  • Tell others about your faith in Jesus Christ.

Can you think of other strands?

In conclusion – if we have love in our hearts, if we love our friends, our family, then we’d better start talking. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we’d better start talking. If we can’t stand the thought of anybody spending eternity in hell, we’d better start talking.

Fear or Love, The Choice is Ours – Part 2

Through the Motions

We’ve probably all heard the song by Matthew West called “The Motions.” The lyrics are this:

But I know that I've gotta make a change
I don't care if I break,
At least I'll be feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough

Help me fight through the nothingness of life
I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day without
Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything, instead of going through the motions?"

What if we are just going through the motions? What if our hearts aren’t where they’re supposed to be? What if what’s on the inside … in our hearts and minds, doesn’t match the face we show on the outside? How many times have I asked myself, “why am I doing this? Is God really real? Is it worth the struggle?” Anybody else have questions like that once in a while?

So how do we know that God exists?

Read Romans 1:19-20: They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Let’s examine some facts that every human can know and see. Marilyn Adamson, a self-proclaimed atheist (now a Christian) wrote the following after she converted:

Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.

The Earth…its size is perfect. The Earth’s size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter. Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.

The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth’s position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day.

And our moon is the perfect size and distance from the Earth for its gravitational pull. The moon creates important ocean tides and movement so ocean waters do not stagnate, and yet our massive oceans are restrained from spilling over across the continents.

Water…colorless, odorless and without taste, and yet no living thing can survive without it. Plants, animals and human beings consist mostly of water (about two-thirds of the human body is water).You’ll see why the characteristics of water are uniquely suited to life:

It has an unusually high boiling point and freezing point. Water allows us to live in an environment of fluctuating temperature changes, while keeping our bodies a steady 98.6 degrees.

Water is a universal solvent. This property of water means that thousands of chemicals, minerals and nutrients can be carried throughout our bodies and into the smallest blood vessels.

Water is also chemically neutral. Without affecting the makeup of the substances it carries, water enables food, medicines and minerals to be absorbed and used by the body.

Water has a unique surface tension. Water in plants can therefore flow upward against gravity, bringing life-giving water and nutrients to the top of even the tallest trees.

Water freezes from the top down and floats, so fish can live in the winter.

Ninety-seven percent of the Earth’s water is in the oceans. But on our Earth, there is a system designed which removes salt from the water and then distributes that water throughout the globe. Evaporation takes the ocean waters, leaving the salt, and forms clouds which are easily moved by the wind to disperse water over the land, for vegetation, animals and people. It is a system of purification and supply that sustains life on this planet, a system of recycled and reused water.

The human brain…simultaneously processes an amazing amount of information. Your brain takes in all the colors and objects you see, the temperature around you, the pressure of your feet against the floor, the sounds around you, the dryness of your mouth, even the texture of your keyboard. Your brain holds and processes all your emotions, thoughts and memories. At the same time your brain keeps track of the ongoing functions of your body like your breathing pattern, eyelid movement, hunger and movement of the muscles in your hands.

The human brain processes more than a million messages a second.7 Your brain weighs the importance of all this data, filtering out the relatively unimportant. This screening function is what allows you to focus and operate effectively in your world. The brain functions differently than other organs. There is an intelligence to it, the ability to reason, to produce feelings, to dream and plan, to take action, and relate to other people.

The eye…can distinguish among seven million colors. It has automatic focusing and handles an astounding 1.5 million messages — simultaneously.8 Evolution focuses on mutations and changes from and within existing organisms. Yet evolution alone does not fully explain the initial source of the eye or the brain — the start of living organisms from nonliving matter.

Does God exist? The universe had a start – what caused it?

Scientists are convinced that our universe began with one enormous explosion of energy and light, which we now call the Big Bang. This was the singular start to everything that exists: the beginning of the universe, the start of space, and even the initial start of time itself.

Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow, a self-described agnostic, stated, “The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion in the moment of the cosmic explosion…The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen.”

Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, said at the moment of this explosion, “the universe was about a hundred thousands million degrees Centigrade…and the universe was filled with light.”

The universe has not always existed. It had a start…what caused that? Scientists have no explanation for the sudden explosion of light and matter.

Does God exist? The universe operates by uniform laws of nature. Why does it?

Much of life may seem uncertain, but look at what we can count on day after day: gravity remains consistent, a hot cup of coffee left on a counter will get cold, the earth rotates in the same 24 hours, and the speed of light doesn’t change — on earth or in galaxies far from us.

How is it that we can identify laws of nature that never change? Why is the universe so orderly, so reliable?

The greatest scientists have been struck by how strange this is. There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone one that abides by the rules of mathematics. This astonishment springs from the recognition that the universe doesn’t have to behave this way. It is easy to imagine a universe in which conditions change unpredictably from instant to instant, or even a universe in which things pop in and out of existence.

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for quantum electrodynamics, said, “Why nature is mathematical is a mystery…The fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle.”

Does God exist? The DNA code informs, programs a cell’s behavior.

All instruction, all teaching, all training comes with intent. Someone who writes an instruction manual does so with purpose. Did you know that in every cell of our bodies there exists a very detailed instruction code, much like a miniature computer program? As you may know, a computer program is made up of ones and zeros, like this: 110010101011000. The way they are arranged tell the computer program what to do. The DNA code in each of our cells is very similar. It’s made up of four chemicals that scientists abbreviate as A, T, G, and C. These are arranged in the human cell like this: CGTGTGACTCGCTCCTGAT and so on. There are three billions of these letters in every human cell!!

Well, just like you can program your phone to beep for specific reasons, DNA instructs the cell. DNA is a three-billion-lettered program telling the cell to act in a certain way. It is a full instruction manual.

Why is this so amazing? One has to ask….how did this information program wind up in each human cell? These are not just chemicals. These are chemicals that instruct, that code in a very detailed way exactly how the person’s body should develop.

Natural, biological causes are completely lacking as an explanation when programmed information is involved. You cannot find instruction, precise information like this, without someone intentionally constructing it.

So why do atheists fight against believers so much and so hard? What is it that makes them want to prove us wrong? Malcolm Muggeridge, socialist and philosophical author, and former atheist, wrote, “I had a notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued.” C.S. Lewis said he remembered, “…night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.”

Atheists fight us so much because they know in their hearts that they are wrong, and if they could just convince us, then maybe, just maybe, they can get on with their lives without guilt.

Not going to happen. God wants to be known, He wants to be recognized, He wants to have a relationship with us. Why? Because He Loves us.

Read Revelation 3:19-22. “I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

Write this down: Great website, dedicated to giving scientific reasons about why God exists.

So with all this evidence, with all the visible signs that every single person on the planet can see and know, why is it that we still just go through the motions? How can we change our hearts so that we consistently follow God’s laws?

Answer: stop fighting, give in, submit to God, knowing that He loves you. How easy and how wonderful if we could just fall into His lap and know that He was going to take care of everything.

Read Phillipians 4:6-7 (NIV). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Fear or Love, The Choice is Ours – Part 1

Slow Fade

Slow Fade By Casting Crowns

Be careful little eyes what you see
It's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it's the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade

Be careful little ears what you hear
When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near
Be careful little lips what you say
For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day

The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you're thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

Oh be careful little eyes what see
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see

Slow Fade

Does anybody here, other then me, have a problem that they know about, but they continue to fight? Anybody have a problem with lying? Procrastination? Poor work habits? Lust? Laziness? Gluttony? The list goes on. We fight against these strongholds on a regular basis, sometimes giving in … ok, often giving in, we continue to try and stand strong without relying on the one thing we can always count on. How often do we know that something is wrong, something that we do over and over and yet continue to do and how often do we fall short of the mark that God has set for us?

I want us to listen to this song and I’m going to talk about what it has said to me, and what it should say to all of us.

Be careful little eyes what you see It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings.

Read 1 John 2:15-16 (KJV) “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

Lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, pride of life … these are the things that bind us, that keep us from God, that lead us to darkness. So what can we do about it? How do we avoid the darkness that ties our hands? It’s all around us, every single day. Women in skimpy clothing, men jogging shirtless, television, MTV, covers of magazines. Everywhere we look temptation rears it’s ugly head. How do we fight it, how do we have a chance against everything that the world has to offer, against that “second glance that ties our hands?”

Read Romans 13:13-14 (NLT) “Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Read 1 John 2:15-16 (NLT) “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”

Think about this: God says we belong to the day and we don’t belong to this world, so why should this world have so much that we crave, why should we give in to those things the world says we should? The next line of the song:

Be careful little feet where you go for it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

Everything that we do affects those around us, especially when we have children. This line makes me want to cry, because I can imagine the damage that we do to others when we fall into the darkness. And it’s not just our children, it’s our co-workers, our friends, our students, the kids on our team.

Alex came home the other day and told me that his coach had used profanity toward him … he had told his coach that he couldn’t play because his pinky hurt. His coach said “you gotta be blanking me!” Needless to say, I was a bit upset. Not that the coach was upset because Alex couldn’t play, though that annoyed me a little, but because the coach had so much darkness that he would fall to the level of using profanity to a 12 year old. Coaches have SO much influence on the children they deal with and it can be used for good or for evil. I know that sound cliche, but it’s true. Anyway, I called the head coach (it wasn’t the head coach that said it) and confronted him on it. His excuse was that “that’s who he is on the field, he can’t help it.” I told him that was ridiculous, the guys a teacher and he wouldn’t dare use that type of language in the classroom, he’d lose his job. Then he said, “well, I hear that kind of language from the boys in the locker room all the time.” I almost laughed. I told him, “of course you do, how would you expect your team to not curse, when they hear it from their coaches every single day, they want to be just like you, they look up to you, they strive to be you. We have the same problem at the high school, for the first few days. None of the coaches on my staff use profanity, and we don’t tolerate it from the athletes. When they see that the coaches don’t use it, and they get in trouble for it on the field or off the field, they begin to change the way they speak. I’ve seen it every year I’ve coached. The first few days, I can stand outside the locker room and hear the profanity flying, after a week I can stand outside the locker room and maybe once in a while hear a swear word. It’s the standard I hold everyone to, because it’s the standard God holds me to.”

Everything we do, everything we say, everything we are…someone is watching us and someone is sure to follow.

Read 1 Timothy 4:16 (NLT) “Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”

Read James 3:1-2 (NLT) “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.”

Be careful little ears what you hear. When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near.

Come on man, let’s do it, what’s wrong with just this once? One time isn’t going to hurt you, live a little, take a chance. Anybody ever given in to peer pressure? Cursed because everyone else is doing it? Looked at something or watched a movie that we knew we shouldn’t, but everyone else was so we did? I’ve heard so many times to guard our eyes and our lips and our hearts. But let’s look at how our ears affect us. Think about the popular songs of today, violence, sex, stealing, lawlessness, all embedded in the songs that so many people listen to. How hard is it to avoid temptation when we can hear it in our ipods and on our televisions every minute of every day. “Be careful little ears what you hear.” For what you hear will certainly affect what you think and how you act.

Be careful little lips what you say. For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray.

How many of us make promises we don’t keep? I know I do, how many time have I disappointed my wife because I’ve said “I’ll be home in an hour” …but I’m not. How many times do we have to say we’re going to do something and we don’t before someone’s heart grows cold. I’ve been late so many times, when I say I’ll be back in two hours nobody even believes me. And for good reason, something always seems to come up, something always needs to be done…just one more thing, just a few more minutes. There’s always an excuse, and it’s always wrong. Christ says: “let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no”

Do we want to be like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:17 (NLT) “You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say ‘Yes’ when they really mean No’?”

I don’t want to be that person anymore, I want to be the kind of person that keeps his word, not because of pride, which would be an easy trap to fall into, but because that’s the kind of person God wants me to be.

Everything in this song has been leading up to the next few lines, which hit me so hard every time I hear them:

The journey from your mind to your hands. Is shorter than you’re thinking.

What we think is how we act, how we act is who we are and who everyone else sees us to be.

  • Psalm 77:12 “They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.
  • Psalm 119:97 [ Mem ] “Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long.”
  • Psalm 119:148 “I stay awake through the night, thinking about your promise.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:34 “Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all.”
  • Philippians 4:8 “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
  • Colossians 3:2 “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

Be careful if you think you stand. You just might be sinking

Do we think we’re in control, or is it darkness that has tied our hands? Is God the controller in our lives, or the world? Be careful.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT) “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

When we fall, it’s not all at once, “it’s the second glance that ties the hands and darkness pulls the strings.” How often do we look twice? How often do we think twice about doing things we know we shouldn’t? How easy is it to just give in this once?

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

Stand firm, trust in the Lord, read scripture every day do not give in to the temptations that are all around us every single minute of every day. Some scripture verses to help us:

Read Matthew 26:41 (NLT) “41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Read James 1:13-16 (NLT) “And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, ‘God is tempting me.’ God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.”

Read Romans 12:2 (NLT) “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Read Ephesians 5:8-11 (NLT) “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.”

And most importantly, Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV) “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen”