Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
God has placed it on my heart to get in touch with local churches so as to encourage them to ramp up their efforts at becoming disciple makers. While I am still praying for direction I am in the process of preparing.
I've put together a 10-Question ONLINE survey that I hope will begin a discussion.
It would help me out if you would please take 5 minutes to do this completely anonymous survey. My goal is to make sure it all functions properly and to learn of any gross grammatical errors - please leave a comment(s) if you find errors.
Click here to take the survey...
Friday, November 30, 2018
Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Have you ever asked yourself, "Why do I keep doing this to myself?" Whether you wake up in the morning with a raging hangover and suffer the headache, you always seem to overdraw your bank account and incur the unnecessary fees, or you find yourself with the wrong guy or gal 'yet again' and suffering heartache; you recognize your pattern of self-harm and wonder why you keep doing this to yourself.
Is it even possible to break the pattern that you seem to be stuck in?
I've been there. Actually I'm there a lot. Many years ago it was one self-destructive pattern after another and today it's still another. I used to think it was just a matter of repenting from my sin and by sheer force of will (which I did/do not have) stop doing that thing that I do; but not anymore. Today I know that I am helpless to break the harmful patterns of my own will, and I am dependent upon God to break the patterns in me by little individual miraculous interventions.
Here's a dumb one.
I love donuts. No seriously, I LOVE them. My downfall is that I cannot seem to pass them up. When I go to the grocery store I have to get a Boston Crème and an Apple Fritter, when I pass by the donut shop I have to stop for a Boston Crème and an Apple Fritter, and when I go to the gas station I have to get a, can you guess it? A Raspberry/Creme Cheese Hostess what-ever-you-call-it and a package of powdered donuts. (What? Gas stations don't generally have Boston Crèmes and Fritters). Do you see the pattern and understand the destructiveness of it? While this is a dumb example I have plenty of serious ones that I'm not willing to share in this post - but I assure you, they're there.
When I recognize a destructive pattern in my life I generally feel terrible. I realize I am weak, I'm sinful, I'm useless, I'm a terrible person, I'm not worthy to be loved, and the self-deprecation goes on. But then, because I am in a relationship with Jesus I begin to hear the words of encouragement from Him that begins to break the spiral of an all-out self-pity loathing session. Jesus doesn’t argue the fact that I'm all those self-deprecating things because I am, but rather he lets me see that He loves me and will get me through it (whatever "it" is) anyway. He reminds me that "Yet while I was still a sinner that he died for me." (Romans 5:8) and that I'm not alone in the battle. That He can, and does, cause me to see the battle from a different perspective and show me ways of avoiding the dreaded traps that so easily ensnare me.
Does this mean that passing-up the donuts is easy? No, like I said I LOVE donuts. But what it does mean is that in my heart of hearts Jesus shows me the escape hatches and gives me a real option for a new choice so I don't have to keep asking myself "why do I keep doing myself?"
If you find yourself asking that question of yourself and need some help with your relationship with Jesus, please call on me, I would love to introduce you to the one who loves you more than you actually love yourself.
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
The other day during a service a man blurted out “DOES HELL REALLY EXIST?” My response was immediate and without reservation, “Yes”.
I thought more about his question and it dawned on me that in over 15 years of full-time ministry and preaching over some 2000 times, I have never once spoke specifically on the topic of hell. Why not? Simply, I didn’t want to. I view the topic of hell largely as a tool to scare people into making a confession of faith in Jesus; at least that’s how I’ve typically seen it used. But the man’s question made me address the issue and I know that just because I may indeed have seen the topic of hell abused, the abuse that I have experienced did not give me allowance to shirk the subject all together because, after all, hell is a very real biblical topic that is addressed by even Jesus himself. And so this week I did address the topic of hell.
1 Thessalonians 5:9
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
God has not appointed us to suffer wrath. What wrath? Separation from Him? His punishment? His damnation?
Yes, yes, and yes.
I really hate that hell, in its many facets, exists. When I was a new Christian I hated that I was forced to make a choice for Christ in the first place. I felt like God dealt me a hand with a loaded deck. I felt that it would have been better to have never been born than to ever have had the opportunity of not trusting in Jesus and going to hell. But resent is as I did I was glad that I understood it. I was glad that I will not endure His wrath and damnation on Judgment Day and experience being separated from Him for all eternity. I understood that people may make a decision to not accept Jesus and thus God will give them their heart’s desire for all eternity, but I still did/do not like the end result for those who chose to ignore Him. Even though I don’t like it, the reality is that hell exists for those who refuse to play the spiritual hand they have been dealt.
Is hell a real place, a physical place, a place with a location? Again, yes, yes, and yes -- but I don’t know exactly where and how it is.
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
There are other passages that talk about hell but this is the one that always sticks in my mind. The idea that there is a lake of burning sulphur prepared for the devil and his demons and those who will not hope in the Victory of Jesus’ Cross scares me more than just a little.
While I do accept that hell exists, I will acknowledge that much of how people view it in our minds is from made-up fictional art from such writers as the 13th century’s Dante’s Inferno. The devil is never described in the bible as wearing a red spandex suit with a tail, horns, and pitch fork. But again, just because someone has made up an image of the devil and hell does not mean that they do not have an existence.
In the end I believe hell exists because as much as I hate the idea and the concept is a seemingly extreme punishment, I also get it. If I were to sacrifice my son in order to give someone a free pass from such a punishment then I would angrily throw the book at you. Seriously, if I subjected myself (and my son) to the torment of a Roman cross in order to make a way for you to live eternally in spiritual bliss, and you refused to believe in and worship him, I would be livid that I wasted his life on you for nothing. Even as I write this I will admit that I have never looked at it from this point of view before and I am beginning to understand a little bit better why it exists. As they say, “walk a mile in another’s shoes.”
In the end I am not happy how the concept of hell has been used as a scare tactic but the reality is that it’s a good one and needs to be seriously considered when thinking about our eternal souls.
Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.
This verse is about when God delivered the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt. He delivered them all but some would not believe so God destroyed them. In the same way, Jesus redeemed mankind from our slavery to sin and death when he died upon the Cross, and again, there will be some people who will just not believe it.
My prayer is for you, that if you have not yet bent a knee to Jesus the son of God, that you will place your trust in and believe in Him.
Many blessings to you on your faith journey…
Sunday, November 18, 2018
1 Samuel 2:1- Hannah Prayed: My heart rejoices in the LORD; my horn is lifted up by the LORD. My mouth boasts over my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.
~ have you ever been overjoyed: maybe at the birth of a child, at your wedding, or maybe when God had directly answered your prayer like he did with Hannah. Hannah's heart was overjoyed and she sang out in Praise to God because of it.
She says that her horn is lifted up by the Lord. There are a couple meanings here: first as the horn is a common representation of strength signifying that she is made strong by the Lord, but as it is attached to a female who just became a mother for the first time by miraculous means, it may be just as likely directly meaning the head dressing of women that signified the difference between a mother and a non-mother. However, I accept the first as a simple significance of strength. In either case, Hannah can now boast to Peninnah because God has given her a son and she acknowledges that it was the Lord who saved her from her shame.
1 Samuel 2:2 ¶ There is no one holy like the LORD. There is no one besides you! And there is no rock like our God.
~ No one is "Holy" like the Lord. What does it mean that God is Holy?
The idea of Holy has to do with separation: no one is Holy like the Lord. Of all the deities of men, none is "holy" (separated) from sin. In fact, other world religions aren't concerned with being separated from sin as our God is. The followers of other world religions seek to better themselves in order to be acceptable to their deity, but the Christian God knew that there was nothing that you and I could do to separate yourself from sin, so he gave His one and only son to destroy sin and death allowing us to be separated us from it by His grace. When we are in faith in Jesus, we will still struggle against sin but it's affect to us are canceled and we are made righteous in the sight of God; by Jesus we are given the grace of becoming Holy as well.
It is because of this grace that we struggle and combat the present sin in our lives as we live on this earth. Not sure who said it but someone once said that we tend to think that we are physical beings having a spiritual experience but in Jesus we are actually spiritual beings having a physical experience.
1 Samuel 2:3 ¶ Do not boast so proudly, or let arrogant words come out of your mouth, for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and actions are weighed by him.
~ our normal way of comparing ourselves is against other people. We determine if we win or lose against another person, or how well we do in school against our fellow students, and when it comes to being Holy we compare ourselves to other people, people like mass murderers, but in reality our spirituality is measured against God alone. When we compare ourselves to God we recognize our desperate need for Jesus alone.
1 Samuel 2:4-10 ¶ The bows of the warriors are broken, but the feeble are clothed with strength. 5 ¶ Those who are full hire themselves out for food, but those who are starving hunger no more. The woman who is childless gives birth to seven, but the woman with many sons pines away. 6 ¶ The LORD brings death and gives life; he sends some down to Sheol, and he raises others up. 7 ¶ The LORD brings poverty and gives wealth; he humbles and he exalts. 8 ¶ He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the trash heap. He seats them with noblemen and gives them a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; he has set the world on them. 9 ¶ He guards the steps of his faithful ones, but the wicked perish in darkness, for a person does not prevail by his own strength. 10 ¶ Those who oppose the LORD will be shattered; he will thunder in the heavens against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. He will give power to his king; he will lift up the horn of his anointed.
~ Hannah's prayer is prophetic as she makes mention of the future Messiah who was expected to come to Israel. As she does, she recognizes her own salvation to be just a smaller microcosm of the salvation that is to come to us all through Jesus.
Just as Hannah's Horn is lifted up, her shame was alleviated and she was given strength and deliverance. When Jesus came he was put to shame and nailed to a Roman cross where the sins of the world were placed upon him. But on the third day he was lifted up and declared victorious over sin and death: King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Through this Jesus who has been lifted up, you and I are redeemed and like Hannah are spared our shame. For we are people who are not Holy separated from sin but through Jesus was are granted forgiveness and deemed righteous as we trust in Him. When you and I have understood the reality of the salvation that is given us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we too will rejoice and sing with Hannah concerning our own salvation.
If you are not bursting out in praise for our God, I invite you to get to know Him and the great salvation deliverance you can have from your shame that he has for you.
Wednesday, November 7, 2018
38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
Question, who were the people Jesus had the biggest issue with?
Answer, it seems the teachers of the Jewish Law. (Mark 12:38-40)
In this section Jesus didn't just come up with a rebuke of the Jewish leaders out of a vacuum, but it was in response to the direct happenings going on since chapter 11-- his entry into Jerusalem.
In chapter 11 Jesus road into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey thus proclaiming himself to be King of the Jews. In response the leaders of the Jewish Law began to test Jesus; challenging his authority as King. If you'll recall, they asked him questions about divorce, marriage in heaven, and paying taxes to Caesar. Each time Jesus outwitted them which only discredited their own authority. And finally, in Mark 12:38-40, Jesus tells his disciples to beware of the teachings of the teachers of the Law because they will be most severely punished.
So here's another question, what was the main problem with the Teachers of the Law? While there were plenty of problems the main one, in my thinking, is that they did not recognize the authority of Jesus or consider him their King. They simply would not accept his authority in their lives or in their government.
What about us? Do we accept the authority of Jesus in our lives? Do we accept him in our government?
At first blush we all will answer "yes" to both questions, but do we really? Accepting the authority of Jesus as King means that we will trust him in our everyday lives (even when it's difficult) and in our government (again, even when it's difficult).
This morning, many people are disappointed with the American mid-term election results just as many are happy with them, but in the end, do we accept the authority of Jesus as King either way? Do we trust that he is King and in control no matter the circumstances?
Sometimes I have to remind myself that things will be alright despite my health complications, my financial struggles, my social issues, or my government. I have to remind myself of this because I believe that Jesus is ultimately the King of my life and my world in whom I will trust.