Tag Archives: Eternity

Good News for 2017

3 Jan

2017Check out the audio version here.

Take a look at our passage for today found in Rom. 10:11-15.

Notice the words in v.15, “Good news of good things.”

I looked at what the Associated Press said were their top stories of 2016.  There were some items that people will consider good news while most people will consider it all bad. Here are the top news stories of 2016 according to AP.

  1. US ELECTION: This year’s top story traces back to June 2015, when Donald Trump descended an escalator in Trump Tower, his bastion in New York City, to announce he would run for president. Widely viewed as a long shot, with an unconventional campaign featuring raucous rallies and pugnacious tweets, he outlasted 16 Republican rivals. Among the Democrats, Hillary Clinton beat back an unexpectedly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders, and won the popular vote over Trump. But he won key Rust Belt states to get the most electoral votes, and will enter the White House with Republicans maintaining control of both houses of Congress.
  2. BREXIT: Confounding pollsters and odds makers, Britons voted in June to leave the European Union, triggering financial and political upheaval. David Cameron resigned as prime minister soon after the vote, leaving the task of negotiating an exit to a reshaped Conservative government led by Theresa May. Under a tentative timetable, final details of the withdrawal might not be known until the spring of 2019.
  3. BLACK MEN KILLED BY POLICE: One day apart, police in Baton Rouge, LA, fatally shot Alton Sterling after pinning him to the ground, and a white police officer shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop in a suburb of Minneapolis. Coming after several similar cases in recent years, the killings rekindled debate over policing practices and the Black Lives Matter movement.
  4. PULSE NIGHTCLUB MASSACRE: The worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history unfolded on Latin Night at the Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. The gunman, Omar Mateen, killed 49 people over the course of three hours before dying in a shootout with SWAT team members. During the standoff, he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
  5. WORLDWIDE TERROR ATTACKS: Across the globe, extremist attacks flared at a relentless pace throughout the year. Among the many high-profile attacks were those that targeted airports in Brussels and Istanbul, a park teeming with families and children in Pakistan, and the seafront boulevard in Nice, France, where 86 people were killed when a truck plowed through a Bastille Day celebration. In Iraq alone, many hundreds of civilians were killed in repeated bombings.
  6. ATTACKS ON POLICE: Ambushes and targeted attacks on police officers in the U.S. claimed at least 20 lives. The victims included five officers in Dallas working to keep the peace at a protest over the fatal police shootings of black men in MN and LA. Ten days after that attack, a man killed three officers in Baton Rouge, LA. In Iowa, two policemen were fatally shot in separate ambush-style attacks while sitting in their patrol cars.
  7. DEMOCRATIC PARTY EMAIL LEAKS: Hacked emails, disclosed by WikiLeaks, revealed at-times embarrassing details from Democratic Party operatives in run-up to Election Day, leading to the resignation of Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other DNC officials. The CIA later concluded that Russia was behind the DNC hacking in a bid to boost Donald Trump’s chances of beating Hillary Clinton.
  8. SYRIA: Repeated cease-fire negotiations failed to halt relentless warfare among multiple factions. With Russia’s help, the government forces of President Bashar Assad finally seized rebel-held portions of the city of Aleppo, at a huge cost in terms of deaths and destruction.
  9. SUPREME COURT: After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to fill the vacancy. However, majority Republicans in the Senate refused to consider the nomination, opting to leave the seat vacant so it could be filled by the winner of the presidential election. Donald Trump has promised to appoint a conservative in the mold of Scalia.
  10. HILLARY CLINTON’S EMAILS: Amid the presidential campaign, the FBI conducted an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private computer server to handle emails she sent and received as secretary of state. FBI Director James Comey criticized Clinton for carelessness but said the bureau would not recommend criminal charges.

Those are just the top stories and you might argue there was one piece of good news, but the rest are clearly what we would call bad news. We typically focus only on bad news.

As Christ followers, we have the privilege to share the good news that is always good. The good news we have is called the Gospel. We just celebrated Christmas which tells the story of how Jesus was conceived of a virgin and born into this world. We must go further and tell people that He lived a sinless life as He walked the road to Calvary where He willingly gave up His life so that we could be reconciled with God. Jesus died on that cross, but three days later, He rose again defeating death. He was seen walking about by the multitudes and He gave people hope. Jesus ascended to heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us. That’s all exceedingly good news. Jesus said, “Because I live, you shall live also.”

As we move into the New Year, there’s going to be crises, challenges, and problems. Let’s focus on living for Christ in spite of our circumstances. Let’s adjust our attitudes and focus on the positive.

As I look forward to the coming year, there are a few things I would like to see happen:

I’d like to see people truly commit their life to Christ. It’s clear that this is what God wants: 1 Tim. 2:4 says, “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Somewhere along the way, we decided that sin is relative. There is no standard of conduct, but the Bible is very clear that we have a sin problem. Rom. 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Is. 64:6 says, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” But I have more good news: God has given up on us. God draws us to Him through the power of the Spirit. Jo. 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” God made a way through Christ. 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We have been justified in Christ: we are declared righteous based on the merits of Jesus. We have been sanctified: Christ’s righteousness is applied to each of us every single day. It’s our responsibility to make sure that everyone knows they’re welcome at the foot of the cross. Jo. 6:37 says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Peter said it this way:“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  (2 Pet. 3:9) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  (Jo. 3:16) You don’t have to be a certain way to get Christ, come as you are.

I’d like to see God’s people passionate about their personal faith and ministry. 2 Cor. 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” Nowhere in Scripture is this more evident than in the life of the Apostle Paul. Acts 9 records his conversion experience. The same Holy Spirit that transformed that murderer into an apostle lives in us so why do we have such low expectations from Christians today? Saul was lost. He finally recognized where he was without Christ and made a decision to follow Him and immediately began preaching. The people of the day were confused at this miraculous transformation, but that didn’t deter Saul from telling others what had happened. Acts 9:22says, “But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” We need a renewed passion for Christ.

These days, a general commitment to Christ substitutes for repentance. We’re satisfied with mediocrity; we’re satisfied being halfway committed to Christ and His bride. Committed means to be wholeheartedly dedicated. I often say I wish people would be half as committed to their walk of faith as they are their favorite sports team. Faithfulness has been replaced by casualness. We spend a lot of time and energy engaged in things that don’t really matter when you consider eternity. We have a tendency to take things for granted. We think God will always be there and we’ll start really serving Him when we’re ready or when we have time. Remember Saul persecuted the church and then met God and his life was never the same. Today we have people meet this same God and their lives are no different. What’s really disturbing about that is many people in the church are okay with it.

In 2017, I’d love to see people get passionate about God. I’d like to see people take Bible study with us. In 2016, we had over 200 people take Bible study with us in person and online and studied the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and now we’re studying God’s covenants. What I have observed over the last 17 years I’ve been in ministry is that people who consistently study and apply the Bible to their lives grow stronger in their faith. When the challenges of life occur, you’re better equipped to handle it. Other people will see this and ask you how you did it. You use that as a springboard to tell people about the power of God that is available to them. It would be really nice if that power you speak of is evident in your own life. More often than not, we treat God as the genie in the bottle. We reach for Him when we want something and then we put Him back on the shelf for another day. That is not how you worship the God of the universe. We’ve got it backwards: we look for God to serve us rather than for us to serve Him.

I think we have a tendency be complacent. Matt. 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” To put anything above the Lord is foolish, but we do it all the time. I think few people would admit that, but our actions speak louder than our words. I’d like to see people get more involved in the opportunities we have here. I think we’ve gotten lazy in our faith. Fewer and fewer people are willing to work hard. Fewer and fewer people make themselves available to do the hard, stressful, and emotionally draining work of the ministry. Fewer and fewer people are willing to persevere. More and more people say no to serving in the church What have you said yes to? I’d like to see people really make connections with others. There are people very casual about participation in the things of the church. We have people that miss one, two, three, four weeks and no one seems to notice and if they do notice, nothing comes of it. I’d like to see people participate in intentional ministry.

I’d like God’s people resist Satan. James says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  (Ja. 4:7) We cannot resist the devil in our own strength. We must first submit ourselves to God.  Then we can stand against Satan in the strength and might of the Lord Himself. Resist his destructive plans. Satan is a destroyer. He will try to destroy your home, your church relationship, your testimony, etc. Once you say yes to Satan, it becomes easier the next time, and easier. Satan’s way is never good, but unfortunately, even Christians are too ignorant to recognize this. Stay far from sin. Don’t see how close you can get.

I’d like to see Jesus come back in 2017. Phil. 3:20 says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus promised in John 14:3, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” We’re too attached to this temporary home. We work to have things that will pass away. We spend the majority of our time on things that have no bearing on eternity.

What do you want to hear and see by the end of next year? How many will you share Christ with? How will you serve the Lord by serving others? Will you live the life of holiness God has called you to live? How authentic will you be?

Sweet Success

4 Apr

HoneyYou can check out the podcast here.

Last time we were in Proverbs, we learned that trusting people can be a difficult thing to do, but God is not asking you to trust Him without good reason. When you get to know the God of the Bible, you’ll see He is exactly who He says He is and you really can trust Him. When you trust Him, you’ll be blessed – you’ll find favor with God. When you gain knowledge of God through the Bible, you’ll also gain understanding which leads to wisdom. That wisdom is easily recognized by people around you and provides them a limitless refreshing fountain of life if they’ll only listen to the godly wisdom that is contained within you. Fools don’t have that persuasiveness of speech; they just have nonsense. When it comes to eternity, don’t be a fool. This morning, we’ll see some sweet success.

Pro. 16:24-25 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

I like this first verse. Solomon rephrases something he’s already talked about when he says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Even though we’ve seen words to this effect in Proverbs, I wanted to spend some time here because I think the word picture is so beautiful. A honeycomb is the storage place for honey and that’s the word Solomon intends. Honey is an incredible substance. On their trip to see the second in command in Egypt, Jacob (Israel) told his boys to, “Take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.” (Gen. 43:11) The Promised Land was a land flowing with milk and honey. Samson killed a lion with his bare hands and then later returned to find the lion full on honey which he scooped out and ate as he walked. (Jud. 14:8) Jonathan’s eyes were brightened after eating honey in 1 Sam. 14:27. Honey was a regular part of John the Baptizer’s diet. (Matt. 3:4) Honey’s health benefits are widely publicized and it never goes bad. We use the word honey as a term of endearment.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb; they are comforting and soothing. There are many things I find pleasant, but may have no impact on eternity. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Solomon compares pleasant words to something that tastes good. The quickest way for a restaurant to fail is to have lousy food. A good, dark, strong cup of coffee brings me intense delight and comfort. And I’m sure you’ve heard the term comfort food. This type of food is supposed to transport you back to childhood where all your dreams were reality and you had no responsibility, no demands, no pressure, and no stress. Pleasant words are supposed to have an even bigger effect than that. Pleasant words can have a healing effect like a balm. I wonder if Solomon is thinking about the words penned by his father David in Ps. 19:7-11. The Law of God and the Word of God are eternally important for us. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) That’s why Solomon says pleasant words are, “Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Does this next verse sound familiar? Verse 25 is exactly the same as 14:12, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Why would the Holy Spirit inspire Solomon to say the same thing again? We’ve had a number of verses so far that convey the same overall meaning. Do you take it for granted? This is a caution against doing things on your own and it needs to be said again. When I tell you a cross reference for this verse is found in Pro. 12:15 it’ll all make sense, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Solomon is always contrasting wisdom and folly or righteous and unrighteous. When you consider your own ways and do not take the input of others, the end result is not generally good. There seems to be a right way to do things, but when you rely on yourself, it’s typically not good. It might turn out okay occasionally because even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Solomon is trying to get us to realize that we need other people in our lives. We don’t see loners in the Bible. The most vibrant, engaged Christians are those that are actively engaged in community. The followers that are growing the most are those that are engaged in fellowship with others that help them grow. The most authentic believers are those that are willing to place themselves under the authority of others; they don’t just do their own thing. If the way you’re going seems right to you but you’re alone, how will your course be corrected? If you just follow your heart, where will you be led? The Bible says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Sometimes it seems like we’re that three-year-old trying to tie his shoes saying, “I can do it myself.” It seems like we’re so desperate to do things on our own and we not only ignore godly guidance, we have a tendency to be offended if offered advice from someone older or more experienced. At the risk of tiring out this example, we have these mentors or guides in every aspect of life. The coach tells you what play to run or if you don’t come to practice, you can’t play. The teacher tells you to use a #2 pencil. The IRS tells you that your return must be postmarked no later than April 15th. The military tells you exactly how to wear your uniform. IKEA tells you how to put together their furniture.

We have little to no issue with this. After all, we want to play and we want to win. We want the computer to see our answers so we can pass the test. We don’t want to get a monetary penalty for filing late. We want our cool IKEA furniture to look right. When we transfer these same instructional ideas to the church, what happens? The music leader tells you your solo is cut or you’re singing flat. Someone offers some marriage advice or parenting guidance and all of a sudden, it’s none of your business. We have some misguided notion in the church that the only people that can offer advice are perfect people. Of course my marriage isn’t perfect, but how about learn from what I’ve messed up on and from what works for us. My kids aren’t perfect and I’ll tell you where I messed up so you won’t make the same mistakes I did. All of us tend to learn more from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, so why is it we’re so hard pressed against spiritual advice? “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

The most vibrant, effective ministries are the ones where there is a spirit of unity, a spirit of mutual love and respect where Jesus is elevated to His appropriate place above all other things. It’s a place where the focus is on the main thing. It is entirely unrealistic to think we will have success in every single thing we do. Thomas Edison figured out 2000 ways the light bulb didn’t work before finding one that did. Our first year going to Romania was not what we would define as a success, but the lessons learned were invaluable in refining the goals for how we do mission work in Romania. Every trip we learned something that didn’t work and that forced us to self-examine what we were doing. Each year at C4, we learn things. I don’t want us to get so routine and stagnant, that we just continue on regardless of how ineffective we might be. Just because we’ve always done it, doesn’t mean we’ll continue. The church is a living, breathing organism. We are made up of people that are learning and growing Do you want to be more effective in life? In ministry? In Eternity? Surround yourself with people who want the same thing. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. There is no room in your life for people who will tell you what you what you want to hear, who will lie to you, who won’t hold you accountable. That’s not love. That’s foolish. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Fools think they’re right and don’t bother getting the guidance of others.

Wise people seek out wiser people to check themselves. Wise people seek course corrections from other people. When you have people in your life that will tell you the truth in love, you’re going to grow. Don’t automatically ignore good counsel from others because you think you know it already. That’s a really dangerous place to be in. If you follow this guidance, I guarantee you’ll have sweet success.

Household Troubles

1 Jun

TroubleYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time we were together, Solomon provided some vivid word pictures about beauty. It is far more important to have the inner beauty of God than external beauty. We learned that the desire of godly people is only good. Godly people rejoice in the good fortune of others. We also saw the comparison of the greedy to the giving. This morning, we’ll continue down the road of generosity and riches to see where it takes us.

Pro. 11:28-31 says, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf. He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls. If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!”

This is a beautiful segue from our last message. Solomon compared greedy to generous and he reminds us, “He who trusts in riches will fall.” (Pro. 11:28) Rich is a relative term that we typically associate with the ultra-wealthy. According to the Social Security Administration, the average income of an American is about $44,000 a year. That seemed a bit high, so I lowered the income to $25,000 a year and checked globalrichlist.com to determine what rich is on a global scale. If you make $25,000 a year, you are in the top 2% of the richest people in the world. The point is that riches are fleeting; they can disappear in an instant. People that brag about how much money they have are in a dangerous place. In 1 Tim. 6:17 Paul said, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies  us with all things to enjoy.” If you’re hope is in your job, your investments, your 401k, or any other financial type account, at some point, you’ll find yourself lacking. Of course it’s nice to have money, but that’s not where our hope lies. In this congregation, I doubt anyone is putting their hope of eternity in their finances. For the most part, I know you, I know your families, I know where you live, and what you do for a living. While this idea may not apply to anyone here, you probably cross paths with people that have this type of thinking. It’s always about the money. It seems like every conversation you have with them is about money. They tell you how much everything costs or what things are worth. They track the rise and fall of the stock market, they want their kids to have the best education so they have the best job. Maybe they talk about retiring at 40 or 50. Life is more than money.

Think of the hope you can offer someone that is hung up on money, but that doesn’t mean the conversation will be an easy one. Jesus said, “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 19:24) All the financial and material blessings you have on this earth will be left behind. The idea is the rich may not see a need for Jesus because they have what this world offers. When you stand before the Lord, riches will fail you. “But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.” Maybe you’ve heard this type of analogy before. In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Ps. 1:3, “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Righteousness causes us to flourish. Flourish means to develop in a healthy or vigorous manner. When riches fail, righteousness remains. No one can take that away because we are grafted into Christ and the more we grow, the more we look like Jesus.

What looks like a shift in topics is not. Solomon speaks of the household. “He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.” These represent extremes in the home. There are a couple of different schools of thought on this verse. When you take the whole passage as one, which is the most accurate way to do it, you get the idea that there is a person that causes trouble in the house. You might quickly conclude that person is a child. I don’t really think Solomon is talking about children because there are other parts of Proverbs that we have seen already that deal with kids and there are others that we will see later that talk about kids. It seems that Solomon is talking about mismanagement in the home. Solomon is talking about the head of the household that does not take care of those under his authority – particularly servants. They don’t have adequate food, shelter, or any of the others things you would expect in a home. So who’s in charge of the home? The man, the husband, the father. If the leader of the home is consumed with riches and getting ahead in this world, that will lead to other less than desirable traits. Have you ever encountered someone that is like this? He totally neglects his family for the pursuit of riches. He’s not involved at all in leading the family. He can’t tell you what grade the kids are in, doesn’t know their activities, he really doesn’t know anything that is happening in the home. It seems that most scholars lean to this interpretation.

The troubler of his own house inherits the wind. At least he gets something right? Think about this for a second in the time in which this was written. Wind was useless, it was noisy, it kicked up dirt and sand, and was overall unpleasant. Now you get the idea. If it’s your responsibility to take care of the household and if you don’t, your inheritance is worthless. In fact not just that, but the fool becomes servant to the wise. Wisdom always wins out. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” This is more than just a nice verse. Think of the metaphor. The seed of one fruit can generate a tree that will produce fruit over the life of that tree. Remember, Solomon is still comparing wise to foolish, godliness to wickedness, good to evil. In light of those comparisons, the benefits of a righteous person cannot be underestimated. The overall good that person infuses into life are immeasurable. Where I live, we have a lot of citrus trees. When you consider the fruit produced by a healthy tree, you typically have more fruit than one family can consume. The righteousness produced by that godly individual not only benefits that person’s family, but provides spiritual nourishment to those around him.

The second part of that verse has been the subject of some controversy among Hebrew Bible scholars. Since I am not an expert in the Hebrew language, I am limited in how far I can understand this. The phrase, “wins souls” is translated to kill where it’s used in other places in Scripture. In fact, the Revised Standard Version read, “But lawlessness takes away lives.” The New Revised Standard Version and the Holman Christian Standard reads, “But violence takes lives away.” The Message reads, “A violent life destroys souls.” When we consider the comparisons in these verses and read the verse to say, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, but violence takes lives away,” it seems to make more sense. We’ve seen patterns in Solomon’s writings to this point so it makes sense to interpret it this way. What’s the point? According to 2 Tim. 2:15, we are to rightly divide the word of truth. Solomon has been making a great case to support the principle that leading a life of wickedness, evil, deception, and ungodliness leads to death while leading a life of godliness and wisdom leads to life. So if you want to read there is wisdom in saving souls – that’s a good principle to live by. I would even suggest it’s a principle we’re commanded to follow in Matt. 28:19-20 as the primary mission of the church. If you think that’s too much info, change your thinking. Don’t fall into the trap that you just don’t need to know all that. Remember what Ravi Zacharias said, we have people that “know[s] less and less of why they believe what they believe.”

Finally, Solomon says, “If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how more the wicked and the sinner!” Since we’re still in comparison mode, it’s fair to say that there are often times God gives us what we deserve. Heb. 12:6 reminds us that God disciplines us not just to correct unacceptable behavior, but also because He loves us. It’s the same reason you discipline your children. Many times, He chooses not to give what us we deserve and that’s called mercy. Solomon is saying that if God chooses to hold us accountable and we have examples of this in Adam, Moses, and David among a whole host of other regular people we see in Scripture, He will also hold the wicked accountable. Peter says it this way, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17)

The wicked will not get a free pass. Solomon has gone to great lengths to teach us about wisdom. He’s taken the time to compare godliness and wickedness: greed and generosity. We are challenged over and over again to live a life that glorifies God. Are we going to accept the challenge and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, or are we going to believe the lie that God doesn’t care how we live as long as we’re sincere.

Community Disorganizers

11 May

You can check out the podcast for this message here.

Last week Solomon laid out some principles that will help us sail smoothly through life. Righteous people are delivered from death where the wicked take their place. A very important principle Solomon introduced is the value and wisdom of godly counsel. Smooth sailing does not mean there won’t be issues or trouble in this life, but the righteousness of the godly provide the tools necessary to glorify God and remain steadfast in His will. This morning, Solomon provides us some principles that apply as we engage in activities typically associated with the community.

Grab your Bible and read Pro. 11:15-21.

The first principle we’ll look at today  has been said before and the question remains, who would do this? Back in 6:1 Solomon used the conditional clause, “If you have become surety for your neighbor.” That verse was generally directed at debt and it was conditional. The principle comes full circle when Solomon says, “He who is a guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it.” The answer does not have to do with sin, but with wisdom. There is no prohibition against cosigning a loan for someone. Insert the word someone for stranger and you get the application for us. Since we’re talking about wisdom and not sin, you need to evaluate the circumstances. Solomon is saying when you act as surety for someone, as a guarantor for someone, you “will surely suffer for it.” Not everyone that has served in that capacity has suffered for it. He’s speaking in general terms. And what kind of suffering are we talking about? The word used here for suffering means to be affected by something. Even if that person you act as a guarantor for pays back the loan, you still had that responsibility hanging over your head. You take on the responsibility for the loan because you know the person, you know his circumstances, you know their habits, and their values. You believe it’s safe. When you get involved in the financial affairs of others, it’s generally painful. That’s what Solomon is saying. “But he who hates being a guarantor is secure.” If you don’t cosign this loan, I won’t be able to buy that car, house, boat, etc. There is no scriptural mandate to take on the responsibility of someone else’s debt. When you have a general aversion to this, Solomon says you are secure. There’s nothing in the back of your mind, you don’t think about it, nothing hanging over your head. You free up brain cells because it’s one less thing to think about.

Our second principle tells us, “A gracious woman attains honor.” I love that word gracious. I think of the ladies of Downton Abby with their proper manners, their decorum, their sophistication, their elegance. Of course, it’s easy to do all that when you have someone else that gets you dressed and feeds you and takes care of all the chores. Gracious here means courteous, kind, and pleasant. You do not have to be wealthy to be gracious. He’s talking about the beautiful character of a gracious woman. Families and communities honor such women. I think of women like Barbara and Laura Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Condoleezza Rice, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Princess Diana. Of course those are all famous women. I also think of my wife whom I absolutely adore. It’s not just because she’s gorgeous, she is a true woman of God. In the context of Proverbs, I think graciousness and godliness go hand in hand. We’re not talking about perfection, but a passionate pursuit of Christ.

What’s very curious is the contrast Solomon uses next. “A gracious woman attains honor, and ruthless men attain riches.” It’s good to be ruthless in business, right? We have shows like the Shark Tank and the Apprentice that demonstrate the ruthlessness needed to get ahead in business. Being ruthless is how you get rich in business. It means showing no compassion. Cut throat, eliminate the competition, work harder and smarter than the other guy. We even have corporate espionage. This is the only place in Proverbs where Solomon makes a comparison of this type between a man and a woman. He compares a kindhearted or gracious woman and a ruthless man. That ruthless man wants to get ahead and he’ll get ahead by any means necessary. They seek respect and honor by what they do, but the gracious woman gains honor by being nice. It seems that grace is better than strength and honor is better than wealth. If you let that verse stand alone, it can easily be misunderstood. When you take v. 16 with v. 17, the whole picture becomes clearer. “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.” Look at the pattern of the people in these two verses: kind woman; ruthless man; merciful man; cruel man. It seems mercy has a medicinal quality to it – someone that practices mercy makes himself good. When you are cruel, you end up hurting yourself so don’t be cruel.

Here’s a familiar principle. Vs. 19-20 says, “He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, and he who pursues evil will bring about his own death. The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord, but the blameless in their walk are His delight.” We see a pattern here as in the previous two verses. Solomon talks about wickedness, righteousness, righteousness, and wickedness. Those exact words may not be used, but they convey the same idea. Solomon is driving home the point of the results of wicked behavior. “The wicked earn deceptive wages.” Those wages are deceptive because they are fleeting. Those riches are left behind and all are made equal at death. The wealth of a person is not taken into consideration at judgment. Paul said it this way, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) If you’re thinking that’s not the same thing, Solomon goes on to say, “But he who sows righteousness will attain to life.” That life will be long, healthy, and prosperous. The opposite is true, when you pursue evil, you will die. You can’t blame God when your evil ways, your evil behavior, and your evil manner of life leads to your death. Paul’s next thought was, “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Righteousness and wickedness are incompatible. Goodness and evil are incompatible. Those qualities may have been part of your character, but God changes you through Christ. That’s where true freedom lies. The wicked earn deceptive wages, but the righteous are paid in wages that are eternal. That’s what verse 19 is saying. When you are consistent and persistent in righteousness, you attain life. Steadfast means dutifully firm and unwavering. If you are truly a child of the King, this quality is supernaturally infused into your DNA. That’s why I get so weary with people profess to be Christians and the only evidence to support that is occasional church attendance and some don’t even do that. Pursuers of evil bring about their own death. To close out this section, Solomon gives us another contrast and it has to do with judgment.

Verse 20 says, “The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord.” Perverse means an obstinate desire to behave unacceptably and in context, it’s from God’s perspective. Perverse is translated “froward” in other versions which means hypocrisy and double dealings. Justice is pretended, but wrongdoing is what’s in store. Notice that it’s the heart – the seat of the soul. What’s in the heart comes out. You can pretend with other people, you might even fool yourself, but you can’t hide it from God. “. . . .but the blameless in their walk are His delight.” I’m sure you know why this is. It’s a no brainer really. Walk refers to manner of life. It refers to who a person is . . . . really. I think people spend a lot of effort pretending to be something they are not. People pretend they have a relationship with God, but without a corresponding lifestyle of godliness. Its often veiled in false spirituality where the words lead, led, feel, moving, etc. are used to put people into an incontestable position to do what they want to do. I always find it amusing that this leading rarely is to a place of deeper commitment, devotion, or duty, but rather to places of limited accountability and lower expectations. God takes great pleasure in His children that are willing to follow Him in directions they were not expecting.

Just to be sure you know exactly where Solomon is coming from, “Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished, but the descendents of the righteous will be delivered.” I think we all know that evil will be dealt with, but the second part is not so clear. Do not read that to say if you are a child of God, your children have a place reserved for them because of who you are. Don’t equate deliverance with eternity. Deliverance does not mean salvation.  The idea is that your behavior affects not just you, but your children and your grandchildren too. Sometimes God sees fit to deliver because of their godly ancestors. The Old Testament is filled with examples of this.

In these verses, Solomon speaks of the affect of our lifestyle on our community. That lifestyle, whether godly or wicked impacts people. As the behavior and thinking of the people move away from godliness, the morality of the society declines. I think we would agree that we can see this happening all around us. The answer is not for us to shrink away from godliness, but to boldly live our lives as an example of Christ’s transforming power in our lives.

Peter’s Analogy

5 Aug

TimeYou can catch the podcast here.

Last week Peter gave us a science lesson as he made three arguments that support the fact that God is involved in the day to day lives of us and the world. His three arguments were that God was involved at creation; involved in judgment at the flood, and He will be involved when judgment comes by fire in the future. This morning, Peter explains why his readers should press on regardless of the delay in Christ’s return.

2 Pet. 3:8-9 says, But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Peter provides a key to understanding God’s time in relation to our time. Some have used this verse as a secret decoder key to determine precisely the date of the Lord’s return. Others have used it in an attempt to prove the earth was created not in literal days, but over thousands of years. Peter uses the same verb, “forget” in v. 8 that he used in v. 5. He says, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved.” Notice the contrast from the mockers. They forgot the facts and it colored their worldview. When you allow anything other than the Bible to establish and maintain your worldview, you’re in trouble. The mockers forgot the implications of a God created existence and subsequent involvement and wrongly concluded that Jesus would not return and no judgment would come. They ignored the holy prophets and the apostles much like many people in the church today. A recent Barna survey reported about 46% of people attending church said their life had not changed as a result. 88% of Americans own a Bible and 80% think it’s sacred, yet 61% said they wished they read it more. Of course, reading the bible at all would be included in that 61% statistic. Get started today and begin your journey getting to know the one and only true God. When we allow the Bible to develop our worldview, we won’t think like the world.

So what aren’t we supposed to forget? Peter says, “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” The reality is that the passing of time for God is not the same as the passing of time for us. The false teachers and the mockers forgot this valuable truth and concluded the Lord wasn’t coming again. This notion isn’t new because Peter refers to Ps. 90:4 says, For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night.” As I get older, I notice my energy level is going down, my injuries don’t heal as quickly as they used to. The years have taken a toll on my body. But no matter how much time passes on earth, God has no birthdays; God does not get old; He doesn’t get weak or frail. So when we complain about God’s timing or His apparent lack of response to us, we have to remember that He is not on our time schedule. God does not wear a watch or refer to a calendar – He is beyond time. So if time doesn’t affect God, we shouldn’t get too excited about an apparent delay in the coming of Christ or any other perceived delay in His operations. Rest on the truth that He is coming again. Remember the words of the holy prophets and your apostles. This verse clearly indicates a comparison of God’s time used to refute the false teachers. It would be a gross injustice to Genesis and to God to use this text to say that it took God 6000 years to complete His creation. It also wouldn’t make sense for the Day of Judgment in v. 7 to last 1000 years. Peter is using an analogy.

So why is there an apparent delay? Hasn’t everything progressed to the point that God will send Jesus back? Are there any prophecies yet to be fulfilled? The short answer is yes, there are some things that still must occur, but 2 Peter is not a book of prophecy, it’s a letter encouraging his readers to live a life of authenticity, to hold the Scriptures as our guiding light, to persevere against false teaching and mocking from within the church and out. So what gives? Peter’s reasoning in v. 9. The promise is from v. 4 and is the promise of His coming. God’s ultimate desire is to reconcile His creation with Himself. Since time is not a factor for God like it is for us, He is not slow like we think of slow. He is patient and His patience is directed at you and me. People often talk about God as a vengeful and angry God, but really He is not. Many Scriptures tell us that He is slow to anger. The idea of God on His throne waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us isn’t consistent with His desire to see us enter into a relationship with Him through Jesus. Peter says that God does not want, “Any to perish” and He wants, “All to come to repentance.” There is a ton of debate about what this verse means. Well, what does it say? Perish refers to eternal judgment and repentance refers to what is necessary for eternal life. God’s desire is for no one to face eternal judgment and for everyone to do what is necessary for eternal life. That does not mean that all will escape judgment and it doesn’t mean that all will do what is necessary for eternal life. Peter is referring to what God desires, not what actually happens.

I wonder if the last person on earth has heard the Gospel yet. Is God delaying so we have more time to tell people about Jesus? I know for sure He is not delaying His return so we can be busy with the things of the world and ignore His desires. We all need to be about God’s business because eternity cannot bear our disobedience.

Crossing Denominational Lines

18 Mar

Do not crossAs I’ve studied the Scriptures myself, I find that things I was taught in churches were I grew up in the Lord are just plain wrong when compared to the Scriptures. The first six years of my marriage were spent in independent, fundamental, KJV 1611, pre-millennial, pre-tribulation baptist churches. We were told what to do and what not to do without receiving scriptural guidance for doing so. “Good” Christians don’t go to movies, don’t listen to rock music (it’s of the devil, you know), we observe the holiness of the Lord’s Day, and we don’t hang with sinners because we don’t want to be tainted by their filthiness. As I’ve grown and matured in the Lord, I find myself being less and less dogmatic about things that really don’t matter. In the church we tend to be pushed into corners of dogmatism by our denominations and our ministry friends. There are issues to be dogmatic, but they’re not as frequent as people may think.

Rick Arreola pastors Hidden Treasures Assembly of God in Kingsland, GA and he is my friend. He is a true partner in ministry. He is not as concerned about church growth as he is about the individual growth of the people in the church he pastors. He is not as concerned with the numbers in the church as he is with the impact on eternity. Theologically, we differ in some areas, but we agree on Christ. On the essentials we are in unity. For some people, that wouldn’t matter. In fact, denominational associations are disappearing as churches remove their denominational ties from their names even if they maintain denominational affiliation. Churches are dropping from denominations for various reason as well, but that’s a different issue that I might dig into at a later date. Research tells us that people today are less likely to visit or attend a church that has a denominational name in the title so churches are changing their names, but don’t necessarily change who they are.

And so Yesterday I did something that few pastors do. I did something that would draw criticism from my former denomination. I did something that my pastor when I was a newly called minister of the gospel would likely condemn. I preached in an Assembly of God church in the town next to mine. The pastor of that church preached in the church that I pastor. Call me crazy, call me naive, tell me I’ve lowered my standards. To that I say, you’re wrong. I’ve learned some things as I continue to pursue Christ and as I serve the sheep God has entrusted to me in the local body I serve. I’ve learned that I need to partner with people that are like minded about ministry even if they are not like denominated. Is that even a word?

What ever led me to swap pulpits? Last Christmas, Rick and I were sitting around a table enjoying some food and fellowship and talking about the complexities of modern ministry. As we commiserated together about our trials, struggles, and areas we felt truly blessed. Is the grass is greener on the other side? I suggested we swap pulpits one day. It would expose our people to different preachers and give us an opportunity to be exposed to a different crowd. That could be awesome, or disastrous. We took the plunge and put it on our calendars. We met for lunch several weeks before the swap and discussed expectations. We openly shared our apprehension and excitement. We laid out some ground rules. I wasn’t going to go in his church and try and change everyone’s mind doctrinally or theologically. I wanted to share the joy of Christ and the power of His Word. Rick wanted to do the the same. What did Pastor Rick speak about? Something near and dear to my heart. You can listen to what he said here.

This Time, It’s Personal

11 Apr

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw what many people believe is God’s only attribute – that God is love. While it is true that God is love, that’s not His only attribute. God’s incredible love was demonstrated for us through His one and only Son Jesus Christ. That’s how much God loved you. He was willing to send Jesus to be our sacrifice, willing to die for us. That’s real love. This morning, John doesn’t start any new topic, he simply adds to what he has already talked about.

Take a gander at 1 John 4:11-21.

What is our obligation? The “if” in v. 11 really should be translated as because. Because God loved us. This is the fact as demonstrated by what He did for us in His Son. Loving God and loving others can’t be separated. You can’t have one without the other. The love of God is present tense and our love should be present tense. Back in the day, Jesus was asked the question, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40) Luke 6:36 tells us to, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” 1 Pet. 1:15 says, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” We’re merciful because God is merciful. We are to be holy, because God is holy. We love because He loved. God is love, but He is so much more.

At first glance, v. 12 seems to be misplaced in this passage and contrary to other passages. John declares that, “No one has seen God at any time.” That is one sweeping claim. Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jo. 14:9) Remember Moses saw God’s back in Ex. 33:23. Isaiah, “Saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” (Is. 6:1) These examples are not contrary to what John is saying. The word, “see” that John uses means to closely observe or a careful scrutiny. We get our English word theater from this word. When you consider this, John is saying no one has ever carefully scrutinized God in His unveiled glory and majesty. “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” No one may ever have seen God, but people can see God in you. His love is complete when we love one another. When talking about heavenly matters, many people will answer your questions with statements like, “I hope to go to heaven.” “I’d like to think so.” Can we really know such things? John is emphatic: “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” We have a personal knowledge; we have an intimate communion with God. Our lives are a demonstration of how God is changing us. Remember, “The children of God are obvious.” Yes you can know: Rom. 8:16, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.”

It’s personal for John. Look at vs. 14-16. Don’t miss the significance of the word testify. It means bear witness to. In other words, John and his colleagues have seen the historic Jesus and their lives bear testimony to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Col. 1:13-14, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” You cannot have the truth without love. They are inclusive. The confession of salvation is outward, but the conviction is inside. This is another way to identify the imposter. Jesus is not only the Savior of the world, but He is my Savior. I trust in God’s finished work in the person of His Son Jesus Christ.

For John, the proof of Jesus is born out in his life. An authentic confession of who Jesus is results in a changed life. How can you explain away a life that is drastically changed from what it was? There’s the rub for some people. The life prior to Christ and the life after Christ are the same. There is no change. Does that mean Christ is ineffective? Absolutely not. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” When the confession is made, God takes up residence in your life. It is a fact. When you invite someone to share your life there are going to be changes. Some will be quite significant. One of these significant changes is the ability to love. “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 Jo. 4:16) Notice there is knowledge then belief. We must have an understanding – even if it is limited – before we can jump the bridge to faith. The understanding leads to a trust. When you abide or remain in God’s love, the more you love Him, the knowledge you have about God grows. The more your knowledge, the more your faith grows, the more your faith grows, the more you trust. Love and faith are both fruits of the Spirit and evidence of God’s indwelling. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23) It is the indwelling that makes the fruit possible. We love because God abides or lives in us. Did you notice that John includes himself? God is the One that gives us the capacity to love. You cannot dismiss the importance of love in our lives. This is proof that God really does live in us. The only way we can love is because God is characterized by love.

Love leads to confidence. The love we have because of God’s indwelling leads to confidence. Look at v. 17. Remember love and faith go hand in hand and has an effect on the future. It is the mutual relationship that gives us the ability to stand in confidence at the judgment day. Our confidence is in what Jesus did for us on the cross. There is no, “I hope I’ll go to heaven,” there is no, “I’d like to think I’ll make it into heaven.” We have a confidence in Christ. We can know we have a relationship with Christ. “By this love is perfected with us.” The “by this” is the abiding presence of God in our lives. Since God loves perfectly, will He be satisfied with less than perfection from us? Paul was, “Confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:6) In v. 11, just a few verses earlier, John emphasized that God’s love is seen in us because of our great love for the brethren. Here the love looks forward with confidence to the day of judgment. When you put this all together, as we are conformed to Christ, the more God’s love is perfected or completed in us, Because as He is, so also are we in this world.” That’s a pretty tough phrase to understand so let’s look at it. We’re on earth and Jesus is in heaven. Remember that God has, “Blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3) Christ is our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption according to 1 Cor. 1:30. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” (Rom. 8:16-17) “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God.” (1 Jo. 3:1) God has the same love for us as He does for His only Son. This is ours right now so there is no need to fear the judgment day.

John goes on to say, There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” Fear and love are mutually exclusive. We get our picture of God from our parents, good or bad, that’s the model. If our parents punished or disciplined us and never said, “I love you” we’d get the idea that our parents don’t love us. If the only interaction a child has with their parent is punishment, they’ll walk in fear. When a child knows without a shadow of a doubt that his parents love him, that knowledge will be the overriding factor in their thinking. The child has the security of his parents love, he has confidence. In that same way, we have Christians that live in fear of God. They live in fear that God is going to crush them the second they mess up. They’re waiting for some tragedy to occur as a result of what they have done. They live in fear of not be pleasing enough for God, not being holy or righteous enough for God. They’re scared to death of doing the wrong thing so they typically do nothing. Satan with all his devious schemes whispers in our ears, “See, you’re not good enough, God has no use for you.”  This is a person that does not understand God’s love. “We love because He first loved us.” Don’t be afraid that God will not love you.  His love is first. God’s love gives us the capacity to love.

John brings the whole section to a conclusion in vs. 20-21. This is similar to what he said in 4:7-8. Love is the biggest indicator of a person’s relationship with Christ. Again, John points out that if you say you love God, but hate your brother, you’re a liar. Plain and simple, no middle ground, no gray area. Don’t let that “should” confuse you. This is a commandment.

Once again John talks about love as an indicator of an authentic relationship with God. We can have confidence at judgment because of God’s love. So the question is, do you walk in fear or confidence?