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A Most Prized Possession…

 

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Many people have something that they prize more than anything else they have. Some have horses, some have cars, houses, or some other item of grandeur. Some have smaller things, like books, gifts, pictures, or other sentimental items. Myself? I fall into the sentimental category. Here is what I would consider one of my most prized possessions:

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Yes, a stack of envelopes with dates on them. They start in early June and go through sometime in early August. The year isn’t on there, because they were for just a specific span of time in the summer of 2007. My wife and I, then newly minted engaged couple, were going on summer missions trips, two months, on opposite sides of the world. I in New Zealand and Australia, she in Peru. And it was a long two months. But, wife back then had a surprise for me, something super special. She would tease me regularly when we spoke on the phone (I lived in Florida, she in Kansas). And, it wasn’t until right before we began the training for our missionary endeavors that she gave me her gift. A card for each day of the trip. A card for me to open and read, along with bits of Bible trivia, for each and every day.

Here is a picture from my 26th birthday:

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I enjoyed these cards. And I still do. I don’t know if my wife realizes it, but, some nights, when I cannot sleep, I pull these out and look through some of them, trying to remember what I was doing or where I was going while traveling on the other side of the planet.

Now, years have passed, we’ve been married since the end of 2007, and we have four children. We’ve moved several times and worked and grown a lot together. And I’ve matured a lot. There is one thing that I wish I had done differently when I was on that trip some nine years ago along with those cards. I wish that I would have been as eager to read the Word of God as much as I was eager to open the next day’s card. I never cheated. Not once. (It even became a team obsession, kind of, as I was a team leader and my missionaries loved the cuteness of the cards, thinking that it was so amazing!).

I am not writing to lessen the value of the cards that my wife wrote for me, spending countless hours of her time, allowing the unsecure me to feel secure in the love that she had for me. What I am writing about is that, as a Christian, my most prized physical and tangible possession needs to be (and is) the Word of God. Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16, ESV). God’s Word, the Good News of Jesus the Christ, is the power unto Salvation! My most prized possession isn’t really a possession, but it is that great salvation that God has wrought in my life.

When I wake in the morning, I need to dig into God’s Word like some people need their coffee. Badly. I believe that not only does God command it for the Christian (Psalm 119:145-148; John 21:1-14), I know for me that it really helps set the pace and tone for my day. God knows infinitely better that I what I need. And often the Words I read from the Bible directly impact my day, sometimes without my realizing it in that moment.

So, the next time you go to pull out that prized possession, or take it for a spin, or a ride, flight, read, or whatever…ask yourself this: is my time with God as important? As breathtaking? Or am I committing idolatry in some way?

Now, I will still continue to pull out these cards from time to time, however, the daily eager expectancy to read something will be for the Word of God.img_2371

Teaching Our Children

The Bible tells us that we need to constantly teach our children the Word of God, and thus by extension, we are teaching theology, about God and His character. 
“Hear, O Israel: The Lordour God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, ESV)
However, something we also do as parents is to teach our children how to live. Basic skills. When I child is born, we do everything for them, from feeding to changing diapers to getting them dressed. And, as they get older, they learn to do things on their own. A lot of that learning is done through mimicking what they see their parents and other adults in their lives do. They also learn a lot from being prompted what to do, from being taught. Not just observing on their own, but it being a teaching moment, taking them to teach them something. For example, we have a 15 year old staying with us, a freshman in high school (from another country), and this child has not learned a lot of basic things, like doing the dishes. She was never shown, nor did she really ever observe them being done. I don’t know why, but, that’s the way it is. While she is in our home, she is learning a lot (I hope and pray), things that will help her be more successful in life.
In the same way, we need to not only teach our children the Bible and about God (Theology), but we need to also teach them how to apply it to their lives. In his letter to Titus, Paul writes the following:
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:1–8, ESV)
And, just like teaching someone to do the dishes or their laundry, the best way to do this is to model it for them. We need to model our lives as Christ-Centered on His Good News, the Gospel. Living a life focused on Christ in all aspects, showing that He is Lord of your life, your marriage, your everything will have such a major impact on your children.
Another area in which we need to teach is not just to our children, but also to new Christians. New Christians are quite possibly the most easily influence group of Christians that exist. We need to teach, we need to model, and we need to teach them to be wise, discerning, and shrewd. Why do I use those three things? Because there are so many things people teach that are in the Bible that are NOT in the Bible. For instance, no where in the Bible does it say God will never give you more than you can handle. No matter what someone might say, it’s not there. It does say, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV). There is a big difference, and someone who doesn’t know to search and check what people say against the Word of God (Acts 17:11) won’t necessarily know or figure out what is false and what is true. They will fall prey to wolves in sheep’s clothing, and we don’t want and cannot let that happen to new Christians, just as we wouldn’t let that happen to our own children or family. New Christians are our family, our brothers and sister in Christ.
And in all of this, there is one thing that I have moved away from in this wonderful age of technology: my iPad. My iPad is a wonderful thing and I still use it for Bible study quite often, however, when it comes to my personal devotions, nothing beats a physical print Bible. Why? Because when my children see me reading my iPad, they have no idea what I may be doing. When they see me holding the Word of God, they see me reading the Word of God. And all too often my oldest asks if I can read her a Bible story.
Now, this post really didn’t have much structure to it, it was really just a flow of my thoughts that I have been having today. And it’s been a long day. I haven’t slept for more than 45 minutes in a sitting since the day before yesterday. However, no matter what, I do it all, even lose sleep, for the Glory of God.
-Soli Deo Gloria

Sermon Preparation

Wow, it has been a bit of time since I have last posted on here, and a lot has gone on in my life. However, I think the most important thing to mention is that I preached my first Sermon, and have written my second which I will be preaching on Father’s Day, tomorrow.

Now, I have prepared two sermons now, the first one, which I have already preached was on James 2:14-26, Faith without works is dead. And the second, which I will be preaching tomorrow, is on Exodus 20:7, the Third Commandment, You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

And, there is one thing that has really struck me, something that is obvious in hindsight, but hit me like a ton of bricks….while preparing the sermons, I have been so convicted and so challenged on a personal level by God and His Word, it terrified me. I was never expecting such a feeling of conviction to come over me like that, but, now that I feel it, I embrace it and I praise God for it. As I have taught the youth at my church, we learn from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 that in any and all circumstances, we need to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18, ESV).

So, to that end, I am going to enjoy this process because I know that as I preach more, I prepare more, and I will be convicted more, so I will grow more. Thank you Jesus, thank you!

Soli Deo Gloria

Saplings Grow By Their Parent Tree, Not Somewhere Else…

     In nature, as God designed, when seeds fall from a tree and begin to sprout into saplings, they do not fall far form the tree. And that is why many forests are made of many of the same time of tree. In the same way, so should Christian families be: growing and maturing at home, close to family, under the leaders of the household: the parents.

     Deuteronomy 6:4-9 tells us to teach God’s statutes, “diligently to your children,”(v.7). Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Now that’s not a surefire promise, it’s a Proverb of wisdom, but, it’s one directed to you and me, parents.

     For the vast majority of history, education was taken care of at home by the parents. And no, it wasn’t like homeschooling today where you learn to read and write and do math. Formal education such as that was not common like it is now. Girls would usually stay at home and learn to cook and clean and take care of the house, training up to be dutiful wives. Boys would learn a skill or a trade to provide for the family. Only the kids of royalty or those of the rich and powerful would receive formal educations, learning to read and write in several languages, included Latin. What about you and me? We learned what we needed to learn to take care of and provide for our families, no more. Most people did not know how to read and write and only a basic grasp of math was needed when it came to money and harvesting and the such.

     Moving closer to the church, let’s look at Sunday School. Sunday School, also known as Sabbath Day School, was originally started in the 1780s as a way to help educate the children who were in the workforce, working in factories. The Sabbath Day was their only day off of work, so the clergy worked together to educate these children in reading, writing, arithmetic, and the Bible. But, that was only one day a week. It wasn’t until 1870 when kids were allowed to go to school during the week. Let’s face it, the origins of what we know of Sunday School were nothing like what we have now. Completely different, in fact.

     But still, even with the advent of public education and the eventual laws which made it so parents had to send their children to school of some sort, there was still something that was taken care of at home. What is that you ask? Educating the children in the Word of God. God has always commanded parents to be the main teachers of the laws of God to their children. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (ESV)

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

     Wow. Just wow. Here, the Hebrew nation is being commanded to study and talk about God and His statutes and laws. All the time. It should dominate not only their studies and thoughts, but their lives as well. And we should be living by the same example, living our lives in a zealous fashion for God and His will in our lives. And our lives include our children.

     So, with all this in mind, parents should be taking the leading role in instructing our children about the Bible, that is God’s Word, the very Word that was God and with With God and became flesh and dwelt among us(John 1:1, 14). This instruction is something that we, as parents, are commanded to do. It’s not a suggestion or a good idea, but a command. Now don’t get me wrong, your children should attend church and should learn from church, from the pastor and from Sunday School. However, that is just one, maybe two days a week. What about the other five or six? That is for the parents, specifically fathers/men, as outlined in the Bible as being the spiritual head of the family.

    There is this woman that I know through my work. If she were to come and visit my church, she’d probably weird out a good number of our members, deacons included(and maybe even my pastor!). I know that some would consider her some sort of religious zealot. Some of the younger families in the church might see her as overbearing, while others thinking of her as a fake. But let me tell you, she is the REAL DEAL with how she lives her life for God. She’s not a religious zealot, but she is truly zealous for God, and it shows in her life, her actions, and her words. Truly, she is a model of how we, as Christian parents, should be living our lives.

Soli Deo Gloria

Here are a few resources for family devotions and worship:

Christian Doctrine and Church Fellowship, Romans Style

One of my favorite Christian musicians is a man named Shai Linne. On his latest album, “Lyrical Theology, Pt. 2: Doxology”(Lamp Mode Recordings, 2014), he wrote in “Doxology Intro,” “So if you have theology without doxology, you just have dead, cold orthodoxy;” and later “But, if we have doxology without theology, we have idolatry! Because it’s just a random expression of praise; but it’s not actually informed by the Truth of who God is; So, God is concerned with both!”

God is GREATLY concerned with both Theology, the study of God, and Doxology, the Praise of God. They are intertwined, and to properly have one, you must have the other. And this is something many churches today have lost, some more than others. Something that needs to be remedied.
And this is where we get to Christian Doctrine, Romans Style.
Throughout the book of Romans, there is so much theology and doctrine intertwined throughout this timeless letter of paramount importance to the church as we know it today. We read through the Old Testament to learn about the rich history and traditions of Judaism all the while we see the greats of the OT faith looking forward to something better that was to come, that is, Jesus. We read through the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and see who Jesus was as a person and God the Son, who came to die for our sins, to see who God is. We read through the letters of Paul, and especially Romans, to see God’s purposes not only for individual believers, but for the church as a whole. We are put on a level playing field in Romans 1-3, that we are all sinners, deserving death, needing a savior.
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Romans 3:10–11, ESV)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, ESV).
In Romans 4-5, we see that we are Justified by faith, and are given examples of times past of God’s justification (Chapter 4). And, in Chapter 5:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1–2, ESV)
Paul goes on and on, giving us vivid descriptions of who God is and how He works. It’s like reading one of those Bible tracts that we all have seen and many of us have probably used at one point or another: We are all sinners in need of a Savior. We cannot get to heaven of our own accord, we need Jesus to come into our lives and forgive us of our sins. And the only way we can get to that Justification, is through faith. And that faith comes from God, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you that you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”(Romans 12:3 ESV, emphasis mine).
I could go on and on and on and on about the rich theology and doctrine found throughout the book of Romans, but, I won’t. Why? I don’t want to deprive you of doing that yourself(that is, if you haven’t already!). However, I will tell you this: Paul calls us to unity. In the book of Romans, his letter to the church in Rome, Paul is addressing the Saints in Rome, that is, the Christians (Romans 1:7), those already saved by God. And, he calls the saints, those loved by God, to unity.
The church needs to not be just a place where we listen to our preachers preach. We need to fellowship and build one another up. And, part of that is making sure we are correctly informed of who God is, thus leading to an appropriate expression of praise within the church. Why is this important? Because a god that is praised that is not informed of through the Truth of the Word of God is NOT the God of the Bible.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”(2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). As we fellowship with one another, we also need to make sure we are keeping each other in check. We need to have godly fellowship within the church, and we need to make sure we are all worshipping the same God, that is, the One True God of the Bible.

Teaching Our Children

Last Sunday, my pastor preached on Teaching Our Children out of Psalm 78:1-8, after the dedication of a baby of a young couple in our church. It was weird, being that it was a break from us usual expository preaching from the Gospel of John(52 weeks in, still in John chapter 6!).

However, I just wanted to share the text from Psalm 78:1-8, and a few thoughts of mine after hearing the sermon.

Psalm 78:1–8 (ESV)
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

whose spirit was not faithful to God.  

It was a good and refreshing sermon to hear, in a church where most of our congregation is 69+ years old(more than 80%, I believe). With much going on in the church focused on church growth, revitalization, and youth, my prayers is that the church can keep in step with Biblical principles, such as constantly teaching our youth about God and the older generations teaching the younger generations (Titus 2). I hope they all remember that the Bible is God breathed and useful for all sorts of teaching(2 Timothy 3:16-17).

I can tell you from personal experience that sometimes, it can be easy to forget these and just move on as fast as you can with ministry, and it ends up becoming more business like, wanting to move on with the status-quo. However, in ministry, we cannot let that happen. If that happens, the ministry won’t grow, because the focus becomes man-centered, and not God centered. When that happens, ministries fail.

So, hearing this word of God brought forth by Pastor Gavin was a breath of fresh air. It was good to hear. And, he is right. We need to get back to teaching our children, training them up in the ways of God, in the Word of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

…But They Had Everything In Common

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:32–37, ESV)

Such powerful words here. Here, The Church took care of itself. They sold everything and provided for each other. Now, before we go any further, we need to have a quick lesson here. What is “The Church”? The reason I ask this is because of the welfare mentality that is so perverse and overwhelmingly spreading throughout our society.

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”” (Matthew 18:20, ESV)

Jesus called it a gathering of His people…”gathered in my name…”

In the Book of Acts, written by Luke, it is written:

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said,” (Acts 1:15, ESV)     “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41, ESV)

The believers are called “brothers,” some translations say “Brethren”(NASB) and some use “disciples”(KJV). It’s a community of believers. They were added to the Body of Christ, that is, the church.

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27, ESV). We are members of the body. And, to the church in Rome, Paul wrote, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4–5, ESV).

And, in Paul(And Timothy’s) letter to the Christians in Colassae, Paul wrote that Christ is the head of the body, that is, the church, in Colossians 1:18:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Colossians 1:15–23, ESV, emphasis mine).

Summing that up, the definition of “The Church” is not a building, or a small group of people(i.e. the pastors and deacons), but all believers. All professing Christians, that is those elected by God to salvation through His infinite mercy and grace when we deserved it not, are The Church. So, now, we can move on now that we(hopefully) have a good understanding of what the church is.

Going back to our passage from Acts chapter Four, it is noted in verse 34, “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold” (Acts 4:34, ESV). There was not a needy person among them. Why is that? Because The Church was taking care of it’s own, of itself. Everyone was selling their stuff, just as Jesus had told the rich young man to do(Mark 10:17-31), and its as being distributed to those who had need(Acts 4:35). Why did they do this? To take care of themselves. They recognized themselves as not only brothers and sisters in Christ, but as brothers and sisters who need to take care of each other. As family. Now this wasn’t just monetarily. They helped each other as a community of believers in everything that was needed.

Now let’s fast forward to now, 2014(skipping past 2,000 years of important Church history, which is, for the points I am working towards, not entirely relevant). Why can’t we do things like this today? Why is the church seemingly more like a business rather than a community of believers nowadays? Commercialism. The need to have bigger churches(rolls, “members”). Money. I can think of many other reasons, but, in the end, too many churches(not all), have become more business like, wanting to see good numbers from attendance, membership, and money coming in. And, they are too afraid of running out of these that they don’t want to let any of it go out. They don’t want members to leave to do something else in ministry, in fear of the church having no members left. They don’t want too much money out to the needy because they don’t want to run out of money or, *shudders in sarcastic wit* not have enough money to pay for their new multi-million-dollar building expansion, complete with fancy light and sound systems and all the bells and whistles that go along with it. What has happened to the church? The church has moved away from the gospel, from God’s word. It has moved away from sound doctrine and believe that true theology, the study of God, doesn’t matter as much. In reality, Theology Matters. A lot. Good sound doctrine matters. A lot. Without these things, people end up going to hell because they are lead to believe things that aren’t Biblical. Things that lead them to a different god than the One True God of the Bible.

One of the things I pray for daily, and will until the day I die, is that the church returns to it’s roots, realizing that it isn’t a building or a group of men who lead the flocks of God. I pray that it comes to realize, once again, that the church is made up of believers, faithfully serving Christ. That serving others, evangelizing the lost, discipling believers to create more believers, and building up leaders within the church to multiply churches is what the church is all about. Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful, passionate churches with sound doctrine and theology who do just this. But, there aren’t enough. The last person I asked about what he thought about Christians(he was not a Christian himself), he told me he saw us as elite, stuck-up snobs who think they are better than those that don’t go to church. Too much of society see the church as archaic and mundane, outdated and not needed. I remember reading throughout history how churches basically began social services. What happened to that? Churches have become to self-glorifying and not God-glorifying.

Now, where am I going with all of this? I strongly believe that this change, that this return to our Biblical roots will start with individuals and families. I believe that we need to be proactively looking for where we can help those within our church. That we need to proactively look for those to minister to within our communities. And, when people ask what you are doing, don’t just tell them “I’m handing out food,” or “I’m helping clean this person’s yard,” begin to tell them about Christ, and how the church takes care of itself, and you are doing this to the Glory of Christ.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

*EDIT*
Let me say, I am not saying we need to sell all of our stuff to take care of each other. If that’s how you feel God is leading you, then, by all means, do so. However, what I am saying is we need to look outside ourselves to the needs of others and, where we can, help our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. To those that are lost, we need to evangelize. Even the disciples understood that, “And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.” (Acts 6:2, ESV).

He Who Dies With The Most Toys…Still Dies

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:6–10, ESV)

HeWhoDies

He who dies with the most toys….still dies. Yup, I had this poster when I was a teenager, hanging up on my wall to the left as you walked into my room. Next to my bed. 

However, recently, being underemployed, I have learned much about b) and various aspects of it.

First, I have realized that I need to be conent with what I have, especially now, as I, and my family, face the blessing of financial hardships. Currently, and take this in no way as a complaint, I have only a part time job at our church, North Fort Myers First Baptist Church. There, I am the Director of Family Ministry and Outreach, a position that I love. I pray that my position will become full time sometimg in the coming years, however, I am seeking a full-time job.

Secondly, I need to make sure I am content with what I have next time I do have money. Thus, I need to remember 1 Timothy 6:7, “…for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anyhting out of the world.”(ESV). When I was born, I was naked and had nothing with me. When I die and arrive in Heaven with my Lord Jesus, I will have nothing. It will be just me. For many, it is a hard pill to swollow and an even harder lesson to teach younger generations. My daughter asks for us to buy her something everywhere we go, eve at places that don’t sell things(like when we are at church or at home). And, we let her know that the more she constantly asks for stuff, the less she is going to get from us. And, albeit slowly, she is learning the lesson. 

I have come to expect materialistic behaviors from unregenerate people, those without Christ.

However, the materialisitc attitudes that I constantly see among professing evangelical Christians is so rampant, that sometimes disgusts me. And I am not even talking about the “Prosperity Gospel” heresy, either. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus spoke about the cost of being a disciple. He said:

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23–25, ESV)



What does it mean to deny oneself? To deny ones desires and wants and put Jesus and God’s will in front. To follow Jesus is to give everything to Him. For Jesus to be Lord of one’s life means to surrender all of one’s life to Jesus’ control. Not some. Not most. Not almost all. ALL of it. Keeping nothing for oneself. And yet, that is our struggle. We struggle with it every day, with ever decision. I struggle with it. You struggle with it. Your pastor struggles with it. Your spouse struggles with it. Your children struggle with it.

However, what happens, is people put their desire for stuff before God, and it becomes an idol, and they are breaking commandments. They aren’t loving God with all they have. They have an idol, stuff, that is before God. They are(probably) coveting other peoples’ stuff.

Now, in no way am I saying that having stuff is wrong or anything. I have plenty of stuff, and there is plenty of stuff that I wouldn’t mind having. However, I don’t make it my life-long pursuit to get that stuff as so many other people have and continually do.

Later on, Jesus spoke again of the cost of discpleship:

“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25–33, ESV)

This is really summed up in the last verse of this passage, Luke 14:33, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” This means so much to the life of a true Christian. We must give everything to Jesus and be willing to sacrifice everything. We aren’t supposed to hate our families, our spouses, our children. However, compared to our love of Christ and our desire to follow Him, our love for our families would not, no…COULD NOT compare. Ever. Not. Even. Close.

So, when Jesus gave us The Great Commission, it was a command, not a suggestion. Not a passing thought. Not an idea. A command. Something we must do. We shall do. There are many ways in which people can and do participate in this(which we won’t be discussing here).

Now, let me leave you with this:

“And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”” (Luke 18:18–27, ESV)



Now, remember, it is not a sin to have stuff. It is not a sin to want more stuff. It’s not even a sin to have enough money to buy the stuff you want. It becomes a sin when your desire for your stuff takes front seat in the car. It becomes a sin when you aren’t willing to give up your stuff for God and His calling on your life. Remember that. Remember that well.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Have We Forgotten About The Sick?

Seriously, have we? The answer to that question is obviously “No,” however, sometimes, it sure does seem that way. Lets take a look at some words Jesus had as recorded in Luke chapter 5:

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”” (Luke 5:27–32, ESV)

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Those words hound me each time I read them when reading through the Gospels. Very few churches that I have attended in my almost 18 years of being a Christian have, from my point of view, taken this to heart. And, from all the reading and things that I have seen as of late, it seems that the seeming majority of churches have moved away from this. How so? By turning from outward evangelism of the lost to the inward caring of the already-saved, church members.

Ok, let us take a look at the text and ask those simple questions that we have learned to ask in school when writing a paper: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

Who? Okay, this is a fairly simple question to answer. It’s Jesus, God the Son, the Son of God, who is talking here. He is addressing a group of Pharisees and thier scribes(vs. 30-31) .
What? Jesus is addressing the Pharisee’s questioning why Jesus and His disciples are eating with tax collectors and sinners(v.30).
Where? Jesus and His disciples are at the home of Levi, a tax collecor(former at this point, as he was now one of the apostles), who was having a feast for Jesus, and he invited also the tax collectors and others(v.29).
When? Though no exact date is given, some timelines put this event happening in 29AD, most likely in the summer(an Aritcle from BibleTimes.net has a timeline, click HERE)
Why?- Well, this is pretty well explained out in the passage. Jesus was calling Levi(Matthew) to be one of His 12, and, to honor the Lord, Levi held a feast for Jesus, and Levi invited all his friends, who, as logic plays out, happened to also be Tax Collectors and other people of ill repute. And, knowing that many considered Jesus to be a great teacher, or Rabbi, the Pharisees were very critical of Him.

Now, I know that there is a lot more to this scene, however, we have hit the major points here. Now, the vast majority of the people in this feast were probably tax collectors, as that is what Levi was. Levi, who is Matthew, is called Matthew more often then not throughout the Gospels presumable because the writers wanted to disconnect his past, as a tax collector, with his present as one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. Why? Because tax collectors were the lowest of the low. No one really liked tax collectors, except maybe other tax collectors. Heck, I don’t like tax collectors to be quite honest. They take my money for things that I have already paid taxes on…more than once most likely.

So, as Jesus exemplified the idea that the church needs to to outward evangelism to the lost, unregenerate souls while He was walking this earth, shouldn’t we be fit to model His behavior? Nevermind being fit to do so, should we just do it?

Now, I don’t mean we need to invite more people to church. To be honest, I would rather people invite the lost to their homes to model and show and share the love of Christ with them. Going to church on Sunday monrings is a time of corporate Christian worship for the family, the body, of Christ. Do I not want unsaved people to come to church? NO! I want them to come to church. However, I have noticed through observation and personal experience, that not all unsaved people will understand what is going on in a good, reformed, expositional church service. I saw somewhere on the internet recently a thing saying something to the affect of  “All Christians are missionaries. All non-Christians are the mission field.” And, it’s true. Jesus commanded us to “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:18–20, ESV). We are commanded to go out and evangelize the lost.

 

I have seen so many churches, no, perhaps, too many churches that just want to take care of their own. I have heard stories about a church calling a pastor to basically shepherd the flock into the grave. I have been guilty of this very same thing, working towards being comfortable with my fellow Christians and not evangelizing. However, recently, God has put it on my heart to help His church grow. I have recently been called to a church as the Director of Family Ministries and Outreach, a position in which I am at a small church, First Baptist Church in Noth Fort Myers, Florida, that is nowhere near being a dying church. However, the church recognizes the state it is in: That if WILL be a dying church if they don’t reach out to the families within the surrounding communities. While the average age is much older, and the majority of the children in the church are currently from the Pastor’s family and mine, we are beginning to make changes and reach out more to the families. And it’s a blessing to me and my family to be a part of how God is working within our Church.

 

There is another church of which my family used to be members at, FaithBridge Church in Jacksonville, Florida, that does a great job at outward evangelism. They have a great focus on missions, sending many, many church members on short term trips to places like Haiti, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Also, my favorite outreach they do, is what they do in place of a traditional Vacation Bible School(VBS). They call it Rock The Block(RTB). Instead of having a VBS at a centralized location, i.e., the church building, they have a multitude of Rock the Blocks all around Jacksonville at members’ homes. They train up the leaders and volunteers, work cooperatively to get everything for all the RTB’s ready(crafts, games, etc.), and then they do it. Several times prior to the RTB week, they go out in groups and canvas each surrounding neighborhood, inviting all the kids to come. And the time I was able to help, it was a true blessing. So much fun. And, I think that the way they do their RTB instead of a traditional VBS is great, reaching far more people than a regular VBS.(And, by the way, from my experience, traditional VBS’s have seemed to be used by too many members of the church as a free day care service or something like that).

 

Leaving the building and reaching the lost and hurting is what we need more of. We need to evangelize, tell people about Jesus and His Good News. Let that do it’s work in a persons heart, and then bring them into the church to teach them and disciple them and encourage them and equip them. Remember:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10–11, ESV)

So, let me leave you with Jesus’ words in closing:

“And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”(Luke 5:31-32, ESV). 

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Who’s The Hypocrite?

So, recently, there was this little thing called the NFL draft that went on, not something anyone has really heard of, that is, if you live under a rock. So, there has been this controversy over a kiss that occurred(If you haven’t read about it or seen it, you can click HERE to read and/or see it). An openly homosexual player, Michael Sam, was drafted in the 7th and final round of the draft by the St. Louis Rams. Some teams have stated it was because he didn’t perform well in the NFL Combine. Some people say it’s because he’s openly homosexual. Personally, I don’t really care all that much because I’m not all that into pro football.

But, there is another story revolving around this and a player from the Miami Dolphins, Don Jones. Don Jones, like many people, didn’t find the live, on-the-air kiss between Michael Sam and his boyfriend. And, Don Jones tweeted about it, exercising his first amendment right to say what he wants. But, then come in the Political Correct Patrol in the form of the Miami Dolphins(and probably much supported by the various LGBTQ groups). Now, Don Jones has been fined, suspended, and being forced to go to “educational training”(whatever that may be) as a result. (You can read some articles by clicking HERE, HERE and HERE).

Ok, first, just from being an American, I think that we should allow Don Jones to say what he wants and not have to be so uptight about it. Sure, the Dolphins just had a high-profile workplace harassment/bullying issue within their team and they don’t want to have something like that happen again, but severely punishing someone for exercising their Constitutionally guaranteed rights? Come on, I think that’s going a little too far.

And, now for something more personal about this situation…

According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, the definitions of Tolerance, and a couple variations, are as follows:

tolerance
noun
1the ability, willingness, or capacity to tolerate something.
2an allowable amount of variation of a specified quantity, especially in the dimensions of a machine or participle
—origin Middle English: via Old French from Latin tolerantia, from tolerare (see tolerate).

tolerant
adjective (often tolerant of) showing tolerance. (of a plant, animal, or machine) able to endure specified conditions or treatment.
—derivatives tolerantly adverb

tolerate
verb
1allow the existence or occurrence of (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) without interference.
2endure (someone or something unpleasant) with forbearance.
3be capable of continued exposure to (a drug, toxin, etc.) without adverse reaction.

 

Now, the LGBTQ groups want everyone to be tolerant and tolerate their lifestyle and everything, correct? Then why is it when someone, anyone, disagrees with them, they can’t show any level of decorum or tolerance towards them? They expect it from everyone else, but are given a free pass to be intolerant when it suits them. I am a Christian in vocational ministry at my church. I strongly feel that homosexuality is a sin(Romans 1:26-27). Now, before you assume anything(and make a donkey out of you and me), let me state that I have NOTHING against homosexuals. They are humans whom I love and pray for, just like heterosexuals. God calls me to love my neighbor as myself, and that I do. What I, and Christianity in general, has a problem with is the act of homosexuality. It is a sin. According to the Bible, the sexual orientation of a homosexual is sinful. A homosexual isn’t any more or less sinful than I am. I am a heterosexual male, married to my beautiful wife with two children and a third on the way. I am a sinner saved by God’s wonderful Grace. And I am sinful. I sin every day in various ways. I know that I am a sinner. I know that, to some extent, every person alive is a sinner. I know that, according to God’s word, everyone is a sinner and needs the transforming power of Jesus. However sinful I am and however sinful you are, I still love you.

So, here is the thing, and I am preaching to the choir, as the saying goes. Christians are called to examine themselves before they go around trying to deal with someone else’s sin(Matthew 7:1-5). Now, we don’t always do that. A matter of fact, I think that we don’t do this most of the time(I know I struggle with it). However, that peace of advice goes both ways. If you want people to be tolerant of you, you need to be tolerant of them. You need to learn to “agree to disagree.”

If someone comes on here and calls me a hypocrite for being a right-wing, Christian, homosexual-bashing, intolerant, person, then you can just scroll up and read this: You(person who calls me that) are the hypocrite. Calling for tolerance for your lifestyle, however, hating upon those who disagree with you makes you the hypocritical one. Remember, just because someone doesn’t agree with you or like what you do, it doesn’t mean they hate you and want you to die.

Am I surprised that this type of “intolerance of tolerance” is happening in our country? Not really. Am I surprised of all the overall evil and wickedness that has become so prevalent in our lives and new cycles? Not at all. Look at how society has been going(shootings, suicides, etc). As the Bible and Jesus has been (forcibly)decreasing from our lives(any, unfortunately, willingly taken out of our churches), evil and wickedness and the such have increased.

Just something to think about…

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