Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Blessings

Thank you for reading Transformed Daily. I am spending my New Year’s Eve playing in a Battle of the Bands event with my two sons: Grant (age 9 on the drum set) and Jake (age 11 on the lead electric guitar). I will try to post a video at a later date and let you know how we placed. First place gets some professional studio time. That would be cool.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? – Isaiah 43:19a
Have a blessed new year as you live for Christ.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Just forget about it - maybe not...

Here is my latest small group curriculum that tackles the topic of when to forget and when to remember - something to think about as we finish one year and begin another.

Big Idea:
There is a time to remember and a time to forget; a time to focus on the past and a time to move into the future. God calls us to honor the past, but not to live like we did when we were separated from Christ.

Summary:
We live in a modern culture where little honor and respect is paid to the past. We tend to be looking around the next corner for the greener grass. We are very good at forgetting and not so good at remembering and cherishing what God has done throughout redemptive history and even in our own lives. From cover to cover, God’s Word strongly encourages us to “remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and even the judgments he pronounced.” We are told to “remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.” And, “remember the height from which we have fallen! Repent and do the things we did at first.” Remembering God’s deliverance and his mighty works is crucial. In fact, we are told to teach these things to our children and their children after them. But, there is also a time when forgetting is exactly what we are told to do. There is a time to move on. But, what does the Bible tell us we are supposed to forget, and when are we supposed to move on? We are told to “forget the former things (how we used to live) and do no dwell on the past.” Paul said that he “forgets what is behind him (stops living the way the used to live in his sin) and instead strains toward what is ahead (a life lived in Christ for eternity).” So, let’s remember God’s awesome works and deliverance, while forgetting and leaving our former way of living when we were separated from Christ.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Psalm 105:1-5

What does this Psalm tell us we should not forget? What are some practical and real things we can do that will help us remember these things? (look at the passage)

Deuteronomy 4:1-9
God is gracious to deliver us, but he also instructs us not to forget his commands and to teach them to our children. What commands of the Lord should we not forget and why?

Ephesians 2:11-22
Why should we remember the things in these passages? Remembering who we are in Christ is crucial. How does this truth change who you are and how you live?

Taking Action: Make a list of the things God has done in your life that you need to always remember and treasure. What are some former things and ways of living that you need to forget and no longer engage in? Update and review these two lists on a regular basis.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Identification Required

Identifying with Christ, with the cross, will change everything. It is an all-in proposition. A follower of Christ will leave everything behind to follow. A follower of Christ won’t live on both sides of the fence. A follower of Christ will give it all and not hold back anything.
“Do I want to be identified with his (Jesus’) death, to be killed right out to all interest in sin, in worldliness, in self – to be so identified with Jesus that I am spoilt for everything else but him.” - O. Chambers

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I’m talkin’ about freedom

Freedom in Christ has been distorted by many modern Christians to mean a freedom from the affects and responsibility of sin – period. Many people think that once they get their get-out-of-hell card along with the warm fuzzies, they are “saved” and can continue living for themselves and engaging in a life littered with sin without any eternal consequences. Sure, they don’t want to sin, but they errantly believe it just doesn’t really matter because they’re “saved”. But where is the freedom? Oh, that happens when they die - right?

I don’t necessarily blame people for this skewed view of conversion. Unfortunately, it is being fed to them by pastors who themselves either (1) really don’t understand, (2) think that this is what people want to hear and so they are tickling their ears with it, or (3) just need this to be true because of how their own lives are being lived out – void of the fruit found in Christ’s freedom.

So, what is this freedom in Christ that we experience when we follow him? It is not the freedom to disobey God, but rather the freedom and ability to finally obey him and live for him.
I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. – Psalm 119:44-45
Freedom is being able to live for God. It is freedom from continuing to sin, not freedom from having to obey God. It is being able to finally honor, obey, and glorify God with your life. This freedom is given by Christ because of his victory over sin on the cross. By his grace we can now say no to sin and yes to God’s precepts. We can live for the King instead of for ourselves. At one time, before our conversion, we did not have any freedom or power to say no to our flesh, but in Christ we have freedom and power to wholeheartedly and fully follow God.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. – Titus 2:11-14
This is true freedom – being able to walk in the light and remain in Christ. And the beautiful thing is that Christ himself brought this freedom. His grace is enough. When we truly take hold of Christ, we will experience this kind of freedom here and now and it will result in a life lived to the full and in an abundance of joy, peace, and glory to our Father.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10

Sunday, December 23, 2007

From birth to death - wow!

As I celebrate Christ’s birth, I almost immediately begin to also rejoice in his death and resurrection. It is all so amazing and beautiful. Jesus did the will of the Father in his birth, life, and death; and has ransomed the captive. Let's rejoice, be glad, and worship him with every fiber of our being.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Moonless Darkness

Christmas is a time of year that we celebrate the birth of our Savior - Jesus Christ. It is also a very good time to examine our lives, put the old self in the past, and ask God to fill us with his grace that we might sincerely live humbly and purely for him. I enjoyed this Christmas poem as it speaks to this mindset.

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, O Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem star may lead me
To the sight of Him who freed me
From the self that I have been.
Make me pure Lord: Thou art holy;
Make me meek, Lord: Thou wert lowly;
Now beginning and always:
Now begin, on Christmas Day. - Gerard M. Hopkins

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Ultimate Gift

Two Thousand years ago the ultimate Christmas gift was given to the world – Jesus Christ. What affect is this gift having on your life?

The ultimate gift, Jesus, wasn’t wrapped in brilliant colors and displayed prominently in a place of honor for all to see. Rather, he came wrapped in rags and was placed in a feeding trough. But, he was still the ultimate gift. The world just didn’t know it yet. Of course history had been telling of this ultimate gift since the beginning of time, but it had problems recognizing it because the gift just didn’t look like what everyone had imagined. So, most of the world never opened the gift. Instead they threw it out and destroyed it. What is the ultimate gift? It is the ultimate demonstration of humility; the ultimate expression of mercy; the ultimate manifestation of love. It is God coming in the flesh.

“His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord’s birth was an advent— the appearance of God in human form” – Oswald Chambers.
Have you recognized and received this ultimate gift? Is Jesus your Christmas treasure? Has he changed your life? Do you daily honor him with your life? Just like Christ came into this world, he must also come into your life. When he does you will truly become a new creation and the evidence of this new life is that you will completely yield yourself to his will. People will know you have received the ultimate gift because you will be different. You will love instead of hate, encourage instead of criticize, give instead of take, obey instead of continuing in sin. Are you in the habit of showing Jesus off to your family, your friends, and the whole world? When men look at you do they see the ultimate gift (the light of the world) in you?

Remember, it is one thing to be given a gift and yet another thing to accept it, open it, display it, use it, and enjoy it forever.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Birthday Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley, a co-founder of the Methodist Church (with his older brother John), the writer of more than 5,000 hymns, a world-class theologian, a pillar of the church, and a dedicated follower of Christ was born December 18, 1707 - three hundred years ago. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

“Be like Mike” – if he is like Christ

I recently posted on the topic of being imitators and titled it, Should others imitate you? Well, I am still challenged and spurred on by this biblical concept of being an imitator of Christ and my spiritual leaders. This is so contrary to what the world promotes when it tells us to be unique, don’t follow, be a rebel, and do it your way. Since I am still challenged, I want to keep this in front of others. I want you to share with me in this challenge of imitating.

However, the world (or Gatorade in this case) also shows us the power of encouraging people to become imitators. Remember their “Be like Mike” commercials which started to air in the early 1990’s? Everyone wanted to be like Mike. As Christians we shouldn’t necessarily want to be like Mike unless of course he is a devoted follower of Christ who, like Paul in Thessalonica, is living a pure and blameless life for the glory of God. God understood our deep desire and need to be like someone well before Gatorade got on the bandwagon. Jesus demonstrated this when he imitated the Father; the disciples imitated Jesus; Paul imitated Jesus; Timothy imitated Paul; the Thessalonians imitated Paul and now we need to imitate the Lord and our spiritual leaders.

Being an imitator doesn’t, and shouldn’t, make you a clone. However, it will make you a disciple. You will have to lose your individuality, but definitely not your personality. You will have to die to self, but not compromise your unique God-given traits and qualities.

As Christians our anthem should not be “I did it my way”. Instead it should be “I did it God’s way”. When our lives are lived God’s way, then we will be able to boldly proclaim like the Apostle Paul, “I urge you to imitate me”. Now that is an exciting thought and definitely something to strive for.

Friday, December 14, 2007

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: What are you waiting for?

Here is my small group study for this week.

Big Idea:
Because God does things in his perfect timing, sometimes we are called to wait. But, what are you waiting for? What awesome expectation do you have? What is causing you to sit on the edge of your seat? Is your expectation limited to temporal, worldly, and momentary things like your next vacation, promotion at work, new car or are you waiting for God to show up and fulfill his purpose in your life?

Summary:
Waiting can sometimes be very difficult, but like they say, “patience is a virtue.” Sometimes it seems like God delights in saying, “Get ready, get set… wait.” Have you learned to wait on God without losing your faith or your mind? For instance, when your prayers aren’t immediately answered do you give up? When others grow bored, lose their hope, and turn to new pursuits do you continue to wait and expect God to deliver? God doesn't want you to live a life of diminished expectations and deferred dreams. He has great plans in store for you! But He wants you to learn how to maintain your expectation even as you walk through the long hallway that separates the promise from the fulfillment. Be assured that waiting time is not wasted time and it is not a passive activity. During this time of waiting, God is vibrantly at work in us developing patience, trust, and perseverance. During the process of waiting, he intensifies our hunger, our longing, our expectation, and our dependence on him. Our waiting should not be passive. We should be actively waiting, preparing, praying, fasting, and obeying while earnestly expecting the Lord to show up. Regardless of what emptiness or intense longing you may be experiencing in your personal life, Jesus Christ's coming satisfies our deepest needs. So, what are your great expectations? What are you longing for? What is the passion in your heart, which causes you to long for the Messiah?

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Luke 2:21-38
What was Simeon waiting for? What was Anna waiting for? What were they doing while they waited? How were their expectations fulfilled? What are you expecting? Are they temporal or eternal things?

Titus 2:11-14
What does this passage indicate we should be experiencing and doing while we are waiting for the Messiah? Is this how you are waiting?

Isaiah 40:31
What promise is found in this passage? What does it look like to “wait (hope) on the Lord?”

Taking Action: (1) Make a list of the things you are waiting for. Compare this list to what Simeon and Anna were waiting for in Luke 2:21-38. (2) What are you doing while you are waiting? Re-read Titus 2:11-14 and incorporate these waiting attributes into your life.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What's age got to do with it?

I turned 40 yesterday. Why does my mind want to play that game of convincing myself that I am now old and somehow a different person just because my age changed from 39 to 40? I am the same person I was yesterday. It is really just another day that God has blessed me with. I have the same opportunity today as I did yesterday to love God and others; to serve him, obey him, and follow him; to be his disciple. I was not promised tomorrow 20 years ago and I am still not promised tomorrow today. So I press on with confidence, passion, and a not-so-youthful zeal remembering that this is the day the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it. Besides, I keep hearing that 40 is the new 30.

Thank you for enduring my little “pep talk”. I need to stop writing now and catch my breath.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Moved to Action

Faith, hope, and love is a common grouping found throughout the New Testament. Paul points out in his first letter to the Thessalonians that true faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ produce concrete results and changes in how we live our lives and what we do. Faith produces work for the kingdom. Sincere faith results in taking action to live for Christ and for his purposes.

Hope inspires endurance. Endurance is “the act, quality, or power of withstanding hardship or stress.” Another word for endurance is perseverance. Hope is not simply wishful thinking. Rather, it is going all the way as a follower of Christ because of a deep knowledge, conviction, and confidence in him and his return.

Finally, love for Jesus Christ prompts labor for the kingdom. Labor is much like work and is defined as “physical or mental exertion, especially when difficult or exhausting.” When we love Jesus we lay down our rights and strive with great effort to serve him - even when it gets uncomfortable and hurts.

We will be moved into obvious action when true faith, hope, and love are present in our lives.
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Should others imitate you?

Paul paints a beautiful picture in the first chapter of his first letter to the Thessalonians. He clearly demonstrates how the faith is passed on and replicated through the natural act of imitating each other. We see that the Thessalonians imitated Paul (who imitated Jesus) and the Lord, the people from Macedonia and Achaia then imitated the Thessalonians, and then it states that their faith became known everywhere. That is some serious reproduction.
You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. – 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8
Jesus modeled this with his disciples. He showed them how to live, they imitated him, and they went into the whole world and changed it. In fact, imitating our spiritual leaders is a vital aspect of discipleship. You’ve heard the saying, “do as I say, but not as I do.” Well, true discipleship says it this way, “do as I say and as I do.” How about this, Jesus demonstrated the importance of imitating when he said, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” He essentially is saying that he imitates the Father.

This concept of being imitators is very exciting, but it is also very challenging when we realize that we are called to be the ones that others imitate. That’s right, we need to be at a place in our lives as wholly devoted followers of Christ that we can actually invite others to imitate us. Because, like it or not, others will imitate you; especially if you are seen as a Christian leader or someone who has been following Christ for awhile.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. – Hebrews 13:7
Paul urged the Corinthians to “imitate” him. He told the Ephesians to “imitate God”. He told the Galatians to “be like” him.

Can we tell others to imitate us? If we are imitating Jesus, then we should be comfortable making this bold statement; not out of pride, but humbly as followers of Christ who have been transformed by his grace.

Related Post: “Be like Mike” – if he is like Christ

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A SEASON OF CHANGE: The bitter with the sweet

Here is my most recent small group curriculum. While doing the will of God has eternal and temporal benefits, it can also be tough at times. This study begins by pointing out how both Mary and Jesus deal with this reality. It ends with the call to live by the Spirit and to deny (kill) the desires of our flesh.

Big Idea:
A life lived for Christ is filled with triumph, hope, joy, peace, and love. However, being a follower of Christ can also be a tough road to travel because we live in a broken world.

Summary:
Following Jesus doesn’t mean that life will be perfect and that everyone will like you - no more bitter, only sweet. Rather, Jesus said that some people will actually hate you because you live for him. Yes, things get better because of Christ, but things can also get more uncomfortable because of him. Take Mary for instance, Mary is a metaphor of the bittersweet reality of life, especially when you invite Jesus into your life. Mary’s life teaches us that obedience takes courage as we trust God and accept life’s sudden turns and unexpected demands. Her experience demonstrates that when we accept Christ, there is a sense in which both the bitter and the sweet are intensified. For Mary, when she said, “May it be to me as you have said,” it meant: (1) an untimely pregnancy, (2) a controversial pregnancy, and (3) giving life to and loving a child who will die. Likewise, Jesus responded to his calling to be the world’s sacrifice and accepted the bitter with the sweet when he stated, “not my will, but yours (Father God) be done. We must have the same deep conviction, attitude, and spirit of Mary and of Jesus. We must follow God and obey him in the good times and also when it gets uncomfortable and when it hurts. That’s our calling and the reward is great.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Luke 1:26-38

What was Mary’s response? Did Mary ask for all the details to be made known to her before saying yes to God? When God calls us, do we respond like Mary with a willing attitude even before having all of our questions answered?

Matthew 26:36-46
Did Jesus the man, his flesh, want to be beaten and die? Even so, how did he respond? Can you just say OK? Can you just say, “not my will, but yours be done?” If we want the Holy Spirit within us to win the fight, what are some strategies for strengthening the Spirit and weakening our flesh?

Philippians 4:6-9
What things does Paul recommend we do in order to follow God even when it gets tough and we want to worry? What promises do we see in these passages that can encourage us to follow when it hurts?

Taking Action: Take inventory of your life and honestly answer the question, “do I follow God’s will instead of my own in every area of my life?” Examine whether you respond to the calling of the Holy Spirit verses the desires of your flesh. Study Romans 8:8-17 and Galatians 5:22-26.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Know God; Know Peace

As we approach Christmas we begin to here the passage from Isaiah 9:6 quoted and sung quite often. Of course, this is a declaration of the coming messiah – Jesus Christ.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6
So Jesus is the Prince of Peace. What does that mean? Was his mission to bring peace to the world? Well, yes and no. Take a look at what Jesus has to say regarding this topic:
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. – Matthew 10:34-36
Jesus doesn’t sound like he is living up to his title of the Prince of Peace. What is going on here? His statement recorded in John 14 provides some clarification.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27
So, what kind of peace is Jesus talking about and what kind of peace is he offering? It is evident that it is not social, political, or even relational peace. Rather, he is talking about a “peace that passes all understanding” that is experienced in ones inner being. A peace that comes as a result of being reconciled with God and that produces a clear conscience. You’ve seen the bumper stickers; “know God, know peace.”

This peace isn't based on circumstances. If you know God, then you know this kind of real peace that is found nowhere else in the universe.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Daily Double

Here are a couple of articles that I found interesting from two sites I frequent.

Jeff at Anti-Itch Meditation tackles the topic of authority in teaching: A question that has caused problems throughout Church History is—who has the authority to teach me? Maybe better phrased as, "Why should I listen to you?" Read More

Bob at In the Clearing writes On the Connection between the Therapeutic Gospel and Christless Christianity. "Therapeutic preaching forgoes all talk of sin, and addresses issues like worry, stress, depression, etc. But the real problem is not addressed, and so the real problem is not truly dealt with." Read More

Saturday, December 01, 2007

If you’re not salty, don’t call yourself salt

While contemplating Matthew 5:13-16 today I couldn’t help but think that there are Christians who have lost their saltiness and would actually do Christ and the church a favor by hiding their light under a bowl. What I mean is that when someone calls themselves a Christian they are telling the world that they represent Christ. The problem presents itself when the person is not wholly living for Christ, but instead is really living for themselves. Their life is evidenced by selfishness, ongoing sin, and a love for the things of this world. They have lost their saltiness or never truly were transformed into salt in the first place. By shining their light of selfishness that is presented as the light of Christ they are grossly misrepresenting Christ and his church. It would actually be better if they hid their light and, yes, stopped calling themselves Christians until they became “salty” and started sincerely acting like it.

However, a Christian that has given it all up for Christ and whose life is characterized by a repentant heart, godly love, a righteous lifestyle, and good deeds needs to boldly, passionately, but still humbly let the world see Christ in them. Of course, don’t flaunt it for your own honor, but just live it and God, your Father in heaven, will be glorified.

Here are the passages:
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Peace Prayer of St. Francis

I have always loved this prayer. It is so powerful. My heart’s desire is to never just say this prayer, but instead to daily live it.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; when there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand, to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying [to ourselves] that we are born to eternal life.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A SEASON OF CHANGE: When Your Life Takes a Sudden Turn

Following is the small group curriculum I compiled for this week. The way we handle the trials of life really matters. It is the difference between victory and defeat. Again, it really comes back to our need to view and approach things with a Kingdom of God perspective.
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The Big Idea:
God didn’t promise us a happy-go-lucky life filled with certainty. Change happens and sometimes it comes at us when we least expect it or want it. So what are you going to do about it? How we respond to change and the trials of life matters greatly.

Summary:
Life is never a guarantee. We can’t manage it, control it, or bank on it. Yes, life has joy, but life can also come at us fast with unexplainable and unfair hardships. Take for instance the thousands of people who lost nearly everything, including their homes, in the recent California fires. Was this part of their plans or did their lives experience a sudden turn? Be assured that God isn’t in a hurry. God isn’t surprised by the sudden turns of life. He knows about every page in the book of your life. And we are never victims. God has a plan. He dwells in eternity, but he has a perfect sense of timing. However, we sometimes get so stuck in the moment that we can’t see eternity, even when eternity is yelling at us. We must have a Kingdom perspective that will allow us to see the big picture and the forest through the trees. Yes, God’s plans for us can take sudden and unexpected turns. Sometimes it even feels like God is interrupting our lives and disrupting our sense of stability. Or, is he knocking us out of our ruts? Sudden changes are an opportunity for growth and ultimately for God to be glorified. So, don’t run, hide, whine, or get angry and bitter when life takes that sudden turn. Rather, look at the unexpected turns of life as opportunities for us to trust God and face life head-on. This is our chance to win the battle by persevering, maturing, and allowing God’s plan to be completed.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Romans 8:28 Does this mean that everything that happens to us will be good? Do you have some examples in your life that didn’t initially look like God was involved, but turned out good and for the glory of God?

Philippians 4:10-13 Was Paul only content and able to praise God when things were going great? Why can Paul so confidently state that he can handle all situations? What are we doing to ensure that our response to adversity will be like Paul’s?

James 1:2-8 Do you experience joy in the midst of trials and sudden changes? Present examples of trials in your life that have been used to mature you.

Taking Action: Spend some time this week writing down trials from your past that God has used to mature and perfect you. Are there any trials or sudden changes in your life right now? Based on this study, how should you respond?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A healthy and saving kind of fear

I read aloud Psalm 103 during our family Thanksgiving gathering this year. It is a powerful statement of God’s love and goodness - so much to be thankful for. However, there was a recurring phrase that stuck out and caused me to revisit the passage last night. The phrase “those who fear him” is a qualifier affixed to many of the promises outlined in this Psalm. Let’s take a look:

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children- with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Fearing the Lord is rather important. So, what does it mean to fear the Lord? We shouldn’t fear our Father - right? It is interesting that in these passages fearing the Lord is mentioned side-by-side with his love, goodness, and blessings. Here is some additional insight into what the fear of the Lord is.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools (morally deficient) despise wisdom and discipline. - Proverbs 1:7

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. – Psalm 34:8-11
The primary theme of the entire book of Proverbs is the fear of the Lord. It presents the fear of the Lord as a loving reverence for God, a real submission to his lordship, and obedience to his commands. The fear of the Lord is often defined as being in awe of him. However, it goes further than this and is manifested in a life lived for him. Fearing the Lord also involves trusting in him and obeying him.

I located a good presentation called "WALKING IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD" which outlines and defines the fear of the Lord as well as instruction on how to properly develop a healthy and saving fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and it must be something we both understand and live out from our innermost being. I am definitely challenged to search my heart and my life to make sure I daily live with this healthy and saving kind of fear.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Goodness of God

Following is the small group curriculum I compiled for this week. It's about God's goodness that is right here and right now because Christ brought the Kingdom. The key is that we must be Kingdom minded, submit to the King of the Kingdom, and change our citizenship from the kingdom of this world to the Kingdom of God.
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The Big Idea:
When Jesus came he preached that the Kingdom of God is now! That’s right - not sometime in the distant future, but today. And it is good. Don’t allow yourself to miss out on this reality.

Summary:
When Jesus began His ministry by preaching “the Kingdom of God is here!” it shocked the religious community to the core. His message concerning the present reality of the Kingdom was in direct conflict with their “postponement theology” – all the good stuff of God was yet to come. In a world characterized by hopelessness and despair, Jesus forced them to face an alternate reality. He revealed the goodness of God to them by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, delivering the oppressed, raising the dead and conquering sin. And He did it at that moment, not somewhere out in the future! God could have started all over when man sinned against him. It is only the goodness of God that keeps God engaged with humanity. When a god of lesser goodness would have destroyed it all and began again, or at least abandoned it to its own rebellion, God did neither of those things. He has stayed engaged with humanity in spite of our stubbornness, in spite of our selfishness, in spite of our negligence, in spite of our own self-sufficiency. God continues to engage us, simply because He is a good Father who desires to give good gifts to His children. Do you believe this? Do you believe Jesus is alive today and that his goodness endures forever? Do you live your life based on this truth? Is the Kingdom of God alive in your world or are you still waiting for the goodness of God to come? Stop living for tomorrow, stop living for yourself, and instead live for God. Live in his reality and experience the good God who gives, forgives, heals, restores, cares, satisfies, and empowers.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

Matthew 7:7-11
Discuss your responses to this passage about God’s goodness. What kind of good gifts do think Jesus is referencing? Give examples.

Psalm 103:1-5
Identify seven signs of God’s goodness from these passages. Present to the group a “real life” example of his goodness in your life.

Romans 5:15-17
What is the ultimate expression and result of God’s goodness? How does this affect the way we live life? What does this mean to you?

Taking Action: (1) Spend some time this week meditating on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7) and seriously examine your life. (2) Are you living in the reality of the Kingdom or the reality of this world? (3) Focus on God’s goodness and expect all that he has made available to you through the cross as you surrender your life and live in Christ Jesus. (4) Using the passage in Psalm 103:1-5, compile a list of God’s goodness made real in your life.

Friday, November 23, 2007

That you might have life...

Here is a funny and insightful post my wife found about the abundant life we always have in Christ, but unfortunately often only understand and allow ourselves to experience in times of difficulty.
Hey. My favorite Spanish t-shirt that I have says this: "Yo he venido para que tengan vida, y la tengan en abundancia". "I have come that you might have life and that you may have it in abundance."

I was laughing about a mistake one of our children made when she was trying to memorize the verse. The mistake went like this: "Yo he venido para que tengan vida, y la tengan en la ambulancia." "I have come that you might have life and that you might have it in the ambulance."

Her mistake was not entirely wrong. I believe we really can have abundant life in the ambulance. In fact, it feels like sometimes we have more abundant life in the ambulance than we do anywhere else. God is present and reaching out to us all the time, but when the other things, food, health, security, are stripped from us and we are forced to turn to him, that's when we often find that the source of our greatest joy was God all along. When the trials come, get ready to live. - George
Childs
.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Always Thankful

I received this early prayer of “thanksgiving,” originally crafted a few hundred years before the birth of Jesus, from Dan and Kim Kane of the Antioch Network. “The prayer was part of the Amidah, a daily prayer said by Jews in the early days of the synagogue. As it was their custom to attend the synagogue (Luke 4:16), Jesus and his disciples would certainly have prayed these words of thanksgiving. The prayer is still recited by devout Jews today. Might it inspire a heart full of thanksgiving as you celebrate and partake of our Father’s bountiful provision!”
We thank you, for you, O Lord our God, are our fathers’ God for all eternity, our Rock, our Shield that saves through every generation. We thank you and declare your praise for all your tender care. We trust our lives into your loving hand. We are always in your keeping; your wonders and miracles are with us daily, evening, morning and noon. O you, who are all good; whose mercies never fail us, Compassionate One, whose faithful love never ceases, we ever hope in you. And for all these blessings, may your name be exalted, our King, forever and to all generations. All the living shall thank you and praise your name faithfully, the God of salvation and deliverance. Blessed are you, O Lord, whose Name is good, and to whom it is pleasant to give thanks.
May you have a tremendously blessed Thanksgiving. God is so good and has given us more than we deserve - his son Jesus Christ our risen Lord.

It is for today and for God’s glory

In my last post I discussed Paul’s desire that the Christians in Philippi would grow in their love by an increase in knowledge and insight. In verses 10-11 Paul presents his reasons why this is important.
So that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:10-11.
I think Paul is making some incredible points in these verses. First, he is presenting that our actions, what we do, and how we live life all matter. We aren’t supposed to simply be mostly moral and ethical. Our lives shouldn’t have even the slightest mixture of evil in with the good of God.

Second, he is proposing that being a Christian isn’t a virtual reality. The ability to live pure, blameless, and righteous lives right now is not just a fairytale; it is possible and actually expected. Paul isn’t talking about displaying the fruit of righteousness when we die. Rather, he is talking about it being evident in its fullness today.

Finally, why live this way? Why does it matter? Because it brings God glory. Simply put, God is glorified when we live pure and blameless lives exhibiting the fruit of righteousness.

By the work of Christ Jesus and the grace of God, this is how our lives can, and should, be right now. That is exciting and great news; may it be so.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Love that grows

Love is not just an idea, a sentiment, a feeling, or an emotion. Rather, love is a serious intention, followed by a decision, and ultimately demonstrated in real action.

In the first chapter of Philippians, Paul prays that the Christians in Philippi would possess a love that is increasing.
And this is my prayer; that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, - Philippians 1:9
Paul is pointing out that true love requires growth and that the way to grow is by increasing our knowledge. Love grows when we mature in the areas of knowledge and insight (understanding, sensitivity, and real-world discernment).

In other words, the more we know about someone and the more we understand someone, the more we can show our love to them. In fact, the act of intentionally gaining the additional knowledge and insight about someone for the purpose of loving them more is, in itself, an act of love.

Why do we seek God? Why do we read the Bible? Why do we pray? Is it just to get something from God? Or, do we take these actions so that we might grow in our knowledge and understanding of him, in order that our love for him might abound more and more?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Do you know the singing Jesus?

We typically picture Jesus, during his ministry years, either teaching, preaching, or healing. But, have you ever pictured Jesus singing? Well, take a look at this:
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. – Mark 14:26
This passage describes what Jesus and his disciples did immediately following the Lord’s Supper. Yes, they sang together. That is awesome. The next time you praise God in song, try getting this picture in your mind of Jesus singing. And just think, we can have an eternity of singing to Jesus and, I believe, with Jesus when we are with him face-to-face.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What do you mean – “fall”?

There is a debate among Christians regarding the issue of eternal security. Some say that we have no security while others believe “once saved – always saved”. I was reminded of this long-time debate while reading Peter’s letter (the 2nd one). Let’s begin at the end of his letter.

Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this (that false teachers are coming), be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men (false teachers) and fall from your secure position. But, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. - 2 Peter 3:17-18

Did Peter just say that we can fall from our secure position? What secure position is Peter talking about? Is it our position in society? No, he is talking in terms of the Kingdom. Does that mean he is saying that we can lose our salvation?

Well, let’s look at the beginning of his letter to get a better understanding of where he is coming from. In chapter 1 verses 10 & 11 Peter says the following:

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things (the things mentioned in verses 5-7), you will never fall and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I don’t want to get into the whole debate of predestination. Let’s stay focused on the topic at hand: falling. So, we see in these passages that Peter is in fact talking about falling from our position in the Kingdom of God. Additionally, he is not talking about a temporal situation or momentary stumble that makes life a little tougher here on earth. Rather, he clearly underscores the eternal ramifications.

With this in mind, I think we should seriously analyze our lives and honestly take inventory based on the characteristics and qualities Peter presents in verses 5 through 7:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Are you gettin' after holiness?

The aggresive pursuit of holiness is too often ignored rather than tackeled head-on. Bob at In the Clearing has a great post he titled Help, Lord! I need to be holy! Here's a taste of what he says:

It's a fundamental building block in the foundation of the Christian faith: the belief that a Christlike life is actually possible, or at least approachable, when one is "in Christ" (to use Paul's characteristic descriptor). We say it is God Himself who makes this possible, God who empowers us for righteousness, and yet, of course, there is this gap--I'll call it the righteousness gap--between the life we believe to be possible in Christ and the life that we actually live.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Has this ever happened to you?

I am experiencing that phenomenon whereby, after hearing a word for the first time, I start to hear it and see it in print almost daily. This sensation is not déjà vu, but it does produce similar feelings and responses. The word in question is “snarky”. Have I been living in a van down by the river? How did I miss out on such a useful adjective? I hope to add "snarky" to my vocabulary in an appropriate, respectful, and thoughtful manner.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Daily at the Well

Following is a portion of the small group curriculum I prepared to complement this weeks outreach related sermon taught primarily from John 4: 1-42.

The Big Idea:
We are called to engage the world. Our lives should naturally be all about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. But, too often we can become complacent or lose our awe of him who saved us. How do we prevent this?

Summary:
God loves people. Jesus demonstrated this when he interacted with the Samaritan woman at the well. Although she was supposedly below his social class, he introduced her to the living water, himself, and she believed. The disciples were shocked that he would associate with such a person. But the story continues. Who ended up bringing the people out to meet the savior of the world? Was it the disciples who daily walked with Jesus? No, surprisingly the disciples didn’t tell the good news to anyone in her town; rather, it was the Samaritan woman who had just encountered Jesus and was full of awe and excitement that enthusiastically ran into the village and led them out to meet Jesus. We must never allow Jesus to be old news either in our hearts or our minds. We must never lose our awe and amazement for who he is and what he has done for us. We must never allow ourselves to silently walk through life, not telling others the good news and introducing them to Christ. We must deeply love both God and people. This love will cause us to act like the Samaritan woman and enthusiastically proclaim the good news. We need to also keep our relationship with God fresh and daily have our meeting with Jesus at the well.

Discussion Questions: (read the scripture & discuss)

First, read John 4:1-42 and discuss this encounter.

Jeremiah 17:5-8
Where should we put our trust? What is the result of trusting God? Discuss some practical ways you can trust God instead of yourself or this world.

Psalm 1:1-3
What does the Psalmist declare is a habit of the blessed man? What is a result of meditating on God’s Word? Discuss some ideas on how this can be implemented in your life?

John 15:5-6 & 9-11
What does Jesus say is the result of remaining in him-living at the “well”? What role does obedience play? Discuss some things in your life that have helped you remain in him or have kept you at the “well” instead of in the world.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Help get the party started

This is an excerpt from last weeks small group curriculum I wrote based on Luke chapter 15.

The Big Idea: Heaven throws a big party when one sinner repents, so Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He was a friend of sinners. Are you?

Summary: Jesus said that it is the sick who need a doctor not those who are already healthy. In the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son we see a general theme that the Father in Heaven rejoices greatly over the lost one who repents and comes to him. Jesus exemplified how we reach the lost by seeking them out, welcoming them, eating with them, and encouraging them to live for God. He didn’t ignore them or shun them, but instead he made sure he was intentionally encountering them. How will we be able to lead people to Christ and share his gospel if we are not part of their lives? How will people see Christ in us if we hide from them? Don’t “hide it under a bushel;” rather, make it a point to encounter and befriend those who are lost and who are in desperate need of Christ. Get the party started in heaven by being Christ in a lost world; for there will be much rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents.

Additional Resources: on sharing your faith (Called to Fish, What’s in Your Tackle Box, Harvest Time) and repentance. Another related post is Use Words.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet

I just found Steve Camp's blog, CampOnThis, and was especially drawn to his recent post concerning genuine repentance. I believe that repentance is chronically overlooked and unfortunately rarely taught or thoroughly explained.

Related Post

GodBlogCon Wrap-up

I had a great time at GodBlogCon and BlogWorld. The highlight of the 2-days is definitely the new friendships.

I really enjoyed hanging out on Thursday night with Abraham Piper and Josh Sowin of Desiring God, Matt Anderson of Mere Orthodoxy fame, the always cool Rhett Smith, and of course my friend Andy Jackson of SmartChristian. This conference was also a great opportunity to meet and spend time with Roger Overton and Amy Hall of the A-Team, Joe Carter, John Mark Reynolds, La Shawn Barber – the list goes on…

It is a privilege and a joy to have this opportunity to use the tools of new media for ministry. I left GodBlogCon with a renewed commitment to take TransformedDaily into the future of new media.

A big thank you to all of the staff and student volunteers from Biola University who helped make GodBlogCon happen.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Use Words

I’m here at GodBlogCon and Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is speaking about the importance of communication. Christians are called to communicate. He made mention of the famous quote from St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words,” and he proposed that this does not eliminate the need to use words. I have always had an issue with how many use this quote to argue against the use of speaking the gospel to people. Yes, our lives, what we do (and don’t do), must clearly represent Christ and the fruit of the Spirit. However, words are also imperative. Christ himself used words often – almost always. As Christians we must use words and not feel bad about using them.

Al Mohler said that “no one will intuit the Gospel”. I think that is mostly right. Words get to the point of the matter very clearly, concisely, and in a timely manner. Words are important. Let’s not be afraid to use them in order to tell the greatest story of all time. If ever words should be used it should be for the purpose of sharing the Good News of Christ.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

God Blog Con - here I come

I am heading out the door to the God Blog Conference. I will be traveling with my friend, Andy Jackson, of SmartChristian.com fame. I hope to meet some of you other bloggers at the conference.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Small Group Ministry Curriculum

I create weekly curriculum for our small group ministry and post it for our leaders here. These study guides are designed to complement our weekend sermons and help create an environment for discipleship and ministry to occur.

Hey Jude - he takes a wrong and makes it better.

I just read through Jude. It had been a little while since I read his letter. It was, of course, eye opening and challenging. I recommend spending a few minutes today or tomorrow reading it.

I find myself often in a similar predicament as Jude was when he wanted to discuss the marvels of salvation, but instead found it necessary to write fellow believers about fighting for ones faith due to a “cheap grace” message that was beginning to emerge.

Some preachers, teachers, and writers have detoured the message of God’s grace down a road that can inadvertently encourage their listeners and readers to be comfortable with sin and to feel powerless against it. Typically what happens is, in an effort to be “seeker sensitive”, only one side of God’s amazing grace is presented: his grace that justifies us and atones for our sins. The work of sanctification and real-life transformation is then ignored or collapsed into justification often because of a desire to “streamline” the process of making converts. For instance, the call to obedience is left for a later time which most often never comes and the rest of the gospel message is ultimately forgotten and never presented or heard. This actually flies in the face of the great commission.

Moving our faith forward is extremely important. Jude reminds us that it is one thing to be delivered and yet quite another thing to actually reach the promised land.
Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example
of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. – Jude 5-7
The following doxology that is presented at the end of Jude’s letter is not just fancy words or something that will only happen when we die. The work of the cross should move us to action and change. He is able to keep us from falling each and every day. This stuff is real and should be indicative of our lives as followers of Christ. Jude is praising God because it is not a fairytale. Christ can keep us from falling; from living lives characterized by sin; from committing “ungodly acts, in ungodly ways; from following our ungodly desires.”
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. - Jude
Jude is definitely not promoting cheap grace in his letter. Rather, he is prescribing the powerful grace that Christ died for us to have. Don’t ever sell the cross short. Let’s never be mere talkers about God’s grace. And let’s not ignore the rest of the good news: that the work of Christ is sufficient to both fully justify and sanctify those who believe and who, according to Jude, “build themselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” Let’s teach and apply the whole grace of God and the full work of Christ’ work on the cross to our lives. This comprehensive act of faith leads to true victorious living identified by new fruit, obedience, transformation, peace, and the joy of the Lord.

Monday, November 05, 2007

More forgiveness

I wrote a short post late last month about forgiveness called “To forgive or not to forgive…”. I received an email today from my mom who read the post and forwarded the following quote that is from a novel she just finished reading.
"Now forgiveness is this," he said gently. "Not that you forget, not that you say what they did was all right --- it wasn't! Forgiveness is canceling the debt, tearing it up, clearing the account. Only you have the right to do it. The debt is owed to you. You might think that means they're going free, that they're getting away with it, and you're right. Your enemies don't deserve it. But when you forgive you'll discover that your enemies aren't the ones who go free---you are." - Wings of Refuge by Lynn Austin
Forgiveness is rarely deserved and it doesn’t mean that you will immediately forget. However, forgiveness is so important and not optional for anyone who calls himself a Christ follower. Freedom and a clear conscience occur when we forgive others. Maybe because God releases his grace and peace on us in increased measure when we obey him by forgiving others as he has so graciously forgiven us.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Obedience … a real possibility

When you placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and your Lord, a life of obedience to God became a real possibility. In fact, it should begin to manifest itself as a reality as you experience his sanctifying work. The Holy Spirit set you free from the bondage of sin and death and enables you to live a Christ-like life.
Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. – Romans 8:2

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. – Romans 8:13-14
This is incredibly good news. This is the Gospel of Christ meeting our practical need to change and giving us the powerful grace to experience this change as a reality. Obeying God really happens when we, in faith, submit to God, put to death the junk in our lives, and live by the Spirit.

Friday, November 02, 2007

1 Timothy 1:12-20 (Audio Teaching)

Audio file of the 1 Timothy 1:12-20 teaching I presented on November 1, 2007 to the Thursday morning men's gathering of the Band of Brothers. (Topics include the amazing strength & grace of Christ that changed Paul can change us. Also, I discussed the topic of shipwrecked faith.)

Link to Teaching Audio File

Thursday, November 01, 2007

911 - But, God is good and has all authority

My son (9) was rushed to the emergency room on Monday evening. He had a severe asthma related attack and needed immediate emergency care. My wife had taken the children to Payson for the week, interestingly enough to get out of the Valley and the increasingly poor air quality. I stayed home because of work and other commitments. I received the call around 9PM that my son was having some problems and it became evident by 9:30 that it was critical. My wife called 911 and I jumped in the car and headed for Payson. I aggressively drove up the mountain while I aggressively cried out to God for my son’s protection and healing. It was intense.

God was faithful and my son’s health was stabilized and restored rather quickly. Contrary to the doctor’s initial response that he would need to be admitted to the hospital, my son was actually discharged from the emergency room at 2:40AM. I immediately drove him back home and we got to bed at 4AM. My son’s breathing has improved dramatically since this episode. In fact, he says that he has never breathed better (in his life). This is the incredible healing work of God. We are asking God that this would be the end of these episodes. We are praying for complete healing. God is able and has all authority! God is good, he is faithful, he is victorious, and he will be glorified in all things.

Here is one of the realities that I prayed and held onto as I drove to the emergency room that night. Remember Christ’s interaction with the centurion? The centurion asked for Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus agreed to go with him to minister healing. However, the centurion stopped Jesus and told him something incredible and faith-filled. He told Jesus that it was not necessary for him to make the trip in order to heal his servant. He told Jesus that when someone has authority that he can make things happen with a simple command. Jesus was surprised and deeply moved by this man’s faith.

Jesus has all authority. He only needs to speak it and it will be so. Whether it is healing or calming the rough waters, he only needs to speak it. This was my cry that night. This was my prayer. This was my hope. Jesus has the authority to heal my son. In faith, I cried out to him for his command of healing. And as a follower of Christ and one who is in Christ, I too, boldly commanded healing in the authority of my King Jesus Christ. God is good!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The California Fires - God shows up in big ways

My wife and I have some friends, John and Elizabeth, who lost their home last week in the California fires. They received a knock on their door at 5:00AM on Sunday morning and had to evacuate their house within 10 minutes. They had time to get their two young children out, an extra change of clothes, and their wedding photo album. That’s it. As they drove out of their neighborhood their car was being hit with large burning embers as homes were going up in flames around them. John said it was like a scene from Dante’s Inferno. They later received reports from friends who saw their house on national news reports burned to the ground. You might have seen those pictures on Fox News of the home burned to the ground with a cradle in the front yard.

As Paul Harvey would say, now for the rest of the story. Recently, Elizabeth has been having some significant dreams. A little over 2-weeks ago, one of those dreams involved her children, my wife and my children. The children were in serious danger and our wives were feverishly getting them into the car so that they could escape the danger. The dream was rather intense. Elizabeth and my wife, Velvet, have subsequently been on the phone together several times in prayer and intercession for the kids.

Soon thereafter, John had an encounter with God that can only be described as an interaction with an angel. While John was walking down the hallway to pick up his children from their Sunday school classes he approached a rather scruffy-looking, older man wearing a Green Bay Packers hat. The man looked a little out of place. Upon passing, the man spoke these words to my friend, “John, don’t worry, it’s going to be ok. Your family will be provided for.” Stunned by the strange man knowing his name and by his comments, John quickly turned around to take another look at the man in the Green Bay Packers hat, but he was nowhere to be found. (Don’t let the Packers hat throw you off).

God revealed some pretty incredible things to our friends and prepared them for the dramatic event which was about to happen in their lives. First, he warned them of danger which resulted in much prayer and spiritual warfare. He then gave them a hope and peace that they were going to be safe and provided for.

Longtime devoted followers of Christ, Elizabeth and John have recently been open to the new things God has for them. I believe this openness allowed them to experience this incredible interaction with God. God is a very personal God and very much wants to be intimately involved in our lives. God loves us, cares for us, and wants to be this real in all of our lives.

Here is the latest from John:
The home was completely lost, but the firefighters were so gracious to pull out all their pictures and memories from the home and placed them safely in the front yard. Their insurance company, State Farm, is being very helpful and financially they will be more than provided for. John said that “all that stuff has been pruned from our lives and in every sense of the word He has provided.” He added that “I shouldn’t be, but I am floored by the amazing power of God… Even when you know He has something on the table for you, it is something entirely different. It is bigger. It is going to be painful (to rebuild and settle back into life), but the outcome will be bigger and better than was imagined.”

God is a big God and a very personal God. He is sovereign and loving. My prayer is that he will show himself to so many others as a result of these fires. May what the enemy meant for evil be used for God’s glory. This has happened in the lives of John and Elizabeth. May their story and the other incredible God stories associated with these fires bring many to know the reality and love of Christ. May one of the results of these fires be a new fire for Christ in the lives of many.

Maybe you need to go back to the beginning?

Are you at a place in your Christian life where you don’t see any real fruit? Have you ever really experienced significant transformation, change, or breakthrough? Did everything just kinda stay the same after saying the prayer?

At this point you might expect me to prescribe a serious dose of obedience and renewed dedication to God in order to make it right. Well, that is not at all where I am going. Instead, I recommend going back to the beginning. In other words, did you ever believe with all your heart? Do you understand who God is and what Christ did for you? Have you experienced sincere Godly sorrow and repentance? Finally, did you truly accept what Christ did for you? Is your life being lived out of the reality of justification? If it is not, then you will never experience sanctification and you will never see the fruit of the changed life that Christ died for you to have.

If this is you, my prescription is to go back. Go back to the beginning and encounter Christ in his fullness. Believe upon him with all of your heart. Accept the cross, come to Christ in Godly sorrow (for your sin), experience true repentance (a radical change of mind), and then the fruit will come. The change will then happen. You will begin experiencing real transformation.

We must daily live our lives out of our justification and allow our sanctification to flow out of justification as well. It is so important to have it in the right order and to keep it in the right order. It must all start with Christ. When things are ordered properly it works quite well and quite thoroughly. We then live the life Christ died for us to live; in victory, in every sense of the word, and in every area of our lives as we go from glory to glory for God’s glory.

Friday, October 26, 2007

To forgive or not to forgive…

Bottom line – forgiveness is not an option. One week ago we discussed the topic of forgiveness in our LifeGroups. It was an engaging time filled with challenge and conviction. Here is a link to our entire study.

Jesus really puts a huge emphasis on the importance of forgiveness. It is literally a must. Between Matthew 6:14-15 and Jesus’ parable of the wicked servant, he makes it very clear that it is an essential component.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:14-15
"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." – Matthew 18:32-35

Forgiveness is an extreme act of trust and faith in God. It challenges us to trust God for a better future - one that is based on the hope that our hurts will not have the final word in our lives. God asks us to give up our destructive thoughts stemming from offenses and to place our hope and trust in him for the future. Forgiveness builds confidence that we can survive the pain and grow from it. When we refuse to forgive, we are defying God, and our pride will limit his divine grace in our lives. Refusing to forgive by holding on to anger, resentment, and a sense of betrayal will make our lives miserable and ineffective. A vindictive attitude creates bitterness and destroys our ability to love and grow spiritually. A victim attitude destroys our faith and hope. Forgiveness honors the Lord and is a gift we give to ourselves. Forgiveness brings freedom! Forgiveness brings life!

There is no offense that cannot be forgiven! Not one! Forgiveness is essential.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dr. Andrew Jackson’s SmartChristian.com (where I do some guest blogging) has a new look. I really like it a lot. It is clean, easy to use, and as always full of great content. Check it out!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What makes an ineffective witness

In response to Jeff Myers question: "How to Keep the Next Generation From Walking Away", Ron (one of his readers) answered with the following:
Unfortunately we Christians tend to do one of two things. We either preach a message that is contrary to our actions or we change the message to match our actions. Either way we come across as hypocritical and it makes us totally ineffective in our witness for Christ.
I must say that this statement is unfortunately too often true. Let's never let ourselves fall into this category and render our witness ineffective.

Shipwrecked Faith

As I continue my study of 1 Timothy chapter one, I have come upon the infamous reference to “shipwrecked” faith.
Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. – 1 Timothy 1:18-20
What does it mean to shipwreck your faith? To begin answering this question, I asked the following two questions: (1) what are the possible results of an actual shipwreck and (2) what causes a shipwreck?

(1) What are the possible results of an actual shipwreck?
In most cases the probable result is drowning – death. However, if you survive, then the other possibilities might include: never reaching your destination, the progress of your journey is stalled (or altogether finished), you lose all you have, or serious injury can occur. The bottom line is that it is not a good situation. It is something you definitely want to avoid. It’s not one of those life-experiences you would purposely seek out.

(2) What causes a shipwreck? How does this happen?
Shipwrecks typically occur because of improper navigation or not being prepared and able to weather a storm. Other contributing factors might include sailing into unknown waters, a lack of visibility, getting off course, equipment malfunction, or because you can’t see below the surface.

Paul used this analogy of a shipwreck on purpose. He is letting us know that when we get off-course and stray from the true gospel message (like the Gnostics and Judaizers in Ephesus) it puts our spiritual journey in serious peril. In fact, the result could mean never reaching our final destination. We must be prepared for the storms and know how to navigate the waters. We must know God’s Word and have it firmly planted in our hearts.

After reading this warning by Paul, I am pretty sure Timothy read the rest of the letter with urgency. I think we also should be anxious to understand Paul’s instructions and apply them to our lives. We should take great care in not “straying from the faith” or the Gospel message. We should be “fighting the good fight” daily for our faith.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Because of Christ I too can say “once”:

Following is a short personal study and commentary of 1 Timothy 1:12-17.

In verses 12 – 14, Paul points out that he was “once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.” It is interesting that he uses the word “once”, thereby denoting past tense. At the time of this writing Paul is saying that he is no longer the man he used to be. He no longer thinks and acts in the same manner. He has changed.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. - (v.12-14)
Paul also clearly credits Christ Jesus who gave him strength (v.12) and the grace of our Lord which was poured out on him abundantly (v.14). What caused Paul to change? The grace of God and the strength obtained from Christ Jesus.

In verses 15 – 17, Paul is basically saying that if Christ Jesus can save and change me, then he can save and change anyone who would believe on him. Why did Paul use the present tense in verse 15 when he said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst” right after using the past tense word “once”, or at one time, to describe his sinful ways? It appears as though he is underscoring his condition without Christ. He is still the worst of sinners if not for Christ in him.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. - (v.16)
Because of God’s most incredible love, mercy, patience, and grace, Paul takes a moment to give the King of Kings all the glory that is only due him. I too, sincerely, and with a humble heart, make this profession. For without Christ, I am also the worst of sinners. Without God’s powerful grace and Christ’s strength, I would not be able to speak in the past tense about any of my sinfulness. Without Christ nothing would have changed. But praise God that in him everything changes – in very real and noticeable ways!
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. - (v.17)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Jesus Series - Part 1 of 3 (Audio Teaching)

Audio file of the Jesus Series - Part 1 of 3 that I taught on September 30, 2007. (Topics include the humanity of Christ and how Jesus prepared for his ministry)

Link to other teachings

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Change Happens

You’ve heard it said that the only thing we can be sure of is change. Change can be scary and most people don’t like change with a passion. But, often change can be good. However, don’t change for change’s sake; rather change for God’s sake. To be a follower of Christ is to embrace change. In fact, it is essential and inevitable for all who call themselves Christian. Actually, change is the definition of repentance. So, embrace change with a passion for God’s sake and never look back.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Is this for real?

What will attract this generation of young people to Christ? I strongly believe that the answer to this important question is (1) the evident power of God and (2) the evident display of transformed lives. It is time for the church to display the power of God in real ways.
“The primary reason young people today have a negative impression of the church is the millions of Christians who have attended church all of their lives and yet never been transformed by the power of Christ. The millennial generation wants to know: Is this for real?” – Jeff Myers.
It is time to move beyond “self help”, pop-culture psychology, and anecdotal stories designed to make Christ appear relevant. Instead, let’s allow the power of the cross to be relevant. It is time to show the world changed lives; lives that are transformed in real, powerful, and extremely evident ways by the work of Christ. Celebrate God’s power by submitting to it in awe, reverence, and allowing it to infect us.

This means that we must be living out the Christian life. We must be effected by the cross in real and obvious ways. The power of God must be doing its work in our lives. The fruit of sanctification and the Holy Spirit must be evident.

That’s all good, but what does this look like in a church service? Well, let’s stop trying to be relevant by focusing on how we all have so many shortcomings, by celebrating mediocrity, and by always acting so broken. Instead, let’s share the victories we are experiencing in Christ. Let’s celebrate the change that people are experiencing. Let’s offer testimonies of breakthrough, healing, restored relationships, and real transformation. Let’s offer hope. Oh, and from a worship experience standpoint, let’s definitely praise God with excellence, with vibrant praise, and surrendered worship that musically meets the culture where it is and lyrically glorifies God.

Bottom line: let’s show this generation, this city, and this world that the Word of God is real, that the power of the cross is real, and that they too can experience his powerful grace, renewal, and life-changing transformation.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Talking Turkey

Andy Jackson (SmartChristian.com) and I just had a very encouraging and informative lunch with the Pastor of one of the International Churches in Turkey. He and his wife have dedicated the majority of their adult lives to serving Christ and raising their family in this incredible Lost Land of the Bible. Even with the recent pressures, God is definitely at work in Turkey. It sure made me long, even more so, to get back in-country: maybe December, but probably next Spring.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way?

You’ve heard it said, “lead, follow, or get out of the way”. Well, I submit that in the Kingdom of God it is “follow” or you are not in “The Way”. As citizens of The Kingdom we are all called to follow the King. There is only one leader and only one way.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Have you examined yourself lately?

I was challenged today by Paul’s writings to the Corinthians when he said
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.”- 2 Corinthians 13:5-6.
The natural question that I then asked was “how do I test myself?” Followed by, “How do I know if I have passed or failed the test?” These are pretty important questions. It is easy to “blow them off” and just figure that it will all work itself out in the end. But, that just doesn’t work for me.

So, here’s what I found as I dug into it.
Q: How do I test myself?
A: Paul tells the Corinthians to examine themselves. Look at their lives. This would include the way they live, the way they treat others, their obedience, their fruit, and their actions. They have professed faith in Christ, but does their life match up with their profession? If we claim to be followers of Christ, then our lives should reflect this fact. We should be different (1 Peter 2); we should be transformed (Romans 12); we should no longer be slaves to sin, but slaves instead to righteousness (Romans 6).

I noticed that Peter handles a similar topic when he writes:
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:10-11
Peter is stressing the importance of taking it upon ourselves to make sure our election, our calling, and our citizenship in God’s Kingdom are sure. Like Paul, he is admonishing us to examine our lives to see whether we are truly in the faith.

Peter makes this statement just prior to his pleading in verses 10-11:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. – 2 Peter 1:5-7
Let’s go to question #2 before proceeding any further because question #1 and #2 begin to overlap at this point.
Q: How do I know if I have passed or failed the test?
A: Peter answers this question by listing the qualities found in 2 Peter 1:5-7. Essentially, Peter is outlining that those who have truly been called and are “in the faith” will live a life of obedience and holiness which will result in these fruits thus confirming Christ in them and therefore providing evidence that their faith will never cease to preserve them.

Paul answers this question throughout his numerous letters. One very clear benchmark is presented in what we refer to as the fruits of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23.
He then continues with more clarification in verse 24:
Those who belong to Christ Jesus (exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, are in the faith or have passed the test) have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
So, both Paul and Peter appear to be in agreement with a very similar message that we must take inventory of our lives. We must look at our fruit, examine our actions, and determine if we are truly in Christ Jesus. Have we truly repented, surrendered, and come to Christ in complete faith. Are we engaging in the acts of the sinful nature or are we demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit? This will give us a pretty clear idea of whether we have passed the test or have failed it.

In conclusion, let’s remember that what Paul and Peter are talking about is not to be done simply out of our own strength apart from Christ. In fact, this would be impossible and both apostles make this clear in many references. However, in Christ all things are possible including living a life completely characterized by this new fruit of the Spirit. With that said, do we simply sit back and hope it will happen? No, we boldly take hold of the victory we have in Christ; run the race; fight the fight. That’s what I call faith put into action for the glory of God.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

More Home Movies - Jake on Guitar

More home videos. Jake (my 11-year old) just played on the childrens service worship team (The GodZone Band) for the second time. I gotta say that he rocks! You will see my 9-year old behind the drum set laying down a solid beat in a year or two.

Here are the YouTube links. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. ENJOY!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

We are all called to be encouragers:

In Romans 12, Paul classifies encouragement as a gift that some in the body may have more grace to accomplish and administer. However, we are all called to encourage one another. Those of us without the “natural” gift of encouragement must ask for more of God’s grace in order to be effective and active encouragers. God’s grace is powerful enough, big enough and sufficient enough to make all of us encouragers.

In Hebrews we are called to:
Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. – Hebrews 3:13

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:25
In fact, the act of making Disciples of Christ is an act of encouragement. Jesus said to:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. – Matthew 28:19-20
This great commission is a demand by Jesus for us to encourage all nations to be fully devoted followers of Christ and specifically to teach (encourage) all people to obey everything he has commanded. Again, this is essentially what the writer of Hebrews is encouraging.

Therefore, let us all be filled with God’s grace, the same powerful grace that has justified us, and let us encourage one another daily. Let’s build each other up and spur each other on to good deeds; for God’s glory.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Turkey is at the boiling point

Things continue to heat-up in Turkey. Kurdish rebels have apparently killed 26 people in the past week: 13 Turkish soldiers and 13 civilians in two separate incidents. (Time/CNN Article)

While the stability of the country is coming close to a boil, the church in Turkey is also experiencing increased persecution and difficulties. It is getting even tougher to be a Christian in this 99.9% Muslim country. Social, physical, and legal persecution is definitely on the rise. However, God works quite amazingly in these types of environments. Christianity started and flourished in an environment of hardship and persecution. The same can happen in Turkey.

I was in Turkey last year at this time and was supposed to have been there these past 2 weeks. However, due to situations inside the country and here at home, my trip was postponed. My heart is with our Turkish brothers and sisters in Christ. May God's will be done and may the church grow. God, grant your children amazing grace.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Opposite World – Part 3

As Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount, we will conclude our discussion of “Opposite World” and see how we must put what we have been taught into action. We must live the Kingdom life.

Jesus underscores the fact that his teaching is not just hypothetical or something to hope for. Rather, his teaching is real and must be put into practice – NOW!
Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who do the will of the Father.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. – Matthew 7:15-27
God’s Kingdom is here and now; its’ not a fairytale; it’s reality. Jesus very clearly instructs us to “put it into practice” now! It’s not called the Kingdom of Heaven because we just sit around and don’t change until we die and get to heaven. In fact, if we don’t like living by the rules and values of his kingdom right here and right now, why would we think we will in the future?

The Kingdom of God has come in Christ; it is here right now; it will come in its fullness when every knee will bow.

Christ brought the kingdom; he is the King. The power of the Kingdom came in Christ. When we are in-Christ, we have what we need to live in the Kingdom.

You are living in a kingdom: heaven or the world. You are either serving this world or the King of Heaven. Remember, you can’t serve God and mammon (which represents this world). You can’t have a divided allegiance. No dual citizenship is allowed!

In summary, spend some more time meditating on the Sermon on the Mount and seriously examine your life. Ask yourself if you are living like a citizen of heaven or of this world. Where is your allegiance?

Remember, if you are in Christ you are (1) a new creation – born into the Kingdom, and (2) in the world, but not of it – you are a citizen of Heaven. You have but one allegiance!

Let’s live the rest of our lives in “Opposite World” and put the Kingdom of God into practice.

Related Posts: Part 1; Part 2

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Opposite World – Part 2

Let’s continue our exploration of “Opposite World” as we examine the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ description of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Remember, you will see that the Kingdom of God can be called OPPOSITE WORLD because it is completely opposite in nature from the kingdom of this world.

The world says anger is often justified and healthy. In the Kingdom of God anger and calling someone a fool (stupid) is equivalent to murder. Matt. 5:21-22

The world promotes lust. It is everywhere – TV, movies, magazines, billboards, etc. In Opposite World, the Kingdom of God, lust is equivalent to adultery which can send us to hell. Matt. 5:27-30

The world says an eye for an eye (it’s ok to get revenge when someone wrongs you – take them to court). In the Kingdom of God you turn the other cheek. Matt. 5:38-42

The kingdom of this world says love your neighbor and hate your enemy. In Opposite World you actually love your enemies and pray for them. Matt. 5:43-48

The world promotes generosity, but tends to make TV special out of it (LiveAid, Oprah, etc.). In the Kingdom of Heaven (Opposite World) you give to the needy generously in secret. Matt. 6:1-4

The world promotes the accumulation of wealth (He who dies with the most toys wins). In God’s economy we store up treasures in heaven. {John Wesley exemplifies this as a lot of money passed through his hands and he dies virtually penniless in the world’s eyes. – he gave it all away as he lived and stored up his treasures in heaven instead.} Matt. 6:19-24

Finally, the kingdom of this world says to get on the bandwagon and join the crowd (safety in numbers & everyone is doing it). In Opposite World the gate is small and the road is narrow that leads to life. Few find the Kingdom of Heaven. Matt. 7:13-14

Don’t be fooled, there is no dual citizenship. Again I challenge us to examine the characteristics of the Kingdom of God and sincerely ask ourselves if we are living like a citizen of Heaven or a citizen of this world. Where is our allegiance?

Related Posts: Part 1; Part 3

Friday, October 05, 2007

Opposite World - Part 1

What does it look like to live in the Kingdom of Heaven? How do you know if you are living like a citizen of God’s Kingdom? Jesus came preaching the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven and his Sermon on the Mount provides us insight into this good news.

I would like to spend the next couple of posts focusing on the values and reality of God’s Kingdom. You will see that the Kingdom of God can be called OPPOSITE WORLD. It is completely opposite in nature from the kingdom of this world.

I hope that we would all examine the characteristics of the Kingdom of God and sincerely ask ourselves if we are living like a citizen of Heaven or a citizen of this world. Where is our allegiance?

The kingdom of this world lifts up the popular, beautiful, bold, boisterous, proud, rich, wealthy, wild, dangerous, fun-loving, and exciting. Jesus launches into opposite world with the beatitudes. He says that a citizen of his kingdom will be all of these: poor in spirit, one who mourns, meek, thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, and persecuted. (see Matthew 5:1-12)

Which of these characterize you? Remember, you’re a citizen of a kingdom. Is your allegiance to this world and its values or it completely given to the Kingdom of God?

We will continue this discussion in the next post and see just how opposite the two worlds really are.

Related Posts: Part 2; Part 3

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Have you prepared for the big game?

I taught last week on how Jesus actually prepared for ministry. He wasn’t born with it. He was fully man and thus had to prepare to be used by God. He studied scripture; he was baptized and received the Holy Spirit; he prayed and fasted; he said no to temptation. (Checkout Luke chapters 2, 3, and 4)

I used the following football team analogy to underscore the importance of our preparation to be used by God:
Player: Hey coach, put me in. I’m ready to play. Come on, let’s go.

Coach: Who are you?

Player: I’m Eric. I’m on the team. Look, I have a team jersey on. I’m ready. Put me in.

Coach: I don’t remember you being on this team. Have you been to practice?

Player: No, but I’m here now and I’m ready to go in.

Coach: I don’t think so. You haven’t been to practice. You are obviously out of shape. I can’t trust you with the ball. I don’t know if you can run, catch, or throw. And finally, you don’t know our playbook and won’t understand a single signal I send you from the side lines. Again, I don’t know who you are, but I can guarantee you that you will not be going into this game. This game is for the championship. Everything is on the line. I am playing those who are ready – those who are prepared. Take a seat.

Jesus prepared himself. Have you prepared yourself? Do you continue to prepare yourself? Are you always in training? You need to be. Don’t be arrogant and think that you can just suit up and play in the big game without the conditioning, practice, training, and knowing the playbook.

God has a role for you in the big game. He wants to give you the ball. Be coachable! Follow the example of the coach and the other successful players who have gone before you; those who have finished well and have been mightily used by God.

Prepare yourself. Study the Word of God; be baptized; listen and respond to the Holy Spirit; pray and fast; and say no to temptation and put off the old ways.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Do we understand repentance?

Upon beginning his ministry, Jesus led with the message to “repent for the kingdom of Heaven is near” – Matthew 4:17. Paul summed up his whole ministry with the following statement given to King Agrippa: “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” I think we can all agree that repentance is extremely important.

What is repentance? Is it feeling sorry; how about asking for forgiveness; maybe it is simply living a disciplined life and changing my behavior? While these things are all important, they are not repentance. Godly sorrow will lead to repentance and our behavior will definitely change as a result of repentance. But these things are not in themselves repentance.

Then what is repentance? The Greek word used in the New Testament for repentance is metanoia which mean to “think differently after” or to “change your mind and heart”. We repent when we stop thinking the way we used to think when we were focused on ourselves and the world. It takes effect when we replace that mindset with the mind of Christ which is focused on doing the will of the Father.

True repentance will always result in a change of actions. Therefore, repentance can be further defined as a change of mind and heart that results in a change of action. If our actions have not changed and have not come into alignment with the will of God, then we must ask ourselves if we have truly repented.