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.