And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What Can We Know About God

>What we can truly know about God is through what He chooses to disclose to us. We must remember that as Isaiah teaches, “His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are above our ways”. (Is 55:8&9) Thus when God communicates to us He speaks to those who are not God, and unfortunately sinners. We are unable to comprehend the magnitude of God. Most of us even are unable to operate the simplest of gadgets. So because we are not God and we are sinners our very reception of revelation is flawed. Keep this in mind. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can grasp some understanding, and often as in the parable of the seed and sewer we fail at receiving the word implanted. It is often snatched away or choked out.

One of the great issues we must reside in would be the sovereignty of God. It is God preeminence over all that makes being God possible. The Greek gods were all flawed and limited (imaginary too), but not Jehovah.

Another construct that many people have is that they make God in their own image. Or when faced with scripture, spoken by God, they can not accept what He has said and thusly they refuse to believe. Many want to perceive God as one whom they can comprehend and compartmentalize. Many are heaven laden with an idea of a God who is all love and no wrath. They make Him to be a kindly forgetful grandfather that passes over all wrongs. Thus look to say He is only love.

We must remember God is holy. His holiness thus dictates both His love and His wrath. Wrath defending His holiness and honorable name. Love with wrath because pure wrath is to be without love, we learn that without love we are nothing.

We also forget that we are sinners. We are the offenders unto God. He has no obligation to save us. We are not so loveable that He must save, all our righteousness is filthy menstrual rags. The Bible itself teaches that while we were yet sinners Christ did die for us. We were His enemy. We perpetrated all that is against His holy name.

Much of the misunderstanding of God today is the result of vending machine theology. Its of the over emphasis that God so loved the world, placing the emphasis on “the world” when the emphasis in upon God, as evidenced by whom is doing the action. We have made God in our own image.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ten Ways You Know You are Looking at a Bad Church.

Disclaimer: all of these things are true in some form or fashion.

The church calls you to come and preach, deliberates for two months, and then give you four days to pack and move.

Upon your first business meeting, you find that the vote to call you was actually twelve to nine.

Your job description includes mowing the lawn.

The offering plate repeatedly contains slot machine tokens.

Members of the church all have keys to the building, and the parsonage.

Classrooms were painted twenty years ago, and still are not finished.

You still don’t have a website.

The former pastor has left you several sheets of fine linen resume paper.

Copies of Watchtower magazine are in the church library.

Upon finally receiving a copy of the bylaws and constitution you realize that it is the twelfth copy from an old mimeograph.

Your church treasurer’s grandson has slot machine tokens.

You throw away copies of Watchtower magazine, only to find them reappear on the library shelf. Your only consolation is that no one reads.

You return from a mission trip to Mexico and a matriarch of the church asks “Pastor, were there many foreigners there?”

The former pastor still attends services.

The financial secretary counts the offering at home.

The good old days the members refer to were the days of the former pastor.

The baptistery is rusted out.

A staff/volunteer keeps threatening to leave, and never does.

Search committee personnel swear they will support you but all leave in the first six months.

Your best friends are outside the church.

You approach business meetings wondering if you will be voted off or if you still have the immunity idol.

Classroom blackboards are consistently found with cryptic messages of doom.

You have to have plainclothes policemen in your service, packing heat. These same policemen escort your wife and kids from the car to the sanctuary.

While in the interview process you call the local director of missions to inquire about the church, he says “Its got potential”!

Several pews are marked with doilies, quilts, pillows, and unread Bibles.

The search committee says they want a “young energetic pastor”.

Your deacons do nothing but give you projects.

Before the worship service you can find half your deacons smoking on the front porch.

In a preliminary interview the church tells you they have 400 members on roll. Upon arrival you look into the records to find that eighty of these members only have a first name listed and thirty others have been deceased for up to twenty five years.

Once you are moved in, the finance committee tells you that health insurance was not part of the package.

While cleaning out a closet you find Sunday school literature older that you are.

They will have a Vacation Bible School, but no one will teach children on Sundays.

People compare you to Joel Osteen.

Bullies, Thankfulness, and Other Tools in life

Bullies, Thankfulness, and Other Tools in life

It was the sixth grade. I had had enough. With all the makings for a classic Hollywood B movie the tension mounted like an over wound guitar string. Leaving the bus my nemesis awaited me. It was all over a football trading card, Mercury Morris to be exact. I don’t recall all the details, but I do remember a kid who outweighed me by 40 pounds flying through the air and knocking all my possessions to the ground. Books, trading cards, and pride were strewn about some neighbors lawn like crabgrass. The crowd disbursed and went home, show over. (I will add that a girl, a pretty girl, stole the culprit’s musical instrument and brought it to me to use as leverage, but I did not take advantage of the opportunity) For the next several years this opponent of mine would haunt me like acne. I daily cried out to God for protection, to move us to another town , or do anything possible to relieve me of this torment. But God kept me there and provided. This evil villain would not be the last bully I would face, but certainly he is the one who has caused the most grief. And for what knowledge I have, he is still the same type of person.

Growing up in life everyone faces some sort of bully. Even today you may have one in the workplace or a neighbor who uses intimidation to get their way. It’s a fact of life. No matter how many laws are passed or dodge ball classes cancelled, there will be bullies.

My life has had its share of bullies. Now I won’t name names here, for fear of being either seen as vindictive or gaining a lawsuit. (Attorney’s can be a form of legalized bullying, ha ha ) But I am sure you can follow along. And its true that in various forms of sarcasm I have engaged in tactics that have rebutted others, all of which I repent.

But a few years ago I faced bullies within the church. Intimidating people, gossips, backbiters, slanderers, the likes of which will not enter the gates of Heaven. It wasn’t a one incident deal. It seemed to take many forms. If you read my article on “Ten Ways You Know You Have A Bad Church” you will get a glimpse of what I am talking about. There even was a three week period wherein every devotional time I had seemed to revolve around God’s faithfulness in times of trouble. I was perplexed as to the extensiveness of what He was revealing. That is until a special called meeting was held one Wednesday night. You can guess what happened.

But in all that trouble, I was reminded by God of David being pursued by Saul. God revealed to me that He had carried me through bullies of all types. He had provided for every financial need in seminary. When I was lonely He was there to comfort. Not a single problem had ever surfaced that God did not provide for to His glory. It was then He opened my eyes to see that had it not been for the bullies I would have quit the ministry. But that daily endurance of oppression had made me trust in Him as my only hope.

James is true when he says to count it all joy knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance and a perfect result. Paul is dead on in Romans 8 when he reveals God’s working out difficulties to conform us to the image of Christ and that nothing will separate us from His love.

I am thankful now for the hardships through bullies I have faced. It has brought in me a desire to remain faithful, letting God be God and giving Him the glory.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Judgment and Eschatological Values (Sermon Notes)

>Judgment and Eschatological values

(Matthew 16:24-28)

Preface: These are simply a few of my notes from preaching last week. Not all that is here was said, and some things were added that did not make it into the notes.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." (Matthew 16:24-28)

Further passages on judgment

"But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:36-37)

"He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. "The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

(Matthew 12:30-37)

"I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. "A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened.

(Daniel 7:9-10)

Then the LORD said to me in the days of Josiah the king, "Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there. "I thought, 'After she has done all these things she will return to Me'; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. "And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. "Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. "Yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception," declares the LORD. And the LORD said to me, "Faithless Israel has proved herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. "Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say, 'Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD; 'I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious,' declares the LORD; 'I will not be angry forever. 'Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the LORD your God And have scattered your favors to the strangers under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,' declares the LORD. 'Return, O faithless sons,' declares the LORD; 'For I am a master to you, And I will take you one from a city and two from a family, And I will bring you to Zion.' "Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.

(Jeremiah 3:6-15)

We left off last week with the rich man and Lazarus as we discussed that Hell is a real place.

Luke 16:19-31 We have to all give an account one day.

Essentially there are two judgments

Judgment for the saved is a giving of an account and then eternal reward in the presence of god. Mt 5:12. Because we are rewarded for our good there, despite the bad, there is inequality in Heaven.

Those who are judged and are unsaved have no recourse. Their judgment is just and they receive damnation for their life.

What are the charges?

I have found a small example of specifics that God has warned us about for His judgments, specific characters that oppose Him.

  • Sin Gal 5:19-21
  • Words we have said Mt 12:26-27
  • False worship 10 commandments, Deu 11:16, Mt 15:9
  • Lack of spiritual power afforded to us, Mt 17:17 & 20
  • Heart attitudes, (anger, deceit, lust)
  • Harm to children as a stumbling block Mt 18:6
  • Idolatry 1 Sam 15:23, Col 3:4-6
  • Faithlessness Hos 10:2, Rom 1:17-18
  • Not being a watchman Eze 33:6
  • Unforgiveness Mt 18:34-35

Certainty of judgment

  • Psalm 1 Day of judgment
  • 2 Cor 5:10F “All appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
  • Rev 2:23 & 22:12 according to our deeds and reward everyone according to works.
  • Rom 14:12 Each shall give an account.
  • Rom 2:4-13 Synopsis of judgments
  • Mt 7:22-23 People cry out “Lord, Lord did we not….”
  • Is 64:4 “All our righteous works like filthy rags”
  • 2 Thess 1:8-10 Destruction of Unbelievers
  • Ps 58:11 “Surely there is a reward”
  • Is 40:10 Behold the lord comes with reward and recompense
  • Mat 5:12 Reward for the persecuted.
  • Mt 6:5 do not pray like the hypocrites to be seen by men.
  • Mt 10:42 Even a cup of cold water given does not lose sight as an act to be rewarded.
  • 1 Cor 3:8 Each receives a reward in accordance to their labor.
  • Rev 11:8 Rewarding both small and great
  • Rev 22:12 To render to every man what he has done.

Remember, salvation is by grace, but works are an evidence of the heart.

Who is heard by God and when?

The unrighteous are never heard by God until they repent. Ps 66:18, Rom 2:5, Rom 1.

Those who are near to God can call upon His name any time. Is 65:24, Rom 10:14

Those who have wandered away must first humble themselves, repent and seek Him to be heard again. 2 Chron 7:14 and Prodigal son story.

But we have a great hope in Christ, as God is a redemptive God.

Romans 8:29-end, Romans 8:1

Illustrated in a Parable

Lets look at Mt 18:15-20 as it deals with the unrepentant and 18:21-35 with the repentant.

Recall that binding and losing has to deal with the authority of the church and the mercifulness of the church.

So Mt 18 15-35 teaches on our being a redemptive people in light of the cross. That we make no small thing of sin, but by vs 18:33 & 35 we react to the repentant. We are to encourage repentance. The church teaches, thus binding sin and losing from sin in repentance. Thus judgment or access to God. The gospel message of the cross is the mission of the church. We are headed for destruction but in Christ we are saved, (Noah’s ark, sacrifices in the temple, Passover, Lord’s Supper, and baptism are teaching examples)

God is findable by those with a repentant heart. W must teach change through redemption in Christ. That we can be set free from sin and have a new nature (2 Cor 5:17) We help those habituated to sin as it is a character that hinders repentance. The long term effect of abiding in Christ is sanctification from believing in the promises of God.

We must also note that a worse condition befalls those who do not forgive. Remember the forgiveness factor in the Lord’s prayer.

So we must ask ourselves, What does Matthew 16:27 mean in light of the cross for living today?

We must live redemptively for the sake of others in the name of God. This is bearing the cross.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:11, Knowing the fear of the Lord…
  • Philippians 3 We press on to he upward call, the prize
  • Matt 25:21 Well done thou good and faithful servant.

It’s a decision that we must make and not turn back from.