Daily Commitment is Important

dusty_bibleIt’s November! For most people it means getting out the Christmas decorations, planning road trips, and stuffing turkeys. For me it means I have to write. A LOT!

November is the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It’s a crazy challenge to write a 50,000 word (or longer) novel in 30 days. Crazy, I know.

Last year when I reflected back on the challenge and how I beat it I realized that one of the most important things was to just commit to write daily. Each and every day I did something to work on my novel. Some days I only wrote 100 words, some days I wrote 10,000 words. Most days were in between.

Focusing on the project daily is extremely important to completing this challenge because taking a break, even for a single day, makes it really easy to turn that into a two day break. Then three days.

And before you know it months have gone by without writing. Getting into this daily habit also made the writing itself easier.

This year is no different than last. It’s the daily commitment that gets me through the challenge. Writer’s block, being tired, all of those excuses get put aside because I have to get my word count in! I don’t have time for excuses.

In the past couple of weeks since I started preparing for this crazy writing challenge I started to let things slip. I haven’t had time to get any articles out on ETM, for one. But also, I quit reading my Bible consistently.

When taking on a huge challenge, whether it’s writing a novel, organizing an event, practicing for an upcoming competition, or just daily life with a full schedule, setting aside the Bible gets way too easy. We fall into the trap of thinking the Bible is just another motivational book, so it seems easy to let it fade into the background of life.

But reading the Bible is a big deal. It’s the weapon we use in this battle taking place between our spirit and our flesh.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. – Psalm 119:105 ESV

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4 ESV

One of my favorite quotes is from Ravi Zacharias says:

The biggest battle you will face in life is your daily appointment with God. Keep it or every other battle will get bigger.

Keeping ourselves focused on God and drawing close to him is a daily battle against our sinful nature. The more we read the Bible the closer we draw to God and the easier it is to walk by the spirit and not the flesh.

I once read a book on fasting suggesting that weekly, or at least regular, fasting was important because it helped prepare the heart to hear from God. It wasn’t the act itself, because it isn’t the food we eat that gets in the way of listening to God. But the sacrifice of giving up food, something your body craves, to make God a priority, to focus that time on Him; that is what makes the difference.

In the same way, sacrificing some time out of your busy day to focus on God does something to us. It isn’t simply the act of reading something, but it’s making a concerted effort to make God an important part of our day, and it helps prepare our heart to follow the Spirit instead of the flesh.

Thankfully I have a godly wife that was there to help remind me of the importance of not sacrificing that time I should be spending with God. Walking in the flesh because we haven’t fed ourselves spiritually opens us up to a lot of temptation, hurt, and sin. It isn’t worth it. Especially for a husband who is trying to lead a house spiritually. It doesn’t take long for the enemy to come in and strike when we set down our weapon. A single decision made when we are following the flesh can have devastating consequences for a family.

We are in a spiritual battle, and a single day of not being prepared can be lethal.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  – Galatians 5:16-17 ESV

I urge you, take a few minutes each day to read the Bible. It’s important. Very important. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Just reading one chapter, or even finding a single verse to meditate on throughout the day. Anything to feed your spirit and help you to win those battles against the flesh.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12 ESV

The Discipline of Discipleship

US Air Force 061029-f-8789C-041 Chuck Norris v...
US Air Force 061029-f-8789C-041 Chuck Norris visits the 386 AEW (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night at church we had a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) demonstration followed by some teaching.  It was a great time.  I got some great notes from the speakers.  The first speaker was Carlos Machado who is friends with Chuck Norris, the demi-god that is said to start fire by rubbing ice cubes together, can count to infinity, and has a living grizzly bear as a rug in his room; too afraid to move.  He also did some work on the show Walker, Texas Ranger.

The second was from Victor Marx (http://www.victormarx.com/) who tells the story of his tragic life growing up, and how he fully embraces Romans 8:28 when it says “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  You should really check out his story and documentary.

I will be talking more about these guys and some of the stuff they taught me soon, but for now I want to talk about something that comes from just the foundation of martial arts.

When you hear of martial arts, what do you think of? Fighting? Mr. Miyagi?  Martial arts is not just about getting strong and fighting to beat people up.  It is a discipline; it teaches discipline.

dis·ci·pline

  • training to act in accordance with rules; drill
  • activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training
  • the rigor or training effect of experience

The word discipline is a heavy word.  If you want to be really good at something it takes a lot of personal discipline to get good at it.  This goes with anything. Martial arts, musical instruments, carpentry, or programming.

To be good, to be effective, you must discipline yourself. You must work hard, and not just from time to time, but all the time.  These guys that are good at martial arts are good because they do it, every day.  Hours a day of training and dedication to get good.

I can speak from experience with this point, but from the other side.  I have tried to play multiple instruments in my life, and tried various disciplines of martial arts, but for one reason or another (or for one knee giving out or another), I had to give it up.  Sure, I had a couple months of training, but it never became a part of my life.  Nothing that I ever became dedicated about long enough to get good.

I do remember a few things though.  Like how to break some simple wrist holds (if you hold my wrist in just the right way) and I can, with a lot of effort, play part of Fur Elise on a keyboard still, but I’m not good at it.  I did not, or was not able to, stick with it enough to let it become a discipline in my life.

Ever wonder why the followers of Jesus called themselves disciples?

This thought crossed my mind last night while thinking on these things.  Is it a coincidence that these words sound like they have the same root word?

Is it possible to be a disciple of Jesus Christ without having the same kind of discipline towards Him that martial artists have in training?

If you have followed this website for any amount of time it is no surprise to you that I am a fan of Leonard Ravenhill.  Leonard Ravenhill was a preacher with a great ministry. He was able to reach people for Christ and encouraged a lot of people to be bold preachers, to be prayer warriors, and to long for personal revival in ones life.

But the ministry he had did not come to him easily, it was not something that he just participated in occasionally and one day something just clicked and he was deeply spiritual.  On the contrary, every part of his life and ministry had the impact it had on others’ lives only because he was disciplined.  It was only because he treated prayer like a discipline that he was effective at all.  His son, David, said this about him.

My father was a powerfully anointed preacher who could bring down the convicting presence of God in a way that very few can. People would begin making their way to the altar even before any type of invitation was given, their hearts pierced by the Word of God. His preaching was superceded only by his passion for prayer. Like the apostle Paul, he carried “the daily pressure of concern for the church.” Prayer was his life. Prior to his death in 1994 he told me he had received a number of requests from seminary students who wanted to come and see him for the sole purpose of having him lay his hands upon them in order to receive his “mantle.” With his typical dry British humor, but at the same time deadly serious, he said, “Everyone wants to have my mantle but nobody wants my sackcloth and ashes.”

Leonard Ravenhill. Why Revival Tarries (Kindle Locations 21-26). Kindle Edition.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 tells us that we are to train in the same way, with the same intensity that an athlete trains.  Not training to run, but to win.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

I remember being amazed during the Olympics that just ended at the athletic ability of each of these athletes.  It never came easy to them, well, maybe for Phelps (just kidding).  They gave their life to their sport, to not just doing a good job at it, but at being the best.  None of them trained for last placed, or trained for the bronze; they trained to win the gold.

The self-discipline required to do that was amazing.  Hours a day at the gym and training for years on end, giving up many of the pleasures of life we enjoy like deserts or watching tv and playing games.  Why did they do it? For a medal and for fame.

How much more, my brothers and sisters, how much more should we be training spiritually to take the gold.  Not for fame and fortune, but to know God, to draw closer to God.  To have more faith.

Faith comes from God

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, – Ephesians 2:8

And through reading scripture

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17

It makes us strive to live Holy before God, while Jesus works on completing our faith

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

Being a Christian is not a weekend adventure, or morals we consult occasionally, it is a lifestyle of following Christ, a discipline of putting Him first in our life.  In every part of our life.

After all, this IS the call that Jesus gave to those who want to be His disciples.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. – Matthew 16:24

Oh father, please forgive me for the lukewarm attitude I have had towards you.  Help me to have the discipline to put you as a priority in my life every day, and to stop living a life that ignores you.  Father, give me a renewed vision of the goal, and give me an increase in faith.  Only you are worthy of the pursuit of my life.

Amen.

The Distraction of Entertainment

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 18:  A Costco custome...

In the previous articles in this series we discussed how we have neglected our mission field because we have gotten too comfortable in our life here, in the culture.  We think nothing of this problem but when we look at Scripture and it says that to be partakers of the things of this world makes us enemies with God, then we have to ask ourselves if it is time to give up the things of this earth to pursue God.

I know what many of you are thinking. At the suggestion of having to do away with some of your toys, your fun stuff, you will get all defensive. “But God wants us to enjoy our life” or “Don’t be so legalistic, we have freedom in Christ!”

I know you are thinking this because it is what I am thinking. My flesh wants to fight this thought. I see others enjoying their life here and I want to enjoy it too.

I am not saying that we are supposed to live in total depravity of everything fun. But would that really be a bad thing?

The closer I draw to Jesus the less I care about entertainment and the more I want to just serve Him. It doesn’t become a slave relationship where I can’t have any fun for fear of being struck by lightning; it becomes something where I love serving God so much that to think of spending my time playing games or watching tv just feels like such a waste in comparison!

You may think this is crazy talk, that I am still just denying myself the entertainment that our culture feels it is so entitled to, but when we get to heaven and stand before God, are we really going to be proud of all that time we spent in entertainment? Will we be proud that we spent 7,000 hours of our life watching television and movies, or another 20,000 hours playing video games?

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3

The only time we find entertainment important in our lives is when we are not close with God. The more we focus on the things of God, the less time we want to spend on entertainment.

Think about when you were dating. When you start out getting to know each other and falling in love with each other.  Did you just spend all of your time staring at the tv? Is that how your relationship developed?  Sure you go to the movies and sometimes watch shows together but a majority of your time is spent talking, and interacting together.  This is how you got to know each other.

You fall in love with that person and want to spend all of your time with them. Just because you would rather spend time with your boyfriend or girlfriend instead of watch tv does not mean that you are depraving yourself of entertainment, does it? The entertainment truly doesn’t matter to you in comparison.

It is this way with God. The more we fall in love with God the less we care about the things of this world, the less we care about what the culture cares about.

So focus on heaven, focus on Christ, and focus on our mission here on Earth!

But beware, this world, satan, your flesh, will fight against you and distract you and make you lose that focus.

let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. – Hebrews 12:1, 3

Men and the Decline of Marriage in the US

This is a brief editorial on a pressing issue in United States culture: Sexual Purity.

A February 2012 NY Times article “Young Mothers Describe Marriage’s Fading Allure,” suggests the attraction of marriage is not what it once was for many young mothers.

My heart broke at the resounding theme of this article: women do not trust men. What a sad thing, but is that surprising in a society where dating produces children more often than fathers?

Traditional marriage was a cultural standard in the US, but that is changing. According to the article cited above, the national figure for children born outside of marriage is 53%.

Premarital sex and child birth are now normative.
The basic unit of society is the family, which is being crippled by cultural practices of casual sex.
I would like to propose a partial solution to this epidemic problem can be found in Scripture:

“Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
-Hebrews 13:4 ESV

Men in our society are failing women at a basic moral level.

Sure, there’s enough guilt to go around, but according to scripture, God made men to lead.

Leaders are trend setters, so to alter a trend, leaders must act first.
A paradigm shift is required to change what is happening in our culture.
I argue that the weight of it lies on the shoulders of men first.

If we want to see change as a culture, men need to commit to sexual purity in all categories at all levels.

Imagine the change created by a situation where women did not feel pressured to have sex before marriage?
Imagine the respect inherently communicated in that situation.

How would that change things?
I think it would change a lot of things.

Please join me this week in praying for the sexual purity of the men you know.

What is Spiritual Warfare?

Machew is a guest writer to ETM, and as such the views expressed in this article may not be the views of ETM and its staff.

It is incredibly important for the church as a whole to understand spiritual warfare.  Too often Christians delegate their struggles to their flesh not realizing that much of what you think and feel doesn’t originate from you at all.  We have a very real enemy that will stop at nothing to get you to convince yourself with his lies to undermine your walk with Jesus and to make destructive decisions in your life.  For this reason, I write this article.

Before I start with Spiritual Warfare, I need to lay down some Biblical Context:

We will start in Genesis:

Genesis 1:26-30 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

28God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

29Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;

30and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.

So what is the point I want to make in this passage? God gave Adam and Eve delegated authority to rule over the Earth. We all know how this story ends, the devil comes in the form of a serpent and Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and they fall because of sin. The devil had no authority over the Earth before the fall. So how did he get his authority?

When Adam and Eve came into agreement with the devil’s assessment of reality, they sinned. And because there was no atonement for sin at the time, they were separated from God and their agreement with the devil essentially handed over their delegate authority over the Earth to the devil. (John 12:31, John 14:30, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Matthew 4:8-10)

Next I will give some basic groundwork to what spiritual warfare is.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,

4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.

5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

So according 2 Corinthians spiritual battles happen in our mind and thought life. Why is this the case?

In Matthew 4:8-10 Jesus is tempted by the devil, as the devil offers Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world if he bows down to him and worships him. The devil still had the authority and rulership over the Earth from Adam and Eve. But after the resurrection of Jesus, He says to His disciples in Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me

If Jesus now has “all authority” over the Earth, this means that the devil now has no authority. Jesus took back Adam and Eve’s authority from Satan. He was able to do this because their sin was now completely atoned for.

So the question you probably have now is: “How then is the devil able to do so much evil on the Earth?”

The question to ask is: How did the devil gain authority in the Garden of Eden?

He hasn’t changed his strategy at all. Look at 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 again. The battle is in our mind. The weapons formed against us are thoughts and speculations that exalt themselves above the knowledge of God. Why are these weapons used? Because the devil needs your agreement in what he wants to do before he has authority to do it. Jesus gave back authority over the Earth to humans. Before Jesus dies on the cross He states the following to His disciples:

Matthew 16:19 (NASB)

19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

So the devil is able to steal, kill, and destroy when humans come into agreement with what he says (thoughts, emotions manifested from thoughts).

This is what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is talking about when it says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. The fortresses that it is referring to are areas in our thought life that we are in agreement with the devil. The devil builds on your current agreements with him, to bring in more deception into your life. Essentially the agreement with the devil (fortress) is a place where he can hide in your life and have authority in that area of your life. This fortress is what the enemy hides behind to assault you with more lies, to try to gain more ground in your life.

So to review: The devil is only able to operate on the Earth through human agreement.

So what does this mean?

The devil is only able to operate in your life through your agreements with his lies, and the agreement of lies that the people in authority over you believe (ie: parents, teachers, government authorities).

This is why it is so important to constantly be studying and filling your heart and mind with the Word of God. The Word of God is what reveals deceptions you are believing, that allow the enemy into your life, and the lives of those under you.

Hebrews 4:12 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

12For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

For this to work though, you need to be born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s help is a necessity in understanding the Bible and to know how it applies to everyday life.  Only through the Holy Spirit does the truth of the Bible penetrate your heart and actually change you (2 Corinthians 3:6, John 16:13, John 14:16-17, Romans 8:27, Isaiah 11:2, Ephesians 1:17).

The current situation we face is having a whole world of people where most people are not born again, and the devil is able to wreak havoc over the Earth because people are constantly in agreement with him. But God has given believers the keys to His kingdom. God’s Kingdom is superior to this kingdom(the Earth), and Jesus tells us to model our prayer like this:

Matthew 6:9-10 (NASB)(emphasis mine)
9″Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

10’Your kingdom come

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

So then we are to bring the dominion of God’s Kingdom to Earth (God’s government/way of doing things), whether it be through the salvation of others, loving the unlovable, giving all of your possessions, or worshiping Him through praise. In the words of Matthew 6, His “…Kingdom Come…Will be done…On Earth As it is in Heaven.” So if it is happening in heaven it should be happening here. If it is not happening in heaven it shouldn’t be happening here. When God’s kingdom is brought to Earth it enforces what Jesus did on the cross and destroys the work of the devil in our lives, and in the lives of others. Spiritual warfare cannot be won by human strength as 2 Corinthians 10 tells us, but as indicated, only by divinely powerful weapons. And we have no divinely powerful weapons by ourselves. But we do have God’s Word; whether it is from the Bible, something God has spoken to you recently, or something God told you before. God always backs up His Word with the resources of His superior Kingdom. But just reciting God’s word isn’t enough!

His Word Becoming Who We Are:

When we read the Bible, have relationship with Him through prayer (conversation), and meditate on what He has said or is saying, it opens our hearts to receive His Word and Truth. Truth that we only believe conceptually or intellectually will falter when tested. But Truth that has become a part of us deep down in our core, our very being, and heart can never be shaken. This is why we are not only supposed to hear and read the Word but receive it implanted into our hearts (James 1:21). And as James 1 describes the Word of God given to us will be tested but proven true to us by experience through perseverance in the testing trial. Once we have God’s Word truly implanted in us, because it has proven to be true under testing and trial, no argument, emotion, or lofty thing will ever be able to get us to doubt what God has said. And we are then able to stand firm, in boldness, and in confidence against the devil’s lies. When we are able to fully believe God’s Word deep in our very being, we are finally actually fully capable to “Submit…to God” which is when God uses His divinely powerful weapons, giving us what we need to “Resist the devil” causing him to “flee from you” (James 4:7) Until we truly believe what God has said and have the faith to believe it, it is impossible to submit to God(specifically submitting to what He has said to us). As Hebrews 11:6 says it is impossible to please God without faith.

God brings every believer through this process for our benefit, that His Word would literally become a part of us, so that we would become the walking Word of God. God’s plan is that we would literally become the image of the Living God. The devil has no weapon that works against this kind of believer.

Blessings,

Machew

Remember Those In Prison

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:3 ESV

Christian persecution mostly flies under the media radar, despite being global and regular. But international pressure on the Iranian Government in the case of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has changed that—at least for the moment.

If you have not heard of him, you should google the name. He is an Iranian Christian accused of apostasy and scheduled for execution.

The Iranian government does not want the disapprobation of the international community, but they also seem intent on executing Pastor Youcef. For those of us who have elected officials, we have the ability to write them and ask for pressure to be put on the Iranian government for the release of Pastor Youcef, and others like him.

Go to here if you want to see what he did to garner the wrath of the Iranian authorities.

According to a recent article on the Christian Post,

“United States Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), with the support of seven members of Congress, introduced a resolution into the U.S. House of Representatives Friday that condemns Iran for continuing to imprison pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and calls for his immediate release.
The resolution, called H. Res. 556, is “Condemning the Government of Iran for its continued persecution, imprisonment, and sentencing of Youcef Nadarkhani on the charge of apostasy.”

Seeing the US Congress take action in protesting the Iranian government’s actions is quite encouraging.
If you take the verse listed at the top seriously, there are good resources available to get involved in multiple ways.

First, you should read a report on Youcef’s story.

Second, you could sign the petition at the ACLJ site, backing the Congressional resolution mentioned above:

Thirdly, you could also join the Tweet to save Youcef campaign—if you twitter.

Lastly, if you want to know more about Christian persecution around the globe check out the following:

www.persecution.com is the premier website for such.

www.prisoneralert.com also has lots of info on many other Christians persecuted for their faith. Consider adding some of the brothers and sisters listed on either site to your prayer list.

The book of Hebrews says we need to remember those in prison. That means taking action. How are you going to do that this week?

 

The Incarnation: The Best Present Ever

Written by Josh

The Incarnation: The Best Present Ever

The greatest gift ever given came as a baby, and we would do well to reflect and remember who He is and why coming as a baby was necessary.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

(Luke 2:11-12 ESV)

This week, the Carolers at my local grocer filled the air with holiday cheer by singing “Away in a Manger.” We sing songs about him, but who is the baby with ‘no crib for a bed?’ They don’t include scenes of Jesus crying or pooing in the church plays, but we have manger scenes, not ‘inn scenes.’ Jesus situation was very human, gritty and Real.

Most Christians will say Jesus is God (note the activetense of the verb) while most non-Christians say Jesus was just a man. In my experience, we in the church have responded to the doubt around us by stressing the divinity of Christ to the exclusion of his humanity. While we should stress the divinity of Christ, we must not ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ as it were and conceptually sacrifice His humanity to protect His divinity.

When we sing about Jesus’ birth, it’s very easy to think of Jesus as either a man or as God only. But Scripture holds these two ideas in tension without apology so we must as well.

Simply put, the Incarnation is a key tenet of Christianity. If you don’t believe it, you give up the entire enchilada of the faith. Why? First, without the Incarnation you do not get the Jesus of the Bible. Secondly, you lose the Savior of infinite worth but human identity.

Without being God, Jesus’ death would be of limited value, but being God, his death is of infinite value, so there’s no internal limit to its saving power (he can cover our bill). But, without being human, Jesus’ life could not fulfill the Law Adam broke for us nor could his death on a cross take our place. Only a human could be a propitiation or substitute for us. So it is precisely the Incarnation that empowers Jesus’ victory over sin and death in the cross and resurrection. For as Hebrews says he took on flesh and blood like us so he could intercede on our behalf as our propitiation (Hebrews 2:9, 17).

Who does scripture say Baby Jesus is?

He is Immanuel, God with us. He is the Eternal Logos and maker of all things, yet he is also a man who grew in wisdom and stature before both men and God, who got tired, was tempted, suffered true anguish in Gethsemane, and was crucified and died.

Only by permanently shouldering true humanity could God the Son stand in our place as the Second Adam. (That’s right, the Incarnation is permanent.)

What is the Incarnation?

The Eternal Word (Logos), i.e. the 2nd Person of the Trinity, took on flesh (permanently became human) and is forever now the God-Man, fully God and fully Man, joined together in a union comprised of two distinct natures (human and divine) neither of which being confused or blended, but distinct and yet somehow together in a way we can better describe than understand.

The boys back in the day called this the “hypostatic union.” It is a mystery, kinda like gravity. We can describe gravity, and tell you about its results, but truly master it? Nope. But what would you expect from the Trinity?

So, as you prepare to celebrate Christmas, mull over how the greatest gift given came without a gift receipt: the giving of the Son by the Father in the Incarnation.

If you really want to get into the Spirit of the Season, find the nearest baby and cuddle it. Be gentle, they’re fragile, but hold that baby close and contemplate how Jesus was like that: small, weak, frail, in a real sense dependent. He ate, slept and pooped just like you and I did when we first showed up. Yet, in the mystery that is the Incarnation, he was at the same time still fully God, somehow through his divine nature, still upholding the universe (Heb 1:2-3 and Col 1:16-17). Wild—Strange—Real.

This should humble and encourage us: God the Father, gave us his Son who willfully became human forever altering himself to honor the Father’s will, so as to make all things New. We can move through our day with a kind of courage that comes from knowing God the Son loved us so much he was willing to endure what we do and more, just to rescue us while we were still his enemies.

That kind of love does not abandon or quit on a person, it can and should propel us as we go through whatever providence brings our way, because if He would do that for us, we can trust Him in it with assurance and hopefulness no matter what comes. That doesn’t mean we like it or even enjoy all that life brings for life brings thorns and thistles. Still, we can deal with such knowing knowing we are not being abandoned to be cut by them. God the Father took the Evil of His Son’s crucifixion and used it to redeem the world and the resurrection is our proof.

Merry Christmas. This week I invite you to the following passages about Baby Jesus, why he came and how his unique status as the God-man made possible what he accomplished in his life, death and resurrection.

Virginal Conception Predicted:

  • Isaiah 7:14
  • Isaiah 9:6-7

Jesus Humanity:

  • Matt 1:22-23
  • Luke 1:68-69
  • Luke 2:29-32
  • Luke 2:40
  • Luke 2:52
  • John 1:1-18
  • John 4:6
  • John 10:30

Purpose and Result of His Coming:

  • John 1:1-18
  • Galatians 4:4-5
  • 1 Peter 1:10-12
  • Philippians 2:5-8, 9-11
  • Hebrews 2:9, 14-15, 16-17

 

When everything goes wrong: Is the Devil against you, or God?

Pride is a funny sin. Not funny in a laughing sort of way, but funny in the way it acts. Or more accurately how we react to it.

As sinful humans still stuck in the flesh we always find a way to justify our sin. Sometimes it is obvious but we want to ignore it, and other times, especially with pride, it is extremely hard to acknowledge the sin.  You can be stuck in pride and not even realize it. What is worth, God hates pride, and if you are being prideful then God will resist you.

God resists the proud,But gives grace to the humble – James 4:6

There are times in our life when everything seems to be going wrong. Because of our pride and our arrogance we automatically assume that it is the Devil that brings these trials to us, so we seek God to overcome the trials.

But what we fail to recognize is that sometimes it is God bringing us the trials. God may allow or bring trials in your life for any reason at all, because He is sovereign and wants to prove a point (read the book of Job) or to rebuke.

Do not despise the chastening of the LORD,Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. – Hebrews 12:5

If it is to rebuke us, then we had better repent and listen.  I am currently reading the book “The Light and the Glory” by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. The basics of the book is digging into history and personal journals of people who had a hand in founding this nation, from Christopher Columbus and his crew to George Washington and showing how God had a hand in the creation of this nation. (Look for our review of the book soon)

I noticed something interesting as I read about Christopher Columbus. He was a man of God, who served God and felt called to go on this mission to bring Christ to the Indies. Not everything went right, it took him 8 years of petitions and being rejected before he was finally approved for the mission. Getting there was not an easy trip and he ran into trouble, but continuously in his life he prayed and sought God.  By seeking God doors were opened that reassured Christopher that his journey was a call from God.

But something happened when Christopher Columbus first discovered the isles. Pride started to kick in, along with greed. These two forces worked to tear down what God was doing, not only in the life of Christopher Columbus but in the lives of all of the travelers who went to settle.

Gold became the new motivating factor, replacing the original mission of bringing the gospel to the new land. One of the ships was lost when it took off in search for gold (of the three that set for, and reach the Americas), and when they were about a week from home the largest storm that any sailor of the time had ever seen wrecked havoc on the ship.

Columbus’ response was to turn to God, but not to repent of his own greed or pride. No, the thing about Pride is that it, by definition, prevents us from seeing it; until it is too late. Instead they cast lots to make bargains to try and appease God. Promising to go on pilgrimages or promising to go to mass and praise God as soon as they reached shore. (sound familiar?)  They made it home, but broken, but that didn’t matter because Columbus was the new hero! Given the title “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” (at Christopher Columbus’ request) he showed the fruits of this new land. A few natives they brought back to translate, animals, fruits, and of course, the gold. So of course Admiral Columbus was sanctioned to return.

The settlement he returned to had been killed, attacked by the Indians after the settlers had raped and robbed and murdered many of the locals. Instead of this leading them all, especial Columbus, to repentance, this led to war, or more like genocide. After several more outbreaks a new governor was sent to take charge. But, being full of pride Christopher Columbus would not have his authority taken away, and ended up being arrested, sent back to Spain in chains, then after nearly a year was permitted to return to the new found land, but told never to return the colony he had already established.

Determined to make his own way Christopher Columbus fought to go where the gold was. Fighting such strong storms and winds that it took them 38 days to make a 3 day journey. 2 of the ships were torn apart by worms and Admiral Columbus was sick with the fever. He found his gold, and more bloodshed. He made it home, rich, but according to his journal, regretful for how he failed in his original mission, to bring the light to the lost.

Pride, turned a man who was on a mission by God into a man of greed, causing bloodshed instead of bringing salvation.  When opposed by every force imaginable, storms, winds or lack of winds, sickness, loss of food and water, it only brought them to cry to God for help, not to repent of their own sin. Why? Pride, they were sure they were on the right course, being hindered by Satan. They couldn’t imagine that it was God trying to get their attention, trying to get them to repent.

What should I do?

If you are struggling right now, and it seems that everything is going against you, do not just assume that this is Satan trying to stop you on your “God given” (or possibly selfish) mission.

First you need to seek God. Repent, ask God to show you anything in your life that is hindering you from serving God. If you are honest with God, he will show you your honest self, like it or not. God will show you what needs to go.

If you are not caught in pride or sinning, seeking God will still show you how God wants you to proceed, even if the problems in your life are caused by Satan.

So the bottom line, seek God, humble yourself, and repent.

Easter: Getting back to the basics

Today will no doubt be a busy day for most people.  You have clothes to get ready, get to church on time, find the eggs with the kids, easter baskets to pick through for favorite candies, and a big family easter dinner to prepare.  To many people it seems that they spend all day celebrating easter, and little time celebrating Jesus.

Besides the hour and a half spent singing praise songs and listening to a sermon at church, very litte thought is given towards God today with all of the business distracting us.  Like many western traditional celebrations easter becomes less a celebration of the resurection of the cross and more of a celebration of the celebration itself.

Today is the day that we remember the most unfair sacrifice in all of history. Today we remember Jesus, the creator of all things (John 1:3), being perfect and without any sin (Hebrews 4:15), but was raised from the dead, conquering death, so we could be called righteous before God! (Romans 5:19)  Do you get the impact of that statement?

You have sinned, a lot. Do not try denying it, you are a filthy sinner. Every lie, every lustful thought, every greedy or selfish action you take, all of it, is detestable in the sight of God. Don’t believe me? Just look at the old testament, at how God wanted those who sined to be punished. It gives a glimpse of how much God hates sin.  Yet God, the one you sin against every day, sacrificed Himself, for what? To erase every evidence of sin in our life. To declare us righteous and allow us to serve Him, the living God!

“Are we sorry for grieving the heart of God… for denying God the right to own our personality… to own our mind… to own our thoughts… to own our emotions? (If not) we’re robbing God.” – Leonard Ravenhill

Instead of making today about easter bunnies and new clothes and business of making big dinners, spend today focusing on your sin, repenting from your sin, and thanking God for the wonderful act of Grace that He has provided freely for you. Take some time to celebrate that, what easter is supposed to be all about.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. – Romans 5:7-9

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation … – Hebrews 2:1-3

Isaiah 53

 1 Who has believed our message
   and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
   and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
   nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
   he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

 4 Surely he took up our pain
   and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
   stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.

 7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
   and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
   Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
   for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
   and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
   nor was any deceit in his mouth.

 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
   and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
   and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
   he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
   and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, 
   and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
   and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
   and made intercession for the transgressors.

Jesus does not need you, you need Him

Jesus does not need you, you need Him

I cannot count the number of times I have heard someone say to me “I would follow God if he would just show up in my room with blinding light telling me to follow him,” or if God would just miraculously give me a million dollars in my bank account or save me from this situation or do any number of extraordinary things.  God is capable of doing this, of course, so why doesn’t he?

The answer is simple, God does not need to beg you to come to him, he gives you all of the evidence you need, it is up to you to decide to follow him.

God never begs anybody to follow Him

Have you ever noticed in the Bible how Jesus never, ever, begged people to follow him?  Never once did Jesus say “please follow me, pretty please?”  Then why do so many people think God caters to us to try and entice us to come to him?

The purpose of parables

After Jesus told the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) the disciples asked him why Jesus told parables (Matthew 13:10). Jesus’ answer was probably a little shocking to the disciples, I know it is shocking to me.  Jesus answered and said

Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘ Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’ (Matthew 13:11-15)

Is the Bible telling us that Jesus did not want them to understand?  Yes, that is exactly what this is saying.  But why? Because the people would not respond correctly. “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)  Jesus had just said in Matthew 13 that people will be judged based on how much knowledge they are given, so Jesus speaks in parables out of compassion, not giving too much information to those who will not respond properly but giving enough to peak the curiosity of those that really want to know God.  Jesus only wants those to come to him who will respond properly.

Jesus wants everyone to be saved, right?

Yes, God wants everyone to be saved (2 Timothy 2:3-4) “God our Savior,  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God wants everyone to come to him in the same way I want my son to follow God and never stray, never get hurt. But I know that my son will stray despite what I want for him, just like God knows not everyone will come to him despite God wanting everyone to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus stands at the door and knocks

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Jesus knocks on the door for all of us, he does not beat down the door or force his way in. Those that answer the door Jesus dwells with, those who tell Jesus to go away, get a silent door.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks (John 4:23)

Those who seek

God wants you to seek him, not be lazy and wait for everything to come to you.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6)

Jesus is a treasure worth sacrificing everything

Today it is so easy to get caught up in what the society thinks. We think God is nothing more than something else we add to our life, an hour or two a week and try to avoid sin and then we are good, we have our ticket stamped ready to go to heaven.  But that is not what God wants. God is more valuable than that! God is not a trinket we wear around our neck along with everything else in our life. He is our life.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (Matthew 13:44)

Jesus, treasured above everyone

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

What? We are to hate everyone in our life? Jesus has to be number one in your life; your love for him must be so much more than any other relationship that everyone else is put to the side for Jesus, you do not put Jesus to the side to serve your family!

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Do you get it yet? Jesus is not someone who begs you to follow him.  Jesus is so awesome, so wonderful, you need to come seek Him.  Jesus already paid the ultimate price to free you from your bondage in sin, and he created you (John 1:3), what else do you need?

References

Why did Jesus speak in parables?