The Hope of Glory

Philippians 2:5-11Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,   10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

 

Baby Jesus Asleep

Who was this baby in the manger? Even though we don’t hear Merry Christmas as often in the public square, we still call December 25th Christmas Day. What would cause us and our ancestors to celebrate the birth of a child born in a backwards village in the Middle East to what seemed to be a poor insignificant couple? Is it possible that the is child is more than just a result of an inappropriate relationship? I think He is.

The question we must ask ourselves is who is Jesus. If Jesus is God, if this baby is really God, then everything in the New Testament makes sense. All the miracles make sense. God becoming man is an awesome reality and must not become common place, drowned out by all the commercialism and tinsel that surrounds it. In reality, every one of our lives hangs on the question of who Jesus is.

Who is this baby?  Listen here to find out more:

The Mystery of Christmas – Hope of Glory

God Bless and Merry Christmas

 

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Don’t Believe The Lie

08-02 Back to Basics - Don't Believe The Lie

http://livingfaithmissionary.sermon.net/main/main/20457196

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Why Discipleship?

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And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

There are two things that you will always hear me talking about as being the most important work of the Church. The first is prayer, and equal to that is discipleship. Why discipleship? First and foremost as we can see from Matthew 28 Jesus commands that we make disciples. These verses, known as the Great Commission, leave no doubt to the fact that disciple making is not optional. Unfortunately many churches have become sidetracked and they have forgotten their mission. Now many of these churches do some great things. They have very spirit filled worship services. Their pastors preach biblical sermons. They reach out to their community and help in many charitable ways. But many of these same churches are more concerned with the programs of the church. Discipleship is not a program, it is a lifestyle. Making disciples should be our passion and focus as believers.

The first question we must ask ourselves, as we decide to do what Jesus commanded, is are we a disciple of Jesus?

If we are a disciple of Christ then we are being transformed daily to be more and more like Christ. We should be spending meaningful time in prayer with God. As disciples of Christ we should be reading scripture and allowing it to change us. We should be confessing and repenting of our sins so that we can overcome our sin nature and put it to death. If we try to make disciples of Jesus when we are not disciples ourselves we run the risk of making disciples of ourselves.

The second question is who do I disciple?

Should it be someone who is a believer or should I search for a non-believer to lead to Christ and then disciple them? Only the Holy Spirit knows. Discovering who to disciple always begins with prayer. As we start the process of looking for someone to disciple we need to pray for a “person of peace.” When Jesus sent out His disciples he told them to look for a “son of peace” (Luke 10:6). This person of peace has been prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive the Gospel message and will have influence amongst their family (oikos). When you pray for a person of peace and find them, the Holy Spirit will let you know that this is the right person. It is important to not get discouraged if you can’t find someone to disciple right away. God is either preparing them or you for the experience. Be patient and keep praying.

The third question is how do we do it? What method do we use to make disciples?

There are many different models out there that different churches are using. There is Training for Trainers (T4T), Life Transformation Groups (LTG), 3DM, and many others. The key is to use the model that best works for your personality and culture. For me, Life Transformation Groups work best. In this model two to three people get together and work their way through scripture. They begin by sharing what they are struggling with personally and then discuss what God is showing them in the scripture passages that they are reading. Then they pray for those that don’t know Christ. What I find most attractive about LTG is the amount of scripture that is covered. I have always believed that the Bible will change our lives if we just take the time to read it and have it change our hearts. This is one of the main goals of LTGs. One thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter what your level of Bible knowledge is. The beauty of these groups is that no one is above another. It is not about teaching the other person what you know, it is about growing in Christ together. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens the other.” Sometimes I am the one sharpening, sometimes I am being sharpened.

Father, as I am waiting for you to prepare someone for me to disciple, please prepare me. Help me to find a person of peace to share my walk with and to sharpen as I am sharpened. Give me patience with myself and with the person you are preparing for me to disciple. May You be glorified in all that I do. – Amen

 

 

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Expectations

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But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. – Luke 24:21

We all have expectations. There are certain things that I can expect to happen in my life. The sun will come up in the morning and go down at night. I will have air to breathe. Jesus will never leave me or forsake me. Jesus will one day return, and a myriad of other minor expectations that we expect without much thought. Beyond this, this world is full of possibilities only. I may expect my car to start, but there is no guarantee. Anyone who has experienced the pain of divorce knows that what we expect may not always happen. People we expect to love us forever and exclusively may one day fall away and hurt us in ways we never imagined. People may exceed our expectations, which is the hope, but there is always a chance that they will fail our expectations. Sounds very cynical doesn’t it?

Many times the problem is not the people but our expectations of those people. The disciples thought that Jesus was going to usher in his earthly kingdom and throw the Romans out of Israel. They were expecting the restoration of David’s Kingdom. Their expectations were wrong. thYIF3CGZJJesus came to redeem Israel and all the world from their sin, not to build an earthly kingdom. Jesus came to suffer and die for the sins of the world. The disciples were so excited about the possibility of their involvement in the coming kingdom that even when Jesus flat out told them that he was going to suffer and die, they did not realize he really meant it. Luke 9 also tells us that “it was concealed from them” so we can somewhat understand why they didn’t understand.

Sometimes I think that I have misguided expectations of Jesus. If I do things just right then God will bless me. Just the right amount of prayer, just the right amount of giving, just the right amount of meditation on God’s Word, while all of these things are awesome and do help me draw closer to God, my misdirected expectations negate thA Call to Worshipe positive benefit. You see, if I do something because I expect God to do something in return I am putting conditions on my relationship with Jesus. God does not want conditions, He wants surrender… complete and full surrender. Only God has the right to place expectations on our relationship. He expects my complete devotion and surrender of every part of my life to Him. The beauty of His expectations is that God does not expect me to be able to completely surrender to Him on my own ability. God knows that in my fallen human nature I am unable to surrender on my own. It is only with the help of the Holy Spirit that I can humbly submit to God.

Obedience is never easy, but there is great joy and amazing peace in being obedient to Jesus. Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  Obedience to Christ brings peace, even through the troubles that we will face in this world, and we will have tribulation. That is something we can definitely expect.

Father, I pray that you will help me to surrender my life to you on a moment-by-moment basis. Help me to not put expectations on my relationship with you, but to love you with abandon. Lord, I want the joy that comes from obedience to you. I know that I will have trouble in this world, but you have overcome the world. Help me to find peace in you and in no where else. May the peace I find in you be apparent to those around me so that they too will desire the perfect peace that comes only from You. – Amen

 

 

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Crying out

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I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. – Psalm 88:3-5

When was the last time you had a good lament? Lamenting is not easy to do. In trying to deal with the situations that we find ourselves in we have a tendency to either try to fix them ourselves if possible, or we just sit around and complain about our situation. I think that we have lost the art of lamenting today. Now, I am not talking about complaining. There is a big difference between complaining and lamenting. Complaining is what we do when we feel sorry for ourselves. Lamenting is what we do to God when we do not understand the circumstances we are experiencing. I think we do more complaining than lamenting today.

My children, age 3 and 5, have been known to complain. When they complain they are trying to change what is happening to them or what they are told to do. Their complaining, many times called whining, produces no results, short of irritating me. It is their age and lack of maturity that causes them to whine about their circumstance. The sad reality is that it is my lack of spiritual maturity that keeps me from lamenting to God out of fear that I am complaining (whining) about my circumstances. It wasn’t until recently that I really began to understand the importance of lamenting.

God had ended my participation in a ministry that I was involved in for 4 years without giving me a clear picture of where He would lead me next. I have always been a person who knew what my next step would be. Didn’t God realize that I need to know where I am going in order to get ready for it? Then once He gave me a glimpse of what He had planned, He put a stumbling block in front of me that I could not overcome. I was very discouraged. Why would God call me to this point only to close the door? On the outside I was putting up a good front. I said all the right things. God is in control. He knows what He is doing. I have faith that God will provide. On the inside I was being eaten alive by the doubt and fear that God may not want me to take the path that I thought He wanted for me and my family. I was scared! Did I misunderstand God? Did I do something wrong and now God has turned His back on me? Then I began to actually lament my thoughts to God. My goal was not to change my circumstances, but to share my doubts, fears, and confusion with God. I would wake up every morning and cry out to God that I did not understand why He had brought me this far to only “drop the ball” on me. As with many laments, I have not gotten an answer to my lament. My situation hasn’t really changed. There are still many doubts and fears about the path that I am on, but the point is not to change my circumstances.

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus doesn’t say come to me and I will take away all of your fears and your troubles and life will be peachy. He says that if we come to him, we will learn from him and find rest for our souls. Just because we rest doesn’t mean our problems go away. It means that Jesus will help us carry those burdens so that so that we will learn the lesson he wants us to learn.

My lamenting has led to hope. Hope is found in the midst of darkness and loss, where God is always present. Our pain must go somewhere, and Jesus asks us to bring it to Him. This doesn’t mean that we have weak faith, it just means that our faith is being tested. Do we trust Jesus enough to bring him our doubts, fears, and confusion? God is big enough to handle our disappointments in Him. He already knows how we are feeling and wants us to verbalize it to Him and give them up to Him. What we will find is that our heart felt lamenting to God actually draws us closer to Him.

John 16:33 – “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

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Prevented by the Holy Spirit?

blocked path

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. – Acts 16:6

Have you ever had a situation where everything seemed to be perfect and looked to be the right course that your life was taking? My wife and I thought for certain we would be moving to Michigan to minister in a great church. It all fit perfectly. Believe me, there were some issues that we would need to overcome, but they were not insurmountable. We fell in love with the people from the start. There was a lot of great things going on in the church. The former pastor had begun the process of much needed changes and the church was poised to move forward. We felt the call to go, until we got the call. The chairman of the search committee called to tell me that they did not have any specific reason, but they were going with someone else as their Senior Pastor.

The news couldn’t have come at a worse time. I was getting dressed and ready to go to another interview at a local church. Couldn’t this wait until after my interview? How was this news going to affect my interview I was about to have? What was God trying to teach me? What exactly was God telling me? I am sure that Paul and his “crew” were asking similar questions when the Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching in Asia. Didn’t God want the good news preached in Asia? Paul and his team were in the area and willing and able to do great things for God in Asia. Why did God not want them to go? We don’t know and will probably never know.

In Isaiah 55:8-9 God gives us a minor clue, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s plans and thoughts are greater and higher than anything we could ever dream up. My responsibility is to just remain faithful and depend on Him to reveal what He wishes to reveal in his own timing. This is never easy, but it is the only path that really makes sense. As wise as I may think that I am, I am limited by my humanness. I see my world and my future through a fallen and sinful human mind that is being sanctified each and every day, but it is still imperfect. God sees me and my future through the perfection of His will.

As I am sitting here writing this I am listening to music. One of my favorite songs came on my Amazon player. It is Your Love Never Fails by Jesus Culture. The chorus and bridge seems very apropos for where I am at right now:

You stay the same through the ages, Your love never changes, There may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning

And when the oceans rage, I don’t have to be afraid, Because I know that You love me, Your love never fails

You make all things work together for my good

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God’s Timing

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“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” – John 12:40

Have you ever thought about the implications of this verse? Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead, a sure sign that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus was in Jerusalem talking to the crowd and all of a sudden there is what some people said sounded like thunder but some heard a voice. This was God confirming He was going to do what Jesus asked Him to do, to glorify God’s name. And yet many still did not believe Jesus. Why? John responds with the above quote from Isaiah that God has blinded them and hardened their hearts or they would have understood and turned to Christ and be healed. Wait a minute. Doesn’t God want people to believe the words of Jesus? Yes, but it wasn’t time yet. If the Jews in Jerusalem had all turned to Jesus He would never have been able to complete the task He was sent to do, to be crucified for our sins. God timing is always perfect.

In August of 2013, I was standing outside the sanctuary where I serve as an Associate Pastor and I felt the presence of God around me. I have had only a few instances where this has happened and I know to listen closely when it does. God gave me a strong sense that my ministry at The Ridge was coming to an end. God did not give a timeline or map out the next steps, I hate it when He doesn’t give me the details, but He just wanted me to be faithful and move when He told me to move. So, I did what He wanted me to do. When I felt Him telling me to reveal to someone where I was at I would do so. I would pray over openings at other churches and apply when I felt God telling me to do so.

It has not been easy. I am not a patient person. I like to have my plans laid out nicely and thought through so that I can do what I need to do in order to make them come to fruition. Unfortunately, this can be done without God and without God’s timing. He is teaching me that while planning is important, there is a greater importance in trusting in God to work out the details and to walk by His spirit and not my own. One of my favorite verses has always been Ephesians 2:10. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Today this verse holds even greater significance because I see God working out the details of my life and ministry and I need to walk in them. I don’t want to get ahead of God or fall behind.

Another verse that God has recently put into my life is Nahum 1:7. “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” This verse has reminded me that God is good. He has plans for me and I need to take my refuge in Him. Right now I know my time at my current ministry is over as of December 31st, but I do not know where my next ministry will be. This is a very scary prospect because I will not have any income to take care of my family as of January. As a planner and a financially minded person this is not normal. From the world’s perspective it is foolish, but from God’s perspective it is perfectly sane. The Lord is good. He has and He will provide. I just need to be faithful and find my rest in Him.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” Psalm 62:5-8

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