Monday, October 18, 2010

Personal observations on the Great Commission Task Force Report adopted at SBC 2010

The following is a compilation of quotes from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force final report (that, I understand, was adopted by an estimated 3-1 margin at SBC 2010) These quotes contain every reference to associations in the report.

In studying the report I see a renewed emphasis on the autonomy of the local church and support for the local church. This is a much needed emphasis.

I see recognition of all gifts, including giving to the local association, as Great Commission Giving. This strengthens, and could be seen as encouraging, flexibility in giving by the local church. I do not believe that, in itself is a bad thing.

I see recognition that: ” we realize that we cannot direct individual Christians, local churches, associations or state conventions to take any particular or specific action.”

I see an encouragement of individuals, families, churches and associations to participate in direct mission efforts such as helping a nearby church or going to a far away place to do missions. Acts 1:8 at work.

I see an encouragement of local churches and their pastors, as well as associations and state conventions to provide training for and promotion of church planting and evangelism.

I am encouraged, in that we are located in an under served and under reached area of our nation, that emphasis is placed on supporting outreach and strengthening in such areas.

I see nothing in the report that recommends restructuring the governing bodies of associations.

I see nothing in the report that calls for dropping funding for associations.

Until specific actions are taken to implement the GCRTF recommendations we do not have any basis to make changes in our structure, policies or practices other than changes based on our understanding of God’s will for Central New York Baptist Association.

Quotes from GCRTF report:
Page 4:

State conventions are developing new ways of reaching North America, and local associations are devising new ways of linking churches together for ministry.

Page 6

All of our Baptist work beyond the local church must exist solely to serve the local church in this mission. This is true for every Baptist association, state convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention

Page 8

We will recognize the total of all monies channeled through the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention, the state conventions, and associations as Great Commission Giving.

Page 9

We call upon all Southern Baptists to celebrate every dollar given by faithful Southern Baptists as part of Great Commission Giving, including designated gifts given to any Baptist association, state convention, and to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Page 17

We hold to an ecclesiology that honors and affirms both autonomy and cooperation.
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force is well aware of this, and we realize that we cannot direct individual Christians, local churches, associations or state conventions to take any particular or specific action.

Page 18

Under “Challenges for Individual Christians”
Participate in a North American or international mission trip sponsored by your church or association at least once every four years.

Page 19

Under “Challenges for Individual Families”
Spend a family vacation participating in a local church or association sponsored mission trip.

Under “Challenges for Local Churches and Pastors”
Become knowledgeable of the mission field of your specific region, identifying the various people groups and developing a strategy to penetrate the lostness in your region. Be intentional in working with your local association, state convention and NAMB in pursuing this task.

Page 21

Under “Challenges for Local Churches and Pastors”
Get involved in a regular church planting program at some level of your congregation’s capability. This can include specific partnerships with another church, your association, state convention or NAMB.

Plan at least one evangelism training course annually for your church members; consider inviting members of other churches in your association to participate, especially smaller churches.

Plan at least one North American or international mission trip a year and/or encourage members to participate in mission trips sponsored by a local association.

Pages 22-23

Challenges for Local Associations
Enthusiastically embrace the missional vision and core values of the SBC allowing them to guide your work and set your priorities.
Adopt the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as your confessional basis of association and adopt some shared core values and priorities that characterize the cooperating churches of your association.
Organize quarterly associational prayer meetings for the conversion of the lost and the planting of sound churches in the underserved and unreached areas of North America and around the globe.
Work with state conventions and the SBC to set aside January of every year as a month of prayer for the conversion of unreached people groups around the globe.
Plan at least one annual foreign mission trip and one annual North
American mission trip and encourage all the churches in the association to participate, especially smaller churches.
Develop associational collections of evangelism and discipleship resources and regularly inform the churches about the availability of such resources.
Work with cooperating churches to plant at least one new church a year in an underserved area within or near to the association.
Work with cooperating churches to plan at least one mercy ministry focused outreach event every year.

Page 24

Under “Challenges for State Conventions”
Work with local associations and local churches to plan regional evangelism and discipleship training events on at least a semiannual basis.

Page 25

Under “Challenges for the Seminaries”
Cooperate with local associations, state conventions, NAMB and the IMB in planning and hosting church planting training that puts international missions and church planting in the life blood of all the students our churches entrust to your care.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Trip to Peru - September 2010

Departed, Tuesday, September 21 – Returned September 29-30Our team consisted of: Waylen & Cherlyn Bray, Ed Hart, Vincent McKever and Harold Wimbley. We arrived at Lima and did not find any one with a sign looking for us. After an hour of waiting and trying several phone numbers two nice people (Robert and Sonia) approached us and asked if we were looking for someone working with ReapSouth. We said yes. The entire hour they had been patiently waiting for a group of people who looked like Americans who might be on a mission trip. WE FAILED the “look like” test! Thoughts: *We changed dollars to Sols at the airport about 2.72 S to $1. Can be as high as 3 – 1. Look for a vender who advertises “no commission”.*After working with Robert and Sonia (translators) for a couple days we asked them if they would be interested in being part of our team. They were eager to join up and said they would be available if given enough notice. After talking with Arnold Austin – the missionary who debriefed us – he made a note to be sure Robert is assigned to Pastors Wayne and Rick in November.

Then we found a van to take our expanded crew to the Soyuz bus station. We grabbed a little food at the station and boarded the bus. The cost of the bus to Ica was 28 S (one way) or about $10. The on-board entertainment was two horror films about giant snakes. We arrived at Ica, took two taxis (about 8 S for each) to Pastor Wilfredo´s home. We got there at 1:30 AM. He was faithfully waiting for us. Thought:*The following is solid contact for Pastor Wilfredo after getting to Ica. Wilfredo Pardo HernandezCalle: Madre Selva No. 165 Urbanization, San Isidro, ICARing the doorbell and wait.Telephone 056-214254*If the flight is in the daytime it would likely be best to overnight in Lima, especially if Lima arrival time is after 2 PM.*Bathroom attendants seem to routinely charge 50 centamos and will provide a small amount of paper. Best to carry your own paper.

Wednesday

We had very productive meetings with Pastor. We asked about the possibility of Wilfredo coming to the USA and found that he was denied a visa on his first interview. We agreed to find out from our state department what we should do to make his visa available. He has his passport.I (Waylen) proposed that we have not been including Wilfredo in our planning process and therefore have not had the advantage of his knowledge of the culture and the people in our target area. Ed stated that we had had unanimous agreement on the vision trip that we should focus on Llauta and since then we have been diverted to Laramate with little positive results. After discussion we determined to recommend to our CNYBA team that we focus on Llauta with only side trips to Laramate, Huac-Huas and Ocana.

Wilfredo stated that this year had been very bad for him. Background: He had been sent to Ica with a sponsoring church in Lima. That church originally supported him with 900 S a month. A new senior pastor came to the Lima church and he told Wilfredo that he was not to go back to the mountains but instead should focus all his energy on the Ica church. Then the Lima church reduced his support and when it became obvious he was still going to the mountains cut him off entirely. Since then he has been bi-vocational. He works as a laborer and in other areas of building maintenance. This year Raquel had problems with her pregnancy and he could not leave her. She delivered by c-section in June and soon had an infection. That was coupled to depression that Wilfredo was experiencing due to the lack of moral and financial support.

We asked about why he had not baptized anyone in the mountains. He said he was not positive the people were true believers. Teaching for future trips should focus on baptism and church development. We discussed the need to strengthen “El Huerta” (the Ica church) while, at the same time, establishing the work in the mountains. We discussed ideas of VBS and Outreach teams for Ica as well as work teams to finish the repair work on the church building. They have done a beautiful job of tile on the floor downstairs and with paint and “fix up”.In order to maintain our presence in Llauta Pastor Wilfredo suggested he would seek out a student at the seminary who is self-employed and ask him to go to Llauta for 2 weeks each month under Wilfredo’s supervision. On our part, we will look for rental property in Llauta paying a year in advance so as not to lose it between trips. Wilfredo said it would be better to have him occasionally and another person regularly for extended stays but not a pastor on the scene until the work is established. A pastor on the scene would do everything and the people would not learn to function as a church.We had a nice lunch at McGrills (9 people 119 S) and then went to Tottus for some shopping. I bought a showerhead for the room Cherlyn and I are staying in. We rested some in the afternoon and then returned to McGrills for dessert – except for Robert, Sonia and Vincent who had a meal.

Thursday

Wilfredo was unable to go with us to Llauta since a woman who was to help Raquel failed to appear. I (Waylen) believe he would have gone if we insisted but we did not.

Wilfredo had engaged a van to take us to Llauta at a cost of 250 S. We left at 8:30 AM and arrived in Palpa at 10:30 AM where we bought some water and used bathrooms. About halfway to Llauta the driver stopped for lunch saying he had not eaten breakfast. We arrived in Llauta at 1:30 PM. We arranged for rooms at the Hostel owned by the village at a cost of 10 S per person per night. The driver promised (3 times) to return on Saturday between 12 and 1 PM to take us back to Ica.

We did a walking tour of Llauta and arranged to meet the doctor at the health center on Friday at 8 AM and to visit the Kindergarten at 9 AM. There is now 3-4 places to eat at in Llauta. That is likely a result of construction crews building the new plaza and a new school building.

Julio Ramos came to me to ask for a bible. On our last meeting he ridiculed the tract and witness I made to him. I had left my spare Spanish Bible in Ica. (Upon return to Ica I gave the bible to Pastor Wilfredo who was a little skeptical of Julio since he had been at the first encounter. He agreed to take it to Julio)

Friday

We went to the Salud (Health Center) and met with Dr. Jorge Gallarao Navarrete and Nurse Hermelinda Tivas Flores. The doctor began by saying that we had brought medicines last year expecting nothing in return. Then he produced a notebook with page after page of names, medicines and signatures (or thumbprints) representing the supplies we had given them. I probably did not respond appropriately, as I was overwhelmed with emotion. We discussed the ambulance and saw there was a need for two more new tires with tubes. There is also a need for fuel as the local government is not supplying the amount promised and needed. *We purchased tires and tubes in Ica for Wilfredo to send up by taxi.Then Hermalinda took over the discussion with a plan she has prepared and presented (along with the doctor) to the government. The plan is to involve education for mothers on nutrition for children birth through 3 years old. She presented it to us in print for our consideration. Hermalinda is a believer and is passionate about the problem of malnutrition among the little ones of the Llauta district. According to her report there are 104 between the age of birth and 3 with 49 being in Llauta central and the others are identified in Carhuacucho (24) and Pucara (31).

We then went to the Kindergarten to meet with Elsa, the teacher and sang, “Jesus Love Me”, in Spanish and looked over her situation. She has a lovely new space for the children but needs a stone fence/wall along the street about 50-60 ft to protect the children. She needs the girl’s bathroom to be finished (tile and paint) and a small storage shed.

Ed, Vincent, Harold and Robert went to meet with Theresa (secondary principal) and got a list of items the school needs. They need computers, sneakers, sweat suits and sports equipment. They have one volleyball for the entire school. They have the ability to install computers.At some point Ed committed to come back to Llauta for the close of school party December 15, to play “Papa Noel” and I will do a talk on Nicholas and link him to a generous heart stirred by Jesus to give gifts to those in need.I (Waylen) and Sonia met with Neilo, the Director of the schools and we agreed he would get in communication with me by email. The school needs some help with refurbishing a playground. Manual labor can be done by parents but they will need help with cost of basketball goals and concrete surface. I asked about the shrine to Saint Martin and Neilo said it will “disappear”. They would like assistance with English language classes and materials. (videos of practical matters such as employment and working in the fields, and dictionaries, etc). He would like help with buying refreshments for the Christmas party.We spent the afternoon looking at potential rental properties. We found rooms with a common bath (used by others as well) that could be rented for 30 S a month each and two rooms (more space – but same bath) could be had for 100 S. There is a house being constructed (part of a row of houses sharing the same outside walls) for the purpose of being rented but price is not set as yet. There is a municipality owned building but no one was available to discuss renting it. Saul Bendezu showed us around. His daughter, Nilda Bendezu, owned some of the property. Ed and I agreed to follow up in December and perhaps make a decision if we are empowered to by the CNYBA team to do so.

Saturday

We got up, packed up and vacated our rooms. After settling the bill we took our luggage to the square where we waited in bright sunlight. Hung out and visited with those who were available. At 10:45 we asked to use the loudspeaker to announce a meeting in the square. Robert made the announcement. Many people were away from the village at a Fiesta in Carhuacucho and others were in the fields. There were also those who go away to one of the cities on the weekend, About 10 adults and 12-14 children gathered with us. We sang some songs and the gospel was presented. When 2 PM came and no van we bought a phone card and called Pastor Wilfredo. He asked us to call back so he could call the van agency. Upon connecting with them they said the driver did not tell them about the appointment. They could not contact Laramate because of some problem with the landline. We told him that if we did not call him back we had found a way.

About 3 PM a mixto arrived but only had room for five. Harold looked in and said they did not have room for more than three. The driver said we should not worry as there was a bus coming along in about a half-hour. We moved our luggage to the bus stop and waited. The bus arrived and had plenty of room in the back for us and our luggage. The cost was 20 S each to Ica. Compared to the van we saved 110 S by taking the bus. 3:20-5:30 PM to Palpa and 5:30-7:45 PM to Ica. Robert explained where the seminary building was and the driver took a side trip and dropped us at the door.

Sunday

We went to church – Waylen preached in the AM. Took everyone to lunch a McGrill’s 13 people – 215 S.Back to church in the PM – Ed preachedPlaza del Sol food court for dinner – individual choice and dutch treat.

Monday

Met with Pastor for debriefing. Asked Wilfredo if our late arrival was a problem to him. He assured us it did not matter when we arrived. Also asked him about how he felt about the meeting we had on Wednesday and he said he had no problem with it. He was encouraged.We discussed the matter of recommending a focus on Llauta and everyone thought that what they had seen on the trip pointed in that direction. We discussed the fact that anyone who felt a need to go to Laramate certainly had the freedom to do so. This is not an all or nothing matter. We just believe housing in Llauta would allow us higher exposure there and the freedom to take a taxi to any of the other villages for a day or two would not be out of the plan. We recognize that two year’s focus on Laramate has not produced an ongoing group meeting much less a church.Wilfredo was asked about how positive the seminary students seemed to feel about the ministry in the villages. He said some have shown some interest but there has been no follow through. He will talk further with them and take one, or more, up to see what they think after a visit. If such a person is committed to go up they could accompany the November and December teams. If housing is rented in December Pastor Wilfredo would hold the key and monitor any use of the space between trips from the US.I asked if some of the believers in Ica could accompany teams to Llauta. Wilfredo said that would be a good thing when it can be done. We could meet with locals in Ica and pray together about the work.We will need to get some budget figure for locals going to or staying in Llauta fairly soon. Pastor Wilfredo asked if we could continue to use the hostel in Llauta and we said we could but costs will be much smaller if we just rented on an annual basis.We asked if it was possible to travel to Llauta in the rainy season. Wilfredo said yes of course many people do it all the time there just needs to be some flexibility on either end as a mudslide could close the road but it was never more than a few hours – up to a day – before the road is cleared again. So there needs to be a day on each end of the trip to allow for such incidents between November and March.Wilfredo pointed out that whoever goes as an outreach person must know that they are enlisted to start the work and we will be looking for a local pastor as the work develops. I pointed out that we need to help to strengthen the Ica church. I read “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.” Isaiah 54:2. We need to do bible clubs, music concerts, revivals etc as well as witness in the neighborhood. With a strong stake our tent can be larger.Ed asked if it would be possible to do some teaching at the seminary to help train people for mountain outreach. I pointed out that we are not trying to interfere with the seminary but add to its offerings. Ed asked about the schedule for the seminary. Most classes are two weeks in length a few are one week (evenings I think)I asked if the other pastors involved in the seminary would support such a plan. Wilfredo said he would have to talk with them. I asked if Ed and I could meet with some of them when we came back in December. Wilfredo said “Yes”.Wilfredo said that sometimes we have a vision not knowing the reality. We must be able to see the reality and then make plans.I stated that Dr. Jorge had said that we brought medicines without expecting anything in return. We need to keep it clear that we come to bring the gospel with no strings attached. Our material assistance must follow the pattern laid down by Jesus – doing for the least does for him – and by James in that faith without works is dead. We must work with the Health Dept., the schools and the local government without entering into any conflicts that may exist between them.We assured Wilfredo that he is an important part of our team. We asked him to speak up when he saw that we were on the wrong path.

In the afternoon we went to the Goodyear store and purchased tires and tubes that Wilfredo will pick up later to take to Llauta. Then we went to the Health Ministry to present a list of needed medicines given us by Dr. Jorge. I told Miriam that we had 500 S to spend and she took the list, eliminated the ones she did not have and created a list that cost 514.22 S with my permission. We took them back for Wilfredo to take up to Llauta next week.

Tuesday

We took taxis to Soyuz bus station bought tickets to Lima and took the ride. Movies were worse. Took taxis to Santa Cruz Hotel and checked in. 1 room for 3 men and one room for Cherlyn and I. $20 for each person for the night.I contacted Austin Arnold, the missionary assigned to debrief us by Mike Weaver. We walked to Kennedy Park to have dinner and meet with Arnold. We reported on our trip and the plan to involve the local people and the Ica church. I also pointed out our intention to establish a rental unit as our base in Llauta. Arnold said that we are on the cutting edge. The IMB has passed down directions to utilize such a plan. I told him we are continuing to supply medicines and tires for the ambulance.He seemed pleased with all that we had done and our plan for the future. I told him we had arranged to keep Robert and Sonia as part of our team and he seemed to think that was a good plan.

Wednesday

We checked out of the hotel and Sonia joined us to help us shop for some gifts.Hotel provided a van for trip to airport $30.Checked in at airport flew to Bogota and spent part of the night in a hotel provided by Avianca due to a problem with our connecting flight.ThursdayFlew to JFKPicked up our car and drove to Stamford.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

To the Ends of the Earth 100915
Isaiah 60

Twenty-one years ago I was told that all of Isaiah 60 applied to my ministry and that of this church. The person who told me that was Jack Taylor who was speaking in a conference in New London, CT. Over the years I had come to greatly appreciate Brother Taylor’s ministry so I kept the note he wrote for many years. I am sure it is in one of my old bibles – somewhere. It has always been my desire that this church, and any ministry I am part of, should reflect the message of Acts 1:8. The gospel is not just for a few – it is for all people of all ages. The first disciples were told that they would begin in Jerusalem, go out into Judea, on to Samaria and then to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 60 speaks of people from many nations blessing Israel. Applied to us it speaks of the blessings of many nations coming to us to strengthen the ministry here.

I. It is easy to slip back into a “me only” mentality.
A. When first saved it is pretty much about “ME”.
B. Missions becomes something we give to and others do.
C. Vision is self-centered.

II. Jesus told his disciples they would be empowered - Acts 1:8
A. To witness.
B. Where they were.
C. To whomever they met.

III. The gospel is for all people. Matthew 28:18-20
A. All have sinned.
B. All are condemned.
C. All who receive and believe become children of God.

We must remember that we have been called to reach out with the gospel. Our friends and family need to know Christ. Our neighbors and those we work with need to know Christ. We need to learn what it takes to open the hearts and minds around us to the gospel. We know the gospel is God’s will but we have not got a good grasp of God’s way of sharing the gospel. I will close with a story about a person who came to Christ over a period of time. Let’s learn from it.



By Bob Wood
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I first heard Sharon’s name (not her real name) as a prayer request. We were praying for lost persons in our circle of influence. A lady in our Sunday School class who worked with Sharon requested prayer for her. Sharon had no church background and was antagonistic toward Christianity.

Sharon’s first contact with our church was a Sunday School party. She came with her friend who was praying for her. Isn’t it interesting how people who won’t come to church will come to a party? At a simple party with food and board games Sharon’s perception of Christians began to change. Later she told me, “I was surprised. You guys didn’t have two heads and seemed to have fun.”

Sharon’s next contact with our church was months later; she sent her kids to VBS. Sharon’s third contact with was about a year later when she came with her friend to a Sunday morning worship service. After a few months of worship attendance, Sharon began attending our Sunday School class with her friend.

Finally, about two years after we began praying, Sharon’s friend shared the gospel with her and she accepted Jesus. She soon made a public profession of faith and was baptized. By the way, the next summer she was helping to teach VBS and hosted a backyard Bible club at her home.

What was the door to Christ and His church for Sharon? Was it Sunday School? Yes! Was it worship? Yes! Was it VBS? Yes! Most of all, it was a Christian friend who prayed for her, invited her to church events, and shared the good news of Jesus with her. Sunday School and worship can and should be partners in evangelism.

Friday, August 13, 2010

We are His Workmanship


Ephesians 2:4-10
But‍ God, being ‍rich in mercy, ‍because of the great love with which he loved us, even ‍when we were dead in our trespasses, ‍made us alive together with Christ—‍by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and ‍seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable ‍riches of his grace in ‍kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For ‍by grace you have been saved ‍through faith. And this is ‍not your own doing; ‍it is the gift of God, not a result of works, ‍so that no one may boast. For ‍we are his workmanship, ‍created in Christ Jesus ‍for good works, ‍which God prepared beforehand, ‍that we should walk in them.

Part of the pride of humanity is the concept of being a self-made man, being the master of your fate. Self-help and self-effort is often praised without thinking about the consequences. What “self” made of man is a disaster. All have sinned – the wages of sin is death – is what “self-made” and “self-help” leads to. Our only hope is grace through faith that is the gift of God. We are his workmanship. God warned Israel (more than 3500 years ago) of this. “Beware ‍lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for ‍it is he who gives you power to get wealth, ‍that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, ‍I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, ‍so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 8:17-20

I. Ephesians 2:10 says we are His workmanship.
A. Not by our works. Paul wrote to Titus the following words: “For ‍we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when ‍the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, ‍not because of works done by us in righteousness, but ‍according to his own mercy, by ‍the washing of regeneration and ‍renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he ‍poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that ‍being justified by his grace we might become ‍heirs ‍according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7

B. We can’t boast of our salvation. Paul wrote to the Roman Christians concerning our being justified by grace and he wrote: “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.” Romans 3:27

C. God does the work. The church at Philippi was told, “And I am sure of this, that he who began ‍a good work in you ‍will bring it to completion at ‍the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 The church at Thessalonica was give an even stronger promise, “Now may ‍the God of peace himself ‍sanctify you completely, and may your ‍whole ‍spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at ‍the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 ‍He who calls you is faithful; ‍he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

II. We are created in Christ Jesus
A. God’s gift is eternal life – in Christ Jesus. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

B. In him we become God’s righteousness. You see our righteousness will not serve. Isaiah cried out to God: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Isaiah 64:6 Paul wrote to the church at Corinth concerning this truth, “And because of him‍ you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us ‍wisdom from God, ‍righteousness and ‍sanctification and ‍redemption, so that, as it is written, ‍“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 and “For our sake he made him to be sin ‍who knew no sin, so that in him we might become ‍the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

C. Remember, there is no condemnation – in Christ Jesus. Paul wrote the Romans, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of ‍the Spirit of life ‍has set you‍ free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” Romans 8:1-2


III. We were created in Christ Jesus for good works.
A. Remember Ephesians 2:9 tells us that good works do not save us.

B. Instead good works grow out of our faith or belief. James wrote: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith ‍but does not have works? Can that faith save him? ‍If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good‍ is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:14-17

C. Jesus said that a tree is recognized by its fruit. Because we are created in Christ Jesus for good works we are to bear good fruit. Paul commended the Colossians “And so, ‍from the day we heard, ‍we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that ‍you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all ‍spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as ‍to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, ‍fully pleasing to him, ‍bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:10

We are naturally helpless in spiritual matters. We were born dead in trespasses and sins. A person who is spiritually dead cannot make spiritual decisions nor do anything that is acceptable to God. God, in Christ Jesus or Lord, made us alive. He did the work in us and enabled us to obey him and do the work he has called us to. We should take pride in our God and all he has does through us. We should never take pride in our work. It is only his work through us that bears eternal fruit.

Monday, May 24, 2010

In Him – Redemption
Ephesians 1:7-10

“In Him” is a wonderful thought. God brought many things into this world “in Him”. In us – that is “in mankind” – is the nature of Adam and Eve. Sin came into the world through Adam and death through sin and death passed to all men. Yet “in Him” we have so much more given to us. Much more than we can imagine, Today we will look at the redemption we have “in Him”. First, why do we need to be redeemed? Second, How were we redeemed? And, Third, what does redemption do for us?

Why do we need to be redeemed?
First of all, we were born in sin. Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought
forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This does not have anything to do with David’s mother or with the act of conception being sin. When King David wrote these words he was overwhelmed with the consciousness of his own sin. As he looked back on his life he realized that he had a sin nature from the beginning. In the same way, we too are born with a sin nature that separates us from salvation.

Very early in life we chose to sin. In Romans 5, Paul explains that even though sin came into the world through one man, causing death to spread to all men, death ruled even over those who did not sin as Adam did. No matter who we are we are subject to the facts: Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and Romans 6:23a, “the wages of sin is death,”

Before coming to Christ a person is dead in sin. Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body‍ and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

We are obviously in need of redemption. Praise God, in him we have redemption.

How were we redeemed?
Theologians speak of a covenant of redemption. This covenant within the Godhead among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit whereby each member of the Godhead participated in our salvation.

We were redeemed by God the Father sending Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-5, “But‍ God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—“.

We were redeemed by Jesus’ obedience even to death. Philippians 2:5-8, “Have 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 made himself nothing, 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.” The Son agreed to this covenant and submitted himself to take our sins in his own body and die our death for us.

We were redeemed by Holy Spirit’s calling and converting. 1 Corinthians 12:13a, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”. Jesus said he would send the comforter who would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement. This convicting is essential to a person coming to faith. Holy Spirit works in us before salvation to convince us of our sin and draw us to the goodness of God causing us to want salvation. Then he brings us into the body in salvation. Praise God – we needed redemption and God planned before the world was created to bring his people to salvation.

What does this redemption do for us?
Redemption frees us from bondage. Romans 6:17-23, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
“20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We were slaves to sin but are made free to become bond servants of Jesus Christ bound to him by his love and our love for him.

Redemption gives us a new allegiance. Colossians 1:11-14, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks‍ to the Father, who has qualified you‍ to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” When a believer comes to faith in Christ the kingdom of darkness is no longer home. The believer is transferred to the kingdom of the beloved Son of God.

Redemption makes us children of God. John 1:12-13, “to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” He has caused the believer to be born again – becoming a part of the family of God.

Paul wrote the Corinthians, “He (God) is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” We should praise God that we do not have to earn wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption because it is impossible for us to do so. We are redeemed by the blood of the lamb of God. And that redemption is not by our works done in righteousness but by his own mercy. Praise God!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blessed in the Beloved
Ephesians 1:1-6 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful‍ in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us‍ for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. *

Most Christians never stop to consider how we are blessed and what God has done for us. In this article we will consider this blessed condition and come to better understand why we should bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who has blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. What a wonderful thought that we have been blessed by the Creator of the universe. We should “bless” him in return. He has given us joy we should seek to be a joy to him as well. In his book, Desiring God, John Piper coined a phrase, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” Ephesians gives us lots of reasons to be satisfied in God and we should rejoice in them.

First, only in Ephesians we see the phrase: “. . . in heavenly places”.
He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Ephesians 1:3b Note that Paul tells us we are blessed – not we will be blessed – in Christ. In fact Paul goes on the say that God has seated us with him heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6 Most Christians believe that we will be seated with him in heaven but this passage is very clear that we are already seated with him – not we will be!

The church becomes his object lesson in heavenly places. Ephesians 3:8-13 “To me, (Paul speakingn) though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in‍ God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” God uses the church to teach the rulers and authorities in heavenly places the many-faceted wisdom of God. I once thought the angels (and demons) must be mystified at the treatment of man in salvation. Now I see that one of our purposes is to serve as an object lesson of the wisdom of God. Our salvation is part of God’s eternal purpose.

Heavenly places are the place of our warfare. Ephesians 6:10-12 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
As much as it may seem that people are our enemies. Or, as Pogo put, “We have met the enemy . . . and he is us.” Our true enemy is the thief that comes only to steal kill and destroy. It is our adversary who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. With the armor of God in place and the sword of the Spirit in hand we can “stand firm” no matter how evil the day may be.

Remember, he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.
Like Israel we are now the “Israel of God” Galatians 3:7 “. . . it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” Those who have come to Christ in faith are the true people of God. If you are a believer you are blessed in the Beloved. In Christ we are blessed. Romans 8:1-2 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.‍ 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you‍ free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” “No Condemnation” what a blessed thought! Our accuser comes around reminding us of all we have done wrong and our Advocate says we are not under condemnation because he has taken our sin in his own body on the tree. He nailed it to the cross. He buried it in the grave and left it there. As Corrie ten Boom said, (and I paraphrase) “God cast our sins in the deepest part of the sea and put a “no fishing” sign over it.” We have been delivered.

We are blessed! 1 Corinthians 1:30 “He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” We are not just saved and seated in heaven we are gifted with everything we need – wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Why do we still turn to our own meager resources when the resources of the Creator of the universe are available to us?

We are eternally blessed. 2 Timothy 1:9 (God) “saved us and called us to‍ a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,”. What an amazing thought “before the ages began” he gave us his grace. In fact, John tells us in Revelation 13:8 that our names were written “before the foundation of the world in the book of life.” You see God is not bound by time in any way. He knows the end from the beginning. Praise his holy name – we have been blessed!

He adopted us in love to the praise of his glory.
He brought us to adoption – not slavery to fear. Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” We are adopted into the family of God by the power of God and we can never be disinherited. He gave us his word! He adopted us in love. 1 John 4:16-19 “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” We can come to our father and receive blessing after blessing because of his love for us.

He guarantees our inheritance. Ephesians 1:11-14 “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee‍ of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,‍ to the praise of his glory.” The Holy Spirit seals us guaranteeing our spiritual life. It is in Him! We are blessed – in the Beloved!
It is so easy to fall into complicated discussions about predestination and election and miss the great blessing of God. He blesses his people with a secure blessing. We need to call on all people to come to the blessed God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone can save and the lost world should be pointed to him alone. He has blessed us in the Beloved!

*All quotes are from The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001, Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Way of Triumph, Mark 11:1-11 (All quotes from the ESV)
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’ ” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem a few days before he would be taken, beaten and crucified. Several things happened on the way to this triumphal parade. I think they are important and should be included in our understanding of this special day. We will look at the events immediately leading up to this momentous procession. Then we will think about the immediate after affects. Friday night we will think about the cross and, next Sunday, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the way with Jesus.
As Jesus was setting out on His journey to Jerusalem a man who asked about eternal life immediately confronted him. (Mark 10:17-31) Jesus asked him a question, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Perhaps Jesus was trying to goad the man into making the confession, “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.” We can’t know for sure but the man surely knew that certain words should be used of God alone. Then immediately Jesus quoted some of the commandments. All of them were man to man commandments. Paul used a similar list when he taught us that the greatest commandment is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:8-19) In neither list did the teacher quote the man to God commandments – not even the Sabbath commandment! It could be said that these two list are the “easy” commands while the first four of the ten commandments are impossible to keep without God himself working a work of grace in the heart.

When the man responded, “I have kept these from my youth,” the Bible says that Jesus “loved him.” I know, Jesus loves everyone, but Jesus LOVED this man and, I am convinced, there is a difference in these to ideas. This was a special love for one who was working hard at pleasing God. So Jesus tested his level of commitment by saying, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” The man went away disheartened because he had many possessions. Or rather many possessions had him.

Jesus then stated that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Now lots of commentators, teachers and preachers have tried to take away the impossibility of what Jesus had said. Remember, the way in is to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” and if he is Lord then our possessions become his and if our possessions are not his then he is not Lord. Jesus is either Lord of all or not Lord at all.

The disciples’ response of “Then who can be saved?” shows that they understood that even though they might have physically left all to follow him theirs hearts were still selfish and greedy. Praise God, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Jesus assured them that God knew and would reward – along with persecutions – and give eternal life.

Then Jesus went on to tell them that cross was waiting. (Mark 10:32-34) At least three times he had told them he would be taken, beaten, crucified and raised from the dead. He had been very clear on this subject. One has to question where the disciples’ heads were at when they heard these things because of the next exchange.

James and John, two of his closest men, wanted a promotion. (Mark 10:33-45) Remember that a short time before they, along with Peter, had been there on the mountain when Jesus met with Moses and Elijah. The same trio had been the only ones taken into the room when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. These were special men – key disciples. Now he had just told them and the others that he was going to his death – a very violent death. Instead of being dismayed and grief stricken they want assurances that they will be able to be his number one and two commanders in the coming kingdom. How could they? Had they not heard? Did they care? We may find out in heaven but we will never know for sure.

Jesus did not reject them – he challenged them with a question. “Can you drink the cup I am about to drink?” Again, what were they thinking when they replied, “We are able”? Jesus assured them that hey would and then told them not to be like the world, demanding to be served, instead to follow his example that they would have so strongly demonstrated in a few days when he washed their feet an the table.

The journey continued and at Jericho Jesus met the son of Timaeus, a blind beggar and immediately restored his sight. (Mark 10:46-52) The denseness of his disciples did not stop – and does not today – the ministry of Jesus.

A borrowed donkey.
Entering the city on a borrowed donkey characterized Jesus’ ministry. (Matthew 8:18-20) Jesus had lived his life of ministry with few, if any, personal possessions. He had nowhere to lay his head. The guards had to cast lots for the robe that had been put on him when he was crucified. He had described himself as humble. (Matthew 11:28-30) Paul reminds us that he made himself nothing. (Philippians 2:5-8) He did that for us: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

He had an honor guard of the common people.
Jesus’ followers were mostly common. (John 7:48-49) As Paul would later write: “not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26b-31)

A few were wealthy but not many. (Nicodemus – Joseph of Arimathea)

The presence of all these uneducated commoners offended the religious leaders. (Luke 19:37-40) Jesus responded to them with, “if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” We need to be careful whom we reject. We also need to be careful whom we listen to. As John wrote in his first little letter: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,” (1 John 4:1-2)

Jesus faced many difficulties on his way to the cross. The people had no way to understand. His disciples should have but just didn’t get it. They, like the crowds, were trying to divide the kingdom among themselves. Jesus faithfully moved on and ministered as he traveled. In the same way we need to keep on with our faith and minister as we have opportunity. We are to bear our own cross day-by-day. Not a burden but a cross of death to the world and life crucified with Christ.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I had an exciting night last night.(Mar 25-26) About 7 PM I started feeling dizzy - a little - after moving around some about 7:15-30 I found myself very dizzy. I told Cherlyn, "Just in case something happens, I feel really dizzy". Then very ungraciously I fell into my recliner. Cherlyn came over to look closely at me - didn't like my answers and called the ambulance. The next thing I knew my favorite EMT - PR2B was asking questions taking vitals and making things happen. By 8 PM we were on the way to Fox Hospital in Oneonta. ER and evaluation - Dr proposed I had had a TIA. I was in no condition to argue. When the EKG was set up and recorded I heard the technician say, "What a beautiful rhythm." Words I really wanted to hear.
I was admitted for observation which means they won't let you sleep and if you do they wrap something around your arm and squeeze it. Actually I got a few good naps in while they were not looking. This morning, after lots of waiting around for one thing or another I was released into Cherlyn's custody and got home about noon.
Have a follow up appointment with Dr. Sue at Riverside Clinic here in Stamford next Tuesday and a radiology appointment for a doppler test on my carotid arteries.
Now for about 20 lbs of me going away. Pray for me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Overcoming Weakness and Fear

Joshua 1:1-9

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua, the son of Nun, was Israel’s first military commander. He had been faithful through the years of wandering in the wilderness. He had led the first army of Israel against Amalek. Once he and Caleb presented the minority report when ten others had said, “It can’t be done.” Joshua and Caleb said, “. . . the Lord is with us, do not fear. . .” He had been with Moses on the mountain of God when the Ten Commandments were handed down. He was Moses’ right hand man from the earliest struggles until the death of Moses. Now Joshua no longer had Moses to look to. He now represented the “older generation.” Now he faced perceived weakness and real fear. What to do? God is very specific.

He had the promises of God.

God had given them the land. (Deuteronomy 11:24) It had been promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. We are reminded by Samuel that God will not lie. The promises of God are true. He always keeps his word. Even if we are unfaithful he remains faithful. Praise his holy name!

He promised victory as Joshua had understood when he and Caleb had been part of the spy group who entered the land. (Numbers 14:6-9) Joshua and Caleb had seen what the others could not. The protection of the people of Canaan had been removed. The living God will always bring about his victory for his people. It is still true today. Don’t accept defeat instead seek the Lord – his will and his way.

God promised Joshua his presence. I remember a time in my own life when two bullies had taken my motorcycle (1950 Harley) without permission. I called my Dad and he said, “Stay right there”. In just a few minutes he was there. He asked where these guys’ car was. I pointed it out. He went to it raised the hood – did something — and closed the hood again. Then we sat on the bench and waited. In time they returned from their joyride. My Dad asked them, “Did you have permission to take the motorcycle?” They honestly said, “No”. Then my Dad pointed at me and said, “Give him five bucks.” Slowly and with a shocked look on his face one of the two reached in his pocket and handed by the money. Dad then handed him the rotor out of his distributor. It was good to have the presence of my Dad at that event. It is good to know we have a heavenly Father who also cares for us.

God’s word was with them.

It had given to Moses in the wilderness. There was no government handbook or military tactics manual like we might rely on today. There was only the word of God. Well, folks, that is sufficient.

Joshua was to bury it in his heart. Psalm 1:1-2 tells us: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Joshua was to meditate on the “book of the law”. This would build his trust in the covenant keeping God that we serve. As the little boy is reputed to have said, “The Lord is my shepherd and that’s all I need.” It is enough to be faithful to God’s word – he will do the rest!

Joshua was not just read and meditate on the word he was to do the word. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus says: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” In order for God’s word to be effective in our lives we must do what he said!

God gives success.

God always has plans for his people and those plans are good. In Jeremiah 29:11 God told exiled Israel: “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This not just for past believers it applies to us as well. All the promises of God find their “YES” in Jesus. What he wills for us he will do.

We are to trust God not our human strength. The Bible makes this very clear. Proverbs 3:5-8 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” When Gerald Ford was sworn in as President of the United States he had the Bible open to these verses. It was reported that later he said he could only get through the hard early days of his time in office by coming often to these verses and reminding himself that he must rely on God – not his own understanding. It worked for Joshua as he faced weakness and fear. It worked for our president and it will work for us.

We must always remember that victory belongs to God. Paul wrote to the Romans these encouraging words: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

Every honest believer will admit there are times when we face weakness and fear. We are like Moses by the Red Sea just before he stretched out the Rod of God and parted the sea. When God asked the question, “Why do you cry to me? DO IT!” God said apparently because Moses did not know what to do. He did however know that God knew what to and would do it. We must live by promises of God – then and only then will we defeat weakness and fear.

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ephesians 3:14-21). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

I forget that my strength is from the Lord and not from myself. Paul's prayer in Ephesians reminds me that I am not only to pray this prayer (or one like it) for others but also to pray this prayer for myself. I also should invite others to pray this prayer for me. I need spiritual strength. I need strength to understand to greatness of God's love. I need to be filled with the fullness of God.

I, and others, are facing decisions about an upcoming trip to Peru. We need God's will and way with regard to this important ministry. Because of spiritual static it has been hard to hear exactly what God is saying. Sometimes I am shouting (internally) to loudly to hear God.

Pray for me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

God's Architecture

God’s Architecture
1 Corinthians 3:9-17 “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

Has anyone ever told you that you are worthless? If not, you have been specially blessed, or protected, by God. The world around influences the way we think of ourselves. God alone should influence our thinking and the only real source of information on that subject is the Bible. “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. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)

Have you ever thought about your life as a building constructed of various materials, some good and priceless, some bad and worthless? Have you considered that there have been many builders working on your life building? The truth is most are just subcontractors working for the two primary firms. Let’s call them “The Thief’s Trash Team” and “Christ’s Master Builders”. I am not saying we should live in doubt as to our eternal salvation. That is not what this is about. I am thinking about our position and our condition. After a person is born again and has become a believer he, or she, has a secure position. Jesus said: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-30)

That’s the position of the saved person. However, our condition is another matter. Our condition is where we are at the present time. Christians can be deceived. We have an enemy who works hard at deception. Christians can be willful and rebellious. We should avoid sin at all costs but we sometimes forget that. So, our position and condition should be carefully aligned but often are out of sync.

Let’s be careful how we build on the one foundation. Specifically, we must be careful WHO we let build in our lives. Over the past few years Cherlyn, my wife, and I have erected an addition to our house. It was with pride that I did most of the labor. There were things I could not do. I needed help lifting the walls and setting the trusses. I needed someone else to show me how to do the electrical wiring. The results are far from perfect but do represent our energy and effort. I was careful whom I asked to help. Even with that there is one spot that I turned my back on someone I trusted and the result was not what I wanted. I can live with it. I also have to live with imperfections I allowed into my life building. Some God has graciously removed but many remain to remind me of my weakness and God’s strength.

When we were without salvation – in our natural condition – we lived in the domain of darkness and as such were constantly letting the Thief’s Trash Team have access to our life building. The Thief was sending his subcontractors onto the job as Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
We often hear someone say, “God has a plan for your life.” He does for sure but we seem to forget that Satan also has a plan for our lives. The apostle Peter put it this way: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

How do we deal with that? We must resist the Thief. James tells us that it is a two-step procedure: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) If we try to resist the devil in our strength he will laugh and we will fail. Only after we have submitted ourselves to God can we hope for victory. When we are weak he is strong and is committed to our defense. When we come into the family of God we change building contractors.

We are now using Christ’s Master Builders. The tools change: “you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)

“Apostles and prophets” do not refer to some office in the church today. Such offices may be part of God’s structure but that is not what scripture refers to. “Apostles and prophets” refers to the Bible. Old and New Testament both become the tools God uses in our lives and the devil works to keep us away from. There is an old saying I remember from my early years. “The Bible – It will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible.” Just set a time aside every day to read the word and ask God to make it part of your life and plan to allow it to shape your life building. Then see what happens. Everything will get in the way. You will need to be somewhere else. You will be reminded of another matter that needs attention. The devil will be allowed to attack that commitment so we can learn to train our will to obey our Lord.

The foundation corner, or keystone, of the believer’s life building is Jesus Christ. That is not some decorative and informative fa├žade on the corner of the building it is the keystone that is cut into the underlying rock that allows the building to hold together when the storms of life come our way – and they will come! Jesus said: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24) That house will stand! The foundation is solid it cannot be moved.

The result of using the right contractor and the best subcontractors is a temple of God. “Living stones built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4-8) is the way Peter put it. Believers become God’s Temple on earth. Jesus spoke of two or three gathered in his name. He said he would be with them. That is a special “with them”. He never leaves those who trust in him. So when we are alone he is there but there is a difference when other believers are with us. The devil will try to keep us from fellowship just as he tries to keep us from the Bible.

So we must be careful who we let subcontract on our job. We need to build to a stringent building code. In fact it is God’s fire code we need to conform to. The world, the flesh and the devil build into our lives with wood, hay and straw. These are materials made to burn. When confronted with the judgment of God’s fire it will burn.

Peter was more specific: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21) That sounds a lot like much of modern “entertainment” on TV, movies and the Internet. We let that material into our life building and at the judgment it will burn and we will feel it.

We need to build fireproof material into our lives. As Peter continued his teaching he wrote: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:19-23) That is the person God can make us into if we will just submit ourselves to him and resist the devil and all his subcontractors.

I am not talking about “works salvation” the Bible is clear about that. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

We, however, are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. (Ephesians 2:10) That is God’s plan for our lives and when we choose the wrong subcontractor we weaken our work and witness and when we choose the right subcontractor we strengthen – not just our own lives – the lives of an unknown number of others who are affected by our lives. You who are saved are God’s Temple – LIVE LIKE IT! It’s worth it – day by day – as well as in the Day of Judgment.

(All quotes are from the The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001, Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)