Talking about Sexual Immorality

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When we talk about sexual immorality, it really boils down to do we believe that God is the designer and creator of all things. And as the designer, He designed our bodies perfectly. And then He gave us a manual, His word, to give us non-negotiables for how we are to function to avoid unnecessary pain.

As the world becomes more and more immoral, we see pain increasing. Marriages are breaking down and children are hurting. Pornography is affecting all spheres of society. The LGBTQ lifestyle is causing a dramatic increase in depression and suicide. Young children’s bodies are being mutilated in order to appease a lie – an identity that is not from the Designer.

The world is seeing the effects of a fatherless generation due to promiscuity and selfishness.

That is just some of the effects of not believing the designer and his manual.

The most common Greek word translated as “sexual immorality” is porneia (πορνεία). And it means, fornication, whoredom, adultery, and Idolatry. It means to surrender sexual purity.

Porneia defines any sexual activity outside of the boundaries of a biblical marriage.

Those claiming to be Christians who persist in immorality, cannot come into the presence of God (Psalm 24:3-4). We cannot possibly maintain a healthy intimacy with God when we are giving our souls, minds, and bodies to immorality.

In John 8 we read an account of Jesus teaching in the temple courts when the Pharisees barge in and interrupt the meeting by bringing a woman, that they had “caught” in adultery, right in front of Jesus for all to see. It is an obvious set-up, and they want to catch Jesus speaking contrary to the Law of Moses.

Jesus doesn’t respond to them; he simply begins writing in the dirt on the ground.

They keep pressing Jesus, wanting an answer to spring the trap, and then he finally stands up, the tension in the room rises and he says, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7b.And then he simply stooped down and began writing on the ground again. As the tension grew, their consciences began to be provoked and the older, perhaps wiser or more guilty men, began walking away.

Jesus was left with the woman and asks her, “where are your accusers?” To which she responds in verse 11, “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus sets her free, relieving her of any condemnation and giving her lifegiving counsel, “leave your life of sin”. She leaves in freedom.

Notice the irony of the story.  The accusers leave one by one, convicted of their sin, but not realizing that the only one who could forgive them of their sins was standing right in front of them. The accusers left, still in bondage. But the woman who was the accused, walked away free.

When it comes to sexual immorality, we are all guilty. This is because sexual immorality, like all sins, begins in the mind, in the thought life (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus raises the bar on the perfect design he created for sexual intimacy between a husband and a wife.

We know that the one who casts doubt on the perfect design of God, is also the one who’s only agenda is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

Look at the fruit.

A high percentage of pre-marital sex results in abortion.

Homosexual activity cannot produce life, but rather a staggering escalation in depression and suicide.

People addicted to pornography isolate, and retreat from community, and slowly die from the inside.

Sexual immorality destroys lives, families, and generations.

The problem that we face in the 21st century is that we are so desensitized to immorality that we tolerate sinful behavior, and even embrace it as a bad habit or a minor struggle.

Paul writing about unrepentant sinners, who are practicing sinful lifestyles, their sin will lead to eternal separation from God 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

So how do we respond as the church, believing what God’s word says regarding sin.

There is a very dangerous message that is being taught in churches and by evangelists all around the world, “God loves you just as you are…”

And when people hear that, they hear that there are no conditions to being a Christian, “I can continue to live in rebellion towards God, I don’t have to leave my sinful lifestyle. I don’t have to repent of my sin, I must just accept Jesus into my life.”

The Bible is clear that God hates the unrepentant sinner who has chosen a lifestyle of rejection of God and His Word (Psalm 5:4-5, Proverbs 6:16-19, James 4:4).

 R.C. Sproul said, “God doesn’t send the sin to hell, he sends the sinner to hell.

It is extremely dangerous to neglect repentance in our presentation of the Gospel. We simply don’t have a right view of the holiness of God.

True joy and peace are only found in Jesus, as we follow him in walking in purity. God desires purity and holiness from us, not for His benefit, but because it is for our good. Sadly, as the church, frequently we are the scribes and the pharisees, pointing fingers at other people’s sin, while at the same time being enslaved to private sins.

Today, you can walk in freedom. Don’t continue to live a lifestyle that leads to death.

Do you trust the designer? Do you trust His operations manual?

A Case for Suffering

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Everybody who has ever lived has experienced some kind of suffering.

The Bible speaks a great deal about suffering. In James 1, the half-brother of Jesus is writing to the tribes of Israel who have been dispersed from the promised land because of persecution. He was writing to a suffering people.

One would think he would be commiserating with them and consoling them, but rather he says, “consider it pure joy”. In our culture this seems insincere and even uncaring. However, James knows something that we so easily forget, life is temporal.

As children of God, those who have submitted to the Lordship of Jesus over our lives, we also submit to the refining and the testing of God in our lives.

James 1:4 is a wonderful promise, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

God is not satisfied with baby Christians. He wants so much more for us. God wants us to grow in faith, spiritual maturity, and in our relationship with him. The maturity described in James 1:4, comes through trials and testing.

You might be amid the fire right now, crying out to God for relief for the suffering you are going through. The Bible encourages us to persevere and not to give up (James 1:12).  

Suffering exists in the world because sin exists. When Adam and Eve sinned, death and suffering became the common human condition. The introduction of sin into creation, gave Satan a limited rule as the god of this age.

There are various sources of suffering.

  • Our own poor choices cause suffering. Making choices that are detrimental to our health and wellbeing. This includes alcohol, drug abuse, and reckless behavior.
  • We also suffer because of fallen human nature. People are sinful by nature and do things that hurt others.
  • Many times, suffering is as a result of Satan and his demons (John 10:10 and Job 2:4-6). Sometimes we give the enemy a foothold by the choices we make. Living with sinful behaviors, we experience the suffering that Satan inflicts, simply because we have stepped out of the covering of God over our lives.

If you are experiencing suffering today because of sinful choices, repent, get back to your first love and put on the full armor of God as we read in Ephesians 6.

  • Sometimes God causes suffering, ultimately, He is sovereign. God is not mocked and when people persist in sin, God causes suffering as judgement. God does not inflict suffering out of sadistic pleasure, but out of a desire to draw people to Himself. When people refuse to repent, the suffering serves as part of the due penalty for sin (Romans 6:23).  
  • Then we have the suffering that God uses to train, refine, and test His children. In Hebrews 12, the author encourages us to submit to discipline for our good (Hebrews 12:7 and 11).

Whether God intentionally causes suffering or allows it in our lives, He uses it for our good.

As we grow in faith and confidence in the goodness of God, no matter how hard the journey, when we see our Heavenly Father face to face, our eyes will be opened and we will be eternally grateful (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).

Sometimes the suffering seems too much to bear, and we wonder why God allows a person to suffer so much pain through no apparent fault of his or her own. In time like this, it is okay to cry out to God and be real with our emotions. This is developing our relationship with God, the tension of growing and trusting.

Sometimes, it takes suffering to enlarge our view of God.

The apostle Paul knew about suffering. In 2 Corinthians 12 we read that to keep him from being conceited, God gave him a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass him.

Paul pleaded with God for it to be removed. We have no details about his suffering but God responded to his plea in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul goes on…” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

It is a good thing we don’t know what his “thorn” was, because no matter what our sufferings may be, we are able to apply the lessons Paul learned and gain encouragement.

We may not know what the “thorn in the flesh” was, but we must never forget that God allowed it. God is in control and allowing your thorn in the flesh for His purposes and His glory.

CS Lewis writes, “we can ignore even pleasure, but pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

God used Paul’s thorn in the flesh to focus his attention on Christ.

If God has allowed you to suffer, some kind of painful emotional, physical or spiritual struggle, pray that God uses this to draw you into a place of greater dependence on Him. And ultimately towards being mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4).

The Sanctity of Life

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Human life is a gift from God. It begins with conception and ends with natural or accidental death.

Human life is far more than a mere physical and temporal existence. The conversation on the sanctity of human life must be seen through the lens of eternity.

On January 13th, 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued a presidential proclamation, designating Sunday, January 22th 1984 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

Last June, the Supreme Court finally overturned Roe v. Wade in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. States, including Missouri, have immediately enacted legislation preventing and limiting abortion.

But is the battle for the sanctity of life over?

Sadly, the battle for life will not be over until Satan is finally bound and cast into the fires of Hell (John 10:10).  

But the real question is, how much do we value life across all seasons from conception to the aged?

Beginning with the unborn, David recognizes the value of his own life even before he was born in Psalm 139. Life begins at conception and from that instant, our days are planned by God.

Every life is precious to God and has unlimited potential.

As the Church we need to be active in the fight for life. Adopting children and helping other believers who feel called to adopt.

As the Church we are compelled to care for those who have had an abortion. These are women who, for whatever reason, were forced to make a very difficult choice. Are we ready to share the love of Christ and lead them to the healing and forgiveness that is only found at the cross of Jesus Christ.

Our prayers for the life of the unborn must continue. But what about those who are elderly, disabled or unable to provide for themselves?

As believers, we believe that God controls the day of our birth and the day that we die, we trust the Lord with His perfect timing. Even when life ends tragically and unexpectedly, we must trust that the Lord is sovereign.

However, today we are seeing an increasing acceptance of Physician Assisted Suicide or Euthanasia.

This practice has been legal in the Netherlands, Canada, and now in ten US states.

Healthy societies are founded on the principles of preservation of human life. This is an increasingly slippery slope.

I am aware that this is a vast discussion and cannot cover it in a few lines. There is a difference between a patient refusing life saving treatment and doctors delivering lethal doses of medication to people who do not have a terminal illness.

There is a growing acceptance and legal permission for someone to die, who is not in a physically terminal situation, people with depression or chronic pain for example.

There have been instances where insurance companies have paid for physician-assisted suicide instead of treatments for terminal illnesses. Sadly, it’s easy to see why they would do that in a world where money is the god of the age.

Assisted suicide is neither compassionate nor an appropriate solution for those who are suffering.

By allowing physician-assisted suicide, we are determining that God cannot heal that particular situation. I believe it is evil and demonic, because it prevents any further glory for God and unless they are saved by the blood of Jesus, the person dying is going to experience eternal suffering that is far worse than anything they experienced in this world.

Daniel Callahan writes, “If death is an insult to the human condition, that insult requires a spiritual, not a scientific, remedy.”

Believers do not have the right to take their own lives. 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20 says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

But what about those that the world says, they are no longer valuable. They do not contribute in a meaningful way in society, those who are mentally or physically disabled. What does the Bible say about the value of their lives?

There is an account of a miracle that Jesus did in Luke 8, that I believe speaks to all of us about how we are called to treat the disabled people in our society. Jesus goes across the Sea of Galilee with his disciples and casts out thousands of demons from a man that his community had rejected and abandoned.

The demons go into the pigs and this causes quite a stir in the local community.  In fact, verse 35 tells us that when the people see the man, clothed and in his right mind sitting at the feet of Jesus, they were afraid.

I believe that mentally disabled people who are unable to make a personal decision to follow Christ because of a disability, will be saved. They will be clothed and sitting at the feet of Jesus in their right minds. I believe that Jesus loves the disabled and those that the world rejects as if they are of no value.

I wonder if the people were afraid, they had treated this formerly demon-possessed man so badly, and he could remember them. How have you treated the mentally disabled and the demon possessed people you have encountered?

Every human life has a purpose and is valuable. The unborn have potential to proclaim the Gospel message to the nations and the sick have the potential to be healed and bring glory to God through their testimony. This should be the basis of the discussion for Christians engaging in the debate of the sanctity of human life.

In our culture today we are seeing the effects of the religion of humanism. A total rejection of God as creator. When you take God off the throne and worship mankind instead, then autonomy and the self-governance becomes the ultimate good.

Chuck Colson wrote, “Human beings have an infinite capacity for self-rationalization. If you push human beings to the edge, if you have an extreme situation, almost anything can be justified.”

We hold a great responsibility to protect life and uphold the value of life at every stage, from the moment of conception through natural death.

How do you value life?

Let’s Talk about Money

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Fifteen percent of everything Jesus said in the Gospels relates to finances. There is eternal significance regarding finances.

Everything we own will end up in a landfill (Matthew 6:19).  This might sound depressing, but the truth is that everything we own will be lost.

Yet we fight over things and families split apart over inheritances. We spend hours fighting and wrestling to earn more money to buy things that will be thrown in a dumpster one day.  

Jesus said that there is a better way to live (Matthew 6:20).

So, what are treasures in heaven? Jesus instructed the rich young man in Matthew 19 on how to store up riches in heaven.

The Bible says that we will receive rewards in heaven as a result of how we live today. What you do with your time, your money, and your relationships are all potential deposits in an eternal treasure house.

 “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead” Randy Alcorn.

Having money and being wealthy is not a bad thing. However, the way we view money and how we use the money we have today is the way we store up treasures in heaven. It is a matter of ownership, who owns our earthly treasures?

From Psalm 24:1 we know that God owns everything, and we get the opportunity to be stewards of what God always owns. We are investment managers of God’s resources.

Are you devoted to the Lord or are you devoted to money and possessions?

We live in a materialistic society where there is a constant striving to accumulate money and things, that will eventually rot away.

It really is all about having an eternal perspective. But many Christians live as if this is all there is. Many professing Christians love the concept of eternal life and heaven, but it is disconnected from their daily reality (Philippians 3:20). Our home is a place we have never been.

AW Tozer wrote, “As base a thing as money often is, yet it can be transmuted into everlasting treasure. It can be converted into food for the hungry and clothing for the poor. Any temporal possession can be turned into everlasting wealth. Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality.”

Many of you are struggling financially, and simply making ends meet is a challenge. Inflation, natural gas prices, medical debt, and other life expenses are the present realities of most people.

Jesus is not speaking to rich people in Matthew 6, he was primarily speaking to his disciples. These were men who had nothing, they had left their livelihoods and followed Jesus when he called them.

Jesus told them not to worry in Matthew 6:31-32. It was not an encouragement or a suggestion, it was a command! Our heavenly father knows what we need. Do we believe this?

The kingdom of God is counterculture, it is counterintuitive. The world says that in order to be secure and have peace, you must amass wealth, storing up for a rainy day.

I am not saying that saving and being frugal is a bad thing, but security in the kingdom of heaven is found when we are generous.

It is a Biblical and accepted principle to worship God by giving to Him. Giving 10% is a good principle, a starting point as a spiritual discipline. We are no longer under the Mosaic law, but Jesus didn’t lower the bar when he preached, he raised the bar. Every New Testament teaching on giving always goes beyond a 10% tithe, it never falls short of it.

So, the question is not whether or not I am giving 10% to the Lord, the question is, what am I doing with the other 90% that the Lord has entrusted to me? After all, it all belongs to Him.

Am I using the 90% for the Lord’s glory or am I wasting it on pleasure, and on things that do not please the Lord.

I encourage you to give 10% of your income to the work of the ministry of your local church, and then as the Lord leads you, give over and above to missionaries and ministries that advance the Gospel.

This is not giving to God to become rich in this present age. The false teaching that says if you give $1000 to God, he will bless you with a tenfold return or more. That is not the Gospel.

If the Gospel seems to be more true in America than it does in rural China or central Africa, then it is not the good news of Jesus Christ. God is not a vending machine who responds to us as if He is there to do our bidding.

Now if we follow God’s principles and honor him with our money, it is usually results in prosperity, but that is the blessing of the Lord for His glory and not a response to our manipulation.

God wants us to be generous with the blessings that He gives us. Generosity comes from knowing that everything we have comes from the Lord and that our God never runs out of resources.

God blesses us so that we can be a blessing (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).

Let us become a people who are generous, resulting in…thanksgiving to God.

You may ask, with all this talk of generosity and giving, don’t we live in a season of financial uncertainty? I am sure you have heard the reports of recession. However, whenever there is fear, there is also manipulation. God always calls His church to walk in the opposite spirit (2 Timothy 1:7).

Do you want to recession-proof your finances? Invest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6:33).

If you were to die today, how much have you invested in eternity?

Is God calling you to be a more generous giver?

Is God calling you to commit all your finances and resources into His care?

We Need to Talk!

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We need to talk!

Those four words have a way of causing increased levels of anxiety.

It usually means, there is an issue we need to discuss, something that is out of line that needs to be addressed. We need to have a difficult conversation.

As followers of Jesus, we have the responsibility to be the salt of the earth. We have an obligation to speak the truth in love.  This could mean having difficult conversations with our friends, family and especially in the church.

We live in an age where to disagree with someone is regarded as hateful and unloving. However, to confront someone with the truth is the most loving thing we could do.

We live in an age where truth is suppressed and even the most fundamental human truths are no longer definable if you want to be accepted. But this is nothing new, Satan questioned the truth of God in Genesis 3:1 when he tempted Eve.

When talking about truth and God’s word as the authority for our conversations, we must establish what the Bible says and begin there. We don’t have the option to discard selected truths in the Bible because we find them hard to accept in our post-modern culture.

So, at the outset of this series, we must look at the foundation of truth. Without the foundation of the Word, we cannot speak truth in our culture. We have no authority and no basis for the truth.

Psalm 19 begins as the Psalmist declares the general revelation of God through nature, but then David changes from the general revelation to the special revelation of God in verses 7 to 9. In these verses we see six different names, six attributes, and six ministries of the word in the lives of those who read and obey this revelation.

 Verse 7a: The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul.

The word “Law” refers to the Torah or the instructions of God.  It refers to helpful teaching and a set of instructions for life.

The first attribute is that this Law is perfect, it doesn’t need to be edited. It is the fine surgical instrument that God uses to turn people from darkness to light.

The first ministry of the Word is that it, “it revives the Soul.” The word of God is supernatural in its application. Reviving the soul means to convict and bring people back to their original place. Spiritual new life is found in the Word of God.

Verse 7b: The testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple.

A testimony is a recalling of what God has done. All Scripture testifies to the nature and character of God as it is the revelation of Jesus.

The attribute of this testimony is that it is sure, reliable and trustworthy. The Bible is a foundation on which we can safely build.  There is no foundation as secure as the Word of God on which to build your life.

And the ministry of this testimony is that it makes wise the simple. The term for simple here means inexperienced but teachable (Psalm 119:130).

Verse 8a: The precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart.

Precepts are the practical instructions and can also be translated as orders. The Bible contains the instructions spoken with the authority of Almighty God.

The attribute of these precepts is that they are right and true.

And the result of living according to these precepts is “rejoicing the heart”. By following the instruction of God’s Word, we will know true joy (1 John 5:3).

Verse 8b: The commandment of the LORD is pure,

enlightening the eyes.

Now the Psalmist gets more specific, from precepts to Commandments, these are rules for life. The way we respond to these commandments is life or death.

But these commandments are pure and will lead to purity (Psalm 119:11).  God only gives what is good for us.

The ministry of the Commandments is that they are “enlightening the eyes”. The eyes are the window to the soul (Matthew 6:22-23). What we meditate on determines our purity.

verse 9a:The fear of the Lord is clean,

enduring forever.

The fear of the Lord may not seem to fit, but the fear of the Lord is the natural response of the person who meditates on God’s word. The fear of the Lord is a holy reverence. God’s word does not submit to our will, we must submit ourselves to God’s word.

The attribute of this fear is cleanness and purity, as we submit ourselves to the word of God, we will be made clean (Ephesians 5:25-27). Reading aloud God’s word has a cleansing effect.

And the ministry is that God’s word endures forever (Isaiah 40:8).

Verse 9b: The rules of the LORD are true,

and righteous altogether.

The sixth and final description of the Word of God is rules or judgments. These are God’s final pronouncements and His final authority on all things. God’s judgments reflect His righteous character. We see God’s righteous judgment on our sin as Jesus took our punishment on the cross.

These judgments of God are true (John 17:17), Jesus prayed that the Apostles would be set aside for the ministry of truth, declaring God’s word.

The final ministry of the rules of God’s word is righteousness.  Our righteousness is only because of faith in Jesus as our Lord and savior and another example of why John introduced Jesus as the word in John 1.

The Psalmist closes in prayer asking that God would help him to live in purity and holiness (Psalm 19:14). This is only possible as the Holy Spirit transforms us and makes us more like Jesus.

Without the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life, this book will just be a collection of words on a page.

As we apply the words of truth to our lives, we will see supernatural transformation taking place, we will see lives transformed as we have life giving conversations.

We need to talk!

Are you a Disciple of Jesus Christ?

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Luke 14:25-35

The word “disciple” means a learner. A disciple of Jesus means someone who follows Jesus, learns from Jesus and becomes like Jesus.

In Luke 14, we find Jesus teaching a large crowd, and he challenged them on what it means to be a disciple. People started leaving because the cost was too high, his words were too convicting.

Being a disciple of Jesus costs. There is always a cost involved in being a committed Christian.

Salvation is free, but discipleship costs.

In the church today, we have made discipleship too easy and the commitment of being a follower of Jesus is pretty low.  We have lowered the bar in Christianity so much that people think they are doing God a favor by coming to church. The truth is that you will never find that kind of faith in the Bible. Discipleship costs, but it is worth it.  

This passage calls out four characteristics of a follower of Jesus.

1. True Disciples must Worship at any cost.

Worship is not just singing, that is an aspect of it, but worship is all about values and priorities. We value what we worship, and we prioritize what we worship.

Luke 14:26-27, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

To worship God above all else, there is a cost involved in personal relationships. The Greek word Jesus used here for “hate”, means to love less than. To worship God means that we must not love anyone or anything else more than we love God (See Matthew 6:24). Your love for Jesus, your worship must come before any human relationship. Often our following Jesus will cost us relationships and reputation, but our lives are no longer our own.

What are your plans for 2023?

To be a true disciple who worships at any cost we must take ourselves off the throne of our lives and put Jesus on the throne. This applies to every decision we make.

Adrian Rogers said, “when you come to the Lord Jesus Christ, that’s the last personal private decision you will ever make, your last independent decision. From then on, you have to ask, “Jesus, what do you want me to do?”

Do you want to be a disciple of Jesus? You must worship at any cost.

2. True Disciples must work at any cost

Luke 14:28-30, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.”

Being a disciple of Jesus, not only involves dying to self, but it also involves building. Our lives are to be towers that are constructed where the Lord places us, according to his design. As disciples of Jesus, we are to submit to the architect of our lives for his building plan. Like any building project, there is planning, sacrifice and diligence required.

Some of you began building your spiritual lives, but then the cost and the sacrifice became too high.

You used to be faithful in the place of prayer, but you got distracted and stopped building.

You used to have a daily rich time in the Word, but then you got busy and stopped building.

You started tithing monthly, but then you had a financial challenge and stopped building.

You were attending church weekly and even joined a life group, but somehow slowly pulled back, and stopped building.

Maybe you volunteered in the children’s ministry, but it began to cost more than you expected in time, and you stopped building.

Today, I want to challenge you to get back to building the tower of your spiritual life.

3. True Disciples must war at any cost.

Luke 14:31-33, “Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

When you become a disciple of Jesus Christ, you will be at war with this world. The good news is that, he has already won the final victory. And even if it seems that the whole world is opposed to you being a follower of Jesus, with God, you are in the majority and you cannot be defeated.

But as soldiers, we must not compromise, lowering the standards in order to keep the peace. God’s word is our first and final authority, there is no compromise or reducing the word of God to make it acceptable to the world around us. There is no compromising with Satan and his demons, he has one agenda, and that is to kill you.

4. True disciples must witness at any cost.

Luke 14:34-35, “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Jesus addresses the commission of a disciple; we are to be witnesses for the Gospel.

Salt is a preservative; we are to be salt that preserves and prevent our families and communities from spoiling.

Today, the church has lost its salt and we are seeing the devastating effects in our society of a church that does not act as an influence in society.

The problems we face in the world, pornography, drugs, crooked politicians, broken marriages, and the likes, are not because Satan and his demons have gotten more powerful or eviler. The problem is that the Church has compromised and lost the preserving power of the Gospel.

Are you ready to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in 2023? (See Matthew 16:24).

Our Humble Savior

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When Debbie and I grew up in South Africa, Christmas was in the middle of our summer break. It was hot and usually we would spend the day around a swimming pool. We never dreamed growing up that we would ever experience a white Christmas.

The irony was that we would decorate our houses with winter themed Christmas decorations in the middle of the African Summer. But just like Christmas doesn’t seem to fit in Summer, one seldom looks at Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi during the Christmas season.  However, I believe that Philippians 2:3-11 speaks of the incredible glory of the nativity.

Christmas is a time when we remember the ultimate act of humility. The creator God humbled himself and became a baby, every aspect of the nativity is a picture of humility.

Christmas is a season when we think of others, we take time to choose gifts that our loved ones would cherish. Gift giving is a picture of Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Thinking of others involves humility, putting others interests first. This is what Christmas is all about, God thought about you when He sent His son to the earth.

The Christmas story is all about humility.

Mary and Joseph were turned away from the Inn and all that was available for the birth of the Messiah was a manger, a feeding trough for the animals. The most unlikely place for the birth of the savior of the world, but it was a demonstration of humility by God.

Then we have the location of the birth, the town of Bethlehem. The prophet Micah wrote about Bethlehem in Micah 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”

Bethlehem is a small town, not one of the great cities of the world. An unlikely place for the birth of a mighty king. God was painting a picture of humility.

Then we have Mary, a young girl engaged to be married. She had no wealth or status, she wasn’t a prophetess or a religious leader or student of the Law, but she was available and humble. After the angel Gabriel gave Mary the message of the fact that she would be the mother of the promised messiah, she simply said in Luke 1:38, “…Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Note that Mary doesn’t argue or complain about the disruption to her life, she humbly accepts the will of God.

The same with Joseph, a man who worked as a carpenter, with plans to get married and raise some children who would follow along in his trade. When the angel gave Joseph the news in a dream, he didn’t argue or disagree with the plan of God, he humbly submitted to the will of God.

So it was with the shepherds. I have often wondered why God sent angels to the shepherds first. These were men who worked at night in the fields. They were seldom seen in the public square and their lives were not glamorous. But God chose to reveal the greatest of all miracles first to the shepherds. God loves the humble.

The wise men also came with great gifts and wealth. But they didn’t come to be honored, rather they came to give honor as they knelt and worshipped a baby. The child promised in the ancient writings to be the king of the Jews.

And then we have the Christ child. Jesus was and is the eternal second part of the trinity. He is the creator God existing in unapproachable light of the glory of the Lord. Yet he willingly chose to take on flesh, to become like one of his creation (See Philippians 2:8).

Our minds cannot begin to comprehend the humility of the lord of hosts to come in the form of a baby. Helpless and needing to be fed, carried, and cleaned. But in that humbling was the very root of our salvation.

In every aspect of the nativity, you see the overarching theme of humility.

Jesus lived a life of humility culminating with the greatest act of love, when Jesus, the God of all creation humbled himself (See Philippians 2:5-7).

Why is humility so important?

Humility is the one thing that when you are aware that you have obtained it, you have just lost it.

The Bible is full of texts that speak about the power of humility, (James 4:6, Isaiah 66:2, Proverbs 3:34 and many more).

The reason why humility is so important, is because the root of all sin is pride. When Satan tempted Adam and Eve, he appealed to their pride and that was the downfall of humanity. The root of all sin is pride, that is why our salvation comes through humility. But this is so counterintuitive in our 21st century western world. Our culture validates and applauds pride.

The 19th century Poem called Invictus by William Ernest Henley speaks about the pride of humanity without God.

Out of the night that covers me,   
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole,   
I thank whatever gods may be   
  For my unconquerable soul.

It matters not how strait the gate,   
  How charged with punishments the scroll,   
I am the master of my fate:
  I am the captain of my soul.

I am the captain of my destiny; I will do what makes me feel good. This is the world we live in today, with little thought of humility. Pride leads to sin, death, and eternal separation from God.

Our salvation comes through humility. We are saved when we humble ourselves and realize that we can do nothing to save ourselves. We simply must repent of our sins and receive the free gift of salvation made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Have you made Jesus Christ lord of your life?

Unassuming Hero

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Real heroes are people who do the right thing simply because it needs to be done, they seldom plan it out or look for fame. Real heroes seldom have time to think about their call to action.

The Gospel of Matthew has the record of an unassuming hero. Someone who avoids the limelight and plays a crucial part in the early life of Jesus. Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus.

So, who was Joseph?

Not much is told about Joseph and none of his words are recorded in the Bible. He was of the tribe of Judah and the royal line of David. All we know is that this man was given the awesome responsibility to raise and train up the son of God. He is the forgotten man, the unassuming hero of the greatest story ever told.

Joseph probably had a plan for his life with Mary.  A life of hard work and keeping a good name in the community. We read in verse 19 that Joseph was a righteous man, a just man, and a man of honor.

But then his planned life began to unravel. Mary was found to be pregnant, and Joseph’s world was in disarray. He had every right to divorce her during their betrothal, and it would have been easy.

However, God had other plans for Joseph and Mary.  Joseph has a dream. In fact he has four dreams and these dreams steer the course of History.

The first dream is found in Matthew 1:20, “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

The Angel told Joseph not to be afraid, why would he be afraid? It was the fear of shame, ridicule, and the opinions of others.

It is no coincidence that when God gives you an assignment, other people will criticize or ridicule you for being irresponsible, crazy, or worse. You cannot serve the Lord and satisfy the opinions of those who are close to you.

Joseph was told something unbelievable; Mary’s baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Nothing like that had ever happened before, nor happened since. Joseph was a hero, a man who did the right thing and obeyed the angel in the dream.

The second dream is found in Matthew 2:13, “Now when they (the wise men) had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.”

Joseph didn’t hesitate, he took his family and left that night for Egypt. His response and obedience were immediate. How often do we obey immediately? We tend to wait for confirmation and maybe another word from the Lord before we obey. But not Joseph.

Then Joseph has a third dream, Matthew 2:19-20, “But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.”

Another dream, another directive to travel and the response from Joseph is the same. He takes Mary and Jesus and heads to Israel immediately.

Imagine the challenges of travelling in the first century from Egypt to Israel; walking, perhaps with a donkey to carry belongings including his tools for his trade. What is their final destination? Joseph doesn’t know, yet he still obeys.

Frequently, God only gives us the next step; where to go, what course to study, to start a business or resign from our job. Whatever the instruction is, God seldom gives us the long-term plan, He simply says go…

The unassuming hero is a person who trusts God for the next steps. Joseph was a man of faith.

What first step is God asking you to take?

As they head for Israel, Joseph discovers that is might not be safe for Jesus, and then he has his fourth dream.

Matthew 2:22-23, “Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and settled in a city called Nazareth. This happened so that what was spoken through the prophets would be fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

This fourth dream leads Joseph to take his family to Nazareth. It was a small and disliked town in Galilee.  The label, “Nazarene” was actually a term of derision. Nazareth was part of God’s plan all along.

Joseph was the unassuming hero, fulfilling the plan of God. This is the last time in the Gospel of Matthew that we read about Joseph.

It would be safe to say that Joseph had one of the greatest responsibilities and honors in the whole Bible. Yet he never stood on stage, never gave a powerful speech, never wrote a book, and it is safe to assume that he never made a lot of money. Yet God found in Joseph, someone who was willing to be obedient and became a man of highest honor. The adoptive father of the Messiah.

Has God given you an assignment? If you are a follower of Jesus, then you have an assignment. It might not be flashy, but if you are obedient and faithful, you too are an unassuming hero.

God is always looking for unassuming heroes (see 2 Chronicles 16:9a).

Are you completely His? Do you trust the Lord even when it seems crazy, and people will ridicule you or talk behind your back? Even when it seems contrary to what natural wisdom seems to say.

God is working out his master plan, are you willing to trust him?

Thankfulness a Spiritual Discipline

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As we celebrated another thanksgiving, we were grateful to spend time with some of our church family. I am so glad we live in a country that celebrates a day of gratitude.

I think Thanksgiving means so much to Debbie and I because like the Pilgrims, we are immigrants and have been blessed by God in these United States. The word “Pilgrim” means, “a person on a sacred journey in a foreign land.” We must remember that we who are followers of Jesus are all pilgrims and foreigners in this world.

Thanksgiving is all about God and recognizing all the blessings He has freely given us. In a world that has all but pushed God away in every sphere of society, it is amazing that we still celebrate thanksgiving.

Dante Rossetti once said; “The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank”.

The Psalms are full of wonderful anthems of praise and thanksgiving, and Psalm 103 is one of them.

It is interesting to see what David focuses on as he thanks God. Not once in that entire Psalm does he give thanks for his family, his home, his possessions, or even his throne. David doesn’t give thanks for many of the things most people would mention. Instead, he praises God for forgiving his sins, healing all his diseases, redeeming his life from the pit, crowning him with love & compassion, and satisfying his desires with good things so that his youth was renewed. David couldn’t lose those things.

Jesus emphasized the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 6:19-21). How thankful are we for the things we can never lose?

Psalm 103:2 says, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,”

This is such a crucial verse. If we forget the blessings of the Lord, we will quickly become ungrateful, take things for granted, and maybe even begin to feel entitled. The danger of this is that we become focused on what we don’t have, rather than on the many things we receive from the Lord that we don’t deserve.

Psychologists will tell you that there is tremendous benefit in being thankful. It is needed for our physical health and for developing healthy relationships. I would like to suggest that thankfulness becomes a spiritual discipline that we can and must develop, and it will produce enduring fruit.

The Bible is full of commands, and it encourages us to be thankful (see Ephesians 5:19-20).

We know that the Bible is practical and recognizes the pain and suffering that we encounter on life’s journey. The command to be joyful and give thanks is not an excuse to turn a blind eye to pain and suffering. Rather it reveals to us that are unable to be continually thankful without the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Real thankfulness is not dependent on our circumstances, it is a response to the goodness of God and the Gospel message.

The Psalms are full of examples of thanksgiving during pain. Several the Psalms of David begin with him crying out in pain, but by the end of the Psalm, as he recognizes the hand of God, he thanks and praises the Lord.

Our lives are fragile, and we easily forget how dependent we are on God for everything we have (see Psalm 103:13-16). Our lives may be fragile and fleeting, but to God we are precious in His eyes, and He will never forget us.

Our Father provided a way to redeem us and bring us into relationship with Himself. Our sins and prideful nature separate us from God, and unless our sins are atoned for, we will never enter into eternal life in relationship with God. Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” That is something to be thankful for!

Tim Keller observed: “The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself or less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”

Isn’t it amazing that two people who live in similar situations can have such a different outlook on life. One person is negative and complaining, while the other is optimistic and joyful.  The difference is gratitude.

Praise and thanksgiving make all the difference in life.

Each moment that we’re given is a precious gift from God. We can choose to have a thankful attitude and live each moment full of joy.

Being thankful is an act of worship because it reminds us of our provider, our Heavenly Father.

My challenge to you this week is that as you go about your day, make a point of being grateful for the little things, and if you struggle with identifying them, ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes to see the blessings all around you.

As you do that, you will be praying without ceasing!

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing,” we repeat that verse but often overlook the full sentence starting in verse 16, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

We are called by God to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances.

Why? Because it is the will of God in Christ Jesus. God knows that this is the best for you and me. A spiritual discipline that will produce a harvest of righteousness.

Knowledge is Power

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As we come to the end of John’s first letter, we must remember his purpose in writing was to dispel false teachers who had begun to deceive the first century church.

John makes 22 statements of truth that he wants the readers to grasp throughout the letter, and in these final verses he makes five more claims of truth.  

1: We can know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

If there was one verse that sums up the entire letter, this is it.

John tells his readers that you do not have to doubt your salvation.

The whole book revolves around belief, obedience and the love of God. Our feelings can deceive us, but faith in the truth of God’s word is what will sustain us. (See John 10:28–29).   

2: We can know that God answers prayer (1 John 5:14-15).

We often turn to prayer when we have exhausted every available option and solution. But prayer should be the very first thing we should do when faced with life’s challenges.

R. A. Torrey said, “Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God is and all that God has is at the disposal of prayer. But we must use the key. Prayer can do anything that God can do and since God can do anything, prayer is omnipotent.”

John says, we come to God because we have confidence. Confidence ultimately stems from relationship.

Sadly, too many Christians are practical atheists. Let me explain, I often hear statements to the effect, “I know God can do anything”, and then they say, “but the reality is…”

It doesn’t matter what you say after that, that is the talk of a practical atheist. God is the ultimate reality and as we grow in our relationship with Him, we trust Him with our prayers.

Verse 14 continues, “…that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us”.  This is not an excuse for not persisting in prayer, rather we persist in prayer until we discern God’s will, and then we pray His will.

George Mueller said, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of God’s willingness.”

So how can we know God’s will? Romans 8:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us in our prayers and intercedes with us and for us. We can discern God’s will by reading God’s word and listening to the Spirit. Frequently we don’t know because we don’t wait on the Lord, we rush in and out of His presence before we let Him speak.

We need to know our position before God as we pray (see Ephesians 2:6 and Hebrews 4:16). As God’s children, do we come before the throne and approach Him as our perfect and loving Heavenly Father?

Prayer is the spiritual thermometer of our lives. It is an indicator of our relationship and trust of our Heavenly Father. It has been said that prayer to the Christian is like breathing for our physical bodies.

(For a detailed explanation of verse 16 and 17 please watch the sermon video)

3: We can know victory over sin (1 John 5:18).

There are three incredible statements in this verse, explaining how we can have victory over sin.

  1. As we know from 1 John 3, a Christian does not habitually sin. Unconfessed and ongoing sin is not a part of the life of a believer. If you sin habitually and don’t have a problem with it, are you born again?
  2. We have the promise of the protection from sin by Jesus the son of God. Jesus paid for our salvation, now in heaven, he maintains our salvation (see Jude 24).
  3. The final phrase of the verse, “and the evil one does not touch him.” Satan wants nothing more than to destroy the followers of Jesus, to grab us and do us harm, but because we are covered by the blood of Jesus, he cannot touch us.

4: We know we belong to God (1 John 5:19).

As followers of Jesus, we are not of this world. The world is under the power of Satan, and he for a time has the world tied in slavery. Satan is the one who deceives and blinds unbelievers. The war for the souls of mankind is very real. We must be alert and pray with a wartime mentality. Remember we have the amazing promise of 1 John 4:4.

5: We can know what is true (1 John 5:20).  

John ends his letter the way he began, that Jesus is the Son of God. He uses the word, “true” three times. Jesus is really God and in him we have eternal life.

As Christians we live in reality, not the reality of the news media, education systems, science, or what people think to be true. Ultimate reality is found in the supernatural God who holds every atom in place.

A miracle is God breaking into the natural world and changing reality (see Matthew 6:10).

Then John adds a final sentence, almost a postscript, in verse 21 it can easily get glossed over, but it is crucial. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”.

An idol is anything that you love, pursue, or enjoy more than God. We can easily make idols of things in our daily lives.  It could be money, sport, relationships, education, or desire for recognition, the list is endless of things we can value more than God.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “The thing we serve is the thing we worship! Whatever controls our lives and “calls the signals” is our god.”

Idolatry is a subtle way that Satan uses to control us, and we find ourselves living for the unreal instead of the real.

What lie are you believing today? If God is speaking to you today about any of these truths that you have not believed, repent and allow the Holy Spirit to impress these truths into your heart.