What if God asks for it all?

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What would you do if God asked you to give it all up?

When God tested Abraham in Genesis 22, He gave us the clearest prophetic picture of what Jesus would have to endure on the cross.

At this point in his life, Abraham was a seasoned man of faith. He had accomplished much and given much to the Lord. In Genesis 12, he obeyed God and left his fathers household to move to an unknown land, going in faith and giving his all to God.

God blessed Abraham and made a special covenant with him in Genesis 15, but Abraham didn’t have any children?

Where it was impossible in the natural, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with Isaac, the son of the promise.

All seemed to be going well, God has blessed, Abraham has been faithful and now surely, he would rest in his old age. But God has one more test for Abraham as we read in Genesis 22:1-19.

This account is traditionally viewed in light of Abraham’s tremendous faith in response to the unthinkable request from God to sacrifice his only beloved son, the child of the promise.

At first glance, we gloss over those words, probably because we may have heard them many times. But this is a horrifying story. God asks Abraham to slaughter his own son, this is counter to everything we know about God. This is offensive and challenges our sense of decency and our understanding of God. But this is recorded as Abraham’s finest hour, his most glorious victory in a life filled with challenges.

We have the advantage of knowing how the story will unfold, but for Abraham it must have been the most difficult few days of his life. Maybe he suspected this was a test, but we cannot know for sure.

In Genesis 22:4 we read, “On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.” It appears that he had been walking for three days with his eyes on the ground before him, deep in thought and anguish. Abraham’s quick response and silence seems to indicate resigned numbness to God’s will, steeling himself against the emotions tearing through his heart.

God stopped the sacrifice of Isaac right at the point where there was no doubt that Abraham was going to go through with the act of killing his son. God showed that He never intended to allow Abraham to kill Isaac and went on to explain the test to him.

This picture of God is not the soft and benevolent Heavenly Father that our modern-day Christianity likes to portray. On the contrary, the picture of Abraham lowering the knife was, in God’s eyes, the passing grade of the test. We must come to grips with the fact that the God of the Old Testament is still the same today, He has not changed. But what has changed is our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ (see Isaiah 55:8).

Isaac was not a young child at this point, and he was fully aware of what took place. It must have been incredibly traumatic for him; his own father betrayed him and was about to kill him.

But according to a few ancient Jewish rabbinical documents, it is said that Isaac was so convinced that he needed to be sacrificed, that he asked to be bound tightly. Which is why the Hebrew speakers refer to this account as the “Akedah” or “binding”.  

This gives us a totally different picture of Isaac, one of a willing sacrifice. Isaac is a “type” or foreshadow of Jesus.

Leading up to Mt Moriah, Abraham is silent. So too, God the Father is silent in Gethsemane at the leading up to the crucifixion of His beloved Son.

The fact that the wood for the offering was laid on the back of Isaac is a symbol of the cross that Jesus would one day carry on his shoulders.

Leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus was unwavering in his path to the cross and he was silent during his trial.  In the same way, Isaac walked alongside his father and scripture seems to suggest that they were not engaged in much conversation.

This account in essence is the salvation of Israel.  Jesus was sacrificed to save people from all nations.

The crucifixion was a test.  A test that Jesus passed to save all who would put their faith in him.

So many parallels, however, on every level, Jesus is the greater one who accomplished much more by his own personal sacrifice.

What makes this account so horrifying, is that Abraham stood poised with a knife to slaughter his own son, the son of the promise. As we think about the crucifixion of Jesus, we should be even more offended. Because of our sins, God the Father required a perfect sacrifice. The only way we could be saved was by the perfect sacrifice of the spotless lamb of God, Jesus (See Isaiah 53:6 and 2 Corinthians 5:21).

We must never miss the horror of the cross, where God the Father inflicted His perfect wrath upon God the son. That is the offense of the cross that is impossible for us to fully comprehend.

This picture on Mount Moriah became reality on Mount Calvary.

As we begin to focus on Calvary in this season, let us never forget the unimaginable price that was paid for our salvation.

What would you do if God asked you to give it all up? Do I trust God enough to be obedient when he invites me to put something on the altar. Do I worship Him above all else, putting His will and plans above my own. As you walk with God, there are going to be times when God asks you to give it all to Him (Matthew 16:24-25).

There will be things, even good things, plans and dreams, that we need to be willing to sacrifice before God is able to use us as He intends.

Are you willing to give it all to him today?

Khayelitsha, South Africa – Report Back

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Last December, I was invited to join a ministry called Team Xtreme International, on an outreach to South Africa. I prayed about it and felt the Lord leading me to go. Little did I know how significant it would be.

We were primarily proclaiming the Gospel in a city of 2.4 million people called Khayelitsha, which is on the outskirts of Cape Town. It is an area that has suffered from unimaginably high unemployment rates and crime. The name Khayelitsha means, “New Home” in Xhosa and was established about 40 years ago during the height of Apartheid.

Many people warned us not to go into Khayelitsha and even locals told us to leave because they were afraid for our safety. But the Lord had His angels protecting us every day.

We spent most mornings touring schools and ministering during their assemblies. We also did after school programs and evening ministry from a truck bed stage.

The school assemblies were the most effective ministry. As we shared the Gospel, 90% of children responded. We were able to spend time praying with students and pointing them to freedom in Christ. It is hard to put into words the amount of pain that these children experience, including sexual abuse, violence, absent parents and rampant drug use.

For me this outreach was probably the most impactful of my life. I wrestled with feelings of shame and guilt from the years of apartheid and feeling that I did not have a right to speak in my own country.

The words of Jesus about a prophet not being welcomed in his own hometown rang in my ears (Matthew 13:57). But the Lord redeemed that and set me free as a wife of one of the pastors we served with, welcomed me, and released me of the burden of guilt. She reminded me that it has been thirty years and that I should stop carrying an unnecessary burden. After that I felt tremendous freedom to declare the hope of the Gospel to the people of Khayelitsha.

In the course of the 18 days of ministry and working with other organizations, over 23,000 people heard the Gospel and almost 18,000 responded to the message. In addition to the proclamation, partner churches were connected, and many discipleship groups are already under way. God moved powerfully and we saw many miraculous healings and powerful conversion encounters.

One school was even shut down for the day after the time of ministry because all the students were so impacted that they couldn’t get back to their work.

But what about us? These are amazing stories, but we need the power of the Gospel in our schools and streets in America.

In Matthew 10, Jesus called his twelve disciples and then sends them out on a mission trip. He throws them into the deep end and warns them that they will experience persecution as they go out and proclaim the kingdom.

Jesus sent his disciples out as his witnesses, witnesses of himself. They were the forerunners in missions, going and telling others about Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven.

We know from the Great Commission in Matthew 28, that Jesus sent all his followers to go and be his witnesses, ambassadors.

The disciples were ordinary men, tradesmen, humble and broken, but Jesus gave them authority and sent them out.

The Bible doesn’t tell us how long they went for, it was probably a short-term campaign. In Luke 9 verse 10 we read that they returned and reported back to Jesus all that had happened.

Now it is true, that the message they carried and the message that we have today is different. Jesus hadn’t gone to the cross or risen from the dead. The victory and the power of the cross hadn’t been accomplished yet.

We have a different and far more glorious message; our message is far more powerful.

In one of the school assemblies I noticed the kids not paying attention, so I said to them, “what I am about to tell you is the most important thing you will ever hear in your life.”  That got their attention.  Do you believe that? It will be reflected in how much we are willing to be obedient to the Great Commission.

If you read Matthew 10 carefully it is clear that Jesus is speaking to his disciples, but he is also speaking to all future ambassadors for the Gospel. He is speaking to us and to future generations of believers.

In fact, the language Jesus is using seems to parallel what he says later, on the mount of olives in Matthew 24 about the coming persecution before his return. In our current age, the emphasis on “fear not” in verse 26 onwards is particularly helpful.

We are surrounded by people telling us what we can and cannot say in the public square.

The principle of one of the schools we visited had put Bible verses all around the school on the pillars and notice boards – I asked her, if she would get into trouble with the administrators, she said, “probably, but our school needs Jesus”.

Yesterday in our men’s breakfast, we heard several examples of some of our men who boldly stood up for the truth of God’s word in spite of threats. And God was powerful to deliver.

You see, we are all missionaries; some get on a plane, others go to the office or workshop. A missionary is someone sent by the Spirit of God to a particular place, to be an ambassador for Christ. Where you are is your mission field.

Jesus ends his challenge to his disciples in Matthew 10:32-33,  “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

Being a Christian is not like being a secret agent in the CIA, it is public, we are called to be bold witnesses (see Romans 10:14).

How are you doing in being an ambassador for Christ?

The Purpose of Marriage

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Marriage is under attack. I believe, that one of the reasons why we see marriage under attack in the world today is because the church has an incomplete view of marriage.

In 2015, the Supreme court ruled that people of the same sex could legally marry. But this man-made law simply determined that two people can legally obtain the benefits that society provides for married couples. It doesn’t change what God says about marriage. Do we trust the designer? The only way that we can embrace same-sex marriage is to devalue marriage all together.

People will argue that Jesus didn’t specifically speak out against homosexuality. But he was pretty clear about marriage (Matthew 19:4-6). The church must celebrate and teach a Biblical understanding of marriage. It’s sad that in the 21st century, we have to define marriage.

This is more than cultural wars, this is spiritual war, Satan hates marriage and has a specific purpose to destroying marriage.

John Stott wrote: “Marriage is an exclusive heterosexual covenant between one man and one woman, ordained and sealed by God preceded by the leaving of parents, consummated in sexual union, issuing in a permanent mutually supportive partnership, and normally crowned with the gift of children”

Sexual immorality is any sexual activity outside of this biblically defined covenant of marriage. Within the Biblical bond of marriage, sex is blessed, while outside, it is sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 7).  

The reason marriage is so sacred is because the primary role of marriage is to portray and proclaim the Gospel (Ephesians 5:32). Satan hates marriage, because it is a picture of two non-interchangeable and different parties, made one by the work of Christ. Husbands portray Christ, and wives represent the church. Both parties have definite roles and functions, the church cannot do what Jesus is doing. And that is why Satan created a counterfeit, a lie that mocks God’s design.

God takes marriage very seriously, and has defined immorality for what it is, regardless of how cleverly the courts, and the entertainment, and media machines have redefined it (Hebrews 13:4).

In Ephesians 5:22-24 Paul focuses on wives. Many people struggle with the language of submission, but this is not about a form of subjection or controlling power. Submission simply means to prefer others. And it is only possible as one is filled with the Spirit of God.

Andreas Kostenberger wrote, “While some may view submitting to one’s husband’s authority as something negative, a more accurate way of looking at marital roles is to understand that wives are called to follow their husband’s loving leadership.”

Husbands and wives have equal value, but different roles within marriage.

The husband’s primary role is to be a priest, being the spiritual leader in the home. Tragically, men have abdicated their authority in this area by giving in to laziness, leisure, pornography, and a general lack of spiritual discipline.

The women’s role is to follow and support the husband in the spiritual leadership of the family, ensuring that the home is a place that is sacred and holy to the Lord.

When both are fulfilling their roles, marriage is a beautiful thing to observe.

We must be careful to reject any teaching that says that women are subservient to men, or that the husband is a form of a CEO in the marriage. Submission must be voluntary and follows sacrificial love.

Typical human nature is that women crave love and men desire respect, that’s the way God has wired us.

So, we have the two aspects of marriage: love and submission.

Love and submission can both be defined as putting the will of the other person ahead of your own, to prefer the other person. Love and submission are two sides of the same coin.

In verse 25 Paul tells husbands, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

What is Christlike love? It is the love that took Jesus to the cross to give his own life for the church. It is sacrificial love.

For men marriage is a call to die to self. It is daily giving yourself away for the good of your bride. It is sacrificial and preferential love. You cannot love your wife like Christ loved the church and be passive. This is loving by serving and giving of your time and energy.

It is also a sanctifying love, as we see in verse 26, “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word”

This does not mean that any husband has the ability to atone for sins, only Jesus can do that. But men are to be the spiritual leader in the home. Encouraging their family to read the Word and allowing the word of God to bring transformation.

Here is a good question for men. Are our wives more like Christ because she’s married to us? Or is she more like Christ in spite of us?

But there is an eternal purpose in marriage. In verse 32, Paul writes that the mystery of marriage refers to Christ and the church. It is beyond our understanding. When God created the world, and the covenant of marriage, he had Christ and the church in mind. Not the other way around.

Marriage is not the ultimate, Christ is.

Christ is ultimate, not our husbands or our wives. Our primary loyalty must be to Jesus.

If I was to ask you, what is the biggest problem that marriages struggle with today, I would get a multitude of answers. But the root problem of every marriage is sin.

Marriage is ordained by God for the glory of God. Therefore, He is the source of the love and the only one who can cause a marriage to flourish and proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the world.

As we shine the light of healthy marriage, the world will see a picture of Christ and the church (John 1:5).

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?