How easily we fall into the trap of thinking that the truly spiritual person has some special aura of holiness or mystique about him, which keeps him separate from the more ordinary wholesome things of life! How urgently we need to rediscover God as Creator as well as Redeemer. God is my Maker. When God created man He made us in His image, sealed it by breathing His Holy Spirit upon us, and intended us to be in a personal relationship with Him. Instead man has maligned the image, quenched the Spirit, and forsaken the relationship. When God calls a man to follow Jesus He makes us a new creation, fills us with the Holy Spirit, and reconciles our relationship with him. In short, His mission is to make us truly human— in the image of His Son.
Last week we defined “drifting” as the motion of people who have lost touch with their God, their relationships, their vision, their convictions, and their priorities. The good news is that drifting does not possess terminal velocity! It can be overcome— but to do so a “drifter” must become a “runner.” In the New Testament, Paul uses the word, “run” to describe how the Christian life is directed towards a goal which mandates that a runner apply all one’s strength. Runners must keep pace and fix their eyes on the finish line because the race, Paul describes, will last a lifetime. One last observation: in the event that we stop running, we will start drifting. Therefore we must cultivate a life which can maintain the pace.
When I was twelve, my uncle and I “put out to sea.” After about two hours our engine went dead and we started to drift. He tried everything but to no avail. There were only two things to do: call for help and drop anchor. Are you drifting? If not, look out for those who are. If you are, isn’t it time to call for help and drop anchor? God promises to answer your prayer with His Living Hope. His Hope is a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.
The apostle Paul writes: From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view… God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:16, 18-20)
The sin of prejudice is incompatible with God’s call and ministry of reconciliation. Paul understood this and overcame his culturally condoned racism for Gentiles. When God loves, He does not care about skin color, ethnicity, gender, lifestyle choices, fashion, age, political perspectives, social status, vocation, academic degrees, worldview...
Faith means taking God’s word as literally true. How do we become Christians? By claiming a promise of the Lord Jesus. How are we filled with the Holy Spirit? By claiming Jesus’ promise that God would give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. How do we find victory over sin and temptation? By believing in the promise of God. In other words, faith is trusting the faithfulness of God.
During a rugby match at university, a friend of mine was particularly unnerved to see a group of humongous muscle bound men bearing down on him. As he anticipated the apocalypse that awaited him, a voice to his left said, “With you,” and with intense relief he passed the ball! The risen Christ comes to the sad, the depressed, the frightened, the disappointed, the weary, and the confused and says, “With you.” We can be wonderfully sure that Jesus is with us.
In Romans 1.1, Paul is introducing himself to fellowships he has not met before. He chooses his words deliberately so that they may gain insight into who Paul is… his identity, his heart, and his faith. In Romans 1.1 we meet (again) a man whose life has been set free by becoming a “slave of Christ Jesus.” Paul was an “apostle of the heart set free” and may we all discover the same vibrant freedom he did.
All of us will face challenges, opportunities, decisions, and relationships that will test us. This is why each of us should take a moment to honestly ask: “What do I think of Jesus?” Be honest, who is He? Let’s be honest before Him. If we answer that He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord God in the flesh— then let us make a fresh commitment to surrender ourselves to Him that our lives might honor Him. If we truly believe, then may it never be said of us: “for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.” (Romans 1.21) In the event that you are not sure what to make of Jesus, then let me urge you to use these days to come to terms with His identity, His claims, and His work.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5.24)
What does the way of the cross mean for us today when the majority of us will probably not be faced with crucifixion nor any other form of martyrdom? What does it mean for us to be “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2.20) in 2017?
A. W. Tozer observed: “Many of us Christians have become extremely skillful in arranging our lives so as to admit the truth of Christianity without being embarrassed by its implications... We boast in the Lord yet carefully watch out that we never get caught depending solely upon Him. The one who is crucified with Christ makes daily decisions to affirm the reality of God’s leadership by denying his right to live like the “rest of the world.”
A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. (1Corinthians 11.28)
On March 5 we celebrated Communion together. I would like us to remember that we should practice the discipline of self-examination that precedes communion throughout the month until we return to the Lord’s table in April. When we come to Communion, we need to use our spiritual eyes to look in four different directions. This “view from the four directions” can be an outline for our prayerful devotion throughout the coming month...
Why are some bold and others reticent when it comes to sharing our faith? The answer lies partly, but not predominantly in temperament and personality. We all talk and share experiences about the things and relationships that we value the most. If we truly place God on the highest place in our lives; if we are filled with a love for Jesus; and if Kingdom issues are very real to us— then we will testify easily and naturally to the truth, forgiveness, and freedom that we have found in Christ and that Christ offers to all.
... We must pray and seek God’s face. Consistent and focused prayer that will persist despite time and circumstances. This is the kind of prayer that creates strategic witness and ministry, changes lives, subverts governments, and influences nations. The relationship between the duration of prayer and the answers to prayer is a mystery that cannot be systematized. Yet it is the witness of Scripture and reiterated by experience that the prayer that releases salvation and deliverance will certainly exceed the attention spans of any generation that lives for personal convenience and instant gratification.
Jerome, the 4th century translator of the Scriptures into Latin observed, “The bulwark of the Church is that man who is well grounded in Scripture.” What would Faith Community, or any church for that matter, look like if all our women and men were benefiting from minds and hearts that were full of the active knowledge of God’s Word? Jesus promises that people alive to the Word of God will be the ones who hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance (see Luke 8.15).
Hudson Taylor wrote: “All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on his being with them. They counted on God’s faithfulness.” The whole history of God working through his people illustrates this. Moses was a most reluctant missionary. David seemed pathetically young and inexperienced to be God’s champion against Goliath. Nehemiah and friends were dubbed “those feeble Jews” by their enemies. Jeremiah was frightened and overawed by God’s call. The disciples were a motley band of ordinary folk— nervous and fearful. Even Jesus was “despised and rejected by men.” All these, with the exception of Jesus, were men with rather obvious weaknesses, who sometimes fell into serious sin of one sort or another.
... We must beware of any expression of the Christian life which pushes the lordship of Jesus to the sidelines or reduces Him to a “charm” given to help us feel good. We must not be like the proverbial man who said, “I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep. But just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough to make me love a black man or eat lunch with the homeless. I want ecstasy not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God please.” On the contrary— we are not our own; we that have been bought—we owe Him (1 Corinthians 6.20). As Pastor Vince observed a few weeks ago: if salvation is an expression of God’s grace, ethics is an expression of our gratitude.
Peace is an essential attribute of the godly woman or man. Without peace our thoughts, speech, and actions will reflect fear, selfishness, greed, suspicion, and/or restlessness. Peace cultivates compassion, self-sacrifice, fortitude, and risk. It allows us to exercise strength beneficially rather than destructively. Peace brings freedom to love beyond the boundaries of our current circumstances.
2017 is not a clean break or fresh start independent of 2016... there is continuity whether we like it or not! But a new year does afford us the opportunity to pause, reflect, pray, and be open to God's prophetic word in order that he might align us with His promises and catalyze our expectancy... A new year releases us to initiate change and challenge habits that distracts our vision and disturbs our peace.
it is here at the Virgin Birth that we stumble on the significance of this preposterous truth and behold the promise it offers:
There is no longer a great gulf
Fixed between God and people;
The humanity of Jesus has bridged it over.
We can no longer think that God sits on high,
Indifferent or irrelevant to the wants and woes
Of women, men, youth, and children.
The Virgin birth testifies that God has visited us–
He has come down to the lowliness of our estate
That we might enjoy the loftiness of His...
Here we go! Advent 2016 is here. Advent, Latin for “coming” is the season in which we count back 4 Sundays before Christmas day so we can look forward to the One we count on who was born on Christmas day! It’s a season in which we listen to the voices of anticipation from the Old Testament so that we might embrace the promises of the New Testament. Let’s begin this Advent remembering the words of Isaiah:
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
I (Mark) once interviewed a person for a staff position. I asked this candidate "What are your gifts?" He responded, without blinking an eye: "I have the gift of humility." In my experience, people who answer like this rarely do have the gift they claim! Still, we must come to grips with how we assess ourselves... Some of us think too highly of ourselves and others of us think too lowly. So, how shall we think about ourselves?... and why? This is our theme for this week...