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Thursday, December 17, 2009

NO TEST-TAKERS?

"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you-unless indeed you fail the test."
2 Corinthians 13:5

I am learning that there are some verses that people in the church take seriously, and some verses that seem to fall "under the radar." I am saddened that this verse seems to be more of an "under the radar" verse. And it seems that the root of the fact that this verse rarely pierces the hearts of professing Christians, is the fear of not living up to a standard that the church has set before us.

"For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ."
Galatians 1:10

The church today (as a whole) would typically respond in a few different ways to someone who would confess a need to test their salvation. Here are a few:
1. Oh dear! You must not have it. Pray this prayer.
2. That's just the enemy trying to distract you by making you doubt.
3. I see tons of fruit in your life. I know you're a Christian.

Could it be that these three types of responses are actually leading the church into an easy-believism, and urging false converts to remain false converts, for fear of gaining the church's disaproval? Hopefully Not...But Possibly So.

A few things to consider:
1. The church is constantly changing, from Corinth to 2009.
2. God desires our obedience to commands, regardless of the approval of men.
3. Would the enemy make someone who really DOES NOT have salvation, doubt their salvation? It would seem as though he's already got them right where he wants them.


Are you confident in your salvation based on what the church says, or what the Word of God says? Be weary of putting your faith in the church, as the church today is very much different than the church 100 years ago, than the church 1,000 years ago, and so on. I would urge professing Christians to be willing to examine themselves, regardless of the impression that it gives. Especially if, in your heart, you know that you are good at "fakin it." Be careful of developing your own definition of how narrow "the narrow way" (Matt 7:13) is, because as I study the text along with the world around me, I'm beginning to see more and more that "the narrow way" could very possibly be even more narrow than we may think. Make sure your words are in line with your heart, and "test yourselves to see if you are in the faith." Eternity is forever. FOR-E-VER.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Struggle Well-The World is Watching

We live in a fallen world. Because of sin. Therefore, whether lost or saved, there will be suffering. I'm beginning to see that our response to suffering is a HUGE part of what sets us apart from the world, and a HUGE part of what points the world to Christ. Amidst suffering, the lost would tend to run to the world. Seeking to fill voids, fill wounds, medicate hurts and pains through temporary worldly relief. As believers in Christ, our response SHOULD be to cling to the cross. That SHOULD be an evidence that we have a greater hope and a greater joy. It's obviously NOT EASY to always cling to the cross, as I've very much learned over the past few weeks, but if our hope is in Christ, and if our hope is in something more than the world we live in, and if our hope is in the cross, we can suffer well, and proclaim the name of Jesus through our suffering. I want to do that. This is the only way I know how.

"For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us."
Romans 8:18

"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."
Hebrews 12:11

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance."
James 1:2-3

"For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart."
Hebrews 12:3

"we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body."
2 Corinthians 4:8-10

"but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God."
1 Peter 4:16

"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes."
Psalm 119:71

"The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble, and those who know Thy name will put their trust in Thee; For Thou, O Lord, hast not forsaked those who seek Thee."
Psalm 9:9-10

"He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds."
Psalm 147:3

"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O King. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O King, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."
Daniel 3:17-18

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Still, blessed be the name of the Lord."
Job 1:21

"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10

"The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

"For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ."
2 Corinthians 1:5

"For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison."
2 Corinthians 4:17

"LET US THEREFORE DRAW NEAR WITH CONFIDENCE TO THE THRONE OF GRACE, THAT WE MAY RECEIVE MERCY AND MAY FIND GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED."
HEBREWS 4:16



WE HAVE A REASON TO BE JOYFUL!!! ONLY WHEN WE LOOK TO THE CROSS OF CHRIST!!! LET'S TAKE THAT JOY TO THE WORLD!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

WHERE'S THE SUFFERING?

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation, to all those who believe..."
Romans 1:16

video

Suffering is not the only evidence of whether or not we are ashamed of our gospel. Merely a part. Just hard to ignore all the accounts of suffering for the sake of the gospel.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gird Your Loins

Sometimes fear drives me. So often, I find my joy being stolen because of overwhelming fears in my heart. So often I feel as though I am missing out on things, because of being paralyzed with fear. I know for me, that over and over throughout the day, I have fears that I tend to let become a reality, even though THE TRUTH is that they are not. Some particulars: I will never be able to provide for a family; I will never be able to find a wife, nor will I ever be good enough for any woman; I do not have enough talent to be the worship leader that I want to be; I will never get out of debt; I will never have as much Biblical knowledge or wisdom as those I deem knowledgable or wise; I'm a failure, and will continue to be. I could go on. But too often, I listen to the voices of these giants laughing at me, mocking me,telling me I'm not good enough, and let them take my joy, which ultimately only hinders me from these things, and from being used for what God wants to do in my life. I'm really tired. I'm really tired of believing these lies, because they hurt. Do I continue letting fear dictate my decisions, or follow His leading? I want to rest. I need to rest in who God says I am in Him.

Ephesians 6:14 (Armor of God)
"Stand firm therefore, having GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH"

After studying this, I found it interesting that our loins are considered our most vulnerable part. I tell you what; this is where I'm vulnerable. This is where I become paralyzed. Consider this battle that we are in. And consider fighting this battle with your most vulnerable part GIRDED WITH LIES. Almost certain defeat.

So what is TRUTH, and how do we GIRD OUR LOINS? Some examples of TRUTH:
-In the Bible, The Lord says a total of 365 times (one for every day I guess) "Do not fear," generally followed by His assurance that HE WILL BE WITH US WHEREVER WE GO.
-David was laughed at when he sought to fight Goliath. David won.
-Nehemiah was laughed at when he sought to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.
-Noah was laughed at when he sought to build some random boat. He built it, and was saved.
-Joshua was laughed at when he sought to fight the battle of Jericho. The walls fell and they won.
-In the same story, (Joshua) those that were scared, and did not trust that God would be with them in the battle of Jericho, were made to wander around the wilderness aimlessly for forty years, accomplishing nothing.
-Romans says that "in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
-Again, the list goes on and on. (The Bible)

That is TRUTH. That is our protection. Although there are lies and fears that seem very real in my heart, they are ademantly against what would be THE TRUTH of God's Word. In order to rest in TRUTH, or to GIRD MY LOINS WITH TRUTH, I have to know what the TRUTH really is. Again, starts with the Word. So in the battle I face today, these song lyrics are my cry for you and me:

I pray that today, "We would choose to listen and believe the voice of TRUTH," because "the voice of TRUTH tells us a different story, the voice of TRUTH says do not be afraid, the voice of TRUTH says this is for His glory."


Thursday, December 10, 2009

ADORNING OUR LIVES WITH DUNG


In Paul's letter to the Philippians, he writes:

"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (3:8)

What is rubbish? Well, in Paul's reference, he is using a term that was a vulgar term that would have some shock value if it were said in public. The greek translation actually means dung, or fecal matter. In reference to things that are "worthless" or "detestable." As of late, the consideration of earthly treasures (Matthew 6:19)has been overwhelmingly on my heart. I would love to be able to speak in the same confidence that Paul did, and say of myself that I "consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord," but if I'm honest, too often I seek to adorn my life with treasures of dung. No wonder they never satisfy. And without fail, I am always left longing for something greater. No wonder I am left satisfied when I am faced with a void in my heart, and I choose to fall to my knees begging for the nearness of God. His nearness really is our good.

Although I still often choose earthly treasures that only rob my affection for Jesus Christ, I am grateful that the Lord has grabbed my heart, and that He does not cease to be after me, regardless of whether or not I'm covered in dung. The Holy Spirit has stirred this prayer in my heart, and I pray that you will continually pray this scripture over your heart as well. The great truth to rest in is the conclusion of the verse, which tells us that if our hearts line up with this, we "gain Christ."

"I pray that I would consider everything rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing You. I pray that I would lose all things, and consider them rubbish, so that I may gain more of You."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This Is The Day

This is the day that the Lord has made.
This is the day that my sins have been paid,
That my flesh, it will fade, cuz the wrath has been laid
On His back, for His glory
So I share my life story, telling all He did for me.
That His death has absorbed all the sin that's before me.
No more pain, No more guilt,
No more pride, No more shame.
It's been nailed to the cross.
That's the reason He came.
So that all would bow, and we would not know how
To have any response except praising His name.
And declaring His fame.
In the streets we proclaim
ALOUD! AND I SHOUT!
Take me out of this crowd, I can't stand to be proud
Of myself anymore.
My life is not built on these things I adore.

So with the rocks I cry out.
I stand and I shout.
But I can't stand to imagine what life is without
MY JESUS.
Without Him, my life would be torn into pieces.

So today I rejoice.
Let it not just be noise,
But a voice that is heard
So that others may learn,
So that all would yearn
For the gift that He gave when He died for our sin.
No matter where you have been,
All the hurt that's within
Can be taken away
And new life can begin.

So with the gift of today,
From my knees I will say,
I'm in need of a Saviour, and there's no other way
To come to You Father, except through Your Son.
To trust what is DONE.
To no longer run,
Cuz that battle's been fought, and YOU'VE ALREADY WON!!!
Death holds me no longer.
That price has been paid.
So today I rejoice.
Because this is the day that the Lord has made.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Culturally Influenced Prayers

I was thinking about how much different so many things would be, if literally ALL I knew was the Word of God, and knew nothing of the world around me. I tried to imagine a scenario, though an unrealistic scenario at that, but somewhat challenging to consider. Had I been born in a cave, and never once saw the world outside the cave. Born there, lived there. ate there, slept there. Never left. Never saw the outside world. And to top it off, what if the only thing I had in the cave were a Bible. And I studied that Bible thoroughly over and over, knowing that it was all that I had, and all that I could know. What would happen if I were in the cave until I were my age today. And at this very moment in time, I am released into the very same world that I am living in right now. How much different would my prayers that I am about to pray be? Would there be prayers that I would stop praying? Would there be prayers that I would pray, that I have never prayed? I am inclined to believe that my prayers would have little resemblence to the prayers I pray now.

I've been wondering how much influence the culture has on the things that I pray. A culture where even unbelievers use prayer as a tradition, in order to bless their meal. A culture that does not pray for things, unless it is something we have seen be answered in ours or others lives. A culture that occasionally uses prayer as an opportunity to demonstrate godliness for the sake of recognition. A culture where prayer is dominated by words, and matters of the heart are left unsaid.

As I've considered this, I began to think that if I had lived in that cave, and all I knew was the word of God, without knowing anything of the world around me, I would only pray ACCORDING TO GOD'S WORD. I have never in my life even considered praying for a dead man to be raised from the dead. I do not pray for blind people to be healed. Almost as if, because these are things I have never seen happen in our current culture, even though not admitting it, I am assuming that God doesn't do those things anymore. I am beginning to be convinced that we are not seeing these things happen, because we are not asking. I'll be honest, I get awkward even thinking about asking God to raise a man from the dead. Just doesn't feel right. But I'm kind of tired of letting how I think, or how I feel, or how it seems, dictate how I would pray, and even dictate the way I would live my life. Feelings and emotions are so much based on what the culture says you should feel like. I don't want to let that be the driving force of my prayers. I want to pray in line with who God says He is, what He says He does, and nothing short of that. I now have a choice; either to pray in line with who the culture says God is, or in line with who God says God is. Starts with The Word.

After considering all of this, there is one truth that allows me to breathe easy. Ultimately, makes me thankful that we have been given a Holy Spirit to rely on to intercede for us in our prayers. The Holy Spirit turns my weak prayers into powerful prayers, in order that lives may be changed according to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

sin management vs. advancing the kingdom

As I'm listening to myself praying a few weeks ago, my heart and eyes are opened up to my lack of gratitude for my own salvation. All I can hear are prayers concerning "my needs," "my sins," "my desires," "my struggles." Jesus does call Himself our Healer, our Provider, our Saviour, thus making it ok to call on His name when there are needs, but where is the Kingdom in all of this? When was the last time I was on my knees begging for the salvation of the people in my life, which by the way, are not in my life out of mere happenstance acquaintance. Where in my heart is the ache for those that do not have salvation through Jesus Christ? Where is the brokenness? Could it be that there is not enough gratitude in my own heart for what He has saved me from, and what He has saved me to? It seems as if there is a prevalent idea in my wonderful American life, that our ultimate purpose is the sanctification of ourselves through Jesus Christ. Almost as if now that I have salvation, I am so caught up in the thankfulness for my own salvation, that I cease to consider the salvation of those who do not have what I have been given, and only consider becoming better for Jesus. Although my thoughts are consumed with "Thank You's" for my salvation, where is the heart of gratitude if I am not so thankful for eternal salvation that I am eager to share it with others, and broken for those that don't have it. Overcoming sin in my own life bears too much weight. Not out of an attempt to gain a license to sin freely, but out of a recognition that there needs to be a stirring in my heart to "SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM."

Again, as I am praying, and recognizing my prayers to be all about me, God puts it on my heart to lay those things down for a short season, and consume my prayers for the lost people in my life. Although this may seem simple, I guess it's not simple enough, because these things have in the past, been somewhat of a rare occurence in my prayers. For one week, I am going to to lay my needs, sins, struggles, desires, wants, etc...down at the throne of grace, and consume all my prayers with eternal things. Prayers for salvation. At the beginning of that week, on a small card that would fit in my pocket, I thought it fairly simple to write 5 names of lost people in my life, and to commit to be on my knees first thing in the morning, and last thing in the evening, crying out for their salvation. The List of 5 was incredibly random. But we serve a God that is incredibly "not" random. The first name on my list is a guy I used to work with over a year ago, and had only seen one time since then. As I pray, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, go by, but Thursday, I walk into the gym where I work, and that first name that I had not seen or spoken to in almost a year, is standing at the top of the stairs. He then tells me he is now the new manager of the very gym that I work at every day. Definitely got my attention, and felt the need for more of a diligence in prayer now. The following Monday, I walk into the gym, and he tells me it's his birthday, but no one had planned anything for him. At that opportunity, I offered to take him to lunch, and he accepted. Following lunch, he asked me a question. He asked, "hey, i heard you are thinking of getting out of training," and I responded that that was true. He proceeded to ask, "what do you want to do?" I responded, "I would love to be a worship leader at a church." His final question was, "have you always been so spiritual?" Kind of made me laugh that that was the impression that he had of a worship leader, but also made me realize that this is an opportunity to let him know that I haven't always been "spiritual," and here's what happened that changed my life. I was able to share my testimony of salvation, which led to a 2 hour conversation regarding nothing except salvation in Jesus Christ. Following the conversation, he mentioned that he still had a lot of questions, but was now very interested, and asked me if he could attend church with me that Sunday. He came, and is continuing to come, while I am continuing to have opportunities to dialogue with him on a very deep level regarding salvation. I pray that God opens his heart, and that He will be saved.

After this experience, in my mind, it was as if God was saying, I want to use you. I just want you to be willing, and I just want you to ask me. Pray for salvation. Diligently. And in My name. And I will do it. I began to see a need for my heart to be changed even more, as there is still this underlying thought that I am not broken enough for the lost being on their way to an eternity in hell. I am praying that my heart continue to be stirred in such a way that I do not cease to pray for the lost, nor cease to continually proclaim His name through the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the nations that are right in my lap. And to stop consuming my prayers with selfish, temporal things. The Father knows what we need even before we ask. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added. Let's pray for eternal things.