Are you willing to look childish to become childlike? (question 3)

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:3

This week’s question is actually a challenge from our Lord Jesus. It isn’t just a question about what you and I are seeking or wanting from God. It is a question that digs deep into our values and our vulnerabilities. It is a question that asks us to be vulnerable. In fact it asks us to value being vulnerable rather than being strong. The question is from Matthew 18 above: Are you willing to look childish to become childlike?

What do we mean when we say childlike? Well, it means trust. It means abandoning our self consciousness. It means a reckless love that doesn’t mind being noticed. Think about how children are with their parents. They trust their parents without needing to be taught. Children aren’t self conscious about acting on that trust. They don’t worry about who is watching when they hug their dads or kiss their moms. The believe freely. They are happy to be gullible to their parents.

Is that us toward God? Jesus said in Matthew 18 that such characteristics are the very definition of Biblical faith! He said that it is only by that type of faith that people enter the kingdom of Heaven. So, are we willing to look like that? I used a word that is derogatory in our culture: gullible. I don’t mean gullible toward the world. I mean gullible toward God. Are we willing to look foolish with Him? Do we believe everything He says? Do we praise Him without caring who hears? Do we sing with passion, obey with determination, and follow wherever He takes us? Are we okay looking foolish as long as it is Jesus we are following?

Yes, it will make us look a bit childish to those who aren’t with us. They will ask us how we can believe the Bible so fully. They will look askance at us as we sing (even when we can’t carry a tune – just like kids) to our Father. They will call us silly, foolish and eve gullible. So, which do you value: Looking grown up or being childlike?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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The Reality of Our Faith – Question 2

Last time we thought about this question: Is Heaven or Earth our home?

Today we ask this question: Do we want godliness or painlessness from God?

Consider that for a moment. Which do you really want from God? The apostle Paul said, “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:7) He then said that ,”More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of  knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,” (8) Did you catch what he valued most? It wasn’t painlessness. It was Christ. He wanted to be found in Jesus. He wanted Jesus’ righteousness to be the righteousness that he lived by. It was worth suffering to have that righteousness. Being close to Jesus was worth the cost.

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of  knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

Philippians 3:7-8

Now, I know our next question: Can’t I have both? Of course, the answer is no. That’s not the life God has set up. Life has choices. Choices have consequences. Those consequences cost something. Consider an athlete. No athlete can become an athlete without exertion and pain. They have to train. They have to stretch those muscles in new ways. They have to work through pain to get to the next level of performance. Why do they do it? They do it so that they can compete. They do it so they can stay in shape. They do it to win. (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) Now imagine someone claiming to be an athlete that doesn’t break a sweat when they exercise. They don’t stretch their muscles. When they are tired they skip training that day. Are they athletes, enthusiasts, or couch potatoes?

I could give several more examples in work or academics or hobbies where the same principle is at work. If we truly value something, we are willing to sacrifice and suffer for it. This is a clear test of the reality of our faith: are we willing to suffer to grow? We are the athletes who have a prize to win. Our prize is Christ today and forever with Him in Heaven tomorrow. Do we cringe from the cross we are called to carry or do we embrace it as the call of our faith, our way of coming close to our Savior?
What is your answer? Do you want godliness or painlessness from your Savior?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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4 Questions to Check How Real Our Faith Is (part 1)

For we walk by faith and not by sight

– 2 Corinthians 5:7

For the next several weeks I want to think together about the reality of faith in the life of a believer.  Paul says that the regular life of the believer is the life of faith.  He contrasts this with a life of sight.  Just what does that mean?  Well, it is the difference between living by what we have been told in the pages of God’s Word instead of what the world around us is demanding that we must believe all the time.  Defining such a life is simple.  Living by such a life is what is hard.  So, before we look at how we can live such a life, let us consider for a few moments how we might discover if a life of faith is where we are living today.

To examine that life of faith, I have 4 questions for us to consider. Let me give you one of those today.  The question is this: Is Heaven or Earth your home? Before you answer consider carefully the ramifications of your answer.  Home is where we find contentment and happiness.  Home is what you protect.  Where home is determines how you understand your identity.  For some people, home is actually their workplace.  For others, home is a country or region or ethnic identity.  Where is home for you?  Where is the home that you are looking forward to going?  Where is the home that you protect?  Where is the home that makes you happy?  Where is the home that determines how you see yourself?

With these thoughts in mind, now answer the question – Where is your home?  Is it Earth?  Is it Heaven?  It does make difference.  If home is Earth, then letting go of the things of Earth will be more difficult when God asks it of you.  If home is Earth, then it becomes easier to identify with how the world does business.  However, if home is Heaven, then the focus of our life is on Heaven’s goals and Heaven’s values.  When the world states its opinion, it cannot threaten us because this world is not our home.  Heaven is.  It changes everything.

I leave you with this thought.  As Abraham grew in faith it became obvious that this Earth was not his home.  The writer of Hebrews declares that Abraham was looking for a better country whose builder and maker was God.  That changed him.  As we read Genesis we can see that change.  He stops trying to keep God’s promises for Him.  Abraham doesn’t hold onto the son of promise.  He leaves him in God’s hands.  Why?  What could make Abraham such a man of faith?  My answer is this: his home became Heaven instead of Earth.  Where is our home today?

Something to think about,
Pastor John

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When You Have It All, Do You Have Anything?

Are we ever like the person who has everything and doesn’t realize what they have until it is gone? Have we, who have so much become so consumed with having that we no longer really believe that it is more blessed to give than receive?

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

1 Timothy 6:6-8

What are we chasing after really? When we chase after things, are we chasing after life?  I don’t think so.  Paul is clear. Real life is found in being like Jesus. Real life is not found in the accumulation of stuff.  Real life is found in godliness with contentment. We talk about life as our activities and stuff, but do we really find life in being busy? Does being busy fulfill us? Or is life something much more profound?

Paul points out that we should be content with food and clothing. He points out that when we came into the world we had nothing. When we leave this world we will have nothing of the stuff that we so often think of as life. Yet, life isn’t something that you leave behind, is it? Life is God. Life is the people that He has put in our lives to serve and love. God gives life. He defines it. It is God’s presence and leading that makes life truly wonderful. It is His absence that makes it a disaster.

So, I am left with two questions: Do I seek life, or just trinkets?!  Do I have relationships or just activities? How sad would it be to discover that I am chasing after the stuff of life instead of real life.  So, I will try to chase after real life.  In Christ I find my purpose, my joy, my future. I want to spend my time loving and serving the people He has put into my life. What about you?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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What Bothered Jesus Most

Jesus gives many warnings. However, the tone of most of most of the warnings of Jesus are redemptive in nature. He warns us so that we will avoid the snares of the Devil. He warns in order to save.

However, when it comes to the warnings in Matthew 23, Jesus’ warnings go a different direction. He doesn’t just warn of Satan’s traps. He doesn’t say that we should avoid the temptation. He simply and straightforwardly condemns.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

Matthew 23:13, 15

What does He condemn? In verses 13 and 15 He condemns those who would bar the door of the Kingdom from others. Either through active disobedience or through legalistic burdens, those He condemns are those who keep people from following God. They encourage by their life a rejection of God’s call. They discourage by their additions to God’s call anyone from being willing to say yes.

Do we ever see ourselves in Jesus’ warnings? Do we see ourselves neglecting our relationship with God so much that we are no longer a witness for Him? Do we see ourselves standing in another person’s way to trust Jesus because we are presently neglecting our own salvation? They see no difference, no transformation in our life and so they reject Christ’s message. Is that us?

Or perhaps we see ourselves adding things to grace when we try to help new believers conquer sin. We reject rules and regulations which would say that we have to somehow earn God’s approval (as if such a thing were even possible for fallen man), but perhaps we have given those new Christians a list of do’s and don’ts which communicate the same thing. We haven’t encouraged them to let the love of Jesus guard their hearts and minds. Instead, we give them the very list of commandments that they have already discovered that they cannot keep. Are we drawing them to Jesus or are we increasing their feeling of hopelessness?

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day are easy marks for our criticism today. Yet in His criticism of the Pharisees, Jesus warns against all forms of self-righteousness. They were true warnings then. They are true warnings now. Woe to us if we are modern day Pharisees. May we heed His warnings.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Psst… God Wants You to Know Something

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

– John 15:15

Scholars tell us that there are over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled during His earthly ministry.  I am not going to list them here, but I do want to talk about what it means to be given prophecy from God.  Prophecies are God’s promises to us.  They declare what will happen.  They warn of possibilities if our present direction isn’t changed.  They reveal who God is.  Prophecies also reveal what type of people we are.  Ultimately, prophecies are God’s way of helping us see around the corners of life.  They are gifts of wisdom and foreshadowing that help us understand what’s next.  They prepare us for God’s plan. 

Sometimes we see ourselves as mere cogs in God’s great machine.  However, if that were so God would not let us in on His plan.  He would leave us in the dark.  Jesus told the disciples, ” I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15).  If you have never thought of it before, think of it now… You are God’s friend.  At least, that is how He wants to be with you.  That is one of the things that prophecy tells us.  It tells us that God cares so much about us that He wants us to know in advance what He is going to do.  He wants us to know what is important.  He wants us to know what will bring us life.

That is why He has given us His Word.  That is why He has given us Jesus.  He loves us.  Because of that, He shares His heart and His plans with us.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Obey God Rather Than Men

The title of this post comes from the Apostle Peter.  When he was commanded to stop preaching in the name of Jesus he declared to the Pharisees he said, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

When we hear those words today, I think that we get confused. I see folks flipping which things we are supposed to stand firm on and which things we should soft pedal. We get real testy about our opinions. We dig in our heels for our preferences. And then we shy away from talking openly about Jesus. Yet, this wasn’t what early believers were doing. Jesus came first. Rights, privileges, and opinions came last. In fact, the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9 that he makes himself a slave to everyone so that he could share Christ to everyone. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22)

So for the believers in the Bible, their obedience to God rather than men centered around Jesus. They wouldn’t compromise or bend when it came to Him. Other things could bend. They even joyfully embraced imprisonment for His truth. They would not soften or back pedal the message of Jesus.

The question I ask myself is – do I have this same commitment? Which do I hold strong for? Do I really hold out Jesus as the life of my life? When it comes to telling others about Jesus, do I have this commitment?  When it comes for standing for God’s righteousness, do I have this commitment?  If I am persecuted for the faith, will I respond like Peter?  When my world or culture declares that it will reject me if I don’t reject God’s truth, will I respond like Peter?

The point of course is that Peter, John, and the other disciples discovered something.  They discovered that Jesus is worth it.  He is worth the sacrifice.  He is worth the disdain and mockery of others.  He is worth whatever the cost.  He is our ultimate good.  Because of how wonderful He is, we won’t bend.  We won’t compromise truth.  We do it all for Jesus.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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Being A Man of God

I read this passage and it makes me think about what kind of man I am – 

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

1 Peter 3:7

What kind of man seeks to understand his wife, protect her, and honor her as an equal heir of this grace of life? That is quite a man, isn’t it?! This isn’t the brash or arrogant strength that we see so often shown by the immature. That brash strength is fleshly and just a shallow imitation of true strength. Such arrogant brashness leads to war with those closest to him.  This isn’t what God wants. This isn’t living out grace.

Did you notice the words, “in the same way”?  What way is that?  It is the way of Jesus!  Peter started this discussion in chapter 2 verse 13 with the word “submit”. Citizens, slaves, women, men, and all of us are called to submit like Jesus. That command is as true for men as it is for the others.  We are called to submit. We submit to the way of the Kingdom. We give our life to live like Jesus.

People who live in understanding, protect others, and honor others are the ones who look like Jesus.  Jesus submitted to his Father.  He understands us.  He protects us. In order to do that, he gave up his own life for us.   He did not demand glory or respect.  He served.  He showed us the way. We can’t say that Jesus wasn’t strong. He stood against hypocritical religious leaders, corrupt politicians, and even Satan himself. Yet, we don’t see His being cruel, callous, or selfish. Jesus followed the way of the Father.

How do we do this?  How do we become like Christ?  Well, we start with stopping the wars in our lives that are with the people we love. We crucify our tendency toward selfishness and flimsy imitations of strength. When we treat those we are closest to as enemies we show that we are struggling with submitting to Christ.  However, if we treat them with love, respect, and gentleness we will be actively submitting to Christ.  Which choice will we make?  Will we submit to way of Jesus and choose kindness and gentleness or will we keep fighting with those we love?  Men – is it time that we decide that we are fighting a different type of war? It is not a war against the people in our lives. It is not a war that can be won by anger, force, or bravado. It is a war against Satan. It is a war against sin. It is a war against pride. Which war are we fighting?

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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The Test of Commitment

In today’s world we lament a lack of commitment.  We applaud and show excitement when people last long in in their job or position.  Why? We applaud because we don’t see it very often!  We lament that people just can’t stay committed.  We complain.  Yet, when talking about encouraging commitment to God’s church we get shy about it.  We sometimes say we can’t push for it because it will drive people away. This makes me ask – What does it mean to be a disciple?

When Jesus was asked what it meant to be a follower of His, He described discipleship in two ways.  First, He described it as a type of love.  In fact, the type of love we were to have for Him was supposed to make all other loves look like hate.  He said, “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.” (Luke 14:26)  No shying from commitment there!  In fact, this teaching almost offends us, doesn’t it?

The second way Jesus talked of being a disciple was in cross-carrying.  He said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)  Two words leap out at me from that description: cross and daily.  Both of those words speak of commitment.  A cross is tough to carry.  It is especially tough when you think about the end of the journey: death.  Doing anything daily is a conscious decision that requires commitment.  Put the two together, and you and I receive this call – commit permanently to a hard choice: follow me.

As we consider what is necessary in the Christian life, we must take a close look at the type of commitment we are giving Jesus.  Without a Jesus-level of commitment, what are we saying about Him?  What are we saying about this truth upon which we say we are risking our lives?  If His call doesn’t demand much from us, then what is it? It is past time for God’s people to commit to His purpose for them. Are we committing to that purpose?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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The Urging to Live with Purpose

Last time I shared a bit about seeking our purpose.  Today I want to talk more about “buckshot” living.  If you missed it, refer to my last post.  However, to simplify things, buckshot living is the living we do and we don’t really know why we are doing it.  It doesn’t really have a purpose and we wouldn’t call it fun.  Now, if this purposeless living was every once in a while or if it just affected the non-essential areas of life it wouldn’t be a big deal.  I have observed that many people live full-time in the buckshot zone.

Many people parent in the buckshot zone.  They don’t have a plan to lead their children closer to God or to become better people.  They are just surviving.  Many people go to work in the buckshot zone.  They don’t have a plan to witness.  They don’t have a plan to shine for Christ through their industry and trustworthiness.  They are just working.  Many people are married in the buckshot zone.  They don’t have a desire to help their spouse grow in godliness.  They don’t have a way their marriage is going lead other couples to Christ.  They are just existing together.  They love each other.  Hopefully, they have fun together.  But, their life together has no greater purpose than just living.

26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:26-27

This aimless living hurts us. Aimless living breeds discouragement. Aimless living undermines our personal purpose. Paul declared that his approach was to live with aim. He wasn’t just going to beat the air. He lived with his purpose always in mind. As you think about the apostle Paul, do you see a man discouraged or just floating along? Isn’t he a man who knows what his life is about and how he is going to spend it? How did Paul get that way? He got that way on purpose. He lived with clear purpose. That purpose gave his life eternal meaning.

If your life seems too aimless, will you fill the activities of your life with that eternal purpose? Your life may be full of activity, but is it activity for a reason? Isn’t it past time to bring purpose to the activities of your life? Will you settle for mere activity or will you dedicate your activity to the purposes of God?

Worship, evangelism, Christian growth.  Which of these are the purpose for your life’s activities?  No, we aren’t saying that having the occasional fun for fellowship’s sake is bad.  Nor are we saying that every little activity of life must fit neatly within these three purposes.  But – if there is something we do all the time that involves other people and it doesn’t regularly have one of those purposes, then aren’t we selling ourselves short?  Aren’t we answering the question of why so much of our life seems pointless?  Give it some thought.  Isn’t your life more than just doing things?  Doesn’t life have meaning?  And don’t the individual events of life gain greater meaning when we imbue them with purpose?

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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