Friday, July 30, 2010

Reassured (4)

I’m concerned that many of us go through life with a question mark in our hearts and not an exclamation point.

Get the “exclamation point,” not the “question mark"

The question marked heart is asking this question: Am I loved? There’s a void, an emptiness in the heart. Some of us have the question marked heart because of our upbringing or because of failure. So, we develop all these strategies to answer that question. Am I loved. At the end of the day, the people around us feel used. Why? Because we were using them to answer that question.

The exclamation pointed heart is making a statement: I am loved! There’s a fullness, a satisfaction in the heart. Some of us have the exclamation pointed heart because we’ve met Christ Jesus. We know He loves us. So, we develop strategies, too. But we are wanting others to know this same love. I am loved! At the end of the day, the people around us feel served, feel loved. Why? Because we were serving them – sacrificing ourselves, laying down our lives – to help them find an answer to their question.

What are you? The question-marked heart or the exclamation-pointed heart?

God wants you to know you are loved.

May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT)

Knowing how loved you are will fill you up and give you a way to love others.

I remember a conversation I had last year with a teenager who was really, really struggling at home. It wasn’t good; not at all. His relationships with his dad and mom were very, very stressed. On top of that, his girlfriend had just broken up with him. She said, "I can't handle all this stress." And he wanted to restore that relationship. He was heartbroken. I encouraged him to consider that it might not be the best time to pursue a girlfriend relationship. I said, "You might be seeking a relationship with a girl because of a void in your heart that can only be filled by your relationship with Jesus." I went on, "You might have a question mark at the core of your being. You might be asking, 'Am I loved? Am I worthy?' at the core of your being. So, you are using strategies and tactics to answer that question. And the people around you know intuitively that they are being used to fill a void in your life. That might be why your girlfriend is running the other way." He seemed like he was listening so I kept going, "Perhaps now is the time for you to focus on your relationship with Jesus - to really lock in on your union with Christ, your identity in Christ - to know who you are in Jesus. Then you can relate to others with an exclamation point at the core of your being. You'll be saying, 'I am loved! I am worthy!'

“When that happens, you will live with strategies and tactics that are coming from a full and healthy place, not from a void. And the people around you will know that they aren't being used. Instead they feel they are being loved."

When it comes to love, get it.

… give it. vv. 16

Notice how verse 16 ends. If you know you’ve been loved by Jesus – the One who laid down His life for you, then you can give it away. You can lay down your life, too.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. I John 3:16 (ESV)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reassured (3)

We need to talk about love! We’re going to focus on 1 John 3:16-18 today.

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. I John 3:16-18 (ESV)

when it comes to love…

… get it. v. 16

Remember that Cain hated and then killed his brother, Abel. Here John is contrasting this example of hatred, Cain, with the supreme example of love, Christ.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us…
I John 3:16a (ESV)

Jesus didn’t hate and take a life. He loved and gave a life – His very own. Our young adult pastor, Andy Sikora, says, “Both hatred and love result in someone losing their life. If we are full of hatred we take someone else's life or we treat them as if they don’t deserve to live. If we love we willingly lay down our own life.” Jesus did. He laid down His life.

Do you know this love?

Because of our rebellion and sin against God, we deserved the wrath of God. But Jesus came into this world and took the wrath we should have taken.

Imagine a nail piercing your hands and feet. Really imagine it. Put a fingernail into your wrist. Close your eyes. Dig in. I magine a nail being pounded there. Now, move to the other side. Do it again. Dig in deep. That’s just a very small, very trivial way of envisioning what Jesus endured. Think about His feet, back, head, side bleeding.

Now say, “That should have been me, Jesus, not You.” Go ahead say it. Now, hear Him say, “I did it because of love. I love you.”

Read this again:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us…
I John 3:16a (ESV)

Remember this Sunday School song? Sing it to yourself:

Jesus loves me this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.

Why these little exercises? I am praying we get this.

You are loved. In writing about the love of God, in The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer says:

Love wills the good of all and never wills harm or evil to any. Fear is the painful emotion that arises at the thought that we may be harmed or made to suffer. This fear persists while we are subject to the will of someone who does not desire our well-being. The moment we come under the protection of one of good will, fear is cast out. God is love and God is sovereign. His love disposes Him to desire our everlasting welfare and His sovereignty enables Him to secure it. Nothing can hurt [the godly]. pp. 98-99

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reassured (2)

The love test is the focus for today. Love is the indispensable sign of the reality of our faith. It’s the undeniable sign that I am really following Jesus. Love is not merely an optional duty, but proof positive that a person truly knows Jesus (John 15:12; I Peter 1:22, 23).

Now, we learn here in 1 John 3:11 that God has been giving us the same message over and over from the very beginning. Love each other.

And then we are introduced to an Old Testament character. Cain. He was one of two sons of Adam and Eve. The other son was named Abel. You can read about it in the first book of the Bible, Genesis 4.

Both Cain and Abel wanted to worship God. Abel brought an animal sacrifice just like God said to do. Cain brought an offering of fruits and vegetables. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice, but not Cain’s.

Why did God accept Abel’s sacrifice, but not Cain’s offering? The animal sacrifice pointed to Jesus who would one day be the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world.

But Cain wanted to come to God on his own terms and not on God’s terms.

The reason this story is important is because Cain’s heart was exposed. He wasn’t “of God.” He was “of the evil one” – the devil. His heart was filled with bitterness, resentment, jealousy, ambition, and self. So, he killed his brother, Abel.

In verse 12, we’re told not to be like Cain who allowed un-love to build in his heart and ended up murdering his brother.

So, in verse 13, he says just like Abel was hated for doing what’s right, don’t be surprised if you are hated for doing what’s right. This has been going on for a long, long time.

Now, verse 14 teaches us that the way we know we have been transferred from a state of spiritual death to a state of spiritual life is that we love. We love our brothers and sisters. Love is the proof that we are “of God” and not “of the evil one.” But if we don’t love, we are in state of spiritual death, just like Cain was.

Then, in verse 15, John lays down some true smack in stark terms. It’s either love or hate. Indifference is not love. So, even something as seemingly as mild as indifference is a form of hate. And we all know that hate could eventually lead to murder. So, if you don’t love, you’re guilty of hate and that makes you a murderer in your heart and no murderer has eternal life (Matthew 5:21-26).

John allows for no middle ground: you either love someone or you hate them. As much as we might want to try, we can’t sit on the fence and say, "I don't love him, but I don't hate him either." John won't let us say that. Not loving is hating. And hate is what leads to murder.

Think about how you feel about people in your world. Who annoys you? Who ticks you off? You may not actually kill anyone but do you treat them like you wish they were dead? Do you treat them like you’re better than them – like your life counts for more, like their life doesn’t count?

Later we will look at verses 16-18 and talk about love.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reassured (1)

My wife, Maryanne, flew to Alabama over a week ago to be with her sister, Kay. Kay has been fighting ovarian cancer. And her body has been so weakened from the chemo, that she’s now in a hospital in intensive care fighting pneumonia. And we are deeply concerned.

But we’re confident that Kay is in a good place with God. The evidence is strong that Kay knows Christ. She prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior and Lord many years ago. And there’s proof she really knows Jesus. She helped to start a contemporary service in her United Methodist Church that is double or triple the attendance of the traditional service. She has been a speech therapist for stroke patients and Down’s Syndrome children. She put her life on hold to care for her aging father and mother – even bringing her mother into her own home for the last 6 months of her mother’s life. She has been an incredible big sister, a great sister-in-law, a generous aunt to our sons. This woman’s life oozes with the love of Christ. And that’s why even though she’s in ICU, we are reassured.

There will likely be times when you will question your faith. “Do I really know Christ? Am I truly headed to heaven?”

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him.
I John 3:19 (ESV)

And this message is to help us understand the “this.” By “what” shall we know that we are of the truth and can reassure our hearts?

It’s love. Love. If there is anyone who should have a reassured heart, its my sister-in-law, Kay.

How about you? How about me?

Remember that I John was written so we can know that we know that we have eternal life. And the book is full of tests. If you pass the tests, then you can know that you know. You can have assurance.

Gary Nave summarized the tests.

1) There is the truth test. Do I believe what the Bible says about Jesus?
2) There is the moral test. Do I practice righteousness and avoid lawlessness?
3) There is the love test. Do I love God and others?

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Tribe that unites

Here's an award winning essay written by Rob Supan about his dad, his kids, and the Indians. Good reading even if the Indians are not on a winning warpath this year. This is one of the reasons I love baseball.

***

I can’t honestly say I recall my first professional baseball game. I know it would have been at old Municipal Stadium, I’m pretty sure it was in ’79, and I can say with a fair amount of certainty, that we lost.

But while I don’t remember my first baseball game, I can say without hesitation that I remember becoming a baseball fan.

It was a night game by the lake, I was nine and my dad and I occupied a vast expanse of empty seats down the third base line, a satchel of peanuts, a group of kids posturing for a fight a section over but clearly lacking the nerve to throw punches, and Andre Thornton crushing a home run to bring us all to our feet. He and Rick Manning were my favorites, Dre for his power and Rick because of his hair.

That night on our way to our car, my Dad bought me a tribe pennant. The proud grin of Chief Wahoo trimmed in red and blue with the old seventies style Indians type rode home with me that night. His ever-present smile adorned my bedroom wall throughout the next several decades, marking the night I fell in love with baseball.

He’s watched as I grew, discovered girls, learned to drive, and completed high school. He saw my father and I evolve from father/son to adversaries to best friends. He was the uniting factor in those times when I’d be home from college and Dad and I struggled to be in same room together, but could always declare a nine inning truce in the right field seats at the Jake.

That pennant now occupies the wall of my sons’ room. My oldest boy is nine now. He’s one of four sons and three older sisters. He’s the same age I was when my passion was ignited, and I love that he and his brothers have been Tribe fans for years now.

Their fandom looks different than mine. It shows up on their wii and mp3 player, their baseball knowledge fed by unlimited amount of stats and figures on the family computer. But nothing replaces a game of catch in the yard pretending to be Grady pulling one back over the centerfield wall to put the tribe in the playoffs.

I love knowing that as I watch them go through seasons in their own life that we can look forward to building memories like I did with my Dad. I’m comforted that when things get rough, we’ll be able to talk balls and strikes and make everything OK again.

With seven children, it’s a luxury to get the whole family to the ballpark. On a non-profit's salary it's a financial stretch, but nothing can take the place of sitting in the stands. It’s awesome. It’s special.

Their Granddad started something thirty years ago. His son passed it down. And today, from the corner of his grandchildren’s bedroom, Chief Wahoo continues to smile.

Emergent?

Someone recently asked if CVC is becoming an "emergent church." Maybe the question was asked becasue we are looking for a co-teaching pastor who is in his mid to late 30s.

Here's my response:


I think it's wise to answer the question with another, "What do you mean by that? Just what does 'emergent church' mean to you? And please be specific."


Often, people who use labels aren't able to articulate what they mean because they don't really understand the terms they are using. Oftentimes, people who use labels are really in some kind of an attack mode. I have found that labels are sometimes/oftentimes used by harsh, negative, judgmental, critical types.


Actually, "emergent church" is a difficult term to define. Christianity Today has a helpful article by Scot McKnight here. And you can find a helpful technical paper written by Ed Stetzer here.


In his paper, Stetzer writes, "Critics must be on guard against bearing false witness... If you are going to speak out against a movement, learn about it. Then, you can speak with wisdom and clarity—for there is much that needs critique in the church, including the emerging church." Stetzer goes on and cautions, "If evangelicals intend to remain evangelical and hold to biblical fidelity, no movement can afford to be embraced without careful evaluation."


So, I have read two books within the last couple of years that deal with this topic. D. A. Carson wrote "Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church" and DeYoung and Kluch wrote "Why We Are Not Emergent." Both are helpful.


Unfortunately, some younger leaders are classified as "emergent" simply because they are young or because of how they dress or because of the kind of music they like or because of their preferred style of ministry or because of their political leanings. Calling into question a young adult's commitment to Christ, to scripture, or to sound doctrine because of such things is simply uncharitable and uncivil.


If by using the term emergent people mean that CVC is following the teachings of people like Brian McClaren (who wrote "A New Kind of Christianity"), then nothing could be further from the truth.


CVC has been, is, and, I pray, always will be a Christ-centered, Bible-based, gospel-preaching church. Members and attenders at CVC have no reason to believe that this will ever change. We have elders and leaders at CVC who are fervently committed to guarding church from straying from the truth. The elders and leaders at CVC regocnize that a significant part of our responsiblity is to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).


For example, we just finished a series dealing with the Biblical view of various world religions. In that series, we taught the five solas that are in line with historic, orthodox protestant reformation theology.


At CVC, we believe that we are saved by grace alone through grace alone in Christ alone. We believe that hell is real, that heaven is real and that after judgment real people go to either one or the other. We believe that only Jesus saves. We believe that Christ's death on the cross was the atoning sacrifice for our sin. We believe the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God all the way "from the flaps in the front to the maps in the back." We believe that God is Triune. We believe that Jesus is God who has come in the flesh to be the Savior of the world. We believe that only those who repent and beieve in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be eternally saved. We take our stand with the Bible's teaching regarding pro-life and pro-marriage views.


If by using the term "emergent" people mean CVC actually wants to care for the poor, needy, orphans, widows, the last, the least, and the lost, then I guess we'll have to plead guilty.


Again, I think a good way to have a conversation about this issue is to start by asking, "What do you mean by the term "emergent church"? And please be specific." You can then repond to specific allegations, if necessary.


Invite the critics to check out the preaching and teaching over the last several months. Ask them to give specific examples of any eveidence of false teaching at CVC. The truth of the matter is that they will be hard-pressed to find any examples of unsound doctrine.


And one last thing. You might gain some insights about these kinds of conversations from some of my past blogging by reading here and here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Talking to Satan

I received the following email this week from a guest at one of our Saturday night services a few weeks back:

Hi Rick - I am the missionary friend of one of the CVC staff and when I attended CVC July 10th you asked during the question/answer time that anyone who had an opinion about the subject of talking to satan to please email you.

I do have an opinion that came about as a result of observations of many situations where this issue arose.

Before I went to the mission field I lived in Cleveland. While ministering here I observed intense attack and devastation in several ministries that emphasized “intercessory (prayer) warfare” against satan. When I cried out to the Lord my sorrow over the demise of those once and very powerful ministries, He led me to a book by John Paul Jackson, "Needless Causalities of War." It seemed right on point. Never directly engage satan. Never accuse or threaten him – he will respond and throw open wide the gates of hell with that invitation. When the focus is on the enemy, there is devastation and darkness. And after my experiences on the mission field, I saw so very clearly the power and the light, and the peace and joy, when one spends much time worshipping and focusing on God’s glory. There simply is no space nor place for the enemy when the heart is consumed with God’s glory.

Jackson maintained that direct communication was reserved for God alone in the heavenlies as seen in Job. He noted that even Michael the archangel would not accuse satan when disputing the bones of Moses in Jude 1:9.

I have heard some people say they talk directly to satan because Jesus did (i.e. in rebuking Peter He said, "get behind Me satan"). I personally do not agree with these people for 2 reasons: 1. they are not Jesus 2. Jesus destroyed the works of satan on Calvary (Jesus' retort to Peter was prior Calvary).

Another observation/experience occurred while ministering in a church in Whales, England. All of a sudden, there was much sickness – physical and mental – in this church (just like in JP Jackson's church). Even the pastor's wife was suffering emotionally. And the results of these events left only a handful of people attending the church.

The afternoon after ministering in this church, I was asked to attend a prayer meeting. While on route to the meeting, and much to my dismay, I was told we were going to pray at a place that had formerly been a site of satanic ritual. I asked why we were going there. The response given was to pray against what satan had done to this church and community. Now it all made sense to me and I didn’t want to go. But what could I do? We were in route and I was a guest. I could only pray for the Lord to get me out of this situation.

So when we arrived at the ritual site, I told the Lord once more to please get me out of this situation. I did not want to go with that group and engage satan and I did not want to offend the pastor in front of his followers. So you know what Jesus did? He got me out of that very difficult situation by having me meet a family that “happened” to be camping near the location. As I walked by them I started talking to the mother of the family. Long story short, I spent the whole time talking with her about how much Jesus loved her and praying with her to receive Jesus as her Savior. The next day, everyone who went to that site and yelled at satan was terribly sick. I was not sick so I spent the day rejoicing for the love that young mother found in Jesus.

I know you are very busy but if ever you get a chance to share with me your thoughts on the above I would appreciate it very much. God bless you and your precious family Pastor Rick.

EX 33:14 The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

***

My response to this email:

I think you are wise to be cautious about participating in the various activities you described.

I think we should be careful to not overstep our authority. But I do think we should be free to follow Biblical teaching and take as much authority as we are permitted to take.

In Jude 9, the passage you referenced, we read, “When the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’”

The ESV Study Bible indicates that Michael did not pronounce a sentence of condemnation on the devil. Instead, he left that to God's authority. He simply told the devil, “The Lord rebuke you.” This, of course, demonstrates the exclusive power and authority of Jesus Christ. He is the one who destroys the works of the devil as we learn in I John 3. The point of Jude 8-10 is that the false teachers refused to submit to rightful authority. So, this is a verse should not be used to teach us that we do not have a Christ-given, Biblically-based authority over demons. It appears that it is permissible to approach demons in a similar way saying, “The Lord rebuke you.”

In Acts 16:18, the Word says, “Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.”

Rather than praying to God, in this passage Paul speaks directly to the spirit and commands it to leave. This is consistent with the authority over demons that Jesus Himself had as we can see in Matthew 8 and ththat He had given to His disciples in Matthew 10 and Luke 10.

I, too, think we should spend much, much, much more time in praise and worship than in “rebuking the devil.” We can thank God for His victory.

As I look at the words I encouraged our congregation to say, it strikes me that it is in large part a celebration of the victory of Christ and a claiming of our position in Him. Here’s what I said in the message:

“Tomorrow, when the devil comes to you and tries to throw a blanket of shame on your soul, you tell him, ‘No matter what you say to me, I am God’s child now. And it has not yet appeared what I shall be. Yes, I may fall. I am not yet free from sin. But I have an Advocate. And one of these days, devil, my Advocate, Jesus, is coming back. And when I see Him, I will be like Him. And you cannot stop that from happening. So, today, I choose to abide in Him and live in hope. My sin and my shame have been covered by Christ. And as I live in hope, I will be purified as He is pure.’”

One of the best tools I know about when it comes to spiritual warfare is a book by Spiritual Warfare, by John Franklin and Chuck Lawless. They approach the issue from a posture of faith and hope and joy and victory. Jesus wins. So do we. Greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world.

http://www.lifewaystores.com/lwstore/product.asp?isbn=0633029033

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Questions about "Spiritualism"

This weekend, I received an email from a friend asking for advice on how to reach a “spiritualist.” Maybe you know someone who is a “spiritualist,” too. If so, maybe my advice to my friend might just help you. What follows is her email and then my response.

Hi Pastor Rick -

I want to first thank you for equipping me with your CoExist messages. I learned a lot from them, and they helped me understand more about sharing my faith, especially with a Jewish friend of mine.

Along the lines of those messages, I have a question about the religion of "spiritualism." I have a friend from my college years who was raised Lutheran but was spiritually seeking during the time when we met. She came to church with me several times, but she was never in town long enough for us to get in a habit of going often together or talking much about faith.

Years have passed, and she recently shared with me that she is a member of a "spiritualist" church in Texas. I don't know much about this, and upon asking her questions, it sounds like she believes in God, in prayer, and in some biblical truths (i.e. do unto others and reap what you sow). However, she also seems to be involved in some occult practices such as speaking to dead spirits, crystal healing, tarot cards, and casting spells. I'm encouraged that she does not desire to hurt anyone, and, in fact, is quite caring, but at the same time, I of course want to find a way to show her that Christ is the answer to her searching for healing, security, and hope.

My question for you is, what resources are there (web or book) that I can read to help me understand how to best evangelize with someone specifically involved with spiritualism? I have built a bridge of trust over the years with her, and she knows my beliefs and feels loved by me, but at the same time, I feel like there's more I could be saying or doing to help her see that her beliefs are dangerous and not founded on truth. I also have a hard time overcoming her conviction that she experiences "conversations" with her dead grandmother and "signs from God" as answers to her questions. She told me she chose this belief system because it gave her the connection she desired with her dead relative and a feeling that she has the power to bless people through healing. I know the Bible mentions a passage about Saul seeking to talk to Samuel through a medium. Is what she is experiencing as a medium only her perception or a reality?

Thanks for reading all this. I am hoping for some Christian resources on this subject to help me better understand how to influence her for Christ. Thank you.


Wow. Thanks for your faithfulness.

To help you understand where she is coming from, check out the following link:

http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.2904221/k.11F2/New_Age_Channeling_An_Overview.htm
I think one big issue at hand here is her source of authority. It is not helpful to point out what the Bible says about issues if the person in question questions the authority of the Bible. So, lovingly helping her to consider that her source of authority (her own mind, her readings, her advisors, the channelings) might be flawed is a big step. And then lovingly helping her to see that the Bible might indeed be divine revelation is of paramount importance.

You might want to get a copy of The Reason for God, by Tim Keller, and read the chapter on his answer to the challenge “You can’t take the Bible seriously.” He shares his thoughts on why we can trust the Bible. You can find his book here:

http://www.amazon.com/Reason-God-Belief-Age-Skepticism/dp/1594483493/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279382670&sr=8-1

You might also want to check out this site for more information on the inspiration of scripture.

http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.2903889/k.CAB3/The_Inspiration_of_the_Bible.htm
The best way I know to help her come to trust the message of the Bible is to actually ask her to read the Bible with you. I have done this with skeptics. I’ve asked people to read the book of John with me. Why John? Well, the book was written “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31, ESV). So, what if you each read a chapter a week and then made a phone appointment to talk about it. You can say, “I already know you might not believe everything that the Bible says and you already know that I do. So, let’s not argue about whether it’s true or not. Let’s just talk about what it means.”

If she’s good to go with this, then pray like crazy that the Holy Spirit will open her eyes to the truth (II Timothy 2:24-26). The Bible is like a lion. We don’t have to defend it. We just have to let it out of it’s cage.

The book of John is great for skeptics to read because it points people to Jesus as the great I Am. He says, “I am the bread, the light, the shepherd, the door, the resurrection and the life, the way/truth/life, and the vine.” He claims to be God in John. She has to deal with the “trilemma” – Is Jesus liar, lunatic, or Lord. Most spiritualists probably want to say He is a good teacher, a good example, a good prophet. They won’t want to say He is God. But John won’t let you simply say Jesus is a good man.

Have you written your 700 word story? If not, please do. And then at the right time, you might feel led to share that with her, too. People can’t deny the fact of a changed life. Here is where you can find instructions on writing your story:

http://cuyahogavalleychurch.blogspot.com/2009/02/guidelines-for-writing-your-story-what.html

There will be a time when this spiritualist approach will be seen as bankrupt for her. As you know, Jesus alone is all in all. So, anything apart from Him will be shown to be empty and false.

Since this is true, then love her. Be there for her. Listen. Ask questions. Let her share her story. Let her know you will be her friend even if she doesn’t share your views about Jesus. Don’t judge. Live out I Peter 3:15. Read the book “unChristian” to understand how people like here see evangelical Christians. And without compromising the truth, don’t give the other side more reasons not to trust us! You can get “unChristian” here:

http://www.amazon.com/unChristian-Generation-Really-Christianity-Matters/dp/0801013003/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1279383188&sr=1-1

And please keep me posted.

Unashamed (5)

Jesus is coming back. We don’t know when. Are you ready? If Christ comes back, will you be clean or dirty – unashamed or ashamed?

I John 2:28-3:10 tells us three ingredients for being unashamed. Here’s the third.

To live a life free from shame, I must abide with hope.

If there is one practice/habit/discipline of our faith that I would like to master, it’s summed up in this word: abide.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
I John 2:28 (ESV)

To abide means to remain, to stay closely connected, to settle in for the long term.

John heard Jesus talk about this. In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the Vine and you are the branches. If anyone abides in Me, he bears much fruit. But apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

Recently, I was sitting in our backyard and enjoying the beautiful oaks there. Then I noticed a bunch of dead leaves in an otherwise gorgeous tree. What happened? A couple of weeks ago, we had a huge windstorm and it blew a large branch down and it lodged itself in some other branches. For several days, it looked good. But now, it’s drying up. It’s dead and it’s obvious.

That’s a picture of some of us. We’re starting to dry up spiritually and we are losing the battle against sin because we are not abiding. It’s time for us to reattach ourselves to the Life. It’s time for us to abide.

Abiding is being attached to Jesus. It is a union of friendship with Christ. It’s a dependence on and trust in Christ. It’s trading my weakness for His strength, my lack for His supply, my emptiness for His fullness. It’s seeking to rely entirely on Jesus. It’s a practicing the habit of opening my heart to Jesus.

Abiding is constantly keeping open the pathway between my heart and Christ. It’s being with Him consistently, maintaining an unbroken communion with Him. It’s habitually adhering to Him. It’s an attentiveness to His voice. It’s an ongoing turning of my eyes to Jesus.

Abiding is a constant conversation between my soul and Jesus that really never ends. It’s being closely knit to Him. It’s cultivating His company as I go about His business. It’s being constantly in touch with Jesus.

Abiding is receiving the constant flow of the life of Christ. Abiding is maintaining a moment-by-moment fellowship with the Lord.

You won’t be sinning if you’re abiding. This is why abiding is the key to standing unashamed before Christ. But the passage not only teaches us to abide. It teaches us to abide with hope.

And hope is what many of us don’t have right now. Your life has been hard. People have let you down. Someone has attacked you. You've fallen into some bad habits, bad patterns of behavior. You’re defeated, depressed, and discouraged. You feel lonely, afraid. You want to give up and give in. You don’t know if it’s worth it anymore. You think, “Others can live this Christian life, but you can’t.”

If any of that is going on in you, God has a word for you today.

Beloved, we are God's children now…
I John 3:2a (ESV)

You are His child. Don’t ever forget that. You matter to God. You’re in the family. He has plans for you. He believes in you. You’re His. Yes, you may have failed Him. But you’re His child.

… and what we will be has not yet appeared…
I John 3:2b (ESV)

Your best moment so far is nothing compared to what’s coming. Yes, you. In spite of your sin. In spite of your failures. You “ain’t” seen nothing yet.

… but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
I John 3:2c (ESV)

When Christ comes back and we see Him face to face, we shall be radically changed. We’ll be like Him. We’ll sin no more. That’s what’s coming. For you who have experienced the new birth, who are trusting in Christ, one day, you’ll see Jesus and you will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
I John 3:3 (ESV)

Hope. Hope! Yes you’ve fallen, but there is hope! And when you think about who Jesus is and who you will be because of Him, that has a purifying power in your life! It changes you!

The distinguishing mark of a true believer is not perfection. The mark of faith is not that I never sin sexually or verbally or emotionally. The mark of faith is that I’ve experienced a new birth that enables me to trust and abide and hope. I see myself as a great sinner, but I see Jesus as a greater Savior.

If all you can see in the cross of Jesus is a license to go on sinning, you’re not a child of God. You’re a child of the devil. And you need to fall on your face and beg God to give you the new birth so that you can trust Christ as your advocate so you can abide with hope in Him.

Yes, the devil will try to steal your hope and cause you to live in shame when you fall into sin.

But know this: Your punishment for sin has already happened on the cross and now you stand before God as His child and He loves you not just for who you are today but for who you will be.

Tomorrow, when the devil comes to you and tries to throw a blanket of shame on your soul, you tell him, “No matter what you say to me, I am God’s child now. And it has not yet appeared what I shall be. Yes, I may fall. I am not yet free from sin. But I have an Advocate. And one of these days, devil, my Advocate, Jesus, is coming back. And when I see Him, I will be like Him. And you cannot stop that from happening. So, today, I choose to abide in Him and live in hope. My sin and my shame have been covered by Christ. And as I live in hope, I will be purified as He is pure.:

So, what sin has been tripping you up? What is creating shame in your life? It doesn’t have to be that way! Quit beating yourself up! Quit living your life in shame. See Jesus, not yourself. He’s your champion. He’s winning. He’s destroying the work of the devil in you. If you look at yourself and your failures and not at Christ, you will live in defeat. Look to Jesus. Abide in Him. Hope in Him. He’s the One who saves from sin and shame.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pride and humility

Here's a quote from Jack Deere that my friend Gus found and sent me recently. I think these are wise words about the dangers of pride and the blessings of humility.

***

"It has been my observation that God does not normally violate the prejudices of religious pride. Many of the Pharisees went to their deaths absolutely convinced in the validity of their own traditions and prejudices. Their religious pride shut them off from the correction that God would so willingly have given them, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble' (1 Pet. 5:5).

The tragedy is that many of their doctrines were biblical and true. Yet I would rather have some wrong doctrines (on non-essentials only) and humility than to have perfect orthodoxy on every point and no humility. A person who has wrong doctrine and humility can be corrected. A person with mostly right doctrines and no humility will be resisted by the Lord he professes to serve."

Unashamed (4)

Jesus is coming back. We don’t know when. Are you ready? If Christ comes back, will you be clean or dirty – unashamed or ashamed?

I John 2:28-3:10 tells us three ingredients for being unashamed. Here’s the second.

To live a life free from shame, I must trust in Christ.

One of my fears when I preach is that some people will hear this: You must try really hard to practice righteousness and stop practicing sin.

If you hear that, you are missing the point. You can’t try harder and harder to overcome sin. If you are able through your own willpower to stop over-eating, and over-shopping, and over-drinking, then you will be filled with pride and self-righteousness. And if you not able through your own willpower practice righteousness, then you will feel shame.

This life we live as Christ-followers is not about trying. It’s about trusting. We place our trust in Christ. To live as children of God who practice righteousness and who do not keep on sinning, we trust Jesus.

You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
I John 3:5 (ESV)

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
I John 3:8 (ESV)

It’s easy for us to think about this on a global level and forget about the application of this on a personal level. When Jesus appeared on this earth, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, and rose from the grave, the devil was defeated. And a sequence of events has been initiated by Jesus. The devil’s works of rebellion against God will one day finally and fully be destroyed. But not yet.
Now, that is true for the universe and that is true for your life, too. He came to destroy the works of the devil in you. His life, death, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit is His means of destroying the works of the devil in you.

Our job is to trust Jesus. Thank Him that He’s winning. By faith, believe that He’s winning.

“So, why do I still sin?” Just as Jesus is progressively destroying the works of the devil in the world over time, He’s progressively destroying the works of the devil over time in you.

This is what I told my friend who was struggling with porn. I said, “Yes, I know for you it’s been two steps forward and one step back. Sometimes, it’s two steps forward and three steps back. But overall, you’re telling me you are moving forward. Jesus is giving you a measure of victory, right?” He said, “Yes.” I replied, “Then Jesus is destroying the work of the devil in you! Trust Him! Watch Him win in you.”

If you’ve experienced the new birth, you have an Advocate and a propitiation for your sins.

I John 2:1 says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

John does not say that if you sin, you are not born of God. He says that if and when you sin, you have an Advocate, Jesus Christ. It means He’s our defense attorney. If you are guilty of a crime, you need to get a lawyer who pleads for you. And that’s what Jesus does.

He knows we will sin and that we have no defense apart from Him. So, He pleads His own merits before the Father. He says, “I know he’s sinned, but see My hands, My feet, My side, My brow. See the wounds on My back. I paid the price for Rick. He doesn’t have to pay.”

Maybe you’re reading this blog today and you have slipped into having a lukewarm, careless attitude about sin. You are starting to coast. You are indifferent as to whether you are godly or worldly. You are causal about bad attitudes and actions. You are starting to settle – to compromise.

But God has stunned you with the truth of I John 3:9 (“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning”). And you’ve been reminded once again to trust in Jesus as your Advocate and your propitiation. And you are convicted to confess your sin – to no longer justify or rationalize or defend it, but to agree with God about it. And as you once again see Jesus taking the wrath of God in Himself that should have come toward you, your love for Christ is now renewed and the hatred of your sin is now restored and you now have a renewed passion to practice righteousness and forsake sin.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Thousand Questions

We showed this powerful video this weekend at CVC to drive home the truths found in I John 3:11-24. Creation. Fall. Redemption. Mission. It's all in I John 3 and in this video. Powerful. Simply powerful. It's worth your time. Really. Find it here on youtube. Find it here on vimeo. Find it here at Willow Creek.

Unashamed (3)

Jesus is coming back. We don’t know when. Are you ready?

We’ve had 2 candidates and their wives for the co-teaching pastor position in our home over the last couple of weeks. And let me tell you, there’s been lots of cleaning going on! Why? We didn’t want them coming to a dirty house. We didn’t want to be ashamed of the cleanliness of our home.

If Christ comes back, will you be clean or dirty – unashamed or ashamed?

I John 2:28-3:10 tells us three ingredients for being unashamed. Here’s the first.

To live a life free from shame, I must seek new birth.

There is only one way to move from being a child of the devil to being a child of God. To be a child of God I must be born into His family.

If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
I John 2:29 (ESV)

Look at that phrase “born of Him.” It’s talking about a new birth where old things pass away and new things come.

We are born physically into this world. But being “born of Him” is talking about a spiritual birth. You know your physical birthday. Have you had a spiritual birthday? Are you “born of God?”

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
I John 3:9 (ESV)

Have you had a spiritual birthday?

A believer may commit isolated acts of sin, but the new birth experience guarantees that he or she will not live a life of ongoing unrepentant sinfulness. A seed from God has been implanted within us. God’s seed grows in us and gives us a power over sin.

Maybe as you read this blog today, you aren’t quite sure why. But right now, God is doing something in your heart. Something’s stirring inside. He’s causing you to want this new birth. Pray to Him, “Make me spiritually alive, God. Breathe life into this spiritually dead heart of mine. I’ve been dead to You. But right now, I want to be alive to You, God. I want to be born of God. I want to be a child of God. I want a miraculous transfer from the devil’s family to Your family. I’m seeking the new birth.”

Jesus brought you here because He’s doing a new thing in your life. He wants you to stand before Christ unashamed.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Unashamed (2)


We’re going to start with I John 3:10. Look at it closely.

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
I John 3:10 (ESV)

The Bible says that only two kinds of children exist in the world: 1) children of God and 2) children of the devil. There’s no middle ground. And no one can belong to both families at the same time. Either we belong in God’s family and we live righteously or we belong to the devil’s family and we don’t live righteously.

You’ve heard the saying, “Like Father, like sons and daughters.” That’s the idea here. If you are a child of God, you will be like your Father: righteous. If you are not a child of God, you are a child of the devil and you will be like your father: unrighteous.

Now, you might be uncomfortable or even skeptical right now. This talk about people being children of the devil makes you nervous. And you’re questioning, “I like to think of everyone as a child of God.”

Jesus believed in a real devil. The Bible presents the devil as real. Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 tell the story about how the devil, once an angelic being, led a rebellion against God. He’s been seeking to destroy God’s kingdom ever since. He’s called Satan (Revelation 12:9), destroyer (Revelation 9:11), the adversary (I Peter 5:8), the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9), the father of lies (John 8:44), the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4), and the tempter (Matthew 4:3) who disguises himself as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14).

Most people are not consciously followers of the devil. They aren’t Satanic worshippers. But the Biblical idea is that the world apart from God is under the influence of the devil. And people without Christ are under the influence of the devil. They think they are running their own lives. But they are under the influence of this world system – a system that is not submissive to God. And in that sense, they are children of the devil. It doesn’t mean that people are as evil they could possibly be. There are a lot of really, really nice people who are unwittingly, naturally part of a worldly system that’s separated from God and His kingdom.

So, John says you’re either a child of God or, whether you know it or not, a child of the devil.

In this passage, he defines the differences.

children of God
practice righteousness – 2:29, 3:7

If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
I John 2:29 (ESV)

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
I John 3:7 (ESV)

The phrase “practice righteousness” here refers to people who are living lives of integrity, virtue, and purity. It’s referring to correct thoughts and actions.

Following Jesus isn’t just about not doing the wrong things; it’s about doing the right things. It’s about pursuing justice and mercy. I think of what Jesus says in Matthew 25. Children of God feed the hungry, cloth the needy, and visit the sick and the prisoner.

Is your lifestyle a lifestyle of practicing righteousness? Children of God practice righteousness.

children of the devil
practice lawlessness – 3:4

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
I John 3:4 (ESV)

The phrase “practice lawlessness” here refers to people who are living lives that violate God’s law. Maybe they don’t know what God says. Maybe they are defiant. Either way, knowingly or unknowingly, they are breaking God’s laws.

Some people think this way: “I don’t care what God says, I’m sleeping with my girlfriend.” “I don’t care what God says, I’m lying about my income to save on my taxes.” “I don’t care what God says, I am not giving a portion of my income to support God’s work. I’m not tithing!” “I don’t care what God says, I’m not forgiving that person who has hurt me!” All that is a practice of lawlessness.

Is your lifestyle a lifestyle of practicing lawlessness? Children of the devil practice lawlessness.

children of God
do not keep on sinning – 3:6

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
I John 3:6 (ESV)

Look closely at that phrase “keeps on sinning” (1 John 3:6). This does not teach that we can reach a state of sinless perfection in this life. These are present-tense Greek verbs. They point to continual or habitual sin. The idea here is that no one who lives a sinful lifestyle, who has an ongoing habit of sinning knows Jesus” (1 John 3:6). A true child of God will not continue in a pattern of unrepentant sin.

But this doesn’t mean that we will ever be sinless in this life. John has already said in I John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Proverbs 20:9 asks, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin’? And Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”

But we can’t take this fact and use it as an excuse not to strive for holiness. Your sanctification will never be complete in this life, but it should never stop increasing in this life.

I like the way Gary Nave puts it. We will not ever be sinless, but we should sin less. The more you grow, the more you hate your sin and the more you beg God for victory over your sin.

Have you stopped making a habit of sinning? Children of God do not keep on sinning.

children of the devil
make a practice of sinning – 3:8

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
I John 3:8a (ESV)

Sin is missing the mark. God says, “Here’s the bulls eye.” Is your lifestyle a lifestyle that misses the mark?

Do you make a practice of sinning? Children of the devil make a practice of sinning.

So, which are you?

Andy Sikora says, “John’s point here is that it is evident which family you belong to. Your life reveals who your father is. It is evident. It really is your DNA. Certain things just run in the family.”

You cannot disconnect your spiritual being from your physical doing. The only people who are righteous are the ones who practice righteousness. The doing of righteousness is the evidence and confirmation of being a child of God.

And it’s the children of God are the ones who can be unashamed when Jesus appears – when Christ returns.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Unashamed (1)

Recently, I was on the phone with a young friend who is a leader at another church. For years, he has struggled with pornography. I asked him, “How are you doing?” He said, “I’m experiencing more victory than before, but I still fall too many times. So, frankly, I’m discouraged.” I could feel the defeat and despair in his voice. In my conversations with this young man in the past, he has questioned whether or not he is a true believer. He reasons this way: “If I am truly saved, then why do I keep falling into the same old sin over and over? Maybe I don’t really know Jesus after all.”

All the evidence points to the fact that this man is a true follower of Jesus, but he’s dealing with shame. He’s doubting his salvation.

And he’s not alone.

Maybe you don’t have the same struggle he has. For you, a besetting sin is anger or fits of rage or jealousy or fear. Or maybe you struggle with greed and materialism or procrastination and laziness or rebellion and selfishness. What is that sin that keeps tripping you up over and over and over? You know it’s wrong, but you can’t stop.

And now you’re dealing with shame. And maybe you’re doubting your salvation, too. You are thinking this way: “If I am truly saved, then why do I keep falling into the same old sin over and over? Maybe I don’t really know Jesus after all.”

So, how do we who say we follow Jesus deal with our ongoing sin? How can we have assurance of our salvation when we sin again and again? How can we know that we know that we’re saved when we have so much shame for our sin?

The Bible tells us how we can stand before Christ free from shame. Over the next few days, we’ll explore how we can be unashamed.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
I John 2:28 (ESV)

Monday, July 12, 2010

I Know That I Know - A Study in 1 John: Desires (10)

You may have seen a tee shirt that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Lots of us act like it’s true. But it’s more accurate to say, “He who dies with the most toys still dies – and never takes his toys with him.”

When we die after devoting our lives to getting the stuff of the world, we don’t win. We lose. We go out into eternity. But our stuff stays behind, filling up junkyards and garage sales.

I'd like you to take a look at this line we have connected from one end of the worship center to the other. This line represents eternity. Everybody’s life started somewhere on the line. Some lives started long ago. Some just started.

But wherever your life started, it’s going to go on and on into eternity. As believers in Christ, we’ll spend that eternity in heaven.

Let’s let a dot on this line represent life on earth. The line represents life in heaven. Right now, we’re living in the dot. But what are we living for? The shortsighted person lives for the dot. The person with perspective lives for the line. This earth (and my time here) is the dot. God and my eternal home with Him is the line.

As Christian leader, Randy Alcorn, says, ”I should live for the line and not for the dot.”

The person who lives for the dot lives for pleasure and treasure and power on earth. It’s stuff that ends up in the junkyard. The person who lives for the line lives for pleasure and treasure and impact in heaven.

All of us will lose our money. The only question is when. At death we’ll all lose our money. We have no choice but to part with it later. But we do have a choice to part with it now. We can keep earthly treasures for the moment and we may get some temporary pleasure from them. But if we give them away, we’ll enjoy eternal treasures that can never be taken from us.

Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

If you read that and think: Well, he was one of those super-spiritual types who didn’t think about gain, then you’ve missed the point! Desire for gain was precisely what Jim Elliot was thinking about. He just desired the kind of gain he couldn’t lose. He desired pleasure, treasure, and impact in heaven!

So, should we not desire a good meal? Should we not desire a career? Should we not deisre to get married or to have kids? Should we not desire good health or a good night's rest or a beautiful summer day or a nice home?

The answer is that we can desire these things. But we must connect them to the line, not the dot. See that all these things are to be used while setting your minds on the things above, not on the earth. Leverage your life to look for pleasure, treasure, power in heaven, not in the world.

Do not love the world. Love God. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, the pride of possessions - is passing away. But the one who does the will of God abides forever.

Live for the line not for the dot.

A prayer inspired by I John 2:15-17:

O Lord, the world is so attractive and alluring. I confess that its bait tempts me to nibble and then causes me to devour. Often, my love for the world increases while my love for You decreases. Transform me into a person who loves You and loves not the world or the things in the world. Show me what worldly loves in my life must be forsaken. Jesus, may my desire for pleasure not turn into hedonism. May my desire for treasure not turn into materialism. May my desire for power and impact not turn into egotism. Transform my worldly, temporal desires into godly, eternal desires. Teach me that worldly pleasures and treasures are fleeting and that the pursuit of them is foolish. Grant that I may prove my love for You by truly doing Your will. And may I know that know that I will abide with You forever.




Ryan Duncan


Ryan, originally uploaded by Evan.Duncan..

Yes, Ryan likes his music.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Abiding and unashamed

If there is one practice/habit/discipline of our faith that I would like to master, it’s summed up in this word: abide. At CVC this weekend, we'll be talking about how abiding will help us be "unashamed" when Jesus returns.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
I John 2:28 (ESV)


So, what is abiding? Here are some summary thoughts from a previous post where I listed 30 quotes from various sources on abiding.

Abiding is being attached to Jesus. It is a union of friendship with Christ. It’s a dependence on and trust in Christ. It’s trading my weakness for His strength, my lack for His supply, my emptiness for His fullness. It’s seeking to rely entirely on Jesus. It’s a practicing the habit of opening my heart to Jesus.

Abiding is constantly keeping open the pathway between my heart and Christ. It’s being with Him consistently, maintaining an unbroken communion with Him. It’s habitually adhering to Him. It’s an attentiveness to His voice. It’s an ongoing turning of my eyes to Jesus.

Abiding is a constant conversation between my soul and Jesus that really never ends. It’s being closely knit to Him. It’s cultivating His company as I go about His business. It’s being constantly in touch with Jesus.

Abiding is receiving the constant flow of the life of Christ. Abiding is maintaining a moment-by-moment fellowship with the Lord.

Friday, July 09, 2010

I Know That I Know - A Study in 1 John: Desires (9)

17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
I John 2:17 (ESV)

The stakes are high here. Do you see that? Want to abide forever? Want eternal life? Want to know that you know you have eternal life? Love God and prove it by doing the will of God.

Don’t miss the connection between loving God and doing the will of God. We see loving God in verse 15 and doing the will of God in verse 17. Jesus connected these two in John 14:15. He said, “If you love Me, you’ll obey My commandments.” Dale quoted that verse last week and here we are quoting it again this week.

If you love God, there will be a walk of obedience. We prove our love for God by doing the will of God. And when we love God and prove it by doing the will of God, we can know that we know that we know that we have eternal life.

Now, we’ll never do the will of God perfectly, but the direction of our lives will be toward the will of God not away from the will of God.

Are you pursuing God’s will for your life? Do you know His will?

John is showing us that loving God and not the world is not optional. It is a matter of eternal life and eternal death. It should be number one on your life's agenda. Nothing in all the world is more important than loving God and doing the will of God. This is the first and great commandment, Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Matthew 22:36–40).

The antidote to loving the world is loving God. Did the world die for you, forgive you, free you from guilt, give you the promise of eternal life? No. But, in Christ, God did. This is why we love Him. He gives us what money can’t buy and death can’t take away.

To build your life around loving the world is not only sinful, but it’s foolish. Invest in what is passing and you’ll pass away.

I grew up in Tennessee where my dad pastored rural churches. Some people in his first small rural churches lived in what many people would call run-down shacks. Outside, they often had these really expensive cars, trucks, and boats. My dad and mom would say, “They are car rich and house poor,” or “they are boat rich and house poor.” I learned from mom and dad that it's foolish to let your house – something that lasts for decades and decades – to deteriorate and fall down around you while you pour your resources into a car that has a much, much shorter life span. They were car rich and house poor.

Today, maybe you are worldly rich and heavenly poor. Think about it. That’s even more foolish!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

I Know That I Know - A Study in 1 John: Desires (8)

The world takes a God-given, human desire and tempts us to turn it into sin. So, as I thought about this issue, I thought that I need to begin to pray for myself differently. I don’t need to pray against my God-given, human desires. I need to pray that I won’t allow the world to twist and distort my desires so that they become sinful and destructive.

16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
I John 2:16 (ESV)

So, based on I John 2:16, here is a prayer I’m going to be praying and I encourage you to consider praying.

Jesus, may my desire for power not turn into egotism.

God made us to desire impact – a godly kind of power and influence. When He made us, He said, “Rule My creation. Have dominion (Genesis 1:26). But power can turn into egotism when our desire for impact turns into a lust to be praised, admired, and applauded – when it turns into pride.

This is why John says…

16 For all that is in the world—pride in possessions—is not from the Father…
I John 2:16 (ESV)

This is a difficult phrase to translate. I like the NASB: The boastful pride of life.

This describes someone who attempts to impress others with his own importance – the person who tries to be a bigger, better person than he is. He seeks to exalt himself with possessions, achievements, and status symbols. It’s an arrogant, boasting, bragging display of material wealth and worldly advantages. “I’m self-sufficient. I’m secure. I’ve arrived – look at/admire me.” It’s saying, “I gotta have this kind of shoe, car, dress, sit on the board.”

The first two—desires of the flesh and desires of the eyes—refer to desires for what we don't have. And the third—the pride of possessions—refers to the pride in what we do have.

But I really want that watch – that status symbol that says that I’ve arrived! Do I have to say ‘No’ all the time?” No. But you have to say “no” enough to keep yourself humble. And you’ll have to stand before God and give an account of why you bought that while 3 billion people in the world are living on less than 2 dollars a day. And when you do say “yes” you’ll need to connect the dots from the watch to God. “He made this for me to enjoy. Thank You, O My Father!”

Jesus, may my desire for power not turn into egotism.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I Know That I Know - A Study in 1 John: Desires (7)

The world takes a God-given, human desire and tempts us to turn it into sin. So, as I thought about this issue, I thought that I need to begin to pray for myself differently. I don’t need to pray against my God-given, human desires. I need to pray that I won’t allow the world to twist and distort my desires so that they become sinful and destructive.

16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
I John 2:16 (ESV)

So, based on I John 2:16, here is a prayer I’m going to be praying and I encourage you to consider praying.

Jesus, may my desire for treasure not turn into materialism.

God is not a cosmic Scrooge. He loves to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). God doesn’t say “no” to a roof over your head or clothes on your back. So, our desire for a modest accumulation of things is not ungodly, especially if we will use our things to build His kingdom. But our desire for things becomes destructive when it becomes materialism.

Materialism is what happens when the desire for reliable transportation turns into a lust for a newer car. Materialism is what happens when the desire for shelter turns into a lust to have a bigger, better house. Materialism is what happens when the desire for clothes on your back turns into a “shop-till-you-drop” lifestyle.

This is why John says…

16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the eyes—is not from the Father…
I John 2:16 (ESV)

Some versions translate this phrase “the lust of the eyes.” It’s a strong desire for what is seen. This is a craving for what is attractive to our eyes. You see it and you have to have it.

Advertisers know about this. It’s why the mail order catalogues hit your mail box all the time. It’s why Penny’s and Macy’s and Target put full color ads in the PD. It’s why we’re pulled to eBay, Amazon, and Overstock.com. It’s why advertisers brand their product and then make you feel “less than” if you don’t buy the product with their logo.

An all-out pursuit of what you see in this world is not from God. We are not to live lives dominated by what we see.

Ghana beat us in the World Cup, 2-1. For weeks now, I’ve had my eye on purchasing a Ghana Soccer jersey. I’ve been on Amazon looking at it. I love the Ghanaians. I’ve been there 4 times. Their away jersey is cool. I can see myself riding on my bike in it. I can even justify buying it from a spiritual point of view. When I wear it, it will remind me to pray for the missionaries we support and for the churches we’ve helped to start there. But this passage convicted me. Do I really need that jersey? No. It’s the desire of the eyes. So, I decided to give the money that I would have spent. Our church is under budget. So, I gave ½ of the money to CVC over and above our regular 10%, our tithe. And I gave the other ½ to another ministry that I know is also under budget.

I’m not telling you this to brag. I'm admitting that I struggle. I’m not alone.

Someone else here is has been planning a purchase. It might be something small. It might be something big. You’ve had your eyes set on that ring, that chair, that bike, that exercise equipment, that car, that house. And maybe the Holy Spirit is saying to you today, “Don’t. Don’t buy it. Instead, give. Give to your church. Give to that friend who doesn’t have a job. Give to care for a poor child – for an orphan. He wants you to say “no” to buying that thing for yourself – no to materialism – so you can say “yes” to giving. If you do, you will be laying up treasure in heaven.

Jesus, may my desires for treasure not turn into materialism.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

I Know That I Know - A Study in 1 John: Desires (6)

The world takes a God-given, human desire and tempts us to turn it into sin. So, as I thought about this issue this week, I thought that I need to begin to pray for myself differently. I don’t need to pray against my God-given, human desires. I need to pray that I won’t allow the world to twist and distort my desires so that they become sinful and destructive.

So, based on I John 2:16, here is a prayer I’m going to be praying and I encourage you to consider praying.

16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
I John 2:16 (ESV)

Jesus, may my desires for pleasure not turn into hedonism.

We all have a desire for pleasure. God made us that way. Corn-hole, ribs, watermelon, fireworks, family on the 4th of July… what’s wrong with that? But our desire for pleasure can become destructive if it turns into hedonism.

Hedonism is what happens when the desire for sexual intimacy turns into a “Tiger-Woods-type” addiction. Hedonism is what happens when the desire for a good meal turns into gluttony. Hedonism is what happens when the desire for fun with friends turns into all-night-partying, bar-hopping, and getting wasted.

This is why John says…

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh—is not from the Father…
I John 2:16 (ESV)

Some versions translate this phrase “the lusts of the flesh.” An all-out pursuit of physical pleasure is not from God. We are not to live lives dominated by our senses.

He’s not just talking about sex here, although that’s included. Pamper the body and you’ll become lazy. Eat and drink too much and you’ll become overweight or an alcoholic. Cave into a desire for luxury and you’ll be wasteful.

This is why Peter tells us, “I urge you… to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (I Peter 2:11, ESV).

“But I really want that dessert! Do I have to say ‘No’ all the time?” No. But you have to “no” enough to keep your appetite for pleasure under control. And when you do say “yes” you’ll need to connect the dots from the apple pie to God. “He made this for me to enjoy. Thank You, O My Father!”

God is speaking to someone reading this blog today about giving up some worldly pleasure – about trading that worldly pleasure in for something more eternal, more valuable. What is He wanting you to give up here so you can have gain there?

Jesus, may my desires for pleasure not turn into hedonism.

Monday, July 05, 2010

I Know That I Know - A Study in 1 John: Desires (5)

Why should we love Jesus and not the world?

16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
I John 2:16 (ESV)

These three temptations are classic and pretty all-encompassing. We all have to deal with all three.

In fact, Bible scholars tell us that we can see these three temptations in at the fall, in the garden, in Genesis 3 when Satan tempted Eve.

Gen. 3:6 says, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food” (the desires of the flesh); “… and that it was a delight to the eyes” (the desires of the eyes); “…and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise…” (the pride of life).

You even see these three temptations when Jesus was tempted by Satan in Matthew 4.

In Matthew 4:3, 8, and 6, we read, “Command these stones to become loaves of bread” (the lust of the flesh); “He [Satan] showed Him [Jesus] all the kingdoms of the world” (the lust of the eyes); “Throw yourself down [from the Temple ] for…He will command His angels [to] bear you up” (the pride of life).


Some would say that every temptation you’ll ever face will fall in one of these three categories.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

I Know That I Know - A Study in 1 John: Desires (4)

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
I John 2:15b (ESV)

Here, the reason for not loving the world is that world-lovers are not God-lovers. Are you a world-lover or a God-lover? You can’t be both. There’s not room in your heart for loving both the world and the Lord. Love for the world pushes out love for God, and love for God pushes out love for the world.

Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).

We will either love the world or love God. This is an either/or issue. We can’t do both. If you love the world you’ve deserted God.

Several years ago, one of the little girls in our church had a grandfather who was in the hospital recuperating from open heart surgery. Her parents explained the heart surgery to their children. And the dad asked his daughter, “Do you know that your heart is for?” With no hesitation at all, she said, “It’s for loving Jesus!” Wow!

Do you know what your heart is for? It’s not for loving world. It’s for loving Jesus!

Big Cleve - My Struggle

Here's a new rap video filmed by Alan Duncan and edited by Ryan Duncan. Duncan Brothers Productions.




Big Cleve - My Struggle (Official Music Video) from Evan Duncan on Vimeo.

This Isn't Happenstance


This Isn't Happenstance, originally uploaded by LinkinFreakPixar.

Joanna Duncan (singing back left), Alan Duncan (rapping), Bryan Karas (keyboard), and Tom Sawyer (drums) at the 2010 ALIVE Festival.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

I Know That I Know - A Study in 1 John: Desires (3)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
I John 2:15-17 (ESV)

There is really just one command in this section of scripture.

Do not love the world or the things in the world.
I John 2:15a (ESV)

The rest of this passage gives us the reasons why we should not love the world. But first, we have to answer the question: What’s this “world” that we are not to love?

You have to understand that the word “world” is used in different ways in the Bible.

1) God actually wants us to love His created world. When God made everything, in Genesis 1 He saw everything that He had made and “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). We should be concerned about the oil spill that is devastating the Gulf coast. The word “world” in verse 15 is not referring to the created world.

2) God actually wants us to love the world of people. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” And we are to be like Him. He wants us to love people and see them served and saved. It’s why we say that we are here to Love God, Love One Another, and Love the World. The world “world” in verse 15 is not referring to the world of people.

3) Here in verse 15, the Bible is using the word “world” to describe a godless world order or system that is opposed to God and is designed to seduce us away from God. In Thayer’s Greek dictionary, this word is described as “the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments, riches, advantages, pleasures, etc., which, although hollow, frail, and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ.”

There is a worldly, godless way to pursue knowledge. There is a worldly, godless way of politics. There is a worldly, godless way to do business. There is a worldly, godless entertainment system. We know what God wants, but the world says there is a better way. God wants us to be more generous – to help the weak, the poor, the needy, the last, the least, the lost. But the world says, “You have to buy this new Gillette Fusion ProGlide razor.”

This is why the Bible says…

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…
Romans 12:2a (ESV)

Ask yourself, “Are the TV shows I watch, the movies I see, and the magazines I read uplifting? Or are they full of adultery, drunkenness, rebellion, violence and filthy language? Am I seeing more violence, less morality, and more blurring of the lines between good and evil? Am I worldly? Or godly?

We are to be in the world but not of the world.

So, John starts here by saying, “Do not love the world.” Everything else in this paragraph is an argument or an incentive as to why we should not love the world.

Friday, July 02, 2010

I Know That I Know - A Study in 1 John: Desires (2)

Last week, Pastor Dale challenged us with these words, “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith.” To know that you know means that we’ll all have to take an honest look at our own spiritual lives to see if there is evidence that we really do have Jesus as Savior and Lord. Dale asked us, “Can you pass the test of your claims?” Dale explained that I John 2 gives us three ways to examine ourselves:

1) I can know that I know that I have eternal life if I not only say that I know Him but I also keep His commandments.

2) I can know that I know that I have eternal life if I not only say that I abide in Him but I prove it by walking as Jesus walked.

3) I can know that I know that I have eternal life if I not only say "I’m in the light," but I prove it by loving others.

Today, we’re going to look at yet another way to examine ourselves. Some may say, “I love God.” But the love of the world crowds out the love of God.

4) I can know that I know that I have eternal life if I not only say I love God, but I prove it by not loving the world.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
I John 2:15-17 (ESV)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

I Know That I Know - A Study in 1 John: Desires

When I was in my late teens, one of the most influential books in the evangelical world was "The Late Great Planet Earth." It was a book about the end times, about the return of Jesus and the coming tribulation and devastation. The book said, “Christ might come at any time so you’d better be ready.”

Now, I was a committed Christ-follower then, and I wanted Jesus to return. But I didn’t want Him to come so soon. I didn’t want Jesus to come back until I had a chance to get married and to play pro baseball. I had lots of desires that I wanted to fulfill. The Bible says, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus” but my prayer was “Come later, Lord Jesus, because I have lots desires I want to pursue.”

Here’s my question: Was I wrong to have all those strong desires?

Some would say that true spirituality is the elimination of desire. That’s a Buddhist way of thinking. Some have even approached Christianity that way. Some Christians down through the ages have gone to monasteries to get away from the world and eliminate desire. After all, doesn’t Jesus say, “Deny yourself”?

So, should we not desire a good meal? Should we not desire a fulfilling and stable career? Should we not desire to get married or to have kids? Should we not desire good health or a good night's rest or a beautiful summer day or a nice home? Should we seek to eliminate all desire?

I want to throw this out for you to consider today: True spirituality is not the elimination of our desires. It’s the intensification of our desires – the transformation of our desires, the refocusing of our desires.

C. S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, wrote a book called "The Weight of Glory." We put a quote from Lewis in your worship guide today.

"If we consider the unblushing promises of rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with [temporal] drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy has been offered to us. We are far too easily pleased, like an ignorant child who goes on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea." C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

If you are a teen or a young adult, I hope you’ll hear this. Your human desires are part of God's creation. Desires are not inherently evil. But they become twisted when they are not directed by and connected to God.

Your desires are not too strong, but too weak. Don’t’ settle for temporary pleasure, treasure, and power when you can have eternal pleasure, treasure, and power.

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