Monday, August 30, 2010

Movin

Alan C. Duncan rapping the song "Movin" and teaming up with Bryan Karas on the Rhodes keyboard and Tom Sawyer on the drums. Evan Duncan filming and editing. Wow.

Eternal Life (5)

Are you trusting in Jesus, believing in Him, relying on Him? Really?

Back in 1859 there was a performer named Jean Francois Gravelot. He was known as "The Great Blondin." This man was a tightrope walker, and he would perform amazing death-defying tightrope stunts.

People would come from far and wide to see The Great Blondin perform. They were amazed at his skill and courage.

Blondin was quite a showman. You were sure to get your money's worth when you saw him perform.

Blondin's greatest fame came in June of 1859 when he attempted to become the first person to cross a tightrope stretched over a quarter of a mile across the mighty Niagara Falls.

He walked across 160 feet above falls several times, each time with a different daring feat - once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and once he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet!

On one occasion though, he asked for the participation of a volunteer.

A large crowd gathered and a buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. The crowd “Oooohed!” and “Aaaaahed!” as Blondin carefully walked across one dangerous step after another -- pushing a wheelbarrow.

Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: "Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?"The crowd enthusiastically shouted, "Yes. You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe! We believe."

"Okay," said Blondin, "Who will get in the wheelbarrow? Who among you is willing to ride inside of the wheelbarrow and allow me to push you as I cross on this tightrope?" The crowd went silent. No one said a word. No one volunteered. No one really believed enough to get into the wheelbarrow. No one was willing!

The story of Charles Blondin paints a real life picture of what believing really is. The crowd had watched his daring feats. They said they believed, but their actions proved they truly didn't.

It's one thing for us to say we believe in God. It's true faith, though, when we believe God and put our faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ.

We may say we believe, but when Jesus says, "Follow Me," we don't move. When He says, "Obey," we continue doing whatever we want. And when He says, "Let me show you the way," we act as though we don't even hear Him.

If Christ is your Lord and Savior, let Him carry you. Trust Him to lead the way. Give your life completely over to Him and let Him guide you and direct your steps. He won't let you down!

Jesus has carried many across to Heaven's gates. He can be trusted! Ask yourself, “Am I riding in Jesus’ wheelbarrow?”

A few weeks ago, I sat in a hospital room and watched as my sister-in-law lay in a bed in an unresponsive state. And I thought, “That will be me someday.”

And it will be you. Your tan won’t matter. Your car won’t matter. Your weight won’t matter. What will matter is your answer to this: Do I have eternal life?

Receive and believe. Trust in Jesus and you will HAVE Him. Have Jesus as your Advocate and He will defend you! And God Himself is witness: he/she who has the Son has eternal life!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lordship Salvation

Today, I was asked to weigh in on the topic, "Must Jesus be Lord to be Savior?" I haven't had a conversation about this topic in years. But I thought I'd let the readers of this blog in on the conversation.

Below is the question I received and my reply.

***

I am running headlong into the heresy that some believe and teach that we can accept Jesus as Savior without taking Him as Lord – or that we can be saved and take Him as Lord somewhere down the road. If I recall, [a mutual friend] had said you had some document or work that addresses this. I don’t have the time or desire to recreate the wheel, so any help you might be able to offer in this area would be appreciated. Thanks.

***

This has been a debate that was most prevalent in the late 80s and early 90s. It was hotly contested at my seminary and, I’m sure, at most others.

In 1988, John MacArthur wrote a book called “The Gospel According to Jesus” where he espoused what some have called “Lordship Salvation.” The idea is that Jesus is Lord and that we must accept Him as Lord and Savior in order to be saved.

Then, in 1989, Charles Ryrie, theologian and prof at Dallas Theological Seminary and the “Ryrie Study Bible” guy, took exception to the concept by saying that making Jesus Lord is tantamount to a “works oriented” salvation. His book was “So Great Salvation: What It Means to Believe In Jesus Christ.”

John Piper then weighed in on the topic and landed where MacArthur did.

I think this article is very helpful in summarizing the issues.

Piper has a great letter you can find in his book “The Pleasures of God” and also here.

Piper loads his letter with scripture after scripture. To me, it’s really a no-brainer. Piper's biblical logic and evidence overwhelms Ryrie and other non-Lordship proponents like Zane Hodges.

I land firmly on the Lordship side of things. However, I would not say that non-Lordship salvation teaching is a heresy. If we call it a heresy, then we have to say that a guy like Charles Ryrie is a heretic. I can’t quite do that. Ryrie clearly holds to the basics of the faith.

But I think non-Lordship teaching is a spurious teaching that does spiritual damage. Some people can gain a false sense of assurance with the non-Lordship teaching. I would say that if a person just wants Jesus as Savior but not as Lord then he or she is not truly saved. You can’t have Jesus as Savior without having Him as Lord because He is, after all, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sometimes, those who believe that they had Jesus as Savior and then say that they later made Him Lord (we hear testimonies like this a lot!) are not understanding the true work of grace of God in their lives and are, therefore, communicating their testimony in a biblically flawed way. Receiving Christ as Savior and Lord does not mean that a new Christian is wholly committed. But it does mean he or she is committed to seek to be holy under the Lordship of Jesus.

I believe that Jesus must be Lord from the moment of our salvation. Our experience since conversion becomes an experience of being more or less yielded to Jesus as Lord over our lives. Even at conversion, no one fully submits to the Lordship of Jesus. But then, no one is fully submitted even after many, many years of following Jesus b/c no one is sinlessly perfect. As Piper says, “The Christian life is one that begins with accepting and bowing to Jesus as Sovereign ruler and Lord . . . with a progressive degree of experiential submission as one matures. The Lordship of Christ is not something one discovers and yields to only once but thousands of times over the course of our Christian experience.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

Eternal Life (4)

So, how can we know that we know that we’re headed to heaven? And how can we help someone else know? Remember, there’s nothing more important than having eternal life.

I am greatly indebted to John Piper for what follows here.

To know that you have eternal life...receive.

Have you received Jesus?

12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

So what does it mean to HAVE the Son of God?

have – echo – to receive in the sense of laying hold of, clinging to, being closely joined to.

It doesn't mean quite the same thing each time when you say, "I have a dollar" or "I have a lawyer."

But there is something common to those meanings: when you HAVE something, it does its thing for you. If you have a dollar, it buys a dollar's worth for you. If you have a lawyer, he stands in for you. Having something means that it does its thing for you.

Now we can say that having the Son means: if you have the Son, then the Son does his thing for you.

He is a Savior who saves. He is a justifier who justifies. He is a Forgiver who forgives. He is a Shepherd who leads us through the valley of the shadow of death to the place where we will dwell in His house forever. He’s the propitiation for our sins and takes the wrath of the Father that we should have taken. He’s the Advocate who defends us in heaven’s courtroom.

If you have the Son, you have a lawyer in heaven.

If you have the Son, He does his thing for you! What He can do he does for me. What He promises to do He will do for me. That is what it means to HAVE the Son.

Ask yourself, “Do I truly have Jesus as my Advocate – my defense attorney?”

Now, we need to answer some questions, "How do we come to have the Son? How do we receive Jesus?" This is very important because the last part of verse 12 says that "he who has not the Son of God has not life."

Not everyone has the Son. So, not everyone has eternal life. It is infinitely important to know how to have the Son.

So, how do we “have” the Son?

To know that you have eternal life...receive and believe.

So, how do we “have” the Son?

The answer is not complicated or hard to find. It is implied clearly here in verse 13.

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

Notice that verse 13 says that those who believe in the name of the Son of God have eternal life and that verse 12 said, "He who has the Son has life." The simple implication is that the way to HAVE the Son is to BELIEVE the Son.

believe – pisteuo – trust in, place confidence in, rely upon, depend upon.

The Son of God does his thing for those who believe in Him, who trust Him, who place their confidence in Him, who depend upon Him. You can have the Son of God if you trust the Son of God.

It is possible to NOT believe in or trust in the Son of God.

If an Advocate, a lawyer, makes an offer to defend you, you can reject him. You can say, "I can handle this case by myself." Or you can say, "No point in responding to the offer. He’s a really good lawyer and I'm a nobody.” Or you can say, "Sure. Come on. But you better not tell me to do anything stupid in the courtroom, because I'm not going to do it if you do."

Some of you here today need to have the Son of God. Don't reject his offer of life.

None of us can handle our case by ourselves. If Maryanne’s sister, Kay, hadn't had the Son, she wouldn't have had anything a few Saturday mornings ago. But she had the Son, and now she has life forever and ever. You can't handle that case by yourself!

And don't say that the Son of God won't come to work for a nobody like you. That's the only kind of people He will work for. The Son of God says, "I'm coming to help you not because you're somebody, but because I'm Somebody; and I like to show I'm Somebody by saving nobodies." God loves to glorify the fullness of His grace by saving the least likely candidates for eternal life.

And don't say, "Well, yes, I will accept His offer to be my lawyer, but He better not tell me to do anything I don’t want to do." That is not trust. You can't keep a lawyer that way. He will do his thing for you if you trust him.

To know that you have eternal life...receive and believe.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eternal Life (3)

In writing I John, John wants to show us that we can know that we know that we have eternal life because of historical events. This is not a pie in the sky deal. He puts us in a courtroom and parades his witnesses in front of the jury.

6a This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.

Remember, John is referring to historical events.

“Water.” Most Bible scholars believe that this is a reference to the baptism of Jesus. John, the one writing this letter, knew about it. John knew that when Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove came down on Jesus. And John knew that God the Father’s voice was heard from heaven, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” Jesus was revealed as the Christ at His baptism in water.

There’s more. “Blood.” Jesus was revealed as the Christ by shedding his blood on the cross. His death on the cross had supernatural power and meaning. His was no ordinary shedding of blood. His blood flowed because he was the spotless Lamb of God, sacrificed in our place for our sin. Because of His blood there is remission of sins. His blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness. The blood not only refers to the cross but to the resurrection that validated the work on the cross.

6b And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

The Spirit confirms the truths about Jesus with his testimony. The Holy Spirit inspired the words of this Book – the Book about Jesus. And as we hear it and read it, there is something that stirs within us that says, “This is true. What the disciples are saying about Jesus is true. It’s all true.” I sometimes say that the Bible is like a lion, that we don’t need to defend the Bible – the stories about Jesus – we just need to let the lion out of its cage. It will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, defend itself.”

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

John says that we have a triple testimony: the Spirit, the Baptism, the Crucifixion. And the three in perfect agreement: Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

In the Old Testament – in Deuteronomy 17 and 19, we learn that every testimony must be confirmed by “two or three witnesses” (Deu. 17:6; 19;15). And that principle is what John follows here. Don’t believe this about Jesus because of one witness. Or even two. But these three agree. It’s a persuasive confirmation for believing in Jesus as the “Son of God” (5:10)

9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.

We will go to a courtroom and often take a person’s testimony at face value. How much more should we be reassured when God Himself gives His testimony? We’re not just hearing human testimony here. It’s God's.

10a Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.

This is what is inside us – the inward testimony of the Spirit. The Spirit bears witness with our Spirit – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. People can ask, “How do you know this is true?” We say, “Well, there’s external evidence; the Spirit, the water, and the blood. But there’s more. Inside, I just know. God has convinced me.”

10b Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

If we don't believe what God has said about his Son, it is the same as calling God a liar.

Now, what is God’s testimony?

11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

We don't often think of God witnessing to us. We think of ourselves as witnessing for him. But if there ever was any testimony in the courtroom of life that we ought to listen to, it would be God's testimony.

God gave us eternal life. It’s not “might give.” It’s not even “will give.” It’s “gave.” It’s a gift, something Christ-followers already have. We didn’t earn it. We just were given it.

Sometimes people say that a person who says that they “know” they are headed to heaven is filled with pride. Not true. Not if we believe it’s a gift. We didn’t earn it. In fact, we deserve hell. However, God has given eternal life to His people. And the fact that it’s a gift doesn’t foster pride, but humility. See, we know we didn’t earn it. Through Jesus, God gave it to us.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eternal Life (2)

Assurance matters. Do you know that you know that you’re headed to heaven? God says that we can know.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. I John 5:13 (ESV)

Poll your friends, “Do you know that you know that you’re headed to heaven?” and you’ll get all kinds of answers. “I hope so.” “No one can ever know.” “I think so.” “Nah, I’m going to hell with all my friends.”

Look at the verse. Notice that the verse doesn’t say, “hope” or “think.” God wants us to know that we know that we have eternal life.

The word “know” in the Greek is eido, to understand, to perceive, to see it. To get it. To know that we know.

And what is it that God wants us to know? That we have…

The words “eternal life” in the Greek are aionios zoe, without end, everlasting, genuine, vitalized life

Do you know that you know that you are headed to heaven? Would you be able to tell someone else how they can know?

When it comes to assurance of salvation, we have four options.

1. We can be not saved and not sure. These are people who do not have eternal life. They don’t know they are headed to heaven.

2. We can be not saved and sure. These are people who do not have eternal life. But they would say that they know they are going to heaven.

3. We can be saved and not sure. These are people who do have eternal life. But they would say that they do not know they are going to heaven.

4. We can be saved and sure. These are people who do have eternal life and they do know that they are going to heaven.

I John was written to help us have eternal life and to know it. God wants us to live with option 4.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eternal Life (1)

This past year has been tough on our family. First, we lost my wife, Maryanne’s, mother. Then, my brother, Bill, died. And a few weeks ago Saturday, Maryanne’s sister, Kay, passed away.

We’ve had a lot of time to think about what’s important. When you lose people you love, you’re reminded that nothing is more important than having eternal life.

As John Piper said in an excellent message from I John 5, summertime can be filled with deceptive thoughts. We begin to think more about our bodies because in the summertime people see more of them. So we think about whether we have a tan. We think about whether we need to drop a few pounds or not. We can actually begin to think these things matter a lot.

When you look in the mirror today to see how your tan is doing and whether you’re overweight or not, you might want to remember my sister-in-law, Kay, or someone you know who has died.

I can tell you that it didn't make any difference to Kay or our family two weeks ago Saturday that she had no tan. One thing mattered: Did she have eternal life?

We have every reason to believe that she had eternal life, because she had the Son. And she who has the Son has life!

Question: Are you worried more about your tan or your job or your pudginess or your car or your choice of entertainment than you are about your eternal life?

One day, it’s going to be you or me on our own deathbeds, and God wants us to know that we know that we’re headed to heaven.

Why is this so important? We have found that lots of people at CVC have doubts about their salvation. CVCers ask, “How can I know that I know that I’m going to heaven, that I have eternal life?”

Assurance is a privilege. It’s one of the highest blessings that you can know in this life. But sometimes, it can be difficult for a true follower of Jesus to gain assurance.

The Bible says, though, that it’s the duty of every one of us to make our calling and election sure. Why?

If we know that we know, when the trials of life come, we’ll have a greater peace and joy. Some of us haven’t been too fun to be around lately because we get ticked when life doesn’t work the way we want. We’re going to get tickets and have cavities. Cars will break. Water heaters will blow. Fillings will fall out. But if I know that I know that I’m headed to heaven, I won’t sweat the small stuff. If we have assurance, we can say, “So what if the plumbing backs up? I’m headed to heaven!”

If we know that we know, we’ll have a deeper love and gratitude to God. Some of us are tempted to be ticked at God because He hasn’t come through for us like we think He should. But when we remember that He’s taking us – undeserving, dirty, rotten, no-good, stinkin’ sinners – to the best place ever to be imagined then our love and appreciation grows.

If we know that we know, we can help others know that they know. If we don’t know that we know that we have a ticket to the party, then we won’t help anybody else get a ticket to the party. But if we have a ticket, we’ll be helping others get their ticket, too.

Assurance matters. Do you know that you know that you’re headed to heaven?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Missional Churches

How should we do church?

Overcomers (7)

When we throw ourselves a “pity-party,” we’re really not loving others well – we’re not really living like an overcomer. But that’s when faith has to rise up. Look at the last part of verse 4…

And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. I John 5:4b (ESV)

The key to overcoming the world is faith. The bigger the faith, the greater the victory. How big is your faith?

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 (ESV)

Faith. It’s seeing the invisible, receiving the incredible, and believing the impossible. It’s believing that what God says about you is true no matter what the world says – no matter what you are saying to yourself.

One of the reasons we live in defeat and throw “pity-party” after “pity-party” is because our faith is so weak. We’re not trusting God. We’re not believing Him. We’re not claiming the promises of God. And some of us don’t even know very many promises of God. We don’t know how to access them for our souls.

How do you get bigger faith? You read the Bible, believe the Bible, claim the promises of the Bible.

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17 (ESV)

When the world says that you’re a loser, are you able to counter that with what the Bible says about you?

Let me show you how this works.

I’ve listed just a few promises from God’s Word that are true about everyone who has been born of God. When we by faith, claim these promises, we can live (and love) like overcomers. How?

When the world says, “Your life doesn’t really matter,” you say, “I have been made to give God glory” (Isaiah 43:7).

When the world says, “You’ll never amount to anything,” you say, “God has a plan, a future, and a hope for me” (Jeremiah 29:11).

When the world says, “No one is really proud of you,” you say, “I am the apple of God’s eye” (Psalm 17:8).

When the world says, “You friends have forsaken you,” you say, “The Lord rejoices and sings over me” (Zephaniah 3:17).

When the world says, “You’re just a big mess,” you say, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

This is the way to live by faith. This is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith.

I love what the great British pastor, C.H. Spurgeon, once said, “A little faith will bring your soul to heaven; a great faith will bring heaven to your soul.” And great faith happens when the know and claim the promises from the Word of God.

Nick Vujicic (Vooy-cheech) was born without arms or legs due to a rare birth disorder. He lived a life of difficulties and hardships throughout his childhood. If anybody could throw a pity party, it would be a guy like Nick. But he became an overcomer. He’s overcome the world – the selfish desires of the flesh and the eyes and the boastful pride of life. He’s overcome the selfish pity parties. How? By faith.

He’s started his own non-profit organization called “Life Without Limbs.” He has spoken to over 1 million people. And we want you to see his real life example of how this winner – this overcomer – lives (and loves) by faith. Check out his video here: http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/

Someone is here who has been throwing lots of “pity-parties” lately. Life hasn’t been going your way. Maybe someone has questioned you, hurt you, abandoned you. Maybe you can’t get the girl or the guy or the job. Maybe you feel like a loser.

It’s time. It’s time for you to talk back to the world. No matter what the world says, by faith, you say:

God will never forget me (Isaiah 49:15).
My name is engraved on the palms of God’s hands (Isaiah 49:16).
Jesus will always be with me and will never forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).
God is making all things work together for good for me (Romans 8:28).
I was chosen by God to give praise for His glorious grace (Ephesians 1:4, 6).

Winners live (and love) by faith.

We have to stop in listening to the world's lies. Our faith overcomes the world and believes what God says about us, not what the world or the devil say. Fight your fears and the lies and your doubts about yourself with the truths about yourselves from God's word!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Overcomers (6)

I receivedd a phone call Saturday morning, August 7, from Maryanne shortly after 5:00 AM (EDT). Kay, her sister, had just passed away.

I flew down to Alabama the week before to be with Maryanne. We had some moments of closure with Kay that were precious. We don’t understand why Kay’s life ended seemingly prematurely, but are trusting that Kay now sees at least some of the why. She can see some of the big picture and we know that we know that she is at rest with Jesus and those who have gone before.

Kay will surely be missed. But we know that we know that she has gone to be with Jesus. As I mentioned in an earlier message in our I John series, she passed the truth test, the love test, and the moral test. The evidence is overwhelming that she was a true follower of Jesus, not in word only but in deed and truth.

Maryanne has also not only lost a big sister, but a best friend. I know that sometimes in-laws can be out-laws. But that’s not true with Kay. Kay was a wonderful sister-in-law and a great aunt. She always celebrated every success of our kids with us in tangible, loving ways. She also celebrated the success of CVC – even getting ideas from us about launching a new contemporary service at her historic, downtown church in Jasper Alabama.

She had been fighting ovarian cancer since January 2010. But she threw no “pity-parties.” She’s a winner. An overcomer. And all along, she’s been loving others. She’s lived (and loved) by faith.

When we throw ourselves a “pity-party,” we’re really not loving others well – we’re not really living like an overcomer. But that’s when faith has to rise up. Look at the last part of verse 4…

And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
I John 5:4b (ESV)

The key to overcoming the world is faith. The bigger the faith, the greater the victory. How big is your faith?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Overcomers (5)

Marks of an overcomer: behaving - passing the moral test.

How are you behaving? Would people say you are behaving like a Christ-follower? Do you love God and His word? Do you love obeying His word?

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
I John 5:3-4a (ESV)

The word keep conveys the idea of constant obedience. Not perfect obedience. But constant obedience. A lifestyle of obedience. When we are born of God, our “want to” is transformed. We want to obey God.

And notice. His commandments are not burdensome. This is opposite to burdensome man-made religion, rituals, and rules (Matt. 23:4). Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30).

Loving God is not just external obedience. It means that our hearts are changed. We want to obey. The more we love God, the more joy we find in obeying Him. It’s when we are not right with God that His commandments seem like a chore and duty.

But when we love God, we find that His commandments may be difficult, but they are also a delight. If the commandments are not burdensome, what are they? They are desirable. What you desire to do with your whole heart is not burdensome to do. Listen to the psalmist. Psalm 40:8: “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

God's love that is produced in our hearts gives us a desire to love and please Him. So we find ourselves eager to keep His commandments. God's commandments bring us joy and freedom, not a sense of oppression.

Note: Only those who are born of God can pass the moral test.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.
I John 5:3b (ESV)

Maybe you lost your job. Or you are underemployed. And this has created some self-doubt for you “Am I any good? What’s wrong with me?” And you’ve been throwing a “pity-party.” You are short with people at home. You know God says, “Be patient.” But you’ve been anything but patient. Or maybe you’ve been making some ungodly financial decisions you never believed you would make. Or maybe you’ve been cutting corners you never thought you would cut. And God brought you here to remind you that winners behave. They pass the moral test.

Marks of an overcomer? behaving: passing the moral test.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Overcomers (4)

Marks of an overcomer: belonging - passing the love test.

Would people who know you best say, “He really loves God and really loves me”?

… and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
I John 5:1b-2 (ESV)

Do you open your eyes, open your heart, and open your hand to meet the needs of the needy? Do you love not only in word and talk, but in deed and truth? When we believe the truth about Jesus, we are transformed. We love God. And we love the others who have been born of God, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Notice that the two loves are really inseparable. If love of God is absent, then our love for others is not genuine. And if our love for others is absent, then we have no love for God. The one leads to the other. If you have one, you will do the other.

The sign that you love God is that you love others, especially other believers. Loving God is the sign that you love his children.

Note: Only those who are born of God can pass the love test.

Everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
I John 5:1b (ESV)

We believe. We belong. There is no such thing as a solo saint. We live in community. We belong.

I am glad to be in a community group here at CVC. When Maryanne and I were together in Alabama with her sick sister, Kay, our group brought over meals for our boys. That took a concern off our minds. It kept our boys away from Chipotle every night, too! We thank God for our community group.

Questions: If you had a need like that, who would meet it? Who’s needs would you meet?

This is why we want everyone at CVC to be in a community group – to belong. If you aren’t in a group, check out our Group Connect at 5:00 on Sunday, September12.

About two weeks ago, I spent some time talking with someone here at CVC who is struggling with severe depression. They don’t want it to be this way, but this person is obsessing with their own problems, with their own past, with their own future. (My heart breaks for those who struggle with depression. And I know there can be physiological reasons related to depression. That’s why a visit to a doctor is good to do.) And as long as this CVCer is focused on self – on the desire to fix their own problems and their own past – then they can’t be an overcomer. See, winners focus on others, not themselves. They belong to a community of faith and they focus on the others in that community.

Marks of an overcomer? belonging: passing the love test.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Overcomers (3)

Marks of an overcomer: believing - passing the truth test.

People who pass the truth test believe what the Bible says about Jesus.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God…
I John 5:1a (ESV)

Jesus is the Christ. That phrase is pregnant with meaning. It picks up what John has already said in I John 4:2 where it tells us that true believers confess that Jesus has come in the flesh. It looks forward to what John will say later in I John 5 where it tells us that true believers believe in the name of the Son of God.

2,000 years ago, a baby was born in Bethlehem. He lived in Nazareth. He went all around Israel doing good, healing the sick, teaching the people. His name, Jesus, is Iēsous – “the Lord is salvation.” This Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Anointed One. As Chad Allen taught us 3 weeks ago from I John 4, Jesus is God in the flesh, sent to be our Savior. He is 100% God and 100% Man. Although He lived a perfect life, Jesus was unjustly arrested, falsely tried, and cruelly died on the cross in our place for our sins. He rose from the grave. Now, He is our Advocate, our propitiation. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to be Father but through Him.

All this – and more – is packed into this little phrase “Jesus is the Christ.” Do you believe this? Overcomers do.

Now, look carefully at the verse and notice…

Note: Only those who are born of God can pass the truth test.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God…
I John 5:1a (ESV)

This phrase “born of God” means that we have life, spiritual life. You obviously are alive physically. But are you alive spiritually? Are you alive to God? Are you alive to His Word?

The Bible says that apart from Christ, we are dead spiritually. Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” The verse is saying that we enter the world spiritually dead. We aren’t naturally inclined toward God. We aren’t naturally responsive to Him. We have no real ability to please God. We are dead spiritually.

And a dead person cannot repent and believe. Go up to a corpse and say, “Believe that Jesus is the Christ!” He can’t! Why? He’s dead.

So, what we need is the new birth. We need to be made alive spiritually. We need to be born of God. Then, we can believe that Jesus is the Christ.

When God gives us the new birth, the result is that we pass the truth test – that we believe the right things about Jesus. We don’t believe first and then we are born of God. Believing that Jesus is the Christ is the immediate evidence of being born of God. Once we are born of God, we believe the truths that the Bible teaches us about Jesus as the Christ. We are passing the truth test.

Marks of an overcomer? believing: passing the truth test.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Reassured: honoring Kay Catrino Wilson

When we lose people we love, it is good to be reassured concerning their destiny. And this reassurance is surely a gift we have been given even though we have lost someone very precious to us.

My wife, Maryanne, flew to Alabama on July 17 to be with her sister, Kay. Kay had been fighting ovarian cancer for about 6 months. Kay’s body had been so weakened from the chemotherapy and other cancer-related issues that she had been admitted to a Birmingham hospital and was in intensive care fighting pneumonia.

Three weeks later, I received a phone call early on Saturday morning, August 7, from Maryanne. She called to say that Kay, her sister, had just passed away. We talked and cried and prayed.

I had been in Alabama the previous week to be with Maryanne while she visited with Kay and the family in the hospital in Birmingham. We had some moments of closure with Kay that were precious. We saw Mark, Kay’s husband, act with faith, tenderness, and love during his last days with his wife. One of the most moving moments for me was when he leaned over the hospital bed and sang their song, “More,” to Kay.

More than the greatest love the world has known
This is the love that I give to you alone
More than the simple words I try to say
I only live to love you more each day.

More than you'll ever know
My arms long to hold you so
My life will be in your keeping
Waking, sleeping, laughing, weeping.

Longer than always is a long, long time
But far beyond forever, you'll be mine
I know I never lived before
And my heart is very sure
No one else could love you more.


Mark truly showed all husbands how to love unconditionally “…in sickness …‘til death us do part.” I will never forget the example of his faith and tenderness.

We witnessed Katie and Walker, Kay’s children, give their unswerving loyalty, their unfailing love, and their tender care to their mom. Their devotion and bravery in the face of unbearable loss and the honor they gave their mother will be something I will carry in my heart and treasure.

Kay’s siblings, Bo, Kenny, and Maryanne along with their families were all lovingly and perseveringly present to honor their much beloved sister. Kay always relished those family stories that were shared and the bonding that ensued. The sibling times that were shared brought a bittersweet flavor to the time together.

We expected Kay to pass Saturday, July 31, but she lingered until Saturday, August 7. I think the length of time that Kay lingered with us here helped the family experience some acceptance with this way-too-soon loss. We don’t understand why Kay’s life ended seemingly prematurely, but we are trusting that Kay now sees at least some of the why. We believe that she can see at least some of the big picture and we know in our hearts that Kay is at rest with Jesus and with those who have gone before. The evidence is overwhelming that she was a true follower of Jesus, not in word only but in deed and truth.

Kay will surely be missed.

What makes this even harder is that Kay’s grandchildren, Greer and John Walker, will grow up without the face-to-face and direct influence of this great and godly woman. They will miss out on what would have been many wonderful “Mimi memories.”

My wife, Maryanne, has also not only lost a big sister, but a best friend. They talked on the phone many, many times a week. They had planned to take some long walks on the beach together. They had planned to swap grandmother experiences together. Kay was a confidant, a counselor, an encourager, a coach, an example, a cheerleader, and more to Maryanne. Many sisters have close bonds, but their bond was closer than close. Truly, Kay was (and remains) an irreplaceable, positive influencer for Maryanne.

To me, Kay was a wonderful sister-in-law. She celebrated the successes of the church Maryanne and I had the privilege to plant, Cuyahoga Valley Church, even traveling to be with us for our building dedication service. She even took some ideas from us about launching a new contemporary service at her historic, downtown church in Jasper Alabama. To our three sons and daughter-in-law, Kay was an interested, involved, and encouraging aunt. She always celebrated every success of our kids with us in tangible, loving ways.

We’re confident that Kay is in a good place with God. The evidence is strong that Kay really knew Christ. She prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior and Lord many years ago. And there’s proof she really knows Jesus. In Walker County, She was a very successful, much-respected, and highly sought-after speech therapist for 4 decades for the disabled, for stroke patients, and for Down’s Syndrome children. One example: Right after graduation from the University of Alabama, she sought to serve a deaf and mute little boy. She told Mark, “I’m not going to teach him sign language.” Instead, she taught him to read lips and to speak so well that he grew up and is now an executive with Alabama Power. Kay volunteered in her community and in many capacities at her United Methodist Church. She helped to start that contemporary service in her church that is now double or triple the attendance of the traditional service. She put her life on hold to help care for her ailing father and then her 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, and a generous aunt to our sons. This woman’s life just oozed with the love of Christ. And for all these reasons and more, even though she has passed, we are reassured.

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


What is the “this” that shall help us know that we are of the truth and can reassure our hearts? It’s love. Love. If there is anyone who could have a reassured heart, it’s a person like my sister-in-law, Kay. She loved with the love of the Lord.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What one thing would you change about seminary?

The summer heat continues to swelter, but schools will soon begin their fall semesters with excitement over renewing acquaintances and learning new subjects. Seminaries will brim with students called to serve God with energy and passion according to the unique gifts he has entrusted to them.

But for many new students, seminary won’t be exactly what they expected. Some want more practical guidance, others struggle to grasp new theological terms. Some struggle in the confines of a classroom, others never plan to leave. Meanwhile, sending churches and supportive spouses wonder what to make of the exotic new concepts their beloved student spends so much time researching. In time, everyone develops an opinion about what our seminaries could do differently to train ministers of the gospel. So with a new school year upon us, The Gospel Coalition turned to a veteran professor to ask: What one thing you would change about seminary education?

***

Richard Pratt, founder and president, Third Millennium Ministries; former chair of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary:

If I were king and could wave my magical scepter, I would radically change the basic agenda of seminary.

After 22 years of teaching in a seminary, I slowly began to realize something. We were not preparing the kinds of leaders that evangelical churches in North America need. Let’s face it; evangelicalism has seen better days. God is at work in many places and in many ways, but on the whole, the news is not good. Our numbers are dwindling; our theology is unraveling; our zeal for Christ is dissipating. Now more than ever, we need seminaries to give the church leaders who are empowered by the Spirit for radical, sacrificial devotion to Christ and his kingdom. And they’d better do it quickly.

I was recently in China, talking with the president of a house church network of more than 1 million people. He asked me for advice on preparing the next generation of pastors. I looked at him and said, “The only thing I know is what you should not do.” He smiled and asked, “What’s that?” My reply surprised him. “You should not do what we have done in the West. The results of that approach have become clear.”

The agenda of evangelical seminaries is set primarily by scholars. Professors decide how students will spend their time; they determine students’ priorities; they set the pace. And guess what. Scholars’ agenda seldom match the needs of the church.
Can you imagine what kind of soldiers our nation would have if basic training amounted to reading books, listening to lectures, writing papers, and taking exams? We’d have dead soldiers. The first time a bullet wizzed past their heads on the battlefield, they’d panic. The first explosion they saw would send them running. So, what is basic training for the military? Recruits learn the information they need to know, but this is a relatively small part of their preparation. Most of basic training is devoted to supervised battle simulation. Recruits are put through harrowing emotional and physical stress. They crawl under live bullet fire. They practice hand to hand combat.

If I could wave a magic scepter and change seminary today, I’d turn it into a grueling physical and spiritual experience. I’d find ways to reach academic goals more quickly and effectively and then devote most of the curriculum to supervised battle simulation. I’d put students through endless hours of hands-on service to the sick and dying, physically dangerous evangelism, frequent preaching and teaching the Scriptures, and days on end of fasting and prayer. Seminary would either make them or break them.

Do you know what would happen? Very few young men would want to attend. Only those who had been called by God would subject themselves to this kind of seminary. Yet they would be recruits for kingdom service, not mere students. They would be ready for the battle of gospel ministry.

The Urgent Need for North American Church Planting

Statistics compiled by Randy Chestnut

• The United States is the third largest lost country in the world

• Seven out of ten people in the United States do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior

• Overall church attendance in the United States is 17.5% of the population on any given Sunday, with 9.1% attending an Evangelical church.

• Half of all churches did not add one member last year through conversion growth.

• In 2007 the American population climbed to over 300 million. However the attendance averages within most American churches has remained unchanged for well over a decade. In 1990, approximately 52 million Americans attended worship each week. Fifteen years later, in 2005, the number remained relatively unchanged. While the United States population continued to explode from 1990 to 2005, the average worship attendance, as a percentage of the population, declined almost 3 percent.

• Between 2000-2005, no single state’s church attendance growth kept up with the population growth.

• Between 2005-2006 over 57 percent of churches, over 40 years of age, were in a state of decline.

• In 1900, there were 27 churches for every 10,000 Americans.
In 1950, there were 17 churches for every 10,000 Americans.
In 2000, there were 12 churches for every 10,000 Americans.
In 2004, there were 11 churches for every 10,000 Americans.

• Ken Walker reported that the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest church families in the world, is set to close 50 percent of its churches by the year 2030, if all things remain the same.

• Between 2000 and 2005, 3,707 churches closed each year and 4009 started each year, for a net gain of 302 churches. There needs to be a net gain of 3,205 churches started each year (ten times the current amount), just to keep up with the population growth. We need to start an additional 2,900 churches per year.
• Tracking generational patterns from the World War II generation (born prior to 1945) to the Milliennials, (born between 1985-2002) the estimated number of Christians has fallen from 65% to 15%.

• Since 1991, the adult population in the United States has grown by 15%. During that same period, the number of adults who do not attend church has nearly doubled, rising from 39 million to 75 million—a 92% increase!

• After a church is three-years old it is half as effective in reaching people for Christ as it was in the early years of its existence. Once a church is fifteen-years old, it becomes one third as effective.

• One American denomination recently found that 80% of its converts came to Christ in churches less than 2 years old.

• 80% to 85% of American churches are on the downside of their life cycle. Aubrey Malphurs writes in Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century, “Of the 15% that are growing, 14% are growing as the result of transfer rather than conversion growth.”

• Studies show that if a denomination wishes to reach more people, the number of new churches it begins each year must equal at least 3% of the denomination’s existing churches. Based on this formula, mainline denominations are failing to plant enough churches to offset their decline.


Sources:
Books:
The American Church in Crisis, David T. Olson
UnChristian, David Kinnaman
Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Time, Chuck Lawless and Adam Greenway

Websites:
The Barna Research Group, www.barna.org

Do We Really Need More Churches?, Ron Sylvia
http://www.churchplantingvillage.net/atf/cf/%7B087EF6B4-D6E5-4BBF-BED1-7983D360F394%7D/RonSylviaChapter.pdf

State of the Church, by Stephen Gray
http://www.churchcentral.com/blog/The-State-of-The-Church

A tribute to Kay

Kay.

Marsha Kay. Marsha Kay Catrino. Marsha Kay Catrino Wilson.

Knit together in Ruth’s womb in a one-of-a kind way. DNA from Art and Ruth and put together by God. No one like her.

Kay is…

Vibrant. Alive. Leading. Teaching. Serving. Singing. Dreaming. Laughing. Cooking. Planning. Making beauty. Making memories.

The rock. Daughter. Granddaughter. Sister. Cousin. Niece. Child of God. Student. Fiancée. Wife. Teacher. Mother. Sister-in-law. Aunt. Friend. Mimi.

We feel lost. Cheated. Left lonely. Confused. Angry.

We miss what could have been – what our hearts say should have been.

Because of the fall, Kay has been taken from us. We hate that. Because we love Kay. We hate dis-ease.

But we know the Resurrection and the Life. We know the Hope. He makes all things new by the power of His love, His grace and mercy. The sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed. For Kay.

Kay passed the tests – believing in the Son unashamedly, loving others unconditionally, practicing righteousness faithfully. There is permanence to the work of her hands.

Kay. More. More vibrant now than ever. More alive now than ever. Kay’s uniqueness to lead and to serve are now more maximized. More fully.

We can’t wait to see her alive in the completeness of His restoration. In the dwelling place He has prepared just for her. She’s home. She is now through the valley of the shadow of death. No pain. No tears. No fear. In His righteous right hand carried close to His heart.

Faith says that Kay is still the apple of His eye, the joy of His heart. The name, Kay, is still engraved on the palm of His hand. He still sings and dances over Kay with love. Even more than ever. He has said, “It is time for a special feast. Kay has arrived. Well done, my beloved. Well done. You ran the race and finished the course. Here is your crown.”

Kay is no longer on the underside of the tapestry where all we can see are the snarls and knots and frays. She is now on the top side, where she sees the perfect work of art woven by the Master.

We believe that in heaven, Kay’s life will never be forgotten. Who she is there will reflect fully who she has been here. Kay’s life on earth has had great meaning and the effects of her life on earth have now outlasted it. In heaven. With Jesus. Forever.

When we feel that soft breeze, we shall remember Kay. We do not mourn Kay as dead. We simply think of her as gone for awhile and we will wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

Kay is. Not was. Kay is… still. Because He is.

Overcomers (2)

We’ve been talking about how the book of I John has been written to give us assurance of salvation. It’s been written so we can know that we know we are headed to heaven. It’s been written so that we can be overcomers who really love others. There are tests in this book. If you pass the tests, you can have assurance that you are an overcomer.

You’ll find the tests in these 5 verses.

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
I John 5:1-5 (ESV)

The word “overcome” is used three times in these verses. It’s the Greek word nikao. Does this look a little bit familiar? The word “victory” is used one time in these verses. It’s the root Greek word nike. Does this look even more familiar?

I’m sorry for you Reebok, New Balance, Adidas, and Asics fans. Your brand isn’t in the Bible. Nike is!

To overcome is nikao. It means to conquer, to be victorious, to win.

God has equipped us to overcome the world – to win over the selfish desires of the flesh, the selfish desires of the eyes and the boastful pride of life – to win over pity-parties so we can love. Are you an overcomer?

Calling Chad Allen to CVC

As required by our church’s constitution, a 75% majority membership vote is required for CVC to extend a call to the Co-Teaching Pastor candidate Chad Allen. That vote was taken during a meeting of the membership on Thursday, August 12.

The official tally for extending a call to Chad was 176 “Yes” votes and one “No” vote. That is a 99.4% vote in favor.

You can watch the meeting here. The video is about 15 minutes long.

Now we need to pray for Chad and Rica as they pray about this decision. They are telling us that they will make this decision prayerfully by the first of next week. So, please pray for them during this time.

During the fourth week in July, Chad Allen and his wife Rica, along with their children, Cruz and Isabelle, visited with us here at CVC for almost 10 days. During that time, Chad taught in our five weekend services, including 707, our ministry to young adults. He participated in two Q&A sessions with our body – one designed for the entire congregation, and one for men and women in leadership. He also met individually with leaders, Elders, and Search Team members. A Q&A session was held for the congregation without Chad present. Feedback was requested and received by the Search and Elder Teams. We (Rick and Brian) were able to spend extended one-on-one time with Chad during his visit as well.

On Sunday, August 1st, the Search Team re-convened to examine feedback and solidify their recommendation. After prayer and consideration, the Search Team has unanimously recommended Chad Allen as their nomination to the Elders for the position of Co-Teaching Pastor at CVC. In a meeting that followed on Tuesday, August 3rd, the Elders unanimously confirmed this nomination, and have extended full support.

We’re excited about what we believe Chad will bring to this role, and we’re grateful for your prayers as the process has and continues to move forward. We believe our greatest days are yet to come as we seek to reach Northeast Ohio with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Overcomers (1)

Winners love. Winners live (and love) by faith.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been corresponding with an old friend who lives out-of-state. He is not happy with me. He feels like I have let him down. And he has let me know that in no uncertain terms. And that knowledge that I have disappointed him has been heavy on my heart. I’ve been thinking a lot about it. “Can I fix this? Should I even try? What should I do and not do?” These thoughts have been dominating, demanding, and, distracting.

This has created some self-doubt in my life. “Am I really the bad guy that this guy seems to be saying?” This has made me throw a kind of “pity-party,” too. “You try to help people live lives that are pleasing to God and this is the thanks you get!” But when I am thinking these ways, I am not really loving my friend.

I’ve recently come to an understanding that trying to fix it might actually be more about me than him.

I’ve learned in my study through I John 2 that that we are in love with the world when our desires are focused on ourselves. And God has been speaking to me that obsessing about my reputation in the eyes of my old friend means that my desires are worldly – and that the world has been winning. See, as long as I’m thinking about me and my reputation, it is impossible for me to really be thinking about God and others. When I’m focused on me – when I’m throwing the “pity-party,” I’m not loving you.

And when that’s true, I’m a loser. Winner’s love. Winners live (and love) by faith.

I don’t think I’m the only “pity-party” thrower, am I? What makes you want to throw a "pity-party"? What is causing you to focus on yourself? Maybe you’re trying to get the guy or the girl and it hasn’t happened. Maybe you’re trying to get the job or the house or the car or the clothes and it hasn’t happened. Maybe you’re trying to overcome some emotional problem or addiction and it hasn’t happened. What’s causing you to focus on yourself at the expense of others?

You’ve been throwing a “pity-party.” And you aren’t loving others. You’re losing because winners live (and love) by faith.

And God wants us to win – to overcome.

Something you maybe didn't know about The Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer is pretty well-known. Especially in various recovery progams for addictions. Especially the first 4 lines. Someone recently sent me "the rest of the prayer." It's good.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

***

I like this. I wish the "He," the "His," and the "Him" mentioned was defined more clearly. It's Jesus. He is our all in all.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

A documentary - ALIVE 2010

Our son, Evan, produced a short documentary about Alan C. Duncan's appearance at the ALIVE 2010 Festival.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Will we see our pets in heaven?

My assistant, Elena, just had to put one of her cats to sleep. Often, people ask about whether they will enjoy their pets in heaven. Randy Alcorn has some insights from his book Heaven (Tyndale). Here are his thoughts below taken from his blog. He is answering this question: Our beloved dog recently died. Should I correct my kids when they say they can't wait to play with Rocky again in heaven?

**

Humorist Will Rogers said, “If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” This statement was, of course, based on sentiment, not theology. However, it reflects something biblical: a God-given affection for animals.

That’s why the question of whether pets will be in Heaven is not, as some assume, stupid. Animals aren’t nearly as valuable as people, but God is their maker and has touched many lives through them. It would be simple for Him to re-create a pet in Heaven if He wants to. He’s the giver of all good gifts, not the taker of them. If it would please us to have a pet restored to the New Earth, that may be sufficient reason.

We know animals will be on the New Earth, which is a redeemed and restored old Earth, in which animals had a prominent role. People will be resurrected to inhabit this world. Romans 8:21-23 assumes animals as part of a suffering creation eagerly awaiting deliverance through humanity’s resurrection. This seems to require that some animals who lived, suffered, and died on the old Earth must be made whole on the New Earth. Wouldn’t some of those likely be our pets?

In her excellent book, Holiness in Hidden Places, Joni Eareckson Tada says, “If God brings our pets back to life, it wouldn’t surprise me. It would be just like him. It would be totally in keeping with his generous character. . . Exorbitant. Excessive. Extravagant in grace after grace. Of all the dazzling discoveries and ecstatic pleasures heaven will hold for us, the potential of seeing Scrappy would be pure whimsy—utterly, joyfully, surprisingly superfluous. . . Heaven is going to be a place that will refract and reflect in as many ways as possible the goodness of joy of our great God, who delights in lavishing love on his children.”puppy

In a poem about the world to come, theologian John Piper writes:

.And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life, I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog, old Blackie, fast
As she could come. She leaped the stream—
Almost—and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye. I knelt to drink
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy. And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.

We needn’t be embarrassed either to grieve the loss of our pets or to want to see them again. If we believe God is their creator, that He loves us and them, that He intends to restore His creatures from the bondage they experienced because of our sin, then we have biblical grounds for not only wanting but also expecting that we may be with them again on the New Earth.

So let’s not “correct” our kids when they pray they’ll be able to see their pets again. The answer to that prayer is up to God. He loves to hear the prayers of His children, and there is scriptural reason to believe He may answer those prayers. Remember that our children’s instinctive grasp of heaven—and what we should look forward to there—is sometimes better than ours.

Sky High


Sky High, originally uploaded by Evan.Duncan..

Evan took this shot of Ryan on a church roof. It's not CVC. Any guesses about the church?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Reassured (5)

At least three things have to happen before we can give love away – before we can lay down our lives to seek to walk like Jesus walked.

We have to open our eyes. v. 17a

Do you see the needs around you or do you look the other way?

But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need…
I John 3:17a (ESV)

Are you seeing the needs around you?

One need I see is for clean drinking water in the world. We care about clean water because we love people – our neighbors, our grandkids, our friends in other parts of the world. If people drink bad water they can get dysentery and die. And if they don’t know Christ, an eternity without Him awaits them. Let’s fix that if we can.

What are the needs you see around you? What makes you pound the table? What brings tears to your eyes?

We ha ve to open our hearts. v. 17b

Look at how verse 17 ends.

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?
I John 3:17 (ESV)

The implication is simple. We can see the need and close our hearts. How many times have you done that? How many times have I?

We have to open our hands. v. 17c

We have to guard ourselves against the temptation to be superficial with our love.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
I John 3:18 (ESV)

Don’t just talk about love. Show it!

Love for the needy is so basic to our faith that people who don’t love this way are to be considered as true followers of Jesus. In Matthew 25, Jesus says, “Feed the hungry; satisfy the thirsty; welcome the stranger; cloth the naked; help the sick; and visit the prisoner.” In fact, He says that if we don’t do these things, then we’re turning out backs on Christ Himself.

We can’t say, “I’m not doing anything to hurt the needy.” No. We have to be actively be doing something to help them.

You might be thinking, “Come on. We can’t eliminate poverty! What good can my little bit do?” Jesus did say that the poor would always be with us (Mark 14:7). Should we give up? No. One relief organization poster asked a question, “How can you help a billion hungry people?” The answer? One at a time.

Just because I can’t take care of all the world’s poor doesn’t mean I can’t begin to helping one, then two, then five, ten and so on. Randy Alcorn says, “The logic that says, “I can’t do everything, so I won’t do anything” is from the pit of hell.”

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
I John 3:18 (ESV)

Every church and follower of Christ has to ask, “What are we doing to feed the hungry and help the poor? What are we doing to secure justice for the poor? What are we doing to uphold the cause of the needy?”

What you do – how you love – isn’t what makes you a child of God. Being a child of God – being born of God – is what makes you love.

Most of us talk better than we walk. We talk about the poor but we haven’t seen a poor person in months. We talk about the homeless but we cross the street to avoid them. We talk about third world countries but we’ve never been. We talk about sacrificial giving but we don’t even give to the church.

We’re good at loving in word or talk. We say the right things we talk about the issues that really matter but when it comes to doing something about it - we don’t love very well. We let those in need continue in need while we keep trying to raise our standard of living instead of our standard of giving.

Our young adult pastor, Andy Sikora asks, "Are you laying down your life? Or does the way you live cost someone else? Has God supplied for your needs? Do you know anyone who could use some of what you have? How can you give some of that away?"

When it comes to love, those who get it give it.

There’s a big part of my heart in Alabama in that hospital with my wife and her sister. We wonder what’s next. But our hearts are reassured because the evidence is strong that Kay, Maryanne's gravely ill sister, got it and has given it. Love.

How about you?

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