Thursday, September 30, 2010

Vitalized (5)

Apart from Christ, we were dead, disobedient, and we were doomed.

This explains a lot of family dysfunction. But there’s hope, In Ephesians 2:4, we come to two words that change everything.

But God…

One Bible scholar wrote, “No hopeless fate looks any grimmer than that which awaits the forlorn company of mankind marching behind the “prince of the power of the air” to their destruction under divine wrath. Just when things look the most desolate, Paul utters the greatest short phrase in the history of human speech: ‘But God!’” (ESV Study Bible notes)

Dead, disobedient, doomed. But God didn’t leave us that way.

We were disobedient, but God…

1. … loved us.

And not just a little bit. If God just loved us just a little bit, our deadness and our disobedience would lead to sure doom for all of us.

For example, if I’m watching your kid and your kid disobeys me, I can only handle it so long. I’ll pretty quickly say, “It’s your turn!” But if my kid disobeys me, my patience might be stretched, but it’s not going to snap – not fully or finally. Why? Great love.

And that’s at the heart of God, multiplied by infinity.

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,

God doesn’t demonstrate just a little mercy toward us. He’s “rich in mercy.” So, we don’t get what we deserve. He has an overabounding wealth of mercy. And God doesn’t love us with just a little love. He loves with a “great love.” It’s a multitudinous love.

We were disobedient, but God loved us. We were dead, but God…

2. … raised us.

We don’t need resuscitation; we need resurrection. And that’s what God does.

5a even when we were dead in our trespasses…

A dead body cannot respond. It’s pointless to shout at a corpse: “Hey! I know you are in bad shape. But pull yourself together and get up!”

And making an appeal to a spiritually dead person won’t work. “Just try harder to be a good husband who loves his wife like Christ!” It won’t work. “Come on and respect your husband the way the Bible teaches!” It won’t work.

No preaching, no spiritual motivation, no psychological techniques, no positive thinking, no do-it-yourself schemes will help. So, what can help?

5b [God] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,


We can’t behave the way a follower of Christ is supposed to behave in our homes without a resurrection, without divine help. Only God’s power in Jesus can raise us from the dead. And He specializes in doing just that. Why?

7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

God wants to make us an eternal display of His grace. This is what many of us need right now in our families, isn’t it? Jesus Christ can raise up the individuals in your family. You can have a resurrected home. Vitalized people vitalize families.

We were disobedient, but God loved us. We were dead, but God raised us. We were doomed, but God…

3. … saved us.

Are you saved? Are the members of your family saved?

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Three key words here. Grace. Saved. Faith.

What is grace? We already defined mercy as not getting what we do deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. Mercy keeps us out of hell. Grace gets us into heaven. Grace is God’s favor shown to the utterly undeserving. We were dead to God, disobedient to God, and doomed. We didn’t deserve forgiveness or heaven.

The perfect One, Christ Jesus, came into this world and suffered the wrath of God on the cross – that wrath that should have come toward us. He was doomed instead of us. He took the wrath in our place. That’s grace.

And what does grace do? It saves us.

We who were doomed to suffer the wrath of God in hell forever have been saved. God was under no obligation to save any of us.

You might say, “Well, I don’t feel saved.” If you were shipwrecked in icy water, you’d be doomed. But someone comes with a lifeboat. And from the moment you are taken out of the icy water into that lifeboat, you are saved. You may still be cold and afraid. It may take a long time for your feet to touch dry land. But from the moment you are in the boat, you are saved.

We’re still in this world. We haven’t made it to heaven yet. But we are on the way. Not doomed any more. We are in God’s lifeboat.

How do we get there? Faith. Not works. Faith.

We’re not saved by being good little religious boys and girls. We’re not saved because our good deeds outweigh our bad ones. No. The work of salvation has already been completed on the cross. Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to the cross I cling.

Faith is the hand that receives the gift of salvation.

Is every member of your family saved?

God loves us, raises us, saves us. And one more. God…

4. … works us.

What I mean is that He puts us to work.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

”Workmanship” is a word that was used to describe a work of art, a poem, a masterpiece. God’s greatest works, His masterpieces, are those whom He has loved, raised, and saved.

If you do more good works than Mother Theresa did, that will not make you right with God; but once you have been put right with God by God there is something radically wrong with a so-called follower of Christ who does not do good works.

I know that I don’t deserve the kind of love that Maryanne has for me. To deserve her love would be impossible. Her love for me is a priceless gift. But in my best moments, I know that I should spend my life trying to be worthy of her love.

That’s the way it is with God. Nothing that we can ever do can win or earn the favor and love of God. But because we are dead people raised and disobedient people loved and doomed people saved we, from this moment on, pour out our lives as a sacrifice – as an offering – to show our gratitude and love.

That’s the motive for our works.

John Calvin wrote, “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.” We are not saved by faith plus good works, but by a faith that works.”

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (ESV)

God has an advance plan prepared for our lives. And it’s a plan for good works. What if your family was filled with people who outdid each other in doing good works for God and for one another?

God loves us, raises us, saves us, and works us.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vitalized (4)

We’ve been looking at a couple of phrases in Ephesians 2 that are at the heart of the passage: God “made us alive” (v. 5) and God “raised us up” (v. 6). You could say, God “vitalized” us. And when God vitalizes us as individuals, it impacts the family. Vitalized people vitalize families. Now, before we get to the vitalization, we have to see why we need to be vitalized. And the reason we need to be made alive and raised up is in verses 1-3.

Apart from Christ, we were doomed.

I know that isn’t fun to hear. But if your house is on fire and no one tells you, you don’t have very good neighbors or friends. So, God’s word warns us.

3b [We] were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

God’s wrath is coming against sin. The Bible says God hates sin. Why? It hurts people. Sin violates love and justice. That’s why God is angry with sin. Some people don’t like to think of God as a God of wrath. But if God is a good God then His wrath must come against anything or anyone who violates love and justice. This is why the “sons of disobedience” are “children of wrath” – why they are doomed.

Maybe that’s you today. You are still apart from Christ – dead, disobedient, doomed.

Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 2:5 (ESV)

For those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. Romans 2:8 (ESV)

We had no excuse. We were disobedient. We were all under God’s judgment.

The only thing that stands between people who are apart from Christ and hell is the mercy, the patience, and the longsuffering of God. Don’t take God’s patience for granted. Judgment is coming.

Now think about this: What might be the implications for your family if someone – or more than one – is doomed in your family?

Will you pray for those that are currently doomed in your family to get grace from God to be “un-doomed”?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vitalized (3)

A couple of phrases are in Ephesians 2 that are at the heart of the passage: God “made us alive” (v. 5) and God “raised us up” (v. 6). You could say, God “vitalized” us. And when God vitalizes us as individuals, it impacts the family. Vitalized people vitalize families. Now, before we get to the vitalization, we have to see why we need to be vitalized. And the reason we need to be made alive and raised up is in verses 1-3.

Apart from Christ...we were disobedient.

Because we were dead to God, we couldn’t really obey God. So, we were what verse 2 says, “Sons of disobedience.”

Sometimes, people say, “I’d become a Christ-follower, but I want to do what I want to do.” A good answer to that is to nicely say, “Just maybe you’re not really doing what you want to do. You’re doing what the world, the devil, and your flesh are telling you to do.”

Verse 2 tells us that we were disobedient to God because we were following the world, the devil, and our fleshly desires.

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world…

When we were apart from Christ, we were disobedient to God because we were spiritually dead. We could not respond obediently.

“Following the course of this world” is conforming to the world’s ideas about right and wrong, not God’s. It’s being caught up in worldly pleasures… and disobeying God.

… following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—

“Following the prince of the power of the air” is following the devil. Now, this doesn’t mean that the devil is always personally at work in the life of everyone who is apart form Christ. The devil is a created being and is finite. However, he is the leader of other fallen angels who have demonic influence in the lives of the disobedient – who keep people away from Christ. Plus, the devil influences this world’s system (John 12:31) keep people disobedient to God.

… among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind… Ephesians 2:1-3a (ESV)

“Living in the passions of our flesh” refers to the fallen nature that we were born with, that controlled the body and the mind and made us disobey God.

As sons of disobedience, we were controlled by the world, the flesh, and the devil – the three great enemies of God.

And this has tremendous implications for the family. Think about Ephesians 6:1.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6:1 (ESV)

If you’re children are spiritually dead and spiritually disobedient, how can they possibly consistently obey Ephesians 6:1?

We are expecting our first grandchild on January 1. It’s going to be a boy. We’re going to think that “Baby D” is the cutest baby ever. But by nature, and then by choice, he’s going to be a “son of disobedience.” There will come a time when his mom and dad will say “no” and he will look right in their eyes with defiance and will do the deed anyway.

Apart from Christ, the direction of a life is disobedience. What might be the implications for your family if someone – or more than one – is, by nature, disobedient in your family?

Will you ask God to make your family members “sons of obedience”?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Vitalized (2)

A couple of phrases are in Ephesians 2 that are at the heart of the passage: God “made us alive” (v. 5) and God “raised us up” (v. 6). You could say, God “vitalized” us. And when God vitalizes us as individuals, it impacts the family. Vitalized people vitalize families. Now, before we get to the vitalization, we have to see why we need to be vitalized. And the reason we need to be made alive and raised up is in verses 1-3.

Apart from Christ, we were…

… dead.

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
Ephesians 2:1 (ESV)

Dead here means spiritually dead. We were alive physically, but dead spiritually. We were dead men walking; dead women walking; dead boys, girls, and teenagers walking.

And that may be describing you today. Could it be that you are spiritually dead?

This means that we were unable to spiritually respond to God and to truth. It means that we could do nothing to please God.

Think about it. A corpse doesn’t hear conversations going on at a funeral home. A body doesn’t have an appetite. It’s dead.

This is also true when it comes to spiritual life of people apart from Christ. They don’t hear God. They don’t have an appetite for the things of God.

Everyone apart from Christ is dead. The only difference between one spiritually dead person and another is the state of decay. A drug-using drug- pusher might be more decayed outwardly than some apart-from-Christ member of your family. But both are dead in sin.

Not everyone is the same level of decay. Twenty dead bodies would all be dead, but they could have varying degrees of decay. And that’s the way it is with us. All are dead, but there are levels of decay. Our world is one vast graveyard, filled with people who are dead while they live (1 Tim. 5:6).

Apart from Christ, we aren’t just flawed or sick, we are dead! And this has tremendous implications for the family. Just look at a couple of verses in Ephesians 4.

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)

Make a clean break with all cutting… talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 (Msg)

Who wouldn’t want to live in a family like that? But this is easier said than done. Right?

It’s only when we are in Christ that we can really live this way. Jesus gives us the power to live this way.

But if a person is dead spiritually, they don’t have divine power to live out this kind of life – they can’t truly obey Ephesians 4:29 and 32. Not from the heart. Not from within. Not with purity of motive.

Now this might be one explanation for what’s been going haywire in your home. Are there people in your family who are spiritually dead? Are you expecting them to act like they are spiritually alive? What might be the implications for your family if someone – or more than one – is spiritually dead in your family?

Will you ask God to vitalize them?

God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck


Russell Moore has some great thoughts on his blog that are right on point when it comes to how evangelicals should think about the Mormon, Glenn Beck.

***

A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.

The news media pronounces him the new leader of America’s Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America’s Christian conservatives have no problem with that.

If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it’s not. It’s from this week’s headlines. And it is a scandal.

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isn’t the problem. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market. Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. I’m quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good. What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the “Tea Party” or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.

It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined “revival” and “turning America back to God” that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.

Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads. We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.

Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.

Leaders will always be tempted to bypass the problem behind the problems: captivity to sin, bondage to the accusations of the demonic powers, the sentence of death. That’s why so many of our Christian superstars smile at crowds of thousands, reassuring them that they don’t like to talk about sin. That’s why other Christian celebrities are seen to be courageous for fighting their culture wars, while they carefully leave out the sins most likely to be endemic to the people paying the bills in their movements.

Where there is no gospel, something else will fill the void: therapy, consumerism, racial or class resentment, utopian politics, crazy conspiracy theories of the left, crazy conspiracy theories of the right; anything will do. The prophet Isaiah warned us of such conspiracies replacing the Word of God centuries ago (Is. 8:12–20). As long as the Serpent’s voice is heard, “You shall not surely die,” the powers are comfortable.

This is, of course, not new. Our Lord Jesus faced this test when Satan took him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth, and their glory. Satan did not mind surrendering his authority to Jesus. He didn’t mind a universe without pornography or Islam or abortion or nuclear weaponry. Satan did not mind Judeo-Christian values. He wasn’t worried about “revival” or “getting back to God.” What he opposes was the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of the world.

We used to sing that old gospel song, “I will cling to an old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.” The scandalous scene at the Lincoln Memorial indicates that many of us want to exchange it in too soon. To Jesus, Satan offered power and glory. To us, all he needs offer is celebrity and attention.

Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They offer another Lord Jesus than the One offered in the Scriptures and Christian tradition, and another way to approach him. An embrace of these tragic new vehicles for the old Gnostic heresy is unloving to our Mormon friends and secularist neighbors, and to the rest of the watching world. Any “revival” that is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ is a “revival” of a different kind of spirit than the Spirit of Christ (1 Jn. 4:1-3).

The answer to this scandal isn’t a retreat, as some would have it, to an allegedly apolitical isolation. Such attempts lead us right back here, in spades, to a hyper-political wasteland. If the churches are not forming consciences, consciences will be formed by the status quo, including whatever demagogues can yell the loudest or cry the hardest. The answer isn’t a narrowing sectarianism, retreating further and further into our enclaves. The answer includes local churches that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and disciple their congregations to know the difference between the kingdom of God and the latest political whim.

It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not pessimistic. Jesus will build his church, and he will build it on the gospel. He doesn’t need American Christianity to do it. Vibrant, loving, orthodox Christianity will flourish, perhaps among the poor of Haiti or the persecuted of Sudan or the outlawed of China, but it will flourish.

And there will be a new generation, in America and elsewhere, who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vitalized (1)

When our son, Alan, and his bride, Joanna, were engaged, we asked them to do what we ask all couples to do here: take a premarital inventory called PREPARE. PREPARE is a relationship evaluator and predictor. It’s about 90% accurate in predicting the outcome of a relationship.

It puts a relationship in 4 categories. 1) Conflicted. This couple is going to experience WWIII if they go ahead and get married. 2) Traditional. This is a couple that will be like the husband and wife you see out to eat on a Friday night, but they have nothing to say to each other. 3) Harmonious. Most couples would be happy settling for this! 4) Vitalized. These people are life-giving to each other.

When Alan and Joanna’s results came back, the inventory predicted that they would be a vitalized couple. So, for days afterwards, Alan walked around, holding up the “V” sign and saying, ”Gimme a V!”

That was fun, but what’s really important is not that an inventory predicts that you’ll have a vitalized family, but that you actually are a vitalized family.

Not everybody has a vitalized family. Some of you are in relationships in your home right now that are draining, not life-giving. But there’s hope. God’s Word has instruction for us about how to be vitalized.

A couple of phrases are in Ephesians 2 that are at the heart of the passage: God “made us alive” (v. 5) and God “raised us up” (v. 6). You could say, God “vitalized” us.

vi- tal-ize – (verb) – to give somebody or something life, to cause somebody or something to live
And when God vitalizes us as individuals, it impacts the family. Vitalized people vitalize families.

Will you ask God to vitalize your family?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

believe me

Here's a one minute work of art that is an apologetic regarding the problem of pain. It's one man's way of dealing with the existence of evil in a world made and managed by a good God.

Rap by Alan C. Duncan. Video by Evan Duncan.

a service without the scriptures?

The Bible reading from the One Year Bible New Testament plan for today caused me to think about a recent question I was asked. Someone asked about having a service sometime with no preaching. In short, my response was, "No way!"

Here are a couple of verses for the biblical and theological reasons why I am committed to having the Word of God exposited each time we meet for weekend, main service worship.

Ephesians 2:19-22 says, "You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone."

The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus as the cornerstone. How do we access this foundation of the apostles and prophets? Through understanding and applying their inspired, inerrant, infallible writings in holy scripture. Therefore, I strongly believe that the weekly exposition and application of holy scripture is not optional, but essential if we are going to build our church on a solid foundation.

I Corinthians 1:21 says, "It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe." It is through the "foolishness" of preaching that lost souls are saved.

Romans 6:17 says, "Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed." It is through the teaching of the scriptures that saved souls are sanctified. The emotions (note the phrase "... from the heart...") and the will (note the word "... obedient...") are impacted through the mind that has been exposed to teaching (note the phrase "... the standard of teaching to which you were committed...").

Ezra 8:8 is also instructive regarding OT practice. Luke 4:16-21 is instructive concerning synagogue practice and the practice of Jesus.

So, I don't think I being simply stubborn, inflexible, and tradition-for-the-sake-of-tradition on this issue. I have come to a settled position on this from a personal convition from God's Word.

Long ago, I made a commitment to the Lord that I will always lead any church where I serve to have worship services where we teach the Bible in clear, practical, revelant ways and are always asking the Spirit of God to use the Word of God to point people to the Son of God. After all, He has promised that His Word will never return void. Isaiah 55:10-11 says, "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."

I once heard Adrian Rogers say that someone asked him why he preached the Bible. He answered, "Two reasons. 1) I'm not smart enough to preach anything else. No one really will ever care long term about what I think about things. I'm simply not smart enough to preach anything else. 2) I'm too smart to preach anything else. God has promised that His Word will not return void. I'd be a fool to preach anything other than His Word."

I'm a proud disciple of Dr. Rogers when it comes to the primacy of teaching and preaching the Bible.

Of course, I am all in favor of thinking of coming up with more and better creative ways to teach and preach the Bible. So, I believing in brainstorming with a creative team of leaders about "how" to best exposit the Bible in our contemporary culture.

I hope this helps explain my heart and my conviction about this matter.

Should we have main, weekend services without somehow teaching and preaching from God's Word? Never!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blessed (8)

Maybe you have been a source of non-blessing to your family lately. You’ve been on the demolition crew, not the construction crew at home. The reason? You’ve been trying to use the people around you to make you feel good about you. And when they don’t come through, you’ve let them have it!

It’s time. It’s time for you to stop listening to the voices that say you aren’t blessed and start listening to the voice of truth. Listen to the voice of the Spirit – the voice of truth – to remind yourself that you are blessed.

The voice of truth is saying to you today, "I want you to know that you know that you are blessed. I have chosen you from the foundation of the world. I adopted you to be in my family with all the family privileges forever. I have redeemed you by the blood of my Son. You are freely and fully forgiven. And I have put my Spirit in you as a seal and a guarantee. Therefore, you will receive the inheritance and praise the glory of my grace forever and ever. And I tell you about all these blessings here in Ephesians chapter 1 because I want you to be a blessing. I don't promise you an easy life. In fact, through many tribulations you must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). But you must never forget that you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”

How do we access these blessings? We have to be “in Christ.” 10 times in Ephesians 1:3-14 we see a little phrase “in Christ,” “in Him,” or “in the beloved.” I’ve circled these phrases in my Bible. Are you “in Christ”?

To be “in Christ” means that you are in His realm, that you are enveloped by Him, that all He is and all He has done applies to you. You’re influenced by His death, by His resurrection, by His life. You live life with Him above and beneath you, with Him to the right and to the left of you, with Him in front and behind you. You are “in Him.”

When did that happen?

Some people might say, “I’ve always been in Christ.” That’s not the teaching of the Bible. We are naturally “out of Christ” or “apart from Christ.” When did you move from being out of Christ, apart from Christ? Are you “in Christ”?

Maybe today’s the day for you to move from “out of Christ” to “in Christ.” If you come to Him, all the blessedness I’ve been blogging about lately will be yours.

Remember: Water heaters will blow up. Cars will break down. Roofs will leak. Clients will leave your company. Your bank account will be depleted. And you will feel un-blessed. And you will be tempted to un-bless a family member. But that’s when you will have to remember to speak the truth to yourself: “Wait a minute! I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. I am chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, sealed. And because that is true, I can bless others. I will connect with my family in a way that says, ‘If I could do it all over again, I’d choose you. If you were in a big long line, I’d adopt you. I can’t redeem your life, Christ did, but will gladly sacrifice and give my time, my talent, my treasure just to be in relationship with you. I will forgive you when you hurt me. I won’t leave you. You can be secure with me.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blessed (7)

The reason we can be a blessing to our family members is because we realize we are blessed by God. If we can’t or won’t be a blessing to our family members, maybe it’s because we aren’t living in the freedom of being blessed by God with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places with Christ. We must become overwhelmed with what Jesus has given us and done for us. Then, we’ll be full. And we’ll see that in our homes blessed people bless people.

How am I blessed?

I am sealed

Beth Marosi says that one question she and Dave often hear is something like, “Aren’t you afraid the birth family will take them back?” Understandable. But once they came to understand the legalities of adoption---and adoption law here in Ohio---they knew that their family could never be unglued. She says, “We are sealed. We are approved by multiple authorities---social workers and judges. We are sealed forever and approved. Our girls share our name and have it legally forever. There is no undoing.”

And in a more prefect way, the same truth applies to us in Christ.

In him you also… were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV)

Our adoption in Christ can never be undone (See Romans 8:14-39). We are sealed. That means that we are eternally secure.

How? Through the work of the Holy Spirit. When we trust Jesus as our Lord and savior, the Holy Spirit – the third Person of the Trinity – comes to live in us. For now, He gives us the power to live out this life in Christ. And for the future, He guarantees our ultimate salvation. Having the Holy Spirit in your life is a foretaste of what’s to come.

What does being "sealed" mean?

John Piper tells us that the word is used at least three different ways in the New Testament.

- One meaning is locking something up or closing it in. In Matthew 27:66, the tomb of Jesus was secured by sealing it.
- Another meaning is giving a sign of authenticity. In 1 Corinthians 9:2 Paul says that his converts are the seal of his apostleship.
- A third meaning is protecting. In Revelation 7:3 the seal of God is put on the forehead of God's servants to protect them from the wrath coming upon the world.

No matter which of these meanings you use the basic truth is the same. 1) The Spirit seals shut. He seals in faith and seals out unbelief. 2) The Spirit seals us as a sign of authenticity. It’s the Spirit's work in our life which is God's trademark. He is the sign of divine reality in our lives. 3) The Spirit marks us with God's seal. He protects us from evil forces which won't dare to enter a person who bears the mark of God,

So, being "sealed" is a message of safety and security. God sends the Holy Spirit to lock in our faith, to authenticate our relationship with Him, and to protect us from destruction. Why? God wants us to feel secure and safe in His love and power.

The Spirit is our guarantee. The Greek word is “arrabon.” It was a regular feature in the Greek business world. The gurantee was a part of the purchase price of anything, paid in advance as a promise that the rest would in due time be paid. The Spirit is our guarantee.

Back when Maryanne and I were in seminary in Memphis, we drove a 1974 Opel Manta. I don’t know how blessed we were with this car. The gas gauge didn’t work and we didn’t have the money to fix it. So, Maryanne and I would run out of gas from time to time. I can remember walking to gas stations and asking if they had a gas can so I could buy a couple of dollars' worth of gas to take back and put in the car. I would say, “I will be right back and fill up the tank.” Often, I had to leave my driver's license. Why? Because it was a guarantee I would come back and finish my business. The gas guys knew that my license was valuable enough to me to give them a sense of security that I would come back with their can and get more gas.

The Holy Spirit who lives in us now is a foretaste of an even greater blessedness in heaven. He is the guarantee that some day we will enter into the fullness of the blessedness of God.

Maybe you are reading this and you are about to walk out on a relationship. You’re tempted to break your wedding vows and walk out on your kids. God says, “Wait. Be an imitator of Me as a beloved child. You are blessed. You are sealed. I won’t leave you. You can be secure with Me. Now, give that same sense of security – that same sense of permanence – to your spouse and your kids.”

Blessed people bless people.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blessed (6)

The reason we can be a blessing to our family members is because we realize we are blessed by God. If we can’t or won’t be a blessing to our family members, maybe it’s because we aren’t living in the freedom of being blessed by God with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places with Christ. We must become overwhelmed with what Jesus has given us and done for us. Then, we’ll be full. And we’ll see that in our homes blessed people bless people.

How am I blessed?

I am forgiven

I’ve said several times that blessed people bless people. And that hurt people hurt people. It’s also true that guilty people guilt people. Maybe that’s been happening in your home. It doesn’t have to.

7b In him we have… the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. Ephesians 1:7

No matter what you’ve done, no matter where you’ve been, if you are in Christ, you are forgiven. Past sins? Forgiven. Present sins? Forgiven. Future sins? Already forgiven. What can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

We confess our sins as forgiven sins. The blood of Christ shed on the cross has washed our sins away. Our relationship with God is secure. We confess our sins to restore our fellowship with God. By His grace, we’re forgiven. The slate has been wiped clean. Totally. Our sins has been cast into the depths of the sea. They’ve been taken as far as the east is from the west. God acts toward us like He doesn’t even remember our sins.

A dad may be reading this or a teen. You’ve been going places you shouldn’t go. You’ve been doing things you shouldn’t do. The guilt is heavy. And remember, guilty people guilt people. And that’s the way you’ve been dealing with your family lately. Anybody who has let you down – who hasn’t come through for you in the way you thought they should – gets it. You’ve been coming down hard on the people in your home. God brought you here today to say, “You’ve been blessed, forgiven. So, be forgiving.”

Blessed people bless people.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blessed (5)

The reason we can be a blessing to our family members is because we realize we are blessed by God. If we can’t or won’t be a blessing to our family members, maybe it’s because we aren’t living in the freedom of being blessed by God with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places with Christ. We must become overwhelmed with what Jesus has given us and done for us. Then, we’ll be full. And we’ll see that in our homes blessed people bless people.

How am I blessed?

I am redeemed

Being blessed – being chosen and being adopted costs. A lot. It cost God.

7a In Him we have redemption through His blood, Ephesians 1:7

Redemption. It’s delivering someone from a situation from which he was powerless to liberate himself. It’s setting someone free from a penalty that he could never have paid himself (Ezekiel 18:4).

That’s what the blood of Christ has done for us. Jesus set us free from the penalty of sin when He died in our place. He took the wrath of God toward our sin on Himself. He paid the price so we could be adopted as children of God.

Our blessedness was purchased through the sufferings of Christ (Romans 5:6-11; Romans 6:1-11).

Beth and Dave Marosi often get a question about adoption. “Isn’t it very expensive?” And their answer is yes. Adoption is costly. They say it cost them financially. There are fees to be paid for legal and agency costs. It cost them emotionally. No subject was off limits during their home study questions. It cost them time. They spent time accumulating the right documents, fingerprints, and fire inspections necessary to pass the home study.

But they say, “Our children are totally worth it.” They say that they would go through all of it again three times backwards and barefoot to accomplish their adoptions. They spent themselves willingly.

So, did Jesus. Our blessedness cost Jesus His very life’s blood. If that doesn’t prove to you that He has blessed you with every spiritual blessing, nothing else could.

Dave and Beth feel this way, “The cost of our adoptions is NOTHING compared to the cost of our spiritual adoption. God spent His Son. He sent Him here to earth to dwell with us and to be humiliated and misunderstood for years. And then He watched Him die. The Triune God spent Himself willingly to adopt you and me.”

Maybe a mom is reading this and your kids have been especially draining lately. They’ve been sick. They’ve forgotten homework. They lost a schoolbook. And your husband hasn’t been there for you. You’ve been feeling alone, not-so-pretty, un-blessed. And you’ve not been very fun to be around. You’ve been thinking, “Why should I sacrifice so much for these ungrateful people in my family?” God has brought you here today to remind you that you’ve been blessed – redeemed – that Jesus has paid a price for you, that He sacrificed Himself for you.

And because that is true, you can bless others. I will connect with my family in a way that says, ‘I can’t redeem your life Christ did, but will gladly sacrifice and give my time, my talent, my treasure just to be in relationship with you.”

Blessed people bless people. Bless your family!

Loving God Journal - 9/18/2010

Until Christ is formed

Learn

My little children... I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! Galatians 4:19 (ESV)

Observe:

Here we see the heart of a true church planting missional pastor. Paul is concerned that the Galatians are letting go of the gospel of grace - that they are falling back into legalism. He’s concerned for their souls.

Paul has been teaching them once again that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. To believe that religious performance (rule-keeping, ritual-performing, sacrament-depending) saves is to believe another gospel and Paul is deeply concerned that the Galatians trust in nothing but the finished work of Christ on the cross. Anything other than salvation by grace through faith is pseudo-salvation. Their very souls are at stake.

So, Paul’s persevering, protective pastoral heart comes through here. Note:

  • He “owns” the responsibility to care for the church. “My...”
  • He sees the church as delicate and in need of tender care. “... little...”
  • He sees himself in the protective parent role (under the Fatherhood of God). “... children...”
  • He doesn’t mind repeated work/service/admonishment. He perseveres in his care for the church. “... I am again...”
  • Shepherding a flock is anguishing work. “...in the anguish...”
  • Shepherding a flock is painful labor and one doesn’t quit until the baby is born. “... of childbirth...”
  • The focus is not on the reputation or the vindication of the church planting missional pastor. The focus is on the reputation, the influence, the glory of Christ. “... until Christ...”
  • Paul realizes that the work is a process - that spiritual formation takes time. “... is formed...”
  • Paul wants to see transformation take place in the specific individuals so that whole particular body of Christ is transformed. “... in you.”

Value:

Be a church planter who “plods” - who endures pain, who doesn’t quit until Christ is formed in the church you’ve planted.

Express:

Lord God, I praise You that You have been laboring over me to see Christ formed in me. Let me be a shepherd like that to CVC. Raise up more shepherds like that for NE Ohio and the world. Thank for Your grace that covers all those times when I have wanted to act like a hireling. Make me faithful to You and to the flock that You have entrusted to me. Let me have a fierce love for and a tender heart toward Your church - toward CVC. And please allow Jesus to be formed in the hearts and lives of the people at CVC. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, September 17, 2010

This is really cool

Strawberry Swing - Coldplay from inuki111 on Vimeo.

Jesus: Product or Person?

Rick Howerton is a leader in the small group movement. Rick has been a successful church planter and pastor. In 2003 he planted a church built around healthy small groups in Spring Hill, Tennessee, called The Bridge. In a guest blog on Ed Stetzer's blog, Rick asks a probing question.

***

How do you know if you're promoting Jesus as "product" rather than Jesus as a person.

You will know you are promoting Jesus as a "product"...

... when most of your musical offerings are songs sung about Jesus, not to Him.

... when the church gathers, you don't anticipate Jesus will accomplish those things He has the power to do and will do because of His presence there. You host services without expectation of Christ to heal the broken-hearted and set captives free. (Isaiah 61: 1 - 2).

... when teaching your parishioners to bring people into a relationship with Christ you guide them to invite people to church gatherings rather than suggesting they tell others what Jesus has and is doing for them.

... when your church members brag about the church's band, the pastor's sermons, and/or the church's programs but are embarrassed to speak of Jesus to those in their circle of relationship.

... when teaching and preaching you have no current stories to tell of your own interactions with Christ.

... when new converts, in their excitement, tell their friends and family members about the church, rather than telling what Jesus has done for them.

... when the church prays, they don't cry out for Christ to do something outrageous, they pray easily forgotten requests without anticipating anything from Him.

... when you and almost everyone in your congregation have no reason to believe and aren't anticipating that someone will choose to become a follower of Christ at every large group gathering.

Over the last ten years of consulting churches I've seen churches with little or no strategy, churches with music that would make you beg for earplugs, churches whose small group approach was accomplishing nearly nothing, churches whose pastor's preaching would be considered a grade F in almost any seminary, but all were experiencing the work of Christ because Christ was the primary personality they promoted and allowed to be at work. They truly had a Jesus as Person environment. And I've seen very large, growing churches excited about numeric growth who were experiencing little of Christ at work. If they had looked deeply into their own hearts, they would have known they were promoting the church, not Christ, and because of that they were simply welcoming the already convinced to join them, the already convinced, to do church together. They had created a Jesus as Concept environment and were experiencing what that offers... a silent Jesus.

We should all take a close look to ensure that our churches are teaching and living like Jesus is the heroic Person He claimed, showed, and proves Himself to be.

Loving God Journal - 9/17/2010

Jesus – A curse?

Learn –

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”
Galatians 3:13 (ESV)

Observe –

Wow. This should simply stun me. Jesus paid the price to set me free from the penalty of sin, hell, death, the grave, and the curse. He shed His blood – the precious blood of the Lamb of God.

How? He became a curse. The Greek word is katara. It’s an "execration, imprecation, curse," uttered out of malevolence, Jam 3:10; 2Pe 2:14. It’s pronounced by God in His righteous judgment on a land doomed to barrenness, Hbr 6:8. In Galatians 3:13 it is used to describe Jesus as having "become a curse" for us by voluntarily undergoing on the Cross the appointed penalty of the "curse." He is identified, on our behalf, with the doom of sin.

The Roman soldiers and the Jewish religious leaders literally cursed at Him at the cross. Psalm 22:7 says, “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads.” Psalm 22:13 says, “They open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.”

Value –

Worship. Be stunned by what Jesus did for you and then live a poured out life in response to His amazing sacrifice.

Express –

Jesus, You were perfect in every way. You never sinned. You deserve praise and adoration. In fact, that’s all You received in eternity past and all You will receive in eternity future. Yet, you willingly became a curse. You were willing to be cursed at by people and became a curse in the sight of God. It was my sin that made You a curse. I so much need Your great and awesome forgiveness. Let the knowledge of this sacrifice keep me from more sin. Today, I yield to You, Lord Jesus. Make me love You more. Make me a radical disciple for Your glory.

Blessed (4)

The reason we can be a blessing to our family members is because we realize we are blessed by God. If we can’t or won’t be a blessing to our family members, maybe it’s because we aren’t living in the freedom of being blessed by God with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places with Christ. We must become overwhelmed with what Jesus has given us and done for us. Then, we’ll be full. And we’ll see that in our homes blessed people bless people.

How am I blessed?

I am adopted

Are you really in touch with the blessing of being adopted by God? He didn’t have to do that.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. Ephesians 1:5 (ESV)

Adoption. One of the families in our church who have two precious adoptive little girls is the Marosi family. Beth quotes Dr. Robert Peterson, “I have found that people who have adopted or who have been adopted understand the Bible’s teaching on adoption best. Those who adopt have special experiential insight into God’s adoptive love for us.”

Beth writes, “My husband Dave and I adopted our girls as newborns. We did not have any conditions or requests. We wanted them for who they are, not for what they would do or add to our family. I want to stress again---they were newborns---they did not have a long list of accomplishments or works. They did not ‘earn’ their right to be our children. They were simply created and we loved them immediately ‘as is.’ Still do.

Beth goes on to unpack this when it comes to our relationship to God, “What does this mean for you? It means that God loves you and adopted you regardless of anything you bring to the table. Nothing makes you unworthy. Christ Jesus is what makes you worthy. His lavish love is based on Him, not us.”

When verse 5 was written according to Romans law the person who had been adopted had all the rights of a legitimate child in the new family and completely lost all rights in the old family. In the eyes of the law he or she was a new person. Even all debts and obligations connected with the previous family were abolished as if they had never existed.

That is what Paul says that God has done for us. We were absolutely in the family of sin and of the world. But God, through Jesus, took us out of that family into His family. Adoption wipes out the past and makes us new.

Adoption was not an afterthought. He didn’t discover one day that we had sinned and orphaned themselves in the world and then had to come up with the idea of adoption. No. He predestined our adoption. He planned it in advance.

God will not adopt you and then find out that you are not worthy and un-adopt. He knows we are unworthy. And he chose us and predestined us for adoption. This is firm and sure and unshakable.

Not all people are God’s adopted children.

The blood of Christ covers the sins of all who believe (Romans 3:25). Therefore, believers in Jesus are adopted, and no others. If we talk about God being the Father of all mankind, we speak very loosely and are not talking truly about those who are saved.

And don’t forget that you were not a cute little child that God was attracted to. Romans 5:10 says that we enemies in rebellion against God, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”

So our adoption is not based on our being worthy or cute or attractive. It is based on the sheer grace of God planned before the world began. That’s why we get the good and He gets the glory.

God adopted us in our unworthiness to make His grace look great. We were adopted for the praise of the glory of His grace. We will brag on God’s grace as our Father forever.

Someone may be reading this and your kids haven’t really been measuring up to your standards. They aren’t all that athletic. Their grades aren’t that great. And you’ve been disappointed. They feel it. And things have been getting worse in your relationships at home. And God brought you here to remind you that you are blessed. He’s adopted you. And he wants you to live in a way with your kids so they know, “If you were in a big long line with every other kid in the world, I’d adopt you.”

Blessed people bless people. Bless your family!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blessed (3)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ
10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)

3 times in verse 3 and once in verse 6, we see this word “blessed.” The root word in the Greek is eulogeo. It’s a compound word. Eu means “well”. Logeo means “to speak.” So, eulogeo means to speak well about, to praise. In this context, the word means that He builds into us, does good for us, and benefits us so that He can speak well about us.

how am I blessed?

I am chosen

Maybe you were a kid and someone said, “I want to sit by you on the bus.” Maybe you played ball in the neighborhood and the kid who was captain of the team picked you. Maybe somebody one day hit a knee and said, “I want you to be me wife. Will you marry me?” Maybe you remember getting the call from an employer who said, “Out of all the resumes and interviews, we want you.” There’s nothing quite like the feeling that comes over you when you are chosen.

But none of that can ever compare to being chosen by God.

He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Ephesians 1:4 (ESV)

Don’t think of yourself as having chosen God. It’s the other way around. God has chosen you. (John 15:16). The wonder is not that we should choose God. The wonder is that God should choose us. He shouldn’t have. But He did.

And did you see that your blessedness began before the creation of the universe when God planned the cross, when God planned the resurrection of Jesus, and when God chose you to be his own through Christ?

He chose us. Not an undefined conglomeration of people, but us. You and me. Personally. He chose us.

As John Piper says, “He did not choose me because he saw me as a believer, but so that I might become a believer. He did not choose me because I chose him, but so that I might choose him. He did not choose me because I was holy or good but so that I might become holy and good.”

And when we get this in our guts – that we are chosen by God – we will find that this is an antidote for our insecurities, our fears, our need to be accepted and our desire to be respected. This knowledge can set you free to be a blessing to your family.

I am blessed. How? T he greatest, wisest, richest strongest Person in the universe chose me!

Someone may be reading this today who has been experiencing lots of challenges in life lately. You’ve been feeling un-blessed. And you haven’t been blessing your family members very well. You know it and they do, too. You’ve been sending your loved ones out the door to face a tough world with words like: “I’m not sure why I ever married you…” “You’re just like your mother…” “Can’t you do anything right?” “Why don’t you…” “When are you going to…” And God brought you here today to remind you that no matter what’s been going seemingly wrong in your life, you are blessed. You have been chosen by God! Now, He says, give that blessing away. Connect with your family in a way that says, ‘If I could do it all over again, I’d choose you.”

Blessed people bless people. Bless your family!

Burn the Koran?

Bill Perkins, who leads a ministry to men called Million Mighty Men, wrote an excellent article about the burning of the Koran. I heartily echo his thoughts.

Here's what Bill had to say:


In the last week or so, several pastors and a guy in New York City captured national attention by either burning or threatening to burn copies of the Koran. Meanwhile, a small group tore some pages from the Koran in a protest outside the White House to denounce what they called "the charade of Islam" on the anniversary of 9/11. As expected, just the possibility of defiling the Koran agitated Muslims around the world.

I suggest that such disrespect for the values of Islam places a cloud over Christianity. And it's unnecessary. Such actions do not express the mind of Christ, nor do they further the Gospel. If we truly want to influence Muslims, we should seek to enter into a dialogue about faith. Maybe that starts by actually reading the Koran. I've found Muslims, both in the U.S. and abroad, more than eager to discuss religion.

I suspect the "Koran burning" crowd justifies their behavior by claiming to speak in the voice of Old Testament prophets who stood their ground against idolatry. I think a better example is Paul in Athens. He used the idols in pagan temple as a way to open the conversation about the God of the Bible.

Acts 17:22-24 reads: "Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: 'Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands."

Can you imagine Paul walking into the Athens, grabbing an object of worship, throwing it to the ground, crushing it under his feet, and then trying to enter into a dialogue with the men of the city? Of course, not. Nobody would listen to him.

The guy who burned the Koran in New York said, "If they can burn American flags, I can burn the Koran."

True, but so what? Of course Americans have the right to burn copies of the Koran -- just like Muslims have a right to build a mosque close to the ground zero in New York City. But just because an act is protected by the U.S. Constitution does not make it wise.

Instead of spitting in the faces of those with whom we disagree, we should strive to follow the advice of Jesus.

He told us, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:44). But I think The Lord's best known statement says it best: "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you" (Luke 6:31).

Locking arms,

Bill

bill@millionmightymen.com

Loving God Journal - 9/16/2010

Learn


God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you.” So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. Galatians 2:8b-9 (NLT)

Observe:

I have been thinking lately about the call of Abraham. In studying through a workbook, The Tangible Kingdom Primer, I have been challenged to think like Abraham. God promised him in Genesis 12 that all the families on the earth would be blessed through him.

Implication: When we leave the familiar, God promises to bless others through us. Question: What familiar things will I leave behind to pursue the call of God? As I prepare to “pass the baton” of senior pastor of CVC to Chad Allen over the next couple of years, I think this is one way for me to leave the familiar and embrace a new call of God.

I think about the Allens who are leaving CA to come to NE Ohio to serve at CVC. I fully expect a blessing to come through them to the world.

Here in Galatians 2, Paul tells us “how” the nations were blessed through Abraham. It was his faith (not works) that made him right with God. And he is a forever illustration that God is pleased with faith, not works, and that He saves by grace through faith, not works.

So, how can we who leave the familiar behind be a blessing to the world? It’s by preaching and living out the message of faith. Faith pleases God from the start. We are saved by grace through faith. And faith keeps on pleasing God as we live out our lives.

Value:

Be a man who lives and leaves a legacy of faith.

Express:

Lord God, I praise You that You are a Rewarder of those who live by faith. You rewarded Abraham. And You blessed the world through him. To You belongs all the glory. I now do repent of all my pursuit of safety and security. Just like when we left home to come to NE Ohio, you are calling me to once again step out in faith into unknown waters. I thank You for showing me that You want me to “pass the baton” of leadership at CVC to another and to trust You with my future role at CVC. I ask that You let my life be an example of faith to others. Bless the world through me for Your name’s sake as You lead others to live by faith. Today, I yield my life to You. Do with me whatever You wish. I do so want my life to be a sacrifice for Your glory as I am crucified with Christ. I want to live my life today by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. It’s not about me, but You. Make it so, Lord God Almighty. You are worthy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blessed (2)

A spiritual leader named Paul wrote to a church he had started in a city called Ephesus.

Bible scholars tell us that the teaching in Ephesians can be seen this way:

Ephesians 1-3 ... position, doctrine, blessings
Ephesians 4-6 ... practice, duty, behavior

Ephesians 4-6 talk about godly family living – the practice, the duty, the behavior. Look at this list. Who wouldn’t want this to describe their family? Do these things characterize your family?

graceful words (4:29)
kindness (4:32)
tender-heartedness (4:32)
forgiveness (4:32)
gratitude (5:4, 5:20)
wisdom (5:15)
mutual submission (5:21)
yielding with strength (5:22)
leading with tenderness (5:25)
nourishing (5:29)
cherishing (5:29)
loving (5:25, 33)
respect (5:33)
obedience (6:1)
honoring (6:2)
nurturing (6:4, KJV)


A family with all that going on is a blessed family. Moms are blessing kids. Husbands are blessing wives. Brothers are blessing sisters. Grandparents are blessing grandkids. And on and on it goes. Is that your family?

Do you bless each other?

I was thinking about what BLESS might look like as an acronym.

B – We believe the best about each other. We believe in a bright future for each other.
L – We listen to each other’s hearts.
E – We encourage each other and build each other up with our words.
S – We serve one another… with a smile.
S – We support each other through prayer.

Do you bless each other?

We can’t bless each other like Ephesians 4-6 teaches without understanding and accessing the truths of Ephesians 1-3.

Ephesians 1-3 is important stuff. You can’t bless the other members of your family very well without being able to say, “I know that I know that I am blessed by God.”

The reason we can be a blessing to our family members is because we realize we are blessed by God. If we can’t or won’t be a blessing to our family members, maybe it’s because we aren’t living in the freedom of being blessed by God with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places with Christ. We must become overwhelmed with what Jesus has given us and done for us. Then, we’ll be full. And we’ll see that in our homes blessed people bless people.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blessed (1)

Blessed people bless people. And hurt people hurt people.

When Maryanne and I were first married, I would get hurt by an “O-fer” and would end up hurting Maryanne. You know what an “O-fer” is? It’s when a baseball player comes up to bat 3 or 4 times and doesn’t get a hit. So, it’s an 0 hits for 3 at bats game. Or an 0 for 4. The batting average dropped. I would come home feeling un-blessed. I’d mope. Maryanne would try to encourage me. And I would pout. And whine. And say things that I shouldn’t have said. And go in my man-cave. And I was not a blessing to my wife. Because I was thinking about me!

We all are tempted to do this, right? I’m not alone. You’ve done that kind of thing, too.

Something goes wrong in our lives and we’re tempted to be short, irritable, cutting with the people we say we love the most – the people in our own families.

Water heaters will blow up. Cars will break down. Roofs will leak. Clients will leave your company. You bank account will be depleted. And you will feel un-blessed. And you will be tempted to un-bless a family member.

Maybe that’s happened a lot in your family. That’s why we need to remember that…

Blessed people bless people.

Take a look at Ephesians 1:3-14 and ask God to show you how blessed you really are.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm the Batman!


I'm the Batman!
Originally uploaded by LinkinFreakPixar
Ryan is four.

A Visit to the Past

Ryan was a cut kid. Still is.

The Portrait


The Portrait, originally uploaded by Evan.Duncan..

Alan. A few days before his birthday on 9/12.

Movin


Movin, originally uploaded by Evan.Duncan..

Alan, Tom Sawyer, and Bryan Karas at Seekers on Friday.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

All Grown Up (5)

There are roles that everyone in the church is supposed to play. Can you say this about yourself and mean it?

I’m a body builder. v. 12c

Are you a body builder? God gave leaders to the church…

… to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… Ephesians 4:12c (ESV)

Earlier in Ephesians 1, we learn that Jesus is the Head and the Church is His body. He calls the shots. He leads. And we are His hands and feet and voice in this world. As a church, we do His work in the world.

How are we doing as a church in the USA? Not so hot.

Why don’t we do His work well in the world? The body is not as strong as it should be. We don’t work as well together like we should.

So, our job is to strengthen the whole body, not just the parts.

We are so very individualistic as Americans. The aim of our ministry as Christ-followers is to build up the body as a whole. We want this church to be a body that works well – that serves like Jesus served, that prays like Jesus prayed, that acts like Jesus acted, that helps like Jesus helped, that heals like Jesus healed, that changes lives like Jesus changed lives.

So, when you think about your family, you’re thinking about how each person in the family can play their part in the body of Christ so that the body of Christ – the church – is strong.

The body of Christ in the USA is weak. Many parts need some exercise, some help, some attention. One of our problems is that many of us, including our family members – our kids – are not playing our part in the body. That part of the body is weak.

I am so humbled that our son, Alan, is at CVC many Sunday mornings acting as a character in Blast!, our family production for kids K-4 and their parents. I am so humbled that he is at CVC every Sunday night supporting his wife, our daughter-in-law, Joanna, as she sings and leads young adults in worship. I am so humbled that Alan and Joanna lead a Community Group for young adults every Monday night. I am so humbled that our middle son, Ryan, is downstairs at CVC during Blast! running cameras. I am so humbled that our youngest son, Evan, runs the camera in the tech booth on weekends. They are playing a part in strengthening this body of Christ so that this church can be more effective in serving Jesus in our community.

There are roles that everyone in the church is supposed to play. Can you say this about yourself and mean it? I’m a body builder.

Friday, September 10, 2010

All Grown Up (4)

There are roles that everyone in the church is supposed to play. Can you say this about yourself and mean it?

I’m a working minister. v. 12b

Are you a working minister? God gave leaders to the church…

… to equip the saints for the work of ministry… Ephesians 4:12b (ESV)

Leaders equip the saints for a specific purpose, namely, "for the work of service," or, "for the work of ministry." The fixing of what is broken and the supplying of what is lacking in the saints is not an end in itself. The leaders don't stop then and say, "O good, now we have fixed and supplied saints. The work is done." No, the fixing and supplying are meant to make the saints into servants, or ministers.

In the past, people have introduced me as the minister at Cuyahoga Valley Church. I try to nicely say, “I’m NOT the minister at CVC.” I let that sit for minute. Why would I say, “I’m NOT the minister at CVC”? I’m a minister at CVC, but not the minister at CVC.” Why would I say this? It’s because the Bible teaches that we are all ministers!

Every saint—every Christian—is a minister.

The word is diakonia. We get the word “deacon” from this word. It describes someone who serves – someone who helps. Again, just like the Bible says Jesus has made us saints whether we know it or not, so He has made us His ministers whether we know it or not. And just like before when we asked, “Are we equipped saints?” here we ask “Are we working ministers?”

We are to be equipped for the work of the ministry. The word is ergon. It’s describing our business, our job. It requires energy and effort.

Now, when you apply this to the family, the clear application is that each family member is to see themselves as ministers to the other members of the family. And it will be work. But it’s a good work.

Husbands ministering to wives and wives to husbands. Moms ministering to kids and kids to moms. Dads ministering to kids and kids to dads. Brothers and sisters ministering to each other.

In the home we’re all asking, ”How can I help? How can I serve? How can I help my mom, my dad, my son, my daughter, my brother, my sister, my grandchild follow Jesus better?”

We live in a society that has become increasingly specialized in providing services. You name it and you can pay someone to do it for you:

Washing the dog.
Cleaning the gutters.
Buying your groceries.
Tutoring your kids.

And some parents and churches view youth and children’s ministry that way: “If I want my kids to grow close to God, then I use the church as a spiritual drop-off service. Spiritual training is best left to the pros.” Lots of parents think they are only responsible to get the kids to church. They use the “dump and jump” strategy. Dump the kids off at church and jump back into the car until it’s time to pick up the kid. They think,”If we only put our kids in a spiritual environment for an hour or so a week, then out will pop a morally sound young adult. And if they don’t turn out great, then the children’s director and the youth director are the bad guys.”

No. Moms and dads have to be “working ministers” to the kids. Parents are the primary disciplers of their children.

In Deuteronomy 6, we find the Shema.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your
house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (ESV)

Orthodox Jews cite it twice a day, morning and evening. Of all the passages about creation, faith, the coming Messiah, commandments, repentance, and forgiveness, why was this one passage the one that is to be repeated twice a day every day? The same instructions are repeated in Dt 11. This is important because it instructs parents with their God-given assignment to disciple their children. It has to be foundational in your home.

"The responsibility for raising spiritual champions belongs to the parents. Organizations and people from outside the home might support those efforts, but the responsibility is squarely laid at the feet of the family. This is not a job for specialists. It is a job for parents." ... George Barna

What we need is a partnership between the church and the parents. We believe that parents are indispensible ministers. Our family staff wants to champion the God-given role of parents.

Suppose I say to my sons, “Wanna play some ball? Let’s get our gloves and bats and a bucket of balls and head over to the ball fields and take some BP (batting practice).” Suppose I load them in the car and we get to the field. We get all the gear out of the car. And they are ready to play. But suppose I get back into the car and they say, “Hey, where are you going?” and I say, “See that guy over there? He’s the pro; he’s the expert. I’ve asked him to play with you today. I’ve got some other things I’m going to do. I’ll be back later.” That’s not cool. Maybe the instruction would be good, but the impact wouldn’t be the same. There are some things in life you just can’t delegate. You have to show up!

The same thing is even more true when it comes to a bucket of Bible truths, when it comes to taking spiritual batting practice, when it comes to catching the winds of the Holy Spirit for your family. You’ve got to be a working minister. You’ve got to show up and grow up!

There are roles that everyone in the church is supposed to play. Can you say this about yourself and mean it? I’m a working minister.

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