Loving Learning to Learn

As our church starts another semester of small groups in a couple of weeks, it is so exciting to see people getting more and more excited about every part of what small groups is about. The fellowship, the group study, and the commitment to loving and serving others is awesome…it is infectious.

One of the things that excites me is seeing people grow in their faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ. What excites me almost as much, is seeing people learning how to learn better. That may sound a bit odd but it is true. Seeing and hearing how people are figuring out how better to study God’s Word, how to dig in deeper and put the pieces together, how to find tools and approaches that will help them to get the most out of their time in the Bible is awesome.

So it is with each of us as we continue to grow and mature in our Christian faith that we continue to love how to learn how to learn better. We continue to commit ourselves to a lifetime of learning how to learn better, to grow deeper, and to mature from walking to running…from sipping milk to chowing down on some solid food of God’s Holy Word.

We should never be satisfied as learners; not just in what we learn, but in how we learn too. Our Lord is immeasurable and our desires should echo the words of Paul in Ephesians 3:18-19 where he prays that others might: “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

As we all continue to grow in our knowledge of Christ, let’s not get sedentary in our approach to our study. Rather, lets challenge ourselves to be better learners, working hard to become “excellent” students (Colossians 3:23-24), growing and maturing so that we might be effective and productive in our knowledge in our knowledge of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 1:5-8).

His follower and student

A Teacher Through & Through

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”
Titus 2:7-8 NIV

These verses are not a “stretch goal” for teachers of the Word of God. They are the model for strong, biblical teaching. They set the bar where it needs to be because the truth of God’s Word demands and deserves no less.

Wisdom and Will

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…” Colossians 1:9-10

That is what I want…I want to be filled with the knowledge of His will but want more than just head knowledge. I want to know His will “in all wisdom and spiritual understanding“. I am convinced that it is not until I have that kind of God-given knowledge and understanding that I will be able to walk and live in a way that is fully pleasing to the Lord; in a way that produces that “fruit of righteousness” (James 3:18), and that continues to increase my passion and my knowledge of God.

Wisdom From Above

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. ” James 3:17

One of the key factors that contributes to the success of any local church leadership is the fervent prayers of the church. Great godly leaders will strive and endeavor to seek, know and obey the will of God with love, in humility, and honorably. They are deeply aware of the important purposes to which they have been called. As a church we are called to lift them up in prayer (1 Timothy 2:2), to encourage them (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and to not cause them grief (Hebrews 13:17).

I have recently been studying through James and recently found my mind focusing on the need to pray specifically for the wisdom of God for those in leadership of my own church. James writes that true wisdom, the wisdom from above…that comes from God alone, is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, and without hypocrisy. A leadership team in a church that demonstrates that kind of wisdom would be a powerful, God-honoring group, capable and empowered to do great things for His kingdom.

Our prayers for those in leadership should absolutely include a fervent, impassioned plea to God for His wisdom that will be evidenced by these types of interactions and characteristics. We pray that as they lead and shepherd the “sheep” of the church, you know…all of us that are prone to wander, to be needy and messy, the ones that sometimes are more sheep-like than we care to admit (guilty as charged), we pray that the leadership is abundantly blessed with a God-given wisdom that results in their joy and unity, and in our being blessed by godly leadership as we serve the Lord together.

TK

Redeeming the Time

I remember as a kid my mom or dad would yell up the stairs to my room or down the stairs to the basement asking “What are you doing?” It was a simple enough question but the answer was not always simple…or truthful. It was not like I was doing something illegal but sometimes my unsupervised activities might not have been acceptable in the eyes of the “authorities” so to speak. How I spent my time was up to me after all and if I wanted to use my dad’s lathe tools as chisels or use my mom’s good pinking sheers for cutting some ninja throwing stars out of aluminum what was the big deal? I soon found out what the big deal was. The truth is my parents wanted to know how I was spending my time.

In Ephesians 5:15-16 Paul writes “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

timepiece 2

The term circumspectly is sometimes replaced with the word carefully, but that word just doesn’t convey the meaning of the original language. The walk circumspectly is to be exacting in paying attention to the details of how we walk. It is to take great care when considering the details of our life and walking with God-given wisdom.  It is walking with deliberate purpose in an effort to live a Christ-like, Spirit-filled life that brings honor and glory to God.

When we live circumspectly, we choose to make full use of the time we have, we redeem the time that God has graciously given to us to live for Him., by Him, and through Him.  We put off the things that weigh us down and distract us from His purposes, and run with purpose to the life that He truly wants for us.

#liveforHim #circumspectwalk #walkingwithpurpose

To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

DSCN9161“To Him be the glory both now and forever.”

These words come at very end of the book of Second Peter.  They come at the end of instructions from Peter about Christian living; about growing and maturing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. They are a part of the doxology from Peter as he closes a heartfelt exhortation to his readers and in it he puts a worshipful exclamation point on his dispatch.

“To Him be the glory both now and forever.”

To Jesus be all worship, praise, and honor all the time. We often think about bowing down in worship for all eternity, but Peter reminds his readers that they are to give Jesus the same intensity and purposeful glory-filled worship in this life as we are for all eternity.

“To Him be the glory both now and forever.”

Our lives need to be living doxologies of worship to the One that has called us, redeemed us, and preserved us for all eternity.

To Him be the glory both now and forever.  Amen!

Pathetic When I Am Sick

Guilty as charged. I have a pretty high tolerance level for pain…just ask my wife about the time I shoved a four inch splinter in one side of my hand and out the other.

splinter (2)

But…give me a bad head cold and I become as useless as chocolate teapot.  Everything aches, my head feels like its going to explode, and I just want to be pitied by all mankind. It really is quite pathetic.

In his letter to the Corinthian church Paul, talking about believers says, that “If only for this life we have hope in Jesus Christ we are of all people most to be pitied.” If Jesus was not raised from the dead, if He was not resurrected, then my hope in Him as my savior, my redeemer, my assurance of eternal peace in the presence of  Almighty God ends when I die.  That would truly be pathetic. But I know that He lives.

When I was sick and my heart was corrupted by sin God had pity on me. He demonstrated His love towards me even when I was a total screw up. Even now when I screw up every day, He loves me, forgives me, and comforts me.

If you are struggling through life and feel like there is no hope, no peace, and you are just sick in your heart then turn to Christ.  Jesus said to some people one day:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Jesus loves you. He wants to give you rest in your heart and soul. Seek him out. As him to forgive you and acknowledge him as the Lord of your life. It doesn’t mean all the problems of life go away, but the promise that you receive in and through Jesus gives you a peace and assurance that gives hope to an otherwise hopeless situation.

Do You See What I See?

hazy mechanic

A few years ago I shared the message below at a church in the Northeast. Some recent conversations and events brought this text back to mind and I thought perhaps it would be an encouragement as we turn the page to a new year. 

 

December, 2015

It has been a year filled with excitement, with challenges, with loss and with growth. It has been a year where the biblical foundations of morality and truth have seen increased attack in the governments and societies around the world.  It has been a year of incredible turmoil in the world, Paris, the Middle East and even here on our own soil.  The level of fear and anxiety has increased for many this year as the threat and reality of terrorism and persecution has become more widespread. But we remember the promise of God found in Isaiah 41:1

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

As we come to the end of 2015 and look forward into 2016 (and now 2019) many of us go through the annual process of making New Year’s resolutions.  It is also a time of year when folks might do a bit of a self-evaluation and ask some pressing personal questions…you know…questions like:

Why did I eat so much at Christmas? Or perhaps… How on earth am I going to pay my credit card bills in January? More seriously…in light of all the changes around us, we might ask ourselves questions like: What is God’s purpose for me? or What is His will for me?

Let me draw your attention to some truths in scripture that deal with the old and the new…passages that deal with how we look at life and what our purpose really is especially in light of all that is going on.

The passage of Scripture is 1 Thessalonians 5:11-21. The text is found in a letter that Paul is writing to the church at Corinth to respond and address some attacks on his ministry, his character, his motive and his credentials.  After leaving the church at Corinth false teachers had crept in and in addition to twisting the truth of the gospel, they were maligning and disparaging the work and ministry of Paul. In chapter 5 Paul is going to remind people about his ministry and his passion and then reminds them about who they are as believers, their ministry.  He then declares the truth of the Gospel to those that would read and hear his letter.

Paul writes in verses 12 and 13 “For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you.

The false prophets of Paul’s day were in it for the money…for the glory…the accolades.  Their hearts were not right and therefore their motives were wrong.  The motivation that drove these false teachers was not righteous…it was not done for God…it was done to boast in themselves.

Paul says “...if we are beside ourselves…it is for God!”  They thought that he was crazy…he had declared truth about God and his zealousness, his passion for the truth of Jesus caused the critics to believe that he was crazy. Paul goes on in verse 14 of his letter and he gives the reason for his zeal…his insanity…

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”

The love of Christ…the truth of salvation, Christ’s birth, life, death on the cross, and resurrection COMPELS him to speak the truth.  That love drives him to preach, to teach, to pray, to serve, to live, and to love.

What compels you?  What drives you to live and speak the way you do every day?  For Paul…it was the LOVE OF CHRIST that compelled him in everything he said and did.

What is that love of Christ…well…it is the love that only a true believer can know and understand.  It is a love that results from a changed life. A transformed person that is in Christ is a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” It is a tremendous truth of our faith that in Christ we are made new.

But I skipped a verse…and in that verse we find one of the most amazing and compelling verses in Scripture.  You see, when we become a new creation we often think of our heart being changed…and it is. We also think about our mind being renewed…and it is. But did you ever consider your eyes being changed?  Did you ever think that when you are in Christ you don’t see people the same way anymore?

In verse 16 Paul writes “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.”

Paul had known Christ and others “according to the flesh” before he was saved.  He saw Jesus and others with a worldview that was governed by an unchanged heart. Those “old things” and old ways provided the filter through which he saw others. Paul had known Christ “in the flesh” but now he regarded Christ in that way no longer.  His view of Christ had changed and so had the way that he viewed others.

When Paul writes “from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh” he is saying that he not longer sees people as rich or poor, young or old, by the color of their skin or their position in society.  Now he sees them the way that Christ sees them. He sees them with the love of Christ that is concerned about their relationship to Jesus.

Paul says that the love of Christ that has changed the way he sees others compels him to continue the work that he was called and equipped to do…the ministry we are called to do…the ministry of reconciliation.

“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

As believers we have been reconciled to Christ. Our sins have been paid for by the blood of Christ, and our relationship to God has been reconciled through Jesus. But God didn’t stop there.  He has given to Paul and to us, the ministry of reconciliation and the “word of reconciliation”. Paul describes in vivid detail what this looks like…

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

Paul is saying we are ambassadors, emissaries, representatives of the Lord Most High.  We are ambassadors for Christ himself…as if God were using our lives, our actions, our speech, to plead with people to be reconciled to God. And we use the Word of Reconcilation…His Word, as we do that ministry.

Paul goes on to say “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The truth in this verse is so enormous and unthinkable that it leaves me humbled, thankful, and transformed. ALL of my sin was charged to Christ on the cross AND at the very same time ALL of His righteousness was credit to me. What an incredible truth.  All of my sin is washed away and God now sees me in the righteousness of Christ.

God wants people to be reconciled to himself; He longs for it. God has given believers the ministry of being his ambassadors to help fulfill that ministry of reconciliation and to share with those that are not reconciled this incredible truth so that they might come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and be reconciled to God.

If you are a believer, someone that has known the incomparable joy of being reconciled to God through Christ, I would challenge you to think about a few things:

  1. Are you so zealous for the things of God, speaking the truth of the love of Jesus and bible to friends and family that folks think you have lost your mind? I know my zeal could use some work.
  2. Does the love of Christ compel you each and every day to love Him and to love your neighbor?
  3. How do you see others now? Do you see them through the righteous eyes of Christ wanting desperately to know if they are going to spend an eternity with God or separated from him by their sin? Are you actively participating in the ministry of reconciliation?

 

If you do not yet know the joy of salvation…of declaring and knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and being reconciled to God, I plead with you right now to come and know the joy, peace, and assurance of forgiveness and love that is found in Christ alone.

John 3:16-17 may be familiar to you…it says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

We have all sinned, all of us, and the cost, the penalty of that sin is death…an eternity of of separation from God. But the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ alone.  You cannot get to heaven through good deeds or acts of kindness. No amount of money, combination of activities or anything else that you can do on your own or in your own strength. There is only one way to be forgiven and be saved from an eternity separated from God.  The bible says that “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified (our sins are forgiven) and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

If you are reading this and you do not know Jesus as your Lord, and if your heart has been moved by the Holy Spirit after reading these verses from the Bible, then I encourage you to pray and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior today.

If you have trusted and confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior today I would love to hear from you.

Valleys, Furnaces, & Pits Part II: Contentment in God’s Sufficient Grace

Are you dealing with trials in your life? The trial of living with chronic, debilitating pain, has been life-altering. Honestly, I have frequently found myself to be discouraged, frustrated, and confused. At times I have been discontent and unhappy with the whole painful thing, but…

Bufflehead 1

Recently a couple of verses have softened my heart and changed my attitude. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 Paul is writing about some revelations shown to him and that, in order to keep him from becoming conceited about knowing those things, God put a thorn in his side, a messenger of Satan to buffet him. After Paul pleaded with the Lord to remove the thorn in his side, the Lord responded and said My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. God’s grace was all Paul needed in his infirmaties and trials. God didnt remove the trials, instead he comforted and encourage him by reminding him that in His grace alone, Paul would find contentment in the midst of his trials. That was enough for Paul.

The question for me and perhaps for you is simple…can God’s grace be sufficient in the midst of life changing trials?

Paul’s response has humbled and encouraged me. He writes “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The words gladly and pleasure just jump off the page for me. There is true joy to be found in the midst of my trials. Whether in the valley, the furnace, or the pit, in those places in my life when I am weak, it is there and at every other turn, that the matchless grace of God is demonstrated and realized. This world teaches self-sufficiency in all things. For Christ’s sake, I need to remember and live the truth that there is true contentment in the all-sufficient grace of God. The trials in my life are a gift from God and in them, His grace is gloriously demonstrated.

In the hymn God of Grace, Keith Getty and Jonathan Rea wrote these practical, liveable words:

God of grace, I trust in Jesus; I’m accepted as His own.
Every day His grace sustains me, As I lean on Him alone.

Amen.