Strength for the Journey

Back in the days of my involvement with organized athletics, we were regularly reminded that were to give it our all. In fact, practice was usually equally as demanding as the real game; at times, even more so. I know that in my work as a Pastor, one of the highlights is that I get to teach the Word of God and share the inspiration given me by the Holy Spirit with people. However, it is virtually always true that the labor of preparation proves to be more demanding than the presentation itself.

 Preparation is not all mental or physical. It is also very much spiritual. The Apostle Paul declared, “. . . . Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). There is more to that statement than a casual acknowledgement that he had a job to do. Paul knew that he had been charged with the duty to represent the heart of God and HIS divine expectations to his generation, with accuracy and clarity.

 Unless your faith is merely a childhood tradition, you will soon discover, if you haven’t already, that the advantages of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ are exquisite. However, no personal relationship can deepen in levels of intimacy and significance if the giving and the investment is a one way proposition. The truth is that there is more impact upon your heart when you are on the giving as opposed to the receiving end of the equation. “Give and it will be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:37-38).

 So many of us live a subpar spiritual life because we do not know this principle. Religion is often painted as an obligation to endure and get through. In other words, it is a “check list” obligation; hastily completed so we can get back to “real” life. Frankly, if that is our mindset it would be better just left alone. Faith is actually a gift that keeps on giving. The more we believe and place our trust in God, the greater revelation we receive of who He truly is, how much love He has for us and all that He longs to do in and through our lives.

 True religion is fully relational and life giving. As we pursue a meaningful understanding of and passionate friendship with the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:7), we begin to meet other believers who are in a like-minded pursuit. With the companionship of others, we gain momentum in our passion for the Lord and His ways. Together we learn to hear God’s voice, perceive His presence and discern His will. As we share our experiences with each other, seeking to complete rather than compete with each other, we will experience a heightened awareness of the presence and the power of God’s Holy Spirit together.

 Greater things are yet to come because He lives in us!

We Cannot Make It On Our Own

Here in America the entrepreneurial spirit is widely celebrated and highly valued. We are often in awe of those who seemingly step out into an uncertain undertaking and become highly successful.  The truth is, no one makes a success of himself or herself on his or her own.  There is always a company, be it large or small, of partners and co-laborers who help the dreams become reality.

 You know, in my world the most successful hero whom I long to emulate is Jesus.  That probably comes as no surprise to anyone. Because He is the Son of God, the living Word, the King of Kings and Savior of the world – it might be assumed that He was utterly and totally self-sufficient and self-sustaining.  Of course, in His deity, that would be totally correct. However, as a man (fully human), He relinquished His authority and privilege to act independently as some heavenly super-hero.

 The Bible says, “. . . Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

 God, in His mission to redeem mankind, positioned Himself (in Christ) to be totally vulnerable to the human condition and all of its weaknesses.  He literally placed Christ in this world with the same limitations that any other human would have.  He even made Him vulnerable to temptation and the limitations of time, space and normal human processes.  How can we not cringe at the intensity of Jesus’ testing when He cried, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You.  Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will but what you will” (Mark 14:36).  In that scenario, he called three of His associates and implored them to watch with Him in prayer.  They failed and He chided them, “Could you not watch with Me one hour” (Mk. 14:37)?

 Jesus doesn’t expect us to be super-heroes.  He knows we are better together.  When He sent His men out on mission, they went two by two.  The first Century AD spiritual champions traveled with teams.  Through all of history, great leaders and heroes have had co-laborers, fellow soldiers, assistants, supporters, etc. surrounding them.  When we speak of “church” structure, we eventually always refer to the teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians.  Here you have the principle of “body” ministry wherein each member has a part, indeed a crucial role to play.

 Through the nearly forty years of ministry life, I have always had teams around me.  Even in church situations too small for paid associates, I counted on laymen and women who were vital to the work of the ministry.  Equipping them to do the work of the ministry was and is the most crucial thing I do as a leader.  Being part of teams under leaders I worked for and with, was the training ground for my development as a minister and a leader of co-laborers who made ministry effective.

As for me – I love teamwork.  I love to see others excel in their own right.  I appreciate them in that their success enhances my effectiveness.  I love to watch them build teams around them in the sphere of their assignment and responsibility.  I love their success and I appreciate their companionship.  I thank God for investing their heart, gifts and talents in the ministry with which I’ve been entrusted by God. Thank God for teamwork!

Abortion!

Abortion! What a hot potato for today’s politician. Pro choice, pro life, women’s rights, conception, trimester, human life, fetus, baby, post abortion syndrome, etc.—all of these terms can almost make you dizzy. Who is right? Who is wrong? Does anybody know? Does anybody really care?

Well, as Christians it is our claim that we believe the Bible to be God’s Word and the absolute standard for our moral choices. What does the Bible say?
First, there is overwhelming evidence in scripture for only one postulate as to when life begins. If we are to believe the Bible, life begins with conception (see Psalm 139:13—16; Jeremiah 1:5; Judges 13:3—5; 1 Samuel 1:19—20; Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:31, 41; James 1:150.
Beyond scripture, medical science itself supports this claim. Those of you who are parents will remember that from the very first visit you made to the obstetrician’s office every word of counsel, every piece of literature, and every precaution taken was addressed to the well being of the mother and the health of the baby in the womb. Your baby was never referred to as less than human life.
Secondly, there can be no doubt that the Bible mandates that the execution of an innocent life is inherently evil and blatantly immoral. The penalty for murder, according to scripture, is death. There is even a prescribed penalty for someone who unintentionally harms a life within the womb (Exodus 21:22—25). We can only imagine how God must view the intentional slaughter of babies within the womb! He “hates hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17).
Very simply, the Bible speaks with undeniable clarity, that abortion is an evil thing. What then should righteous people who believe in Christ think about it? It seems to me that the answer is obvious!

Does God Have Grandchildren?

Does God have any grandchildren? Often times we hear it said by both secular and religious people, “we are all God’s children.” It sounds good, but is it true? I don’t think so. The only way to become a child of God is by being born again through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:1-16; Romans 8).
Mere religious tradition, regardless of its form, including “evangelical”, will not result in a person’s redemption, salvation or eternal life. No, the Gospel is not in eloquent words of philosophy or theology. It isn’t in religious ritual—liturgical, evangelistic or otherwise. It is in sprit and in power with signs following (1 Corinthians 2).
It is very possible to be “Christian” and not be “saved”. In other words, it is clear from scripture that a person can be morally or religiously motivated and still go to hell (Matthew 23, Luke 16:19-31, Matthew 7:20-23). In order to be saved we must be “born of the Spirit of God.”
Literally our human spirit which makes us different from all other created beings in that we were created in the image of God (John 4:23-24), must be resurrected from the state of being dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1-10). This is a work of the Holy Spirit who enters into our life through personal confession and repentance of sin along with the act of faith wherein we believe that God has raised Jesus from the dead and we commit ourselves to His Lordship over our life (Act 2:38, Romans 5:1‑2, 1 John 1:9-2:2, Hebrews 4:1-16, Revelation 7:9-10).
If salvation is real, it will result in a radical change of nature and life (Romans 6). Though we don’t enter into sinless perfection, our spirit is suddenly alive with the presence of the Spirit of God, and we begin to exhibit a progressively pure lifestyle which is patterned after the life of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:15-18).
If you’ve never had a personal conversion or salvation experience, why not contact your pastor and ask him to explain from scripture how you can be born again.