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Good Works


…faith without works is not faith at all, but a simple lack of obedience to God – Bonhoeffer

What does his quote mean to you? Does it seem harsh?

John 10:32
James 2:26
Ephesians 2:10
Titus 3:14
I Peter 3:17
Colossians 3:23
James 2:14

Are good works required of us?
How would we define Jesus’ good works?

Another quote:  We believe what we do.

Would this be true of Christ?  How is it true/not true of us?

Ed

Bonhoeffer


…faith without works is not faith at all, but a simple lack of obedience to God.

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Why Pray When You Can Worry?!

September 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Worry is rust upon the blade. ~ Henry Ward Hughes

Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow. ~ Swedish Proverb

You can never worry your way to enlightenment. ~ Ed Northstrum

I’ve developed a new philosophy. I only dread one day at a time. ~ Charlie Brown

Worry bankrupts the spirit. ~ Berri Clove

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. ~ Leo Buscaglia

Quit worrying about your health. It’ll go away. J  ~ Robert Orben

Raise your hand if you worry too much.  Yes, mine is raised as well.  I can be a worry wart.  I am aptly skilled at staying up all night, staring at the ceiling, while having discussions and fixing problems in my head.  Did I forget to mention that I am also skilled at  being creative?  Most of these discussions and problems never happened, I create them all by myself.  They most likely will never take place…but I worry all night wondering if they could or would.  I’ve wasted valuable sleep hours and probably made myself sick simply by worrying.

Jesus, being our creator and knowing our weakness in sin, knows how much worry holds us back from being the person He created us to be.  What I know is this…much of the Bible deals directly with God wanting us to simply know who we are.

Let’s start at the beginning and move through the Bible with things that we know.  We are created by God (Genesis 1-2, John 1:1-4).  He has a special plan for each of our lives and for us as the family of God as well (Psalm 113:13-17, Jeremiah 29:11).  This world is not our home (John 18:36, Romans 14:17, John 3:16-17).  Our Father will take care of our needs while we are in this world (Matthew 6:25-34, Matthew 7:9-12).  Those are all scriptures that I know well.  However, I still worry about my days.  I worry about what people think about me.  I worry about making ends meet.  I worry about Dr’s visits.  I worry about teaching lessons to the groups I lead.  I worry about the Browns winning…ok…I know what you’re thinking.  I worry about saying the right thing…or the wrong thing.  All this worry…instead of trust.  Jesus has a better way.  Jesus trusted and lived in peace.

Many of you have heard me talk about my two Biblical heroes…other than Jesus.  Peter and Paul.  I love these guys because they figured this “don’t worry” thing out.  They started with what they knew to be true.  Reread that again…they started with truth.  Jesus had risen from the dead.  If that was true…everything Jesus said was true.  If everything Jesus said was true, then they had nothing to worry about.  All they needed to do was listen for direction, love people, and follow God.  It didn’t matter what people thought of them or what people did to them or if they slipped up here and there.  Forgiveness covered their wrongs and their home was in Heaven.  They knew that no one could take that away and that this world is temporary.  They knew that Jesus said even the Hell could not stand in their way.  They were part of the Kingdom.  They had real peace because they knew who they were, who God was, and where they were.  Worry didn’t have a place in their life.

I have to say that as I get older I have gotten better at this worry crap.  Haha…yes, I said crap.  Because I’ve come to realize that that’s really what it is.  Don’t get me wrong or hear what I’m not typing…I’m concerned about things.  Concern drives me to make corrections, dive in to unknown waters, or get work done.  But worry handcuffs me into doing nothing.  And I hate it when I allow worry to do that to me.

What about you?  Does worry have handcuffs on you?  Sometimes we put those handcuffs on ourselves!  Sometimes we wallow in our worry.  Sometimes we want people to feel sorry for us so we worry in public so others will see our worry.  I think all that does is get other people to worry with us…not helpful.  We put handcuffs on and then pass more around to our friends.  I often hear people in restaurants having hour long discussions all centered in worry about something.  I think next time I hear that happening I’m just going to go over and say, “Do you want me to get ya’ll some handcuffs?  I can strap you down to your chairs.”

Let’s remember who we are and who’s we are.  If we can wake up knowing that and lay our head down at night resting in that peace, life would be much fuller.  I’m confident of that.  Jesus wants us to always seek His Kingdom first.  If we’re not, we’re obviously seeking someone else’s.  And someone else’s will give us things to worry about.

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

ed

Questions for Growth:

  • Do you have issues with worry?  Is “worry” your friend?  J
  • What has worry done to help you lately?
  • Examples…When have you worried and gotten nowhere?
  • Is that a way you want to live?
  • So…forward thinking…what can you do to pick yourself up out of worrying?  Be specific. (Examples: memorize some pertinent scripture, pray, have inspiring music at hand, call a friend to tell you to quit…haha…what ever works)
  • Do you know someone who worries?  What can you do to help them…this week?  Be specific and follow through.

Remember, you may…probably will fail at times in your plan to quit the worry habit.  But if you never start or try, you’ll always keep those handcuffs on.

Daily Needs – Daily Bread


Our Daily Bread

Matthew 6:11

A salesman from KFC walked up to the Pope and offers him a million dollars if he would change “The Lord’s Prayer” from “give us this day our daily bread” to “give us this day our daily chicken.” The Pope refused his offer.

Two weeks later, the man offered the pope 10 million dollars to change it from “give us this day our daily bread” to “give us this day our daily chicken” and again the Pope refused the man’s generous offer. Another week later, the man offered the Pope 20 million dollars and finally the Pope accepted. The following day, the Pope said to all his officials, “I have some good news and some bad news. ‘The good news is, that we have just received a check for 20 million dollars. The bad news is, we lost the Wonder Bread account!”’

Ok…this is a tough one.  “Give us this day our daily bread” is verse 11 of Jesus’ model prayer.  If you’ve noticed, Jesus starts out his prayer using the words “us” and “our.”  He continues in verse 11 in the same manner.  It’s true that he was talking to a crowd.  But I wonder if He is also addressing the Kingdom, His church.  If this is true, then this is a prayer for the each member of the group to use “daily.”  He wants us to be on the same page moving together with the same goals and values….His Father’s goals and His Father’s values.

With that said, we need to figure out what this “bread” means.  The more I want to say that it is a spiritual request…the more I lean towards it meaning our daily ‘needs.’  Yes, I just said it.  I’ve been talking with a couple co-workers about how hard this lesson is to swallow being a born and bread “American Dream” type of person.  I also just came back from Haiti where I met and ministered to people who, when they prayed this prayer, knew exactly what it meant.  They lived in a maybe 10×10 wooden box built for them after being displace from their 15×15 cement/dirt floor home.

The question is, what do we truly need?  If Christ’s church shows the world that we need anything more than Christ, don’t we do a disservice to His message?  So let’s look at what we know from Scripture first.  Jesus said in John 6, in an extensive way, that He is the bread of life.  He told Satan during his 40 day fast that the Word of God was His bread to live on.  When telling 72 of His followers to go out on their first missionary mission trip, He said not to take anything except the clothes they were wearing.  They would be taken care of…workers deserve fair wages…God would provide (Luke 10).  In Matthew 6, beginning with verse 24, Jesus says that we can’t serve two masters…then the big word “therefore” comes into play as He says, don’t worry about your food, clothes or anything else that you think you need.  Why?  Because the Father knows what you need, and if you focus on Kingdom work, then He will supply your needs.

That’s what we know. Were the 72 taken care of?  Yes.  Did Jesus make it through His fast? Yes.  Are the birds of the air watched over by their creator?  Yes.  Can God clothe us like the lilies of the fields?  Yes.  Should we have any worry about these things?  No.  Reason?  Because when we truly rely on God for our needs, then people will see Him…and want to have Him…and be with Him for eternity.  Our wanting to supply our own felt needs points back to us.  Our relying on God for our daily bread always points back to Him.  One of those tip toes really close to sin…unintentional or not.  The other walks “humbly with our God” as the Lord points out through the prophet Micah in his book, chapter 6 verse 8.

Ok….what do we do with this?  I’m struggling with this one.  As a reasonable person, I can see how huge this could be to pointing people to see God.  But boy is it hard to let go of “self sufficiency!”  Let’s look for a modern day example of this really happening…not just a fairy tale sermon illustration.

George Mueller is a man we can look to for such an example.  He built and ran an orphanage for many, many, years.  He said, in an interview at age 91, “No man can ever say I asked him for a penny.”  When he needed something for the sometimes 2000 orphans under his care….he gathered his staff together and prayed.  God would send food, money, supplies and workers when needed…sometimes immediately before the prayer was finished.  This man truly relied only on what God felt He and his orphans needed.  Who is glorified in this example?  Mr. Mueller?  Well, his is a life to be patterned after.  But we know who supplied every need….no human.  Through humans, yes….but because of any human?  No.

So, can we live like in this manner?  It has been shown that we can.  Now…the question simply remains…will we choose to do so?…Individually and as a group of people who claim Christ their King and God their Father who supplies all things?

I’m not sure what to add here.  I’m sufficiently guilty right now and need to process where I’m at with this one little life changing verse.  I do know this.  I like to take care of things by myself…and therein lies the problem.  When we take care of things ourselves, we are lifted up.  When we fully and completely rely on God…only He can receive credit and fame.

Questions for thought:

  • What do you really need?  List here……
  • What things do we strive for that aren’t necessary, and sometimes place glory on us?
  • How do we change this?  Why would we even attempt to change this?
  • In the end, who get’s all the glory for our life?…all the glory…all

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

ed

The Mistake of a Lifetime

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Genesis 25:19-34

********

Teacher: How can one person make so many stupid mistakes in one day?

Little Johnny: I get up early.

********

I suppose if we all got up earlier and went to be later we’d all make more mistakes in one day. Have you ever had one of those days? There’s a children’s book titled, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” in which Alexander, a young boy, has a day that none of us would want to even come close to. From waking up with gum in his hair to making mistakes through the rest of the day, Alexander just isn’t having any fun. And when he thinks his is having fun, he’s doing something wrong. Have you ever seen a child in this predicament? My three kids have had those days. When Micah has a day like that, he walks around with tears at the edge of his eyes. When Hannah has a day like that, she gets major frustrated with herself. When Naarah has a day like that, she throws fits at the drop of a hat.

Have you ever made a mistake that seemed to ruin your whole day, week, month, life? Have you ever misspoken, decided wrongly, sat down when you should have stood up? Most all of the times we make mistakes, sin, we operate from a point of “self.”

Esau comes in hungry. Wow, he must have been super, uber hungry. He comes in from hunting and sees his younger twin cooking lentil stew. Actually, he probably smelled the stew even before he came close enough to speak to Jacob. His stomach is talking for his brain when he says, “Give me some of that. I’m famished!” Jacob asks Esau to offer up a price….sounds like ornery brothers. The price Jacob asks him for is huge! He asks for Esau’s birthright…the inheritance of the family as the firstborn son. Whoa! Duh! And Esau said, “Fine, it’s done! Just give me some stew!” Again, the stomach was talking and not his brain.

We often operate from that point of ‘self.’ What can we have? What can we get? How can we protect our stuff? How can we get what we think we need? It usually comes down to selfishness. And to tell you the truth, both brothers were acting out of a selfish attitude. Jacob wanted the birthright. Esau didn’t care about the important thing…just wanted to be fed and be fed now! Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” in verse 17:9. And Proverbs says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” in verse 4:23. Both kids were not operating out of a pure heart. They were operating from a selfish heart, an impatient heart. How do we stack up against this historical story in Scripture?

What guides your decisions? ‘Who guides your decisions?’ might be a better question. As leaders, we need to be careful how we approach decisions and what we ask people to do. Both are very delicate matters. Now, making a decision between a Snickers or a Kit Kat might not be world changing…unless you’re watching your waist line. But decisions that affect our own future or the future of a “neighbor” are huge.

I always tell kids that when they get baptized, it’s like a picture of the ‘old them’ being buried and the ‘new them’ being raised up in a new life. However, when it’s the ‘new them,’ it’s not just ‘them.’ It’s them and the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Duh! Why did God choose to live inside of us? One, because He wants to be close to His creation. He loves us. Two, because He needs to be close to His creation because we need that perfect, still voice to lead us away from stupidity and sin. Yes, we are stupid sheep. Paul would have said that he’s the stupidest of them all.

As leaders, we need to help our followers understand that we can get better at making decisions for our lives. We also need to let them know that mistakes will be made. We need to own our mistakes and ask forgiveness for them. We need make things right…and as leaders, many times that will be publicly. I just heard a lesson from John Maxwell surrounding the idea that leaders need to fess up. Followers always know a weak spot or two in their leader. The leader needs to admit it and get on with life. When leaders can admit faults or weaknesses, integrity is built. It’s not about looking strong and smart, its about looking real and humble.

Genesis 25:19-34

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Becoming a Friend of God

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Genesis 15:6—Abraham believed God & it was credited as righteousness.

Genesis 14:17-24

James 2:23—The kind of faith that pleases God is obedient faith!

Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus…

*****

A friend was in front of me coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands. He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside.

The Pastor said to him, “You need to join the Army of the Lord!”

My friend replied, “I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor.”

Pastor questioned, “How come I don’t see you except at Christmas and Easter?”

He whispered back, “I’m in the secret service.”

*****

I don’t think that God wants followers who think they are in the “secret service.” I believe that God wants friends who aren’t afraid to tell other people about His friendship with them. Abram was a friend of God. He was not perfect by any means, but he believed in God. Genesis 15:6 says that since Abram believed in God, and in what God had told him in the verses leading up to 6, “He credited it to him as righteousness.” The NIRV says it this way, “Abram believed the Lord. The Lord accepted Abram because he believed. So his faith made him right with the Lord.” The words “made him right with the Lord” mean simply that he and God were close. They were close because of Abram’s belief and trust and faith. They were close because Abram realized that God considered him a friend as well.

God wants us to be close to Him. We are created in His image, filled with gifts from His Spirit, forgiven through His son’s death, and He’s preparing a place for us in Heaven. Why wouldn’t we consider being a friend of God?! Wow, we don’t have to be perfect! We just have to accept Him for who He is. Look at Genesis 15:8…right after God credited Abram righteousness. It says that Abram questioned God saying, “…how can I know…?” when told about the Promised Land. Our imperfect mind and heart question and doubt, but our spirit can run after perfection through Christ. We’re imperfect and God still wants to grant us righteousness through the death and resurrection of His son.

This next question should be simple. How do we lead this principle? Simply, we need to be seen as friends of God. We need to let God shine though us so others can see Him and come to the conclusion that God can love them too. Do your students, family or friends need to see more of God through you? Can you measure your success at trying to show them God? Sure you can. First, have you talked to them about it? Have you vocally given God credit when you tell of good things in your life or hear of good things in theirs? Have they responded to you, asking questions about God or His Word or His Son? Have you been confronted with debate or opposition to God? If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to these questions, then you probably need to be letting your friendship with God shine through a bit more. Don’t worry, I’m in the same boat as you. I need to as well.

In Romans 4 and 5, the writer discusses Abram’s (Abraham’s) friendship with and faith in God. In 5:1 it is written that since we’ve been justified (forgiven, been credited righteousness), we have PEACE with God. Does a relationship with complete and perfect peace sound appealing to you? That’s what we’re offered when we enter a friendship with the Holy One.

Why should we become closer friends? Why should we pass this friendship to others? Well, God doesn’t change. He’s there for us through the good and bad times. He doesn’t give us things we can’t handle. He protects us. He gives us nudges and hints when we’re about to do something stupid. He forgives us and will one day take us to live with Him forever. It’s us who sometimes falter and fail and waver. And yet He still accepts us. This is the GOSPEL story.

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