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How would he take you out?

May 25, 2012 5 comments

I was faced with a serious question the other day.  It was from an article I stumbled across while on a Christian leadership website.  I’m going to ask you this question…and you need to answer personally and honestly.  I’m then going to ask you the same question in a couple of different contexts.

* How would our common enemy, Satan, take you out, rendering you unable to serve your family and your community?

That’s a very personal question.  But how would he take you out?  What gimmicks would he use?  What are your weaknesses?  This question isn’t just a “how are you tempted most?” question.  How would he take you out?  How would he destroy your service to God?

*How would our common enemy, Satan, take out our church family, rendering us unable to serve each other and the people around us?

This changes things just a bit because now we’re pushed to take a peek inside our local church family.  How would our enemy try to destroy our church families?  How would he get us off track?  What lies would he tell us?  What goals would he give us that are not what Christ wants at the top of our families’ agendas?

*If he could stop or hinder our discipleship process, our raising up of active believers in Jesus and his purpose, how would he do it?

This question makes one assumption…that we’re active in making disciples as Jesus instructs in Matthew 28:19-20.  Our purpose isn’t just to receive our ticket to Heaven and then decide to sit back and ride life away as though there are no expectations.  Maybe you haven’t looked at Christianity like this.  Satan loves to let Christians sit by without a feeling of daily purpose.  In this strategy, we lose the possibility of influencing others to choose Christ as well.

Bible focus: 1 Peter 5:8   Control yourselves. Be on your guard. Your enemy the devil is like a roaring lion. He prowls around looking for someone to chew up and swallow.

This stuff is tough!  I’m convicted.  When we forget we have an enemy that wants us to forget about God’s purpose for our lives, we tend to also forget about God.  Peter tells us to be aware that Satan loves for us to forget about him.  He encourages us to be on guard.  Being on guard means we’re also on purpose.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

Ed

Article referenced, written by Mike Breen, can be found here:

http://www.vergenetwork.org/2012/02/02/obituary-for-the-american-church-mike-breen/

The Plan of Forgiveness


Toward the end of the service, the Minister asked, “How many of you have forgiven your enemies?” 80% held up their hands.

The Minister then repeated his question. All responded this time, except one small elderly lady.

“Mrs. Jones? Are you not willing to forgive your enemies?” “I don’t have any,” she replied, smiling sweetly.

“Mrs. Jones, that is very unusual. How old are you?”

“Ninety-eight,” she replied.

“Oh, Mrs. Jones, would you please come down in front and tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years & not have an enemy in the world?”

The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the congregation, and said: “I outlived the old hags.”

********

Some people ask where I get these.  I really have no idea….and if I did, I woudn’t say.  Haha

Link for this week: It takes 2 minutes to watch.

This week’s focus is just as difficult for me as last week’s was. This week we focus on forgiveness. Most of us have a problem with forgiveness. We think we deserve forgiveness when we’ve done something wrong, but we have a hard time handing it out when someone has done something wrong towards us. So what we need here is a good working understanding of ‘forgiveness.’

As we’re still working through Matthew 6, Jesus speaks this next request in the model prayer in a different way than we might expect. The way He words this prayer to the Father puts weight on us. The question isn’t only for God to forgive us. We are asking Him to do so in the process of us forgiving those who have sinned against us too. Action required. This isn’t just a “gimmee” request. Jesus knows that would be too easy…and against the true purpose of forgiveness.

Here’s how I look at this. Forgiveness is conditional, but handed out freely. We have to ask for it. We have to be at a point where we believe with our whole heart that Jesus died and rose as the Son of God to bear the punishment for our personal sins…as well as the sins of our neighbor, family member or enemy. Thus, if He can forgive them, we need to do the same.

My guess is that everyone has gathered in close to Jesus as He’s speaking this to the crowd in this section of Scripture. Heads are nodding in agreement with the short statements. “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name,” has been spoken and the “Amens” go up. Jesus says, “Your will be done, here on Earth like it is in Heaven,” and those around Him speak out “Yes Lord” in agreement with the statement of prayer. Jesus then talks about asking for our daily needs. I can hear the people responding again in agreement. Most of them are not pulling down a million five per year. They get it. Then comes the next statement. I can hear Jesus speak, “And forgive us our debts…” and the people’s copy cat response…”Yes please Lord.” Then Christ drops the next line…”as we forgive our debtors.” This is where I can see faces drop to the ground. People look at each other with “uh oh” written on their face. There might even be a few who begin to walk away.

Ok, let’s ask the hard question. What if God forgave us like we forgive other people? How would your eternal salvation look based on your grace and mercy towards others who have wronged you? “Uh Oh!” Don’t walk away!

What is our purpose as a Christian? Jesus asked us to forgive like the Father…in a very dramatic way non-the-less…so this has to fit into this Christian living thing we’ve signed up for. God wants people back with Him like it was in the beginning (Genesis). We, as believers in Jesus, are called the church. The church is called the body of Christ. Therefore the body, you and I, are suppose to look and act and think and behave as Christ would. Christ is forgiving. We are asked to be forgiving in the same way.

What’s the purpose of forgiveness? Why do we need to forgive? Why do we need forgiven? When we see the true purpose I’m sure we will find the reason Jesus wants us to forgive like His Father does. Forgiveness is the only way to fix the problem between us and God. We’ve sinned. He’s perfect. It may seem like we’re completely stuck in a different place than the original plan…by our choice. God’s forgiveness makes a way for us to be back with Him. Forgiveness between people does the same thing. It makes a way for healing to begin. It gets junk out of the way. Satan hates forgiveness, because it messes up everything in his strategy to keep us away from God. When you forgive someone as God forgives, whether you think they deserve it or not, you put handcuffs on Satan. You are acting like God. God loves to see us act like Him…it brings glory to His name (Hallowed be your name). When you forgive, its like you’re turning to God and saying, “Ok, it’s not about me…it’s all about you.” People will see this attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:5) and God promises that through you taking the humble position, others will not see you, but God himself (Matthew 5:16). Purpose defined.

Here’s the specific question. Do people, even our enemies, see God through our acts, words and attitude of forgiveness?

Questions for growth:

  • What do you think is a good way to get better at forgiving?
  • Who do you need to forgive?
  • Do you need to do it vocally or publicly?
  • Have you forgiven yourself like God has through His son’s death?
  • Are you willing to forgive even if you feel it will get you nowhere with a certain person?

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

ed

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

Heaven on Earth…Now


What is your church preference?

  • While filling out an application for employment, the applicant came to a query
    which asked, “What is your Church Preference?”
    The man, not being a person of extraordinary intelligence thought the question
    for some time because he really needed the job. He wanted to impress the
    employer and answered very confidently, “I prefer a red brick church.”

As silly as the joke above might be, it very well might be nearer a truth in our American church society today.  If you listen close to the way we talk about our churches, we mention things associated with places, addresses, programs, target groups, worship music and, of course, buildings.  Having just arrived home from a week in Haiti, I can say that I have new eyes when it comes to “church” things.

Let’s speak frankly for a moment.  The Bible talks specifically that we, who claim Christ as Lord, are members of His body (Ephesians 5:30).  The Bible only separates church families by place names, or more specifically the city where they meet (Writings of Paul and Revelation).  The Church has two focuses…Love God and Love people (Matthew 22:37-39).  The church has one purpose.  It is to help people cross over from their life of sin into a life in relationship with the Forgiver of Sins (Matthew 28:19-20).  The Bible does not separate church families by philosophy, style of music, size of building, number in attendance, or length of Sunday morning services.  We are to be one body acting together in purpose throughout the world.

Ok, I’m sure I got some of your buttons pushed above.  But we really can’t argue with Jesus’ model prayer here.  Jesus has us praying for God’s will to be done through us, His church, here on this planet.  This reminds me of His prayer in John 17:19-23…

  • I pray also for those who will believe in me through [the Disciples’] message,21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

We are here, on earth, to be a real and tangible presence of Heaven.  So how are we doing in this area?  How are we doing in our local communities?  How are we doing through the week in our workplaces and schools?  Are we a fresh vision of Heaven to all who see us?  You see this model prayer is both for the individual as well as for the church.  When we pray this one line…it is for us.  It is a prayer, a request that God’s will will be done through each of us…as though we are a constant 24/7 representative of Heaven.

Some questions for evaluation for yourself or your church family:

  • When people see me do they see God?
  • When people hear me do they hear God?
  • When I make decisions, do people see the decisions that God would make?
  • Do people see God’s forgiveness when I forgive?  Do I forgive?
  • Do people see God’s care when I care for them?
  • Do people see God’s unconditional love when I am around?

….or

  • Do they see me instead of God?
  • Do they hear my attitudes and selfishness instead of God?
  • Do they see decisions that are for ‘my good’ rather than ‘my neighbor’s?’
  • Do they see me holding a list of their sins?
  • Do they see me caring more for my personal stuff than theirs?
  • Do they see love when they deserve it, and love withheld when they don’t?

Heaven on earth.  As Steve Kimbrel has aptly said, we are ‘outposts of Heaven’ in the place we live…in the place we work…in the places we spend our time…for the people we are around.

  • “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

love-serve-spread the Word, ed

Paths – Which one are you on?

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been slowly reading a book by Andy Stanley titled, “The Principle of the Path.”  It’s a great book with one simple message.  Andy is very easy to read as well and he’s full of funny stories.  I’ve passed this book on to many people because of its very simple message.  Oh, in case you were wondering, Andy is the son of Charles.

Over the last few years I had the opportunity to work a couple side jobs that gave me the chance to travel throughout the country.  I would jump on a plane and head to another airport, jump off the plane into a rental car, then begin travels to a church building to speak or a store to install a computer/printer and do some training.  I had a phone installed with GPS, so before taking off, I’d type in the address of my destination.  That way, when I took off in the rental car, the phone would already be telling me what turns to make and when to make them.

GPS worked well, but there were those times when I found myself in a vacant parking lot in a empty side of town calling the church or the store to get different directions.  GPS just didn’t get it right.  Mostly it was an old business address or a difference in zip code or just something random.  The principle of the path would say this though.  The road I was on did take me to where I was going…might have been the wrong destination…but that stretch of pavement took me somewhere.  Isn’t that true in life as well?

The road we’re on will always take us to a destination.  It might be what you’re expecting and it might not be, but the principle of the path always holds true…you will always get to where the road you’re presently on leads…for good or bad.  Unfortunately, many of us get to the destination before we realize we’ve been on the wrong road.  So what road are you on?

The Bible says this, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  The point is, it’s like we’re in the middle of the maze…we think we have a plan…we know our situation…but God is looking from above and can see the direct path we need to take to get to where He wants or needs us to be.  If we don’t look up every once in awhile and say, “Left or right?”, then we will make a choice based only on our intelligence and wisdom…and even though we all think we’re smart…haha  you can finish this sentence.

Have you ever had something happen to you and you put your hands on your head and shout, “How did this happen?”  Well, more than likely it’s because of the left and right turns you’ve taken.  It’s a principle.  You’ll always go where the path leads.

Choose God’s ways.  If you say that you’re not yet familiar with His ways, then look them up.  A great place to start is the book of Proverbs.  Lots of basic life stuff in there.  All given from a guy who had all of God’s wisdom, but not much of God’s intelligence.    He’s writing while looking back on his life and realizing all unintended places he ended up while not following God.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

So what about life?….

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

I was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital after my wife had gone into labor and the nurse walked out and said to the man sitting next to me, “Congratulations sir, you’re the new father of twins!”

The man replied, “How about that, I work for the Doublemint Chewing Gum Company.” The man then followed the woman to his wife’s room.

About an hour later, the same nurse entered the waiting room and announced that Mr. Smith’s wife has just had triplets.

Mr. Smith stood up and said, “Well, how do ya like that, I work for the 3M Company.”

The gentleman that was sitting next to me then got up and started to leave. When I asked him why he was leaving, he remarked, “I think I need a breath of fresh air.” The man continued, “I work for 7-UP.”

Life.  Life is precious.  Many who will read this no doubt have been on both sides of the word “precious.”  Because life is precious, it can bring both extreme happiness and extreme sadness.  Life is a gift of God.

 

Life began in the Garden of Eden.  Specifically, human life became the crown jewel of creation when on the 6th day God formed man and woman and breathed into their lungs.  They were alive.  Hearts were beating.  Blood was flowing through their veins.  Their eyes could see.  Their hands could feel the touch of God’s hand in them.  You know how it feels to walk out on a cool morning and take a deep breath.  Adam and Eve took the very first refreshing deep breaths ever.

 

God created them.  That’s where we start with the subject of life.  We cannot start anywhere else. All of our ideas about human kind have to start here.  All of our considerations towards the value of life have to start here.  God created.

 

We do, however, have an adversary that wants to alter where we start when we think about ‘human life.’  Satan would rather us start thinking and feeling with our own thoughts of humanity…based on our emotions, experiences, selfishness, and the worldly values that often seep into our hearts.  Satan would want us to forget Who it was that began life itself.

 

David, the ancient King and Psalmist, said that God knew Him before he was formed (Psalm 139).  David wrote that God formed him and watched him as he grew in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139).  Incredible insight.

 

We also see how important life is through the life of Jesus.  Christ died for humanity.  If humanity was something that could be defined by science or evolution theories, I’m not sure we’d need a buried and risen savior.  Jesus died for our very existence.  God created…Jesus saved.

 

Next…again, based on what we know and believe…there is a place in Heaven being prepared for us (John 14:2).  God Created.  Jesus Saved.  God is planning on us being with Him again.  I’m not sure about you, but through the eyes of God…human life is precious.

 

The 10 Commandments speak also of God’s feelings towards His creation.  We are not to kill one another.  We are not to lie to one another.  We are not to steal from one another.  We are to respect each other possessions and family as well as our own.  God Created…and created a life plan.  Jesus Saved.  God is planning for us to be with Him again for eternity.

 

If we base all of what we believe about human life on just these things, we see why Jesus said the greatest commandment is in two parts…Love God, and Love the others that He created as well.

 

I’m so glad there’s forgiveness when it comes to how I/we treat each other. From abortion, to lying, to hate, to selfishness, to jealousy, to adultery, to murder, to stealing…we have all fallen short of God’s plan for life.  Adam and Eve had a taste…they lost it.  We now have a chance to taste the forgiveness that will lead to a life with God again…hand in hand.  The greatest thing is that we have the privilege of being asked to participate in passing this blessing around (Genesis 12:2-3).

 

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

ed

What if ?’s for the American Church

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Here’s what’s behind this new “What If?” page.  I recently was challenged…probably by God…at a conference.  I was sitting in the back in a dark corner so I could think away from the noise of 13,000 people.  Guess what?  It was anything but quiet.  I should say it this way.  I think everyone in that small crowd of Jesus followers could hear God loud and clear.  God was not letting anyone get away to a small corner to just think.  There was a real question/challenge/gut wrenching move of God going on.  I’ve done some study since, and I’m not satisfied with something.  Below you’ll get an idea of where I’m coming from.

I did some research online recently about the American church.  I did this alongside looking into the Scripture at what God considers “true religion” as James writes.  I have to say that I’ve been feeling very guilty since looking into this stuff.  Gasp.  Cough.  Ugghhh.  This feeling is not good.  But guilt, if used right, can be a good thing.  So here are some things running through my cranium.

To begin with, there are well over 300,000 church families in America.  That’s pretty incredible!  Picture it.  There’s a ton of people bowing to remember Christ around us each week.  Oh, the number of church membership…just under 145,000,000…in America.  Let’s assume that 1/3 of them are not active. They are just on a membership card somewhere.  Let’s simply go with the number of 100,000,000.  That’s a ton of energy, muscle, dollars, dreams, talent, passion, grace, salvation, and blessing.  The number of money given to individual church families, not organizations like Salvation Army, equals near 100,000,000 (yes, that’s billion) dollars.   Lutherans alone count for 16 billion, which would put them at number 152 on Forbes 500 just above AFLAC.

Now here are some other basics to set beside those simple numbers pasted above.  There are nearly 149,000 children on the adoption roles within the USA.  What if the church decided to do something about it?  There are 300,000 congregations.

It takes about $5000 to drill a well in Africa for a village.  What if the church decided to do something about it?  We gave over $100 Billion…much of it going to infrastructure and building maintenance.

It takes between 25 and 40 dollars per month to support a child in a 3rd world nation.  What if the church decided to do something?  The Lutherans’ giving alone would take care 400 million children.  Nothing against my Lutheran friends…just a number for all of us to think about.

Habitat for Humanity, in 34 years, has helped put 350,000 new homes on the planet.  What if the more of the church, Jesus hands and feet, got behind projects like this?

About 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year in the USA.  Just imagine what the church could do if we asked and acted one the question, “What if?”

 

Just some things for you to think about.  Help me struggle with this.  It’s a good struggle.

 

ed

 

 

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