Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Best Way To Spend Sunday Morning

     I run into so many people who rarely, if ever go to church. They often get a perplexed look when they find out that my wife and I actually go to church. Many don’t understand why we would get up on a Sunday morning and give up sleep, TV, breakfast out, or just lying around the house.  I am not perfect and I miss church too much.   However, I believe that starting the day at church trumps all other possible ways to spend my valuable Sunday time.

 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[d] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

     Church revives my spirit and connects me to worship of Jesus, the Savior and Redeemer of my soul. I am recharged, refreshed, reminded, pruned, guided, encouraged, sanctified, saved, taught, loved and enabled. But more importantly I am brought to the presence of God to worship, to give thanks and hear Him speak Words of wisdom … Loving, Fatherly, Caring, Nurturing, Protecting, Sheltering Words where in His perfect Grace I am walking in peace beside still waters.

      Acts 2 gives us a brief description of the early church. It tells us ‘and Awe came upon every soul’. Do you want Awe? Do you want peace in your daily life? The formula is very simple- “they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

    Church is where we are taught the Word of God. For me that is the most exciting part. I enjoy the sermon more than anything. Preaching is not dull, boring, old-fashioned; it is an opportunity for God to speak clearly to my heart, resonating with the Spirit already there that needs fed and nourished to grow continually in grace. I learn more about my Father and the one who saved me by His death and resurrection paying the debt and penalty that my sin sentenced me to.

   Church is also the place where my Family gathers together. There I am in the company of all those called to be sons and daughters and heirs of the King. We are gathered as royal priests charged to serve, encourage, build and pull each other through times of trials, sharing the blessings that God has given us with others.

    And we are to break bread to remember how precious the Grace bought us on the Cross is so that we do not forget. It helps us to treasure and give thanks for the salvation the Jesus us purchased. Our sins are remembered no more and we are empowered by Jesus righteousness. We dare not neglect this that brings us into fellowship.

   Finally, we pray for one another. We have the full privilege of being in God’s family as His sons and daughters. Christ has facilitated access to the Father. This gracious Father is perfect and sure to give us what we need, to care for and shelter us. He never loses sight of us. It is wonderful that we can ask and know that He hears and grants us answers to our prayers. As a family in fellowship with Christ as our head we must care for the hurts, needs and trials of our brothers and sisters. Also, we must praise God with thanksgiving.

   I do not find church out-of-date, boring, unnecessary or dull. It is possible to make it through the week without the fellowship of God and my brothers and sisters, but a week without church is like wearily walking through a thorny, desert with no water to quench my thirst. I would rather begin the week with the One who turns the dry harsh desert into a plentiful green land where the still water quenches my thirst. As we follow the words of Acts 2 preaching the true Word, embracing our family in Christ, abiding in Christ’s atonement and righteousness, and praying for and serving one another we will find that Church is the best place to be not only on Sunday but each day of the week.

The Keeper

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Exposing What Hides In the Shadows


Eph 1:17-23 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, (18) having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, (19) and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might (20) that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, (21) far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (22) And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, (23) which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Joh_12:40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them."

Ever get up at night and try to find the bath room or the kitchen in the dark. Sometimes the perception of our eyes in the dark makes us see things that aren’t there and unable to see things that are there. Once the light comes on and our eyes adjust it is much easier to perceive our surroundings. Before that, while in the darkness we may even wander into danger without knowing it. How close we could be to stepping of the landing and plummeting down the stair well or tripping and falling on an obstacle.

1Jn_2:11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

God has given us an amazing treasure that is described in Ephesians. Unfortunately, until He turns the light on we remain completely oblivious to it and unable to perceive it. We are spiritually blind. With the light off we stumble and step precariously around dangerous objects and completely blind to the gift that is right in our presence.

2Co_4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

In the darkness of my own home I may stub my toe or trip and fall over an unseen object. But in the darkness of my own heart I miss the risen Christ, the one who is seated at the right hand of God. He is above every name that is named thoughout all of history and beyond all time and places. I remain in the dark and unable to worship and enjoy and fear and love and treasure this marvelous gift and the gift of eternal salvation in the presence of a Holy God for all eternity. I remain outside of the fellowship of the Church, which is his body and the fulness of him who fill all in all. I remain unaware that I am in darkness and that I need this gift of God that is Christ. I fail to give Him homage as the ruler of all authority and power and dominion. I do not bow down to Him. I remain blind to the treasure that is yet so close but my eyes and heart do not perceive it is there. I do not have the hope that is provided by the Risen Saviour.

I am born blind in this way, with spiritual blindness, a lover of the darkness. Like a roach that scurries to hide in the shadows when the light comes on, I hated the exposure of the light and knowledge of what it showed me. Each and every day pray that God will continue to send His Spirit and open the eyes of your heart that you may see and love and worship the Son who is life.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

RIck's Daily Devotional: Hating Sin

My friend Rick sends me daily devotionals each day by email. He likes to pick up on themes, words and doctrine of the Christian faith. I find that the studies are a great means of moving forward, growing, maturing and reinforcing our Faith. I look forward to them. I am very thankful for his friendship, wisdom and willingness to share his faith. From time to time I will try to share some of them on the blog.

Regeneration is defined as a New birth, being born again the spiritual change wrought in man the Holy Spirit.

One of the changes that takes place in a person who has been born again of God is a hatred of Sin.

1Jn 3:9
(9) No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

1Jn 5:18
(18) We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

Do we exhibit a hatred of sin that is in line with a child of God?

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your Holy Spirit and the New Birth. Your Word promises that we are protected by your Son and that the devil can not touch us. Christ not only purchased forgiveness on the Cross but has given to us His Righteousness. Enable us to honor your Son and to please you by living Holy and pure lives. When we fail you are there to lift us up and carry us on as a father helps their child up after he has fallen. Thank you for your Love and Mercy and the forgiveness of the Cross. May our hearts be saddened and sensitive to recognize our own sin and to be washed in the Blood of Calvery. Let us be forgiving of others when they sin and to help one another fight the good fight always pointing to your Word for guidance and your Cross for deliverance. AMEN

Monday, June 27, 2011

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

We begin with the first of our posts on the Attributes of God that is part of our series on the Corner Stones of the Christian faith.

The Nicene Creed states the core Christian belief about the Trinity.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
The only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of Him before all ages,
God of God, Light of Light,
Very God of Very God,
Begotten, not made,
Being of one substance with the Father,
By whom all things were made.

I believe in the Holy Spirit
The Lord and giver of life,
Which proceedeth from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and Son together
Is worshipped and glorified.


I found a fairly concise summary of the Christian belief of the Trinity:

• The whole Bible teaches and assumes that there is one Creator God ,
whose majesty and glory necessarily exceed our greatest human capacities
to understand. The knowledge of God revealed in the Bible is true, but
all of those truths lead us to an awe-filled mystery before the uncreated
greatness of the Most High.
• In the Bible, especially in the New Testament, we encounter three distinct,
fully divine persons, all of whom are worthy of our praise and worship.
• These three persons in the one God relate to one another in the fullness of
eternal love.
• The three persons have differing and distinctive roles and works in achieving
the salvation of sinners.
• Despite these differing functions, to encounter one person in relationship
is to encounter each of the other two divine persons (usually referred to as
divine perichoresis).
[Excerpt from FAITH, VISION, Edited by Thomas L. Trevethan
April 15, 2008 Seven Discussion Guides for Bible Study; page 9
]

Scriptural Proofs:

There is one Creator God
Deut. 6:4-5; Isa. 44:6– 45:25
Mark 12:29-30; 1 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5

The three persons of the Trinity in the NT
Rom. 8; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:2

The Son
John 20:28-31; cf. 1:18; Acts 7:59; Rom. 9:5; 10:9-13; 2 Cor. 12:7-9; Phil. 2:5-6; Col. 1:15-17; 2:9; Heb. 1:1-12; 1 Pet. 3:15

The Holy Spirit
John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15; Acts 5:3-4

The Trinity
Matt. 28:19; Mark 1:9-11; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Revelation 1:4-5

Distinct roles in God’s plan of grace
John 3:1-15; note especially vv. 3, 5-8, 13-15

Each one of these books will further your understanding of the foundational principals that we are studying in this series. Suggestions For Further Reading:
Excerpt from Concise Theology by J. I. Packer
Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
Knowing God by J. I. Packer
Know The Truth by Bruce Milne
The Holy Spirit, Contours of Christian Theology by Sinclair Ferguson for an easy to understand treatment of the Holy Spirit.

Sanctification

Sanctification is a state of separation unto God; all believers enter into this state when they are born of God.

Sanctification is the same Greek word as holiness, “hagios,” meaning a separation. First, a once-for-all positional separation unto Christ at our salvation. Second, a practical progressive holiness in a believer’s life while awaiting the return of Christ. Third, we will be changed into His perfect likeness—holy, sanctified, and completely separated from the presence of evil.

Saints are 'Sanctified ones'.

Psalm 4:3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.

2Co 6:17-18
(17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,
(18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."

God sets us apart with a promise that He will be our father and we shall be His sons and daughters. We should live in obedience as those set apart for service unto Him.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Essential Core Christian Beliefs

Ask yourself if you affirm the following core Christian beliefs? Hopefully this list should not be too controversial to you.

About God:
• God is Triune (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
• God is eternal
• God is Holy
• God is Unchanging
• God is Impassable
• God is Infinite
• God is All-Powerful
• God is Everywhere –present
• God is All-wise
• God is All-Knowing
• God is Self-Existent
• God is Spirit
• God is Just
• God is Merciful
• God is Jealous
• God is Sovereign

About Jesus Christ:
• Christ is fully man and fully God
• The virgin birth of Jesus Christ
• Christ died on the cross and rose bodily from the grave for our sins (1 Cor 15:3-4
• Faith in Christ is necessary (John 3:16). Justification is through faith alone on the basis of Christ alone
• The future second coming of Christ
Regarding Scripture (The Bible):
• Inspiration and authority of Scripture
• Scripture alone has ultimate and final authority on all matters of faith and practice
• The canon of Scripture made up of 66 books (excluding the Deuterocanonical books)

Regarding salvation
• Eternal punishment of the unredeemed
• Christ is the only way to a right relationship with God.
• Belief that you are a sinner in need of God’s mercy (1 John 1:10)

In later postings we will begin to take a look at these key beliefs of the Christian Faith.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The road to an ineffective ministry

While faced with ever decreasing attendance and a serious need to regain vitality the Church of Sweden seems to have forgotten the purpose of the church of Christ. A recent news post in The Local (Sweden's News in English) states that 'only 15 percent of members of the Church of Sweden say they believe in Jesus and an equal number claim to be atheists.' Another 25% of those church members surveyed claim to be agnostic.

"It's not very high," Jonas Bromander, an analyst with the Church of Sweden who was responsible for the study, told The Local in reference to the figure.
"It's not really a problem; rather, it’s a byproduct of the secularisation in Swedish society which has taken place over many years."

The article continues to describe the dismal state of this European church where only a little over 6% of the roughly 6.6 million members attend a service at least once a month.

According to the survey, 90 percent of church members have a weak relationship with the Swedish Church, forcing the church to ponder whether or not it remains a relevant institution in Swedish society.

Those who performed the study have concluded that the means for this church to regain its relevancy is in more success in addressing social causes.

The purpose of the study was to learn more about what sort of expectations people have for the church and to see how the church "can be relevant to people's lives in contemporary society".

According to the study, if the church succeeds in providing assistance to the poor, elderly, and other marginalised groups, it can expect its members to view belonging to the church as more valuable.

"For many the church is a religious organisation and they want it to be one, even if they don't believe in Jesus themselves," said Bromander, adding that members see their membership as a way to support what the church does.

When does a church cease to be relevant? Is it time for our churches to become more hip? More in touch with today's youth? Should they seek to accommodate a broader demographic and appeal to larger audiences with diverse beliefs? Do they need to refrain from doctrinal issues and concentrate on the issues that relate to a more modern, secularized, diverse society? How should churches deal with decreasing attendance and membership? Perhaps the answer is becoming a more effective agent in tackling social issues such as poverty and homelessness and assisting the marginalized of society? Will efforts to aid the poor and other marginalized groups be hindered unless they tone down their religious message? Should the gospel message be compromised in order to cooperate with other groups in the noble endeavor of aiding the poor and the elderly and other social causes?

Don’t get me wrong, the church should and must be actively involved in helping its communities, especially the poor, elderly and underprivileged. But there is a lesson here in this survey from the Church of Sweden that all churches and denominations should pay heed to. A church is no longer relevant to society when the God that it has a mission to serve, honor and obey is no longer relevant to it.

By definition it is no longer a Christian church and no longer does it have a relevant purpose when Jesus Christ is no longer exalted, praised and worshipped. It may be a pseudo religious organization but it is not a Christian church.

Irrelevance begins as a subtle inroad of secularism. Little by little the gospel message is watered down. Doctrine is then considered controversial in lieu of accommodating a minority. Soon the majority begins to dwindle and the minority having been accommodated loses interest as well. All that is left is a dying church that compromised its core rots from the inside out. When the mission to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ in all the world is no longer number one for a church, there is nothing that remains that is relevant no matter how noble the efforts to be an agent for social change.

Don’t be na├»ve, many American churches have started down the road to secularism and emphasizing social service over Gospel message or preaching a gospel lite that has been toned down to be less offensive to the masses that they want to come through their doors. A church could have high numbers in attendance but if the members don’t know Jesus Christ as Savior they will still be destined to hell. God did not establish the church as a social club or primarily as a charitable organization. We must go forth to serve our communities but we must make sure that we serve them first with the message of the Gospel. No other service that we do for them is relevant without that. If you find yourself serving community but have compromised the gospel in order to do so then you need to step back and ask if the focus of your efforts is off track.

The answer is to the Church of Sweden’s problem is the opposite of the direction that they have taken. They need more of the Gospel, not less. They need more preaching and more teaching and a heart for Biblical truths. Not compromise and lack of foundational values, but a return to the supremacy of Jesus Christ as one worthy of praise and honor and all authority. What do you think? Should the Church of Sweden focus on social issues to make itself relevant in Swedish society? Should they return to the Gospel of Christ?

Glorify Jesus as God, Evangelize, preach, make disciples, teach, reach, Love, serve and care.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No Fishing With Nets


We had some unusually warm weather for the end of December today. So nice that a thaw was visible as the cold made way for the warmer tempatures. It may be only a temporary peek at the coming release from the winter cold, but it is a great reminder that though the days are cold and dreary, yet soon the spring will reappear and we will be liberated from the icy chill.

I sit in my car during lunch often, many times in the same spot. Today this sign posted beside the pond caught my attention. It said 'No Fishing With Nets'. I had probably saw this sign dozens of times before and paid no particular attention. Today, this sign's words seemed to capture my heart.

The warm weather had begun to thaw things out. The ice was breaking on the pond. Somehow my heart too was thawing after an overly long period of icy coldness. Months had past without a prayer, without a desire to hear the Gospel preached, without a desire to worship and praise God with my church family. Never has there been such a long, cold, spiritual freeze in my life. There did not even seem to be an ember in my heart for the Savior or the Gospel. Prayer! Glorious commune with the Father. Joy at the sermon on my car radio. And guilt and sadness over the lost time with God and the joy that I missed while my heart was frozen. God thawed my cold heart. Christ still loves me. Joy is still found in the Gospel.

Now, what about the sign? In the depths of my own spiritual deep freeze, the joy had gone out of my heart and my desire to tell others of the wonderful saving work of Christ was lost. I had not cast a net into the water to fish for the soul of another for so long now. But cast the net I must do. It is my Savior's command. It is my privilege. It's time to take the sign down and throw out the nets. Fishing for men. The gospel is the net and the duty to work and serve is ours. Tell men and women everywhere of God's love for sinners and the Grace and mercy that is found in Jesus Christ.



Luk 5:1-11
(1) On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret,
(2) and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.
(3) Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
(4) And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."
(5) And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets."
(6) And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
(7) They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
(8) But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."
(9) For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken,
(10) and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men."
(11) And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I Looked For Love In Your Eyes- From Tim Challies blog

As the 1 year anniversary of this blog has come and gone I am reflecting on the past year. After much time without a post... I have been wasting time on fruitless endeavors... I am sad about the loss of time and the many opportunities to serve Christ that have been squandered. This poem found on Tim Challies web site brought tears to my eyes. I realized that there are many avenues of service and many sins to be fought, in my own life and in the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I do not normally post whole articles from other sites, but this one is worth your reading whether you are a wife, mom, dad, son, daughter or friend of another who has struggled or may struggle with the sin of lust in their lives.

I Looked For Love In Your Eyes Tim Challies
12/18/10
68
A few days ago I received an email from a reader of this site, a woman who was responding to some of the articles I’ve written on the subject of pornography. She shared a poem, a bit of free verse she had written in the midst of her husband’s addiction. I wish I could say it was the only email I’ve received from such a woman. Sadly it’s not; not by a long shot. That same day I received another email from another woman looking for resources for dealing with the wife’s response to a husband’s sin (rather a gap in the available literature right now, I think).

Anyway, I thought I would share this poem. It’s a little bit graphic, but only so far as it needs to be. I think it’s particularly heartbreaking in drawing out the clear connection between pornography and violence. And it’s just a realistic look at how so many men are damaging and destroying their wives and families. It’s reality.

So here it is, “I Looked For Love in Your Eyes.”

I saved my best for you.
Other girls may have given themselves away,
But I believed in the dream.
A husband, a wife, united as one forever.

Nervous, first time, needing assurance of your love,
I looked for it in your eyes
Mere inches from mine.
But what I saw made my soul run and hide.

Gone was the tenderness I’d come to know
I saw a stranger, cold and hard
Distant, evil, revolting.
I looked for love in your eyes
And my soul wept.

Who am I that you cannot make love to me?
Why do I feel as if I’m not even here?
I don’t matter.
I’m a prop in a filthy play.
Not an object of tender devotion.

Where are you?

Years pass
But the hardness in your eyes does not.
You think I’m cold
But how can I warm to eyes that are making hate to someone else
Instead of making love to me?

I know where you are.
I’ve seen the pictures.
I know now what it takes to turn you on.
Women…people like me
Tortured, humiliated, hated, used
Discarded.
Images burned into your brain.
How could you think they would not show in your eyes?

Did you ever imagine,
The first time you picked up a dirty picture
That you were dooming all intimacy between us
Shipwrecking your marriage
Breaking the heart of a wife you wouldn’t meet for many years?

If it stopped here, I could bear it.
But you brought the evil into our home
And our little boys found it.
Six and eight years old.
I heard them laughing, I found them ogling.

Hands bound, mouth gagged.
Fisheye photo, contorting reality
Distorting the woman into exaggerated breasts.
The haunted eyes, windows of a tormented soul
Warped by the lens into the background,
Because souls don’t matter, only bodies do
To men who consume them.

Little boys
My little boys
Laughing and ogling the sexual torture
Of a woman, a woman like me.
Someone like me.

An image burned into their brains.

Will their wives’ souls have to run and hide like mine does?
When does it end?

I can tell you this. It has not ended in your soul.
It has eaten you up. It is cancer.
Do you think you can feed on a diet of hatred
And come out of your locked room to love?

You say the words, but love has no meaning in your mouth
When hatred rules in your heart.
Your cruelty has eaten up every vestige of the man
I thought I was marrying.
Did you ever dream it would so consume you
That your wife and children would live in fear of your rage?

That is what you have become
Feeding your soul on poison.

I’ve never used porn.
But it has devastated my marriage, my family, my world.

Was it worth it?