Monday, March 26, 2012

From victory, not for victory!

Admittedly this is not a saying I came up with.  It is actually a saying a friend of my wife's said to her.  BUT, it’s too good to not blog about it and I asked my wife first, so… there.

Here’s what she told my wife (and it’s something I wish more Christians understood)…

As Christians, we need to know that we fight from victory, not for victory.

Stinking WOW!  Do you get that?  As we fight the forces which come against us (the enemy, the world, our flesh), we already stand on victory.  We fight from a place already secured by victory.  We’re not fighting to achieve victory, because it’s already been won!

But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It doesn't say " He’s GOING to give us victory", it says "He GIVES us victory over sin"!  It drives me to the edge of insanity when I hear Christians say stuff like, “It’s our nature, we’re always going to sin.” Or “I’ll never have victory over this.  I’ll always struggle with it.”  That’s CRAP!  While it is true it’s in our nature to sin and there will be areas of our life more difficult to overcome than others, we already have victory over sin.  Which means, many time (and I would say most) we are able to chose whether we sin or not.  Now, there are sins considered “sins of ignorance” or “unknown sin” (See Psalm 19:12, Leviticus 4:2 & Leviticus 5:17).  In those cases we seek God for forgiveness the way David did in Psalm 19:12.  There are even those moments of uncontrolled frustration where your sin nature grabs a hold of us and we slip (maybe you curse or say something you don’t mean), and I’m not even talking about those sins.  Although, as Jesus transforms you the fruit of The Spirit should be more prevalent and those uncontrolled outbursts should be less and less (it’s called sanctification).

I’m talking about those blatant and willful sins, we typically label with the belittling and obscure excuse “I fell”.  That’s ridiculous.  I’m talking about the sins requiring a conscious act of disobedience and a willful decision to participate in.  Things like sexual immorality, drunkenness, gossip and the like (this is not an all inclusive list, mind you).  These are sins we don’t “accidently” fall into.  These are sins which at some point in our approaching them, we decide, “I’m going to do this.”

Let me say this, I’m not calling anyone out without realizing the plank in my eye.  I know, without a doubt, there are things Christ is still perfecting in me.  Things He aims to destroy for the sake of my holiness.  And I’m fully aware there is a process Christ takes us through to weed out and get rid of the things which draw us away and keep us from Him.  The process is difficult, no doubt, and often a struggle, and I don’t mean to take away from the work we put into it or the work Christ does in us to overcome those struggles.  But we need to realize the truth that we’re not fighting FOR victory, it’s already been won!  We are not slaves to sin anymore (Romans 6:18) and it’s time we realize that and start acting as slaves to righteousness (right living).  That’s what we’re bound to… the righteousness of Christ.  There are so many times WE get to chose if we sin or not.  In the instances when it becomes difficult to resist, we rely on Christ being strong in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Coincidentally, that is part of why He calls us into fellowship with other believers... accountability.  The truth is, when we act like victory hasn’t been achieved, we disregard the work of Christ on the cross.  He won it for us, so we don’t need to.

Rest in His victory. Fight from His victory.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Our God is Able! (Pt. 3)

This is part 3 of 3 in the "Our God is Able" series.  This series covers a sermon that I preached a couple weeks ago at Center Line Christian Fellowship in Colorado Springs, CO. Each post covers one of the three points I covered on what happens when we move from asking God why to questioning His ability. Part 1 (HERE) pointed out that the first thing that moves us toward questioning God's ability is when we listen to the rabble.  Part 2 (HERE) showed us that it is easy for us to wrongly assume it is our responsibility to ensure that God's promises are fulfilled and when we're not able, we assume God isn't able.  In Part 2 we left off with God telling Moses how He intended to answer the peoples complaint for meat.  It's then that we see Moses move from asking God why to questioning God’s ability.  Let's dig in...

Starting in Numbers 11:21-23 Moses responds by saying,

21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

In that short and simple question, Moses went from asking God why he had to carry the burden of the Israelites, to questioning if God was able to feed all of them.

God’s answer was simple.

23 The LORD answered Moses, “Is the LORD’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”
When God said “too short” He meant "lacking in power".   God was asking Moses if he believed that He wasn't able to fulfill His word.  I think partly the question God’s was asking Moses was if he’d forgotten all the other miracles He’d already done.
See, when we listen to the rabble and wrongly assume responsibility…

3. We question God’s reliability.

Moses had forgotten how reliable God had been up to this point.  But, here’s the truth. Our questioning of His reliability does not change what He’s already done and it doesn’t change what He’s able to or going to do.
Ephesians 3:20 says, Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

Our doubt, our lack of faith doesn’t change the fact that He is able to do far more than we’re ever able to imagine. It also doesn’t change His faithfulness to fulfill His word.

1 Corinthians 1:9 says, God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

God is faithful. There are so many verses in the bible that speak of His faithfulness (I stopped counting at 60).  It’s in questioning God’s ability in these little things that we see the Israelites doubt God’s promises and His ability to do what He says. Eventually we see this played out on a bigger scale when God is preparing to give them the Promised Land.  They had complained so much that when the time came for God to give them their inheritance, they doubted God’s ability to fulfill that promise.  By the time they arrive at the Promised Land and send scouts in they had already doubted God and explored the land with that mindset.
God didn’t say, "Send scouts in to see if the land is suitable for me to give to you.” Numbers 13:2 says that He told them, Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites."

He said “The land I AM GIVING YOU.” He already knew it was suitable. He already knew it was what they needed and desired.  He sent them in so they would come back and confirm to the people that the promise was just as amazing as God said. But that didn’t happen. Their doubt caused them to come back with a bad report and cost them the opportunity to receive the promise.  Not only did they NOT receive the promise, the wandered in the wilderness for 40 YEARS.  A whole generation died before they were able to enter.  But that doesn't change the fact that God knew what was good for them and wanted to give it to them. 
He does the same for us. Jesus knows what we need. He knows what’s good for us and He aims to give it to us. 

Philipians 4:19 says, 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Our responsibility in that is to trust and believe Him. It’s a faith issue and we are to seek Him to develop our faith. Jesus’ disciples knew where to go. In Luke 17:5 the disciples said to Jesus, “Increase our faith!”. He is the one that increases our faith.  As He does, we are able to trust and believe Him and what He promises us.  Our doubt doesn't effect His ability, but our faith leaves us open to receive His promises.
Ask God why, it's okay. Seek Him for wisdom and guidance. BUT, don't listen to the rabble, know that it’s His responsibility and trust in His ability.

Remembering He's Reliable,

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Weekend To Not Be Forgotten!

This past weekend my wife (Sarah – blog love HERE) and I took some time out and attended a marriage getaway. There are tons out there, but we opted for a Weekend to Remember, hosted by Family Life.

Let me just say… WOW!  (I would recommend any couple go.  No matter where you're at in marriage - healthy or unhealthy or how long you've been married - 6 days or 60 years, go.)
Sarah and I had never been to one, so we had zero idea of what to expect. With some apprehension we walked into the banquet room on that first night and everything was perfect. Ah, I’m just kidding. Walking out of that first session, it was obvious that Satan was on the prowl and wanted nothing more than the weekend to be a complete bust. But, regardless of the apprehension we walked in with, we also walked in hopeful. And that, that one thing is far more important than any doubt or apprehension that may creep in… hope. Hope in God and hope in each other. The weekend was far better than either of us could have anticipated. Over the last few days it has been and will continue to be the catalyst for great change in our marriage and family. During the last session the speaker asked people to share their “one big take away” for the weekend; that one thing that God challenged them on; the one thing that Jesus needs to change in them. That’s what this blog is, my take away.

Let me preface this with this point. Although Sarah and I love each other, marriage is hard. I would say that marriage is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it’s also one of the most amazing things you’ll ever do. The fact that both of us have a previous marriage and that we are a blended family bring challenges all their own. So this weekend was about reconnecting and refocusing. And man, what a weekend it was. After the first session I could tell something wasn’t sitting well with my bride. So I asked her, “What’s wrong?” Side note: when you ask that question you need to be willing to do two things: 1) actually LISTEN & 2) not be offended. So I asked and I listened. And for the first time in some months, we got to sit and actually hear each other. I heard my wife’s heart. It was an amazing, but difficult conversation. Here’s what I heard my bride say, “I need you to disciple me like you do other people. Only, I need you to disciple me first.” WOW, shot in the gut for sure.

If you know ANYTHING about me, you know I am about men’s discipleship. I am passionate about men being MEN and I’m the first to tell a guy what it takes to lead and reflect biblical manhood. But there I sat, in a hotel room in Colorado Springs, listening to my wife say that she felt 2nd to others in my life. And the worse part about it, it was true. Unknowingly, I had allowed my ministry of discipling others get in the way of my most important ministry and push out the one person that I am made to give to. The next morning, during my quiet time, I wandered through my journal and landed at the first entry I had written in it. It was the day that Sarah and I started dating and I wrote these two commitments: 1) Always protect Sarah’s heart & 2) Always give her more than I get from her. In my head and heart I know the importance of those commitments, but in practice, I’ve not done those well. That changed on Saturday, March 10, 2012. This weekend put a lot into perspective and provided a number of tools to start keeping those commitments she didn’t even know I made.

Here’s my take away: I need to take intentional steps to first disciple my wife and then disciple my children. Then, I can give to others.

It is so important for married men to realize that the first ministry they are called to serve in is their marriage. The bible tells us to love our wife as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). That means give to her, sacrifice for her, protect her, nourish her, cherish her and build her up. When you look at all of that, it’s discipleship. And bonus, you get to add something to discipling your wife that you can’t (and shouldn’t want to) have in any other discipleship relationship: intimacy, passion and romance. When you give to her the way you’re made to, then discipleship of the rest of your family flows out of that. From this point on she’ll never again question here rank of importance in my life. As human relationships go, she is and will be first. I’m excited to be able to disciple the most important Jesus follower I know.

Making her first,

Monday, March 5, 2012

Our God is Able! (Pt. 2)

This is Part 2 of the 3 part series "Our God is Able." This series covers a sermon that I preached a couple weeks ago at Center Line Christian Fellowship in Colorado Springs, CO. Each post covers one of the three points I covered on what happens when we move from asking God why to questioning His ability. Part 1 (HERE) pointed out that the first thing that moves us toward questioning God's ability is when we listen to the rabble. Picking up in Numbers 11:10-20, here's Part 2...

After Moses heard the people complaining, he approaches God and questions why he has been given such a great burden (Numbers 11:10-15). In verse 13 Moses asks God, "Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!" In this question we see the second thing that moves us toward questioning God’s ability…

2: We Wrongly Assume Responsibility.

In this passage we see a couple different things, the first is that we get to see is Moses tell God that the Israelite people are a great burden and we get to see God answer that by relieving some of that burden. He did this by telling Moses to appoint 70 other leaders from among the people (v. 16-17). I think speaks volumes about how much God cares about what burdens us, His being okay with us asking why and His willingness to give us rest (Matthew 11:28). But, we also get to see Moses assume that it is his responsibility to meet the needs of the Israelite people. (v. 13)

Somehow, Moses forgot that God claimed them as HIS people in Exodus 3:10 when He said, "So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring MY PEOPLE the Israelites out of Egypt.” (emphasis added)

Because God said they were His people, He was responsible to provide for them and up to this point, He had. But, somewhere in the complaining Moses began to lose sight that these were God’s people, not his, and God would take care of them. God was absolutely clear about this. Sadly, we assume the same thing. We assume that God’s promises to us are somehow our responsibility to fulfill. But they’re not. If we belong to God, He provides. John 15:19 says,

"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. We were chosen out of this world."

We belong to Jesus and He fulfills the promises He makes. This is not to say we have zero responsibility. When God makes promises to us, there are responsibilities that we have (whether it's to give up or take on something. In this case the Israelites had to walk to the Promise Land), but one of our more important responsibilities is to believe and trust Him that He’ll fulfill what He promises.

After God addresses Moses crying out for relief from the burden, He answers the peoples complaint for meat. It's in this next exchange that we see the effects of listening to the rabble and wrongly assuming responsibility. God's answer comes in v.18-20.

18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The LORD heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’

It seems absolutely clear that the people had already moved to the belief that God was not able (or maybe willing) to take care of them. Then we get to see the difference in God's response to Moses asking 'why' and the people questioning His ability. Sadly, in the next few verses, we see Moses also move from asking God why to questioning God’s ability to do what He said He would. We'll unpack that in the last post, but I'll leave you with this.

Don't listen to the rabble and know that it's His responsibility. He's faithful to do what He promises.

Knowing it's not my responsibility,

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Our God is Able! (Pt. 1)

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to preach at my father in-law's church, again. It was amazing and so confirming to what God has called me to. Actually, every time I get to preach the Gospel, God confirms His call in my heart. Before I me start, let me just say, because of the length of the sermon and because I want to lend enough space (without forcing you to read forever), I broke it into 3 posts.

 Here's the first...

I got to speak on how we can easily, if we're not careful, end up in a place where we move from asking God why to questioning whether He is able (or willing) to work on our behalf. I spoke about three specific steps we take toward the change in asking Him why and the questioning of His ability.

First, let me be very clear on this point, I absolutely believe that God is okay with us asking Him why. There are lots of instances in the Bible that support God allowing us asking Him why. Job did. In Job 13:23-24, Job talking to God asks, "How many wrongs and sins have I committed? Show me my offense and my sin. Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy?" We are allowed to approach God with "Why?" seeking understanding.

BUT, there is a distinct difference between asking God why and questioning whether He is able. When we ask Him why, even though we’re asking to satisfy ourselves, there are still elements of belief that God is able and we’re more apt to approach Him seeking His guidance and wisdom. But, when we question His ability we are acting in unbelief and showing our lack of faith.

So, HOW DO WE GET TO THE POINT OF QUESTIONING GOD’S ABILITY? The main section of scripture I preached from was Numbers 11, specifically Numbers 11:4-23.

Starting in Numbers 11:4 we see that the Israelite people began to complain to God. Numbers 11:4-9 say, "4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” 7 The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. 8 The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. 9 When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down."

The first thing we see in this section of scripture that can begin to cause of to question God's ability is...

1. The People Listed to the Rabble.

See, the rabble (foreigners from Egypt) among them started to complain and remind them of how “good” they had it when they were slaves in Egypt. But here's the thing, THEY WERE SLAVES! They were bound, not free from anything, and they were complaining about how good that had it as slaves.

We still do this today. We come to Christ and He frees us. Then we hear the world (the rabble) tell us that we’re missing out and remind us of how “good” we used to have it when we were bound and we fall for it. We start to complain to God about what we don't have and forget the blessings that He has given us. We forget that through Jesus we're FREE! That He has made us unbound. Yet we long for bondage.

Romans 6:6-7 tells us that we are no longer slaves. The Israelite people forgot what slavery was like and sadly so do we. They, like us, were so focused on what they did not have; they missed all that they did...freedom.

See, when we live our lives complaining and focused on what we don’t have, we miss the blessing we do. We begin to believe that some how what we were bound by is better than the freedom God has for us. This is the first step we take in beginning to believe that either God isn't willing or able to work on our behalf. And, this couldn't be farther from the truth. When Jesus freed us from the grip of death, He released us from our bondage to the world. When we listen to the world, we begin to complain. When we begin to complain, we start to question if what we had is better than what He has. When this happens, we start down a dangerous road.

Don't listen to the rabble, you're free.

Ignoring the rabble,

Oh yeah, and I was ordained too...