Archive for July, 2008

Doing great works like Jesus…

Posted in Uncategorized on July 24, 2008 by gospel2live

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:12-14

One of the points in the sermon on July 20, was that Jesus exercised great power, and promised that when he returned to the Father, his disciples would do even greater works. Between services, I was asked why it was that we do not see this in practice. I thought is was a great question and deserved special treatment in response.

I believe the answer lies primarily in the fourth chapter of James. The first reason we do not see great spiritual works is that we do not ask for them. James writes “you do not have, because you do not ask.” (verse 2b) So, why don’t we ask for God to do great works in our day? First, because we are very rich in material possessions. Even with tough times, we are rich beyond imagination compared to any other people in history. Therefore, we are quite content to rely on things we can see and pay for to take care of the needs that we perceive in our lives.

Second, we do not ask because we lack faith. While we will clearly acknowledge that God CAN do miracles, we lack the faith to believe that he is in the regular business of granting them on our behalf. Perhaps we have tried praying about certain things in the past, but God let us down. Thus, we lack the faith to boldly approach the throne of grace with our requests. We tend to think God has bigger things to worry about than our requests, and we forget that he is our loving dad who loves to take care of his children.

Third, we are afraid to ask. We have seen so much that passes for “supernatural” or “charismatic” that we are afraid we will open a big can of worms if we pray for things out of the ordinary. The problem here isn’t worrying that God won’t answer, but worrying that he WILL answer. I am skeptical of much that passes for faith healing and extraordinary works in our day and age. However, God clearly is able to do these things. Perhaps we need to worry less about what impression these requests may leave and simply pray with more boldness.

A second reason we don’t see these works today is contained in James 4:3. James goes on to say “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” So when we ask God for him to work on our behalf, we need to do it with a careful eye towards our motives and desires. Are we asking God to give us things that we have a tendency to value more than we value God? If so, we are asking him to enable our worship of idols. Are we asking for things that will make us look good and bring us personal glory? Then we are asking him to worship us!

In verse 6, James quotes Proverbs as he says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” God will not do great works through men and women who are competing with him for the glory. However, he is EAGER to do them through men and women who are humbly walking with Jesus and whose desire is to see Jesus get all the glory and honor and praise. So whose glory are YOU seeking?

Rahab and Achan

Posted in Uncategorized on July 12, 2008 by gospel2live

This was the June newsletter piece….

In preaching out at Side Lake, we have been working through the book of Joshua. In the past couple of weeks, we have seen a noteworthy contradiction illustrated in two very different characters. In Chapter 6, we see Rahab, a prostitute, who by faith in the God of Israel is spared from the utter destruction of her city of Jericho. In Chapter 7, we see Achan, a member of God’s covenant people, who disobeys God’s command to utterly destroy Jericho and keeps some of the plunder hidden in his tent. As a result, he and his entire family are put to death.

These passages are both difficult passages that display something of God’s character that we would just as soon ignore. As Americans living in the 21st century, we are uncomfortable with the idea of God wiping out an entire nation or having the people execute someone who has broken God’s commands. In these passages from Joshua, we see “the Old Testament God of Fire and Brimstone.” However, when we look deeper at the stories involved, we can see that the Gospel, or good news of Jesus, is evident even in these difficult stories of utter destruction.

First, we need to see how these stories reflect the Holiness of God. We need to understand that the Lord God is altogether perfect and without any blemish. His perfection is so absolute that nothing impure or unholy can exist in his presence. In Deuteronomy 4:24, Moses tells the people “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” When we begin to understand the holiness of God, our amazement is not that he would allow the destruction of Jericho or Achan’s family, but that he would not utterly destroy ALL human life. The amazing fact that should be hard to understand is that he shows kindness to Rahab’s family and the people of Israel.

Second, we see God extending his grace to people who do not deserve it. Achan was a part of God’s chosen people. He was, at least outwardly, a worshiper of God. However, he came under judgment for his idolatry. He valued (or worshiped) a coat, a bar of gold, and some silver more than he valued God’s command. Rahab, on the other hand, was a prostitute. Not only that, but she was a foreigner who lived in an idolatrous city that worshiped pagan gods. The reason that Jericho was to be destroyed is that their evil was full or ripe. In this context, Rahab the Prostitute saw that the Lord God of Israel was the real God. She turned her back on the false gods of her people and acted in faith to hide Israeli spies who had come to spy out Jericho. As a result of her faith, God allowed her to be spared from the utter destruction she deserved, along with all those in her family who would trust her to come to her house to await salvation. Ultimately, we find her name listed in the geneology of Jesus. Not only was she saved, but God allowed his own son to descend from her line. This is amazing and undeserved grace!

Third, in the story of Achan we see that disobedience within God’s people results in a removal of his hand of blessing and discipline. As a result of Achan hiding loot under his tent, the army loses its next battle resulting in 36 men dying trying to take a tiny little town of virtually no significance. Achan and his family receive the death penalty as a consequence of Achan’s sin. Was his family also guilty? Were they innocent victims? I don’t know. But the lesson for us to take away is that God takes our sin very seriously – even after we have been saved by his grace and made a part of his people. In both Acts 5 (Ananias and Sapphira) and in 1 Corinthians 11, we see indications that sickness and death are the direct result of sin on the part of believers.

Please don’t misunderstand – not all sickness or untimely death is a direct result of sin. Most of these sufferings are simply a part of living in a fallen world. But keep in mind that God showed mercy to the prostitute who left behind her external religion of pagan idolatry to follow God, but brought judgment on the person who was externally religiously worshiping God, but inwardly worshiped a pile of stuff he hid inside his tent.

So what are you hiding under your tent? When you leave church on Sunday, do you return to your worship of material possessions, relationships, lust, food, or status? Do you literally have things hidden about your house that you know are sinful? Especially for you men, are you secretly worshiping images of creatures in the form of pornography or sexually explicit materials? If so, determine now to repent and seek God’s forgiveness. Take steps to break free from the sin that entangles you. Call me and get ready to meet with other men to learn how you can purge this area of sin from your life as we go through “Every Man’s Battle” together this summer.

A Vision for the Times

Posted in Uncategorized on July 12, 2008 by gospel2live

This was originally published in the July issue of our Chisholm Baptist newsletter. I will plan on trying to post these monthly articles to the blog to help keep it active. Please post your thoughts as comments….

Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. 1 Samuel 3:1

We live in a day and age that is similar to the one described in this verse. Few people have a vision for anything beyond a secure retirement with enough money to play out their years. The motto of our times is eat, drink, and be merry. It is reflected in the advertisements with which we are continually bombarded, and it is reflected in the way we, in turn, spend our time, money and other resources.

As a result, there are two very distinct ways that some people respond to the lack of prophetic vision in our times. The first way they respond is by not caring about the lack of vision and just allowing themselves to be swept away with the tide of our times. We do this by simply living our life by the standards of the world where our striving is all aimed towards consuming and enjoying as much as we can in this life.

The second way that people respond is by becoming desperate to latch onto anything that remotely resembles a vision. One I have heard of lately is the “I35 Revival” vision. The gist of this is that Isaiah 35 is actually referring to a revival that will happen along the Interstae 35 corridor from Duluth to Texas. Since Isaiah 35 refers to a highway that will be a “way to holiness,” I35 is the road in which this prophecy is supposed to come to pass. While I would have no problem with a massive revival breaking out along the I35 corridor from Duluth to Dallas, I think that the conclusion is a bit of a stretch – to say the least.

In light of these poor reactions to a general lack of prophetic vision in our times, I think that we need to be actively seeking the Lord to provide us with a clear vision for our lives and times. He promised that in these days our sons and daughters would prophecy, our old men would dream dreams and our young men see visions. Most importantly, if we are living lives in step with the Holy Spirit, we need to see through the eyes of Jesus. We need to see people the way that Jesus sees them and we need to see a clear picture of the mission that Jesus has laid out for us in our time and culture.

Specifically, we are living in the least churched county in the state of Minnesota. We support foreign missionaries who are working in countries that have a higher percentage of Christians than we do on the Iron Range. So what is God calling us to have a vision for?
First, I think we need a vision for passionate and transforming faith. Mere religion does not impress Jesus, and we need to have a vision for passing on a faith to future generations that goes above and beyond religious observance. We need to stop worrying about whether our faith is “acceptable” to the culture we live in and start loving Jesus with an abandon that will freak some people out. Without a passionate love for Jesus, there will never be a clear vision of the mission.

Second, we need to take a serious look at benevolence ministry. Our mandate to care for the poor is incredibly clear from scripture, but it needs to be more than “mere handouts.” We need several people to step forward and to take on a benevolence ministry that can serve the needs of the poor in our communities in a way that preserves dignity and encourages a biblical work ethic. Ideas such as a benevolence garden, or work projects in return for gas or food vouchers simply need some willing people who are willing to have a huge impact on our community.

Finally, we need to consider planting new churches. This was the clear pattern of the apostles and early church leaders. Planting is also the most effective way to reach new segments of our communities for Christ. As we see our passion for Jesus and the gospel grow, it will translate into a passion to reach the lost in our communities and see them experience the transforming grace of God. Church planting is the natural outflow of these passions.

These are just a few. I would encourage you to seek God’s face and ask him to give you your own vision for your life and times – something more than a life of leisure and lack of discomfort.