Ordinariness and God’s faithfulness

Ordinary church life, prayer, Bible reading, preaching, teaching, singing, the Lord’s table, baptism and fellowship;  activities that don’t normally lend themselves to off-the-chart experiences. But theses are the necessary ingredients that when are consistent exercised they compound and shape your life as a believer. Over time, one can look back with some surprise and say, “God has been so gracious, he has changed my life” as a result of both the ordinariness and of God’s faithfulness.

The Red Sea Redemption The Exodus, God’s Model of Redemption. Part 2

It’s all about an inner change, a character change that only comes about by a transformation of our minds, hearts which first takes place by…and here it is…the center post of all change…the conversion of your soul.

No longer given to the things of the flesh but of the Spirit. You can modify our fleshly behavior all you want, but you’ll not change the core of who and what you are until God converts the soul.

Dress it up like you want…change locations…find new friends…go to rehab…try all of man’s solutions and you’ll find yourself in perhaps with a new set of objectives, a new set of behaviors…but no power to find the kind of change that’s eternal…one that changes the soul…that only comes through Christ.

That is a description of the sanctification process, where throughout the rest of our lives, we who have been made holy by the sacrifice of Christ, progress in the outworking of that holiness as we grow and mature (1 Corinthians 6:11). As we fall more deeply in love with our Savior in the course of an ongoing pursuit of Him (Philippians 3:8-16), we are transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18) and we are conformed to His image (Romans 8:29).

Biblically, change is no less an expectation for the homosexual than it is for the porn addict, the liar, the murderer, jealously, (Galatians 5: 19-21) or anyone else who has been under the power of sin.

Galatians 5:1; “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”

The core of the Gospel message is this: you are God’s image bearer. Sin has shattered that image and no amount of effort without the aid and empowerment for the Holy Spirit will change you. When you utter these words; “I’ll and change” you have just re-shackled yourself into another cycle of defeat and disappointment.

God’s redemption is to restore this image…and this is only possible through what Jesus has done for us.

We are not talking about rehabilitation…we are talking conversion of the soul…a new creation spoken of in 1 Corinthians 5:17. The old passes away—all things have become new!

Without this new birth we don’t recover from our sins…or sinful nature. Why, because it doesn’t change from the outside. It takes a miracle from God to change our hearts, our character, and our motives that which drives us to do what we do.

We need a new nature and that what Jesus brings us. This image which was lost and shattered in the Garden of Eden.

The Red Sea Redemption The Exodus, God’s Model of Redemption.

Galatians 5:1; “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”   NKJV

The following is a reflection of all the sermons we have preached over the last year.

If we question whether change was possible for everyone whom has given his or her life to Jesus Christ; the Father’s reply would be: “I have only one plan, that my children are conform to the image of my Son Jesus.

And so the question is asked; is change possible? Folks…that’s what it’s all about! That’s what Christianity is – it’s the process of becoming somebody God has made us to be…in His image. We’re children of God, now we are becoming like Christ.

You see it’s not just about getting “reformed,” going through “recovery,” 12 steps…etc. which I personally have seen in the lives of the people I serve as pastor, a reality of a difference in their lives. No we don’t deny the good these types of therapy’s can do.

I personally have seen those who try to change the inward man from the outside fail time and time again because the actuality they are trying to achieve can never be found outside of the One who designed them.

It’s all about an inner change, a character change that only comes about by a transformation of our minds, hearts which first takes place by…and here it is…the center post of all change…the conversion of your soul.

No longer given to the things of the flesh but of the Spirit. You can modify our fleshly behavior all you want, but you’ll not change the core of who and what you are until God converts the soul.

Dress it up like you want…change locations…find new friends…go to rehab…try all of man’s solutions and you’ll find yourself in perhaps with a new set of objectives, a new set of behaviors…but no power to find the kind of change that’s eternal…one that changes the soul…that only comes through Christ.

That is a description of the sanctification process, where throughout the rest of our lives, we who have been made holy by the sacrifice of Christ, progress in the outworking of that holiness as we grow and mature (1 Corinthians 6:11). As we fall more deeply in love with our Savior in the course of an ongoing pursuit of Him (Philippians 3:8-16), we are transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18) and we are conformed to His image (Romans 8:29).

Biblically, change is no less an expectation for the homosexual than it is for the porn addict, the liar, the murderer, jealously, (Galatians 5: 19-21) or anyone else who has been under the power of sin.

Galatians 5:1; “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”

25 Ways to Teach Your Child to Have an Attitude of Entitlement.

This is how a sense of entitlement which is the answer to why we have such narcissistic behavior, idol worship–worship of self in our culture. We see this in the church…and it’s probably one of the biggest obstacles to spiritual growth.

1. Give him his own present whenever anyone else gets one.
Brother’s birthday? He gets a present too. Best friend’s baby shower? He gets a present too. No one is ever more special than Li’l Junior!

2. Fix him a special meal when he doesn’t like what you prepared for the family.
You prepared spaghetti for dinner, but it makes him whine? Make him his own plate of food. Be sure to ask what he would like instead.

3. Encourage false talent.
Your kid can’t carry a tune (see American Idol tryouts)in a bucket? Disregard that and demand that he is the lead in the Christmas musical.

4. Buy him a small gift or token whenever you go to the store.
He must feel that he is always deserving of gifts.

5. Allow him to attend the birthday party that the older sibling was invited to.
Be sure to ask for a party favor for him too.

6. When throwing a tantrum, the best way to stop it is giving him the candy he wanted but you originally denied.
Curtail this behavior by not denying his requests. Ever.

7. Blame everyone and everything else for a fault or failure.
Didn’t finish homework? The teacher gave too much and brother was too loud so she couldn’t focus. Lost a friend? Wasn’t worth having if they couldn’t see past the rude/arrogant/unfair behavior to the wonderful person she REALLY is.

8. Always do for him what he can do for himself.
If he asks for a drink while you are cooking dinner, stop what you are doing to get it for him, even though he is perfectly capable of getting it himself.

9. Never make her clean up her own messes.
She tires easily, you know.

10. Don’t follow through on consequences, and often make idle threats.

11. Force other children to give over their toys to him.
Whether they were playing with it at the time is irrelevant.

12. Acknowledge him when he interrupts a conversation to show him that what he says is more important than what you were listening to.

13. Always take his side when any other adult calls him out for a disciplinary issue.
Alternately, hand him excuse after excuse as to why he “can’t help” his behavior.

14. Don’t allow him to face disappointment.
He missed the deadline for turning in the extra credit that qualifies him for a special prize? Put the finishing touches on it, and drive it up to the school yourself.

15. Make sure everyone on his team gets a trophy the same size as the team who won first place.

16. Don’t ever make him wait to be served.
You don’t want him to become hungry. That makes him cranky.

17. Don’t make him serve others.
This will only make him feel that others could possibly be more deserving than he is.

18. Always say “please” in a begging tone when requesting anything of him.
If he refuses, let it go immediately.

19. Whenever a classmate or friend gets a new toy, run right out and get your child one too.
Make sure it is the newest model.

20. Never, ever criticize his efforts or let him know you expect him to try harder at something.
Pretending not to notice half-hearted attempts is best.

21. Overpraise everything she does, whether it is excellent or not.
You can barely read the essay she wrote for English class? Tell her how creative she is at spelling!

22. Always stop what you are doing whenever she addresses you.
Never make her wait until you are through with a task.

23. Always excuse bad behavior.
“He was probably hungry. The low blood sugar makes him cranky,” is a good standby.

24. Never make him answer for his own poor choices.
Step in to explain for him.

25. Go into debt buying a new car when he turns 16.
Make sure it is the model with the usb port for charging his iPhone.

By following these simple steps consistently you will soon have a child who believes his needs and wishes are superior to the needs and wishes of those around him!
Now, go give your little narcissist a hug. And a prize. Preferably a toy.

Conflict Versus Complaints

A lot of us have disagreements and conversations bringing discomfort, and anxiety about legitimate issues which sometimes divide us. We call that conflict, not complaint.

Conflict can be healthy, as long as we have resolution and reconciliation as the final goal of conflict. With conflict, as long as we have resolution/reconciliation in mind, can flush out hidden agendas, motives, demonstrating healthy honest differences of opinion.

When we look at these issues from an unbiased perspective, as hard as that is; it’s healthy, dealing with the realities of life, the situations we go through, and personal goals we have. These issues of conflict are now visible causes us to walk in integrity and honesty.

But what about complaints; are they the same as conflict? What happen when someone is dissatisfied and causes conflict…isn’t this the same thing?

I’m Confused

NO, not at all! Many times when we complain, we do so because we are not getting what we feel we are entitled to. We walk in an illusion of our own grandeur, believing our rights are more important than others.
We confuse these two based on our identification of and/or priority of our perceived needs and the obstacle that others place in front of us to have their wants/needs met by conflicting behavior.

Everybody experiences these types of situation. It’s a part of our culture which is obsessed with self.  It’s easy to fall into to this mindset because our economy is built around us as consumers. We deserve to be right and those whom want our business/money will do everything within their power to accommodate us. It’s easy to put pressure on the person behind the counter in order to get what we want. It’s easy to complain on “Yelp” because we waited too long for our Big-Mac. If your bold enough, you’ll talk to the manager because of their staffs boo-boo’s. We are the customer, and we’re always right.

The question must now be asked; is your Christianity about making sure you are delivered what you’re entitled to have? WELL…isn’t that the essence of grace? Nope! It’s not…the grace of God is to be emulated by us to those whom we meet and extend to them the grace of God. God’s grace isn’t about entitlement, our rights, and our privilege.

So What Is Our Privilege

It seems to me that we might be hoarders of God’s grace refusing to dispense it to those whom God has orchestrated to come into your life. Now you have the great privilege of extending grace to them. This extension of the grace of God witnesses to them the greatness of forgiveness within your life…not complaining, but forgoing your rights understanding that in the great scheme of things…you’re forgiven, and your forgiveness goes in front of you…not as an afterthought, but a forethought.

Some of the inspiration of these thoughts came from other authors, and things I’ve been considering for a long time. One writer puts it this way.

“From what I’ve seen, getting what you’re entitled to in this life fights against finding what has the most value in the next. A flood of complaints at the register rarely fights for the soul of the person behind it. In winning the battle for entitlement we may very well lose the battle for eternity. Consider the battle today. Consider it when you step up to order. Consider it when things aren’t up to what you feel you deserve. Consider it when you begin your complaint. Then find a better way.”

Living Churches

The necessity of regeneration and sanctification by a constant dependence on the Holy Spirit, for the assistance and strength in living the Christian life results in living churches. While dying churches, somewhere along the way, began to subtly and perhaps imperceptibly, barely noticing, they quench, grieved or usurped the Holy Spirit of God when they took matters into their own hands.

How to get more from a sermon Posted on July 16, 2014 by Joe MCcKeever

“And there was a certain young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor, and was picked up dead” (Acts 20:9). 

Principle number one: Stay awake.

Okay, that’s all I have to say about Eutychus.  But we can use him as a poster child for people who get very little or nothing from a sermon, agreed?

If you live a long time and go to church regularly, you will hear thousands of sermons.  It seems therefore that at least one message should be devoted to the subject of how to get the most out of them.

Let’s let this be the one.

Tagamet and Pepcid A/C, Prilosec and Omeprazole, are popular acid blockers.  Take one before eating a pizza or other spicy foods in order to avoid heartburn.  The pills shut down the flow of stomach acid.  This is all right once in a while, yet it’s not recommended regularly for the simple reason that the digestive system counts on bile (stomach acid) to help in the digestion.  A few years back, doctors put me on a seven-day regimen of pills designed to destroy the H. Pylori bacteria in my stomach.  Two of the pills were antibiotics and the other shut off the flow of acid into my digestive system.  For one solid week, in order to heal my system, I was not getting full value from my food.

Let’s talk about people who do not get full value from the sermons they hear.

These people may be taking SERMON-BLOCKERS.  When the pastor gets up to preach, they….

–nitpick him. They listen for grammatical errors or doctrinal lapses. They check out his clothing, his haircut, and mannerisms. They look to make sure his wife is in her place and their children are behaving.

–plan the week ahead.  They take out their iPad or a piece of scrap paper and make notes on people they need to see, projects needing their attention.

–shift into neutral and become passive.  Granted, that’s better than throwing it into reverse and becoming hostile. (I had that happen once in a prison. The inmates clapped and stomped their feet in order to drown out my sermon.)

–send their mind off on a mini-vacation.  I once watched a movie in the dentist’s office as he performed a root canal in my mouth.  I was almost unaware of what he was doing. There are people who wish they could do that in church.

–listen with their ears but not their hearts.  As Dennis the Menace once told his mother, “I hear you but I’m not listening!” When church is over, they can’t even tell you what the sermon was about.

–do not bring faith to what they are hearing.  Hebrews 4:2 speaks of this phenomenon. “The word they heard did not profit them because it was not united by faith in those who heard.”

These people may hear thousands of sermons, but they do not benefit from them because they are resisting them, not listening to them, and not believing them. Such people are literally wasting their time by coming to church.

Three “pre-suggestions” on how to make the most of the sermons you will be hearing….

1) Get saved. After all, “the natural man does not receive spiritual things; neither can he discern them as they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14).  You want to have a heart receptive to the things of the Lord.

2) Plan in advance.  Get enough sleep the night before, then rise early.  Have a quiet Sunday morning.  Bring your Bible to church. Take notes.  Sit where there are fewest distractions.

3) Pray for the pastor throughout the week while he’s doing the work of a shepherd and preparing the sermon. Ask the Lord to anoint his ministry, to encourage his spirit, and to show him wonderful riches from His word.

If you have prayed for him faithfully during the week, I can guarantee that you will approach the Sunday service with more eagerness and higher expectations.  (Caution: Always put those expectations on the Lord, not on the man.  The Lord is your Shepherd, and He will give you what He wants you to have.  I have had members tell me they prayed for my preaching, but then reject everything I said from the pulpit.)

Three instructions from God’s Word for those who listen to sermons….

First: Listen actively and expectantly for the voice of the Lord.

“When you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” (I Thessalonians 2:13)

When you hear a sermon, listen for the Lord.  If you are in a Christ-honoring church, sitting before a Godly minister preaching from the Book, you will be hearing from the Holy Spirit.  Accept this as from Him.

Second: Look up the scriptures cited and study them.

“Now these (Bereans) were more noble-minded than those who were in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

If you don’t have time in the worship service to look up references the pastor is giving, write them down and find them later.  Then, if you are puzzled about the pastor’s interpretation of a verse, call him.  Maybe you misunderstood him or are missing something in the Word. He will appreciate that you are taking this seriously, and the next time he’s in his study preparing a sermon, he will be reminded that some in the congregation are on their toes.

Third: Listen to the sermon for instructions from the Lord for you personally.

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves”(James 1:22).

Question: How do hearers of good sermons and lovers of great teaching deceive themselves?  Answer: By convincing themselves that in hearing a teaching they have obeyed it.

Hearing and obeying are two separate things.

“Knowledge puffs up” (I Corinthians 8:1).  That is to say, some people grow spiritually obese from gorging themselves on the rich food of spiritual banquets.  They need to push away from the table and go to work.

Obeying the Word–that is, applying its message to my daily life–is the object. John 13:17 should be a major pillar in every believer’s life:  “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

The blessing of heaven was never promised to those who love the word or read it, who memorize it or teach it, who publish it or even proclaim it. Heaven’s blessings are upon those who obey the Word!

I can tell you for a fact that if you have no intention of obeying the message you are hearing, you will find great faults with it and get little good from it.  The enemy of all that is good and the attacker of everything righteous will see to that. He loves to assist those looking for reasons not to obey the Lord.

Only the obedient receive.

“Trust and obey. There is no other way to be happy in Jesus.”

“For this purpose I wrote to you, that I might know the proof of you, whether you are obedient in all things” (2 Corinthians 2:9).

“If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15,21,23).

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock” (Matthew 7:24).