Archive for the month “March, 2011”

Pondering the Passages: James 1:2-8

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red):

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

A number of years ago when I was leading a group of high school guys through some discipleship stuff this was the passage that we were memorizing together. 12 years later they will come up to me from time to time and still be able to say this passage. It is a powerful passage because it helps to give us perspective on life and all the “adventures” we will encounter along the way. I’m going to comment on a few words that stand out to me.

Consider: So the deal is that we will ALL face difficulties along the way. Some will be minor and some will be major. Our first reactions to any adversity – because of our human nature – is to a) whine about it and b) “why” about it. We whine about it to other people hoping to gain their sympathy and I think often hoping the whining will make us feel better. It usually doesn’t. We question God and wonder why is this happening to me and remind Him that this isn’t what we signed up for. When actually it is.

As believers, James is telling us that we need to get some perspective. We need to THINK and recognize that God is in the tough times as much as He is in the good times. Consider! Consider the fact that God may be up to something. Consider the fact that God might want to use a tough experience in your life to make you more like Him. Consider the fact that God might allow you to go through difficulties so that you will be able to help others go through difficulties. Consider the fact it is not about you it is about Him and He is infinitely trustworthy even when things are not going the way that we want them to.

Joy: And He says that we can actually experience joy  in the middle of these trials. The only way this can happen is that if we understand that God is up to something in our life and we trust Him to take us through the tough times knowing He is using them for our good and for His glory.

Perseverance: There is a doctrine for the Church known as “Perseverance of the Saints” – it refers to the fact that once you are saved you will always be saved and cannot lose your salvation. But what does it mean. Does it mean that if you say a prayer when you are six and then live like hell the rest of your life that you are still saved? No! What it means is this – those who persevere are the true saints of God. In other words, the difficulties in life are what God uses to help us recognize if our faith is sincere or not. Those who continue to cling to God when life is tough can be assured that they belong to God. Those who walk away from the faith when life is tough – blaming God and questioning even His existence – never had true saving faith to begin with.

So faith-filled believers recognize that trials are not only a litmus test to prove if our faith is genuine but also see them as God’s means to mature us and make us stronger in the faith.

Ask: God has no problem with us asking Him what he is up to. In fact he welcomes our questions when we don’t understand. But He wants us to come to Him humbly not grumbly. He wants us to come to Him not doubting that He knows what’s best but trusting that He has our best interest in mind and if we stay the course we will understand His ways in due time. “In due time” unfortunately is not according to our timetable. That’s why it is called…. faith!

So this week no matter what you might be dealing with, take some time to thank God that He is in control and ask Him to deepen your faith and strengthen you with His joy even while the going is rough – knowing that He wants you to be mature and complete on the day of His appearing.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Luke 11:1-13
Next Week’s Memory Verse: Luke 11:9

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Pondering the Passages: Ephesians 1:15-23 (Take 2)

So this post will probably be a bit different and more disjointed than other posts – it is basically the notes that I used for my message this past Sunday. So if you were there on Sunday they will make perfect sense. If not, then they may seem a bit confusing. Essentially I am taking each verse and asking a question and sometimes posing an application to go along with it.

  • 15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints…

Question #1 (v.15): What do people hear about me from others?
People are always watching and people will always talk! What do they talk about?

Question #2: What do people hear about our church? …faith? love?

Application #1: randomly ask people you know NOT connected to Ridgecrest what they hear about our church. Give them one of the fliers and an invitation. If you are a guest today – I’d love to hear what your impressions are or what you have heard that drew you here.

  • 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking…

Question #3 (v.16): Aside from your family, who in the body of Christ are you thankful for?
Write down a name or two. Put a check mark next to their name if you have “remembered them in your prayers” this week.

Application #2: Write them a note this week and let them know that you are thankful for them and what you are praying for them. (That’s what Paul was doing here in his letter)

Question # 4: (v.17) “I have not stopped… I keep asking” How would you describe your prayer life? non-existent / religious / engaging / thrilling

Is there persistence in your praying? ” I keep asking….”

(Importunity is persistent praying until the answer comes)

E.M.Bounds “Importunate praying is the earnest, inward movement of the heart toward God. It is the throwing of the entire force of the spiritual man into the exercise of prayer. Isaiah lamented that no one stirred himself, to take hold of God. Much praying was done in Isaiah’s time, but it was too easy, indifferent and complacent. There were no mighty movements of souls toward God. There was no array of sanctified energies bent on reaching and grappling with God, to draw from Him the treasures of His grace. Forceless prayers have no power to overcome difficulties, no power to win marked results, or to gain complete victories. We must win God, ere we can win our plea.”

Let’s see how Paul was praying for his Ephesian friends and ask some questions along the way.

  • 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Question # 5:  Scale of 1-10 How much do you know about God? Scale of 1-10  How well do you know God?
I grew up when baseball was America’s favorite pastime.  I could tell you a lot about my favorite player… Willie Mays.
(born 1931, played for the NY Giants, SF Giants, NY Mets, 660 HR, 3283 hits, 2 time MVP, 12 gold gloves, 20 allstar games)

But didn’t know him at all. If Iwas in crisis – he wouldn’t go to bat for me (pun intended)
Rodney Hicks, Randy Stewart, Bobby Salmon – I know them – they would go to bat for me.

J.I. Packer Quotes from Knowing God:
“Men who know their God are before anything else men who pray… If however there is in us little energy for such prayer, and little consequent practice of it, this is a sure sign that as yet we scarcely know our God.” (p.24)

“What makes life worth living is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance; and this the Christian has, in a way that no other man has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?” (p. 30)

“ for knowing God is a relationship calculated to thrill a man’s heart.” (p.32)

Application # 3: What is one thing that you can do to get to know God better?

Be intentional about time in His Word. Join a SS class or Bible Study. Read Packer’s Knowing God.

If you don’t know Him – then click HERE and read about how you can know Him.

Question #6: (v. 17) What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer?
Francis Chan calls the HS  “The Forgotten God”

  • 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you …

News Flash: You’re going to die! So where is your hope? (See Matt Chandler video)

Question #7: Is your life hope-filled and hope-fueled?

I think that one of the major things that distinguishes believers is HOPE. Ridgecrest – A Place to Find HOPE.

  • 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…

v. 18 – may know the riches of his glorious inheritance. What does this mean?  Do we have an inheritance or are we an inheritance?

Wiersbe – “This phrase does not refer to our inheritance in Christ but His inheritance in us. This is an amazing truth – that God should look upon us as a part of His great wealth.”

To put it another way… You are a part of God’s portfolio!

Question #8: Where are you invested? In eternal things or temporal things? Are you squandering your life or as John Piper would say, “Don’t waste your life.”

Application # 4: Think! Maybe talk to an “investment professional” – Decide on one way that you can invest your life that will pay solid eternal dividends.

Quote: “It does not take a lot of money to build great wealth, it takes time to build great wealth” What does this mean? Invest a little over a long period of time for the best results. AWANA workers… Nursery caregivers…. Prayer warriors….

  • 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,

Japan is experiencing what it is like to be without power.
Hurricane Fran – power”less” – We were drawn to the places where we could find power. The world will be too. It is because the church has largely been powerless that people have turned elsewhere. – to wealth for their power, to status/position for their power, NOT to God for their power – the cost has been great!

Question #9: – What does power look like in the life of a believer and in God’s church?

  1. Power of the the resurrection and the gospel Eph 1:19-23
  2. Power of a transformed life Eph 3:7
  3. Power of love – Eph 3:16
  4. Power to battle temptation and the evil one – Eph 6

It is God’s power. Mt 17:14 story. God wants to use you to influence and change lives

Application # 5: Figure out WHY there is a “power shortage in your life” – get it fixed!

One possibility to consider:  Verses 20-23  Is having power about you or about Christ? Is it so people will look at you or at Him?

Question # 10 – Is this the way that you pray? Why is this the way that Paul focuses his praying?

Application # 6 – Read Ephesians 2:1-10

Next Week’s Passage: James 1:2-8
Next Week’s Memory Verse: James 1:2-3

Pondering the Passages: Ephesians 1:15-23

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This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): Ephesians 1:15-23  “15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

Okay so don’t hate. I’m not posting my comments on this passage today – I’m going to wait until Sunday afternoon. So check back then. I’m preaching this Sunday and decided to do a message on these verses we’ve been pondering this week. So you will have a chance to both read them and hear them if you are at Ridgecrest this Sunday morning. I would, however, love to see your pondering comments.  This is an incredible passage. So many things worth pondering. I hope you have taken the time to soak in it this week.

Here is one little teaser quote that you will hear Sunday morning should you be there…

“What makes life worth living is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance; and this the Christian has, in a way that no other man has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?” (p. 30, Knowing God by J.I. Packer)

That alone is worth pondering.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: James 1:2-8
Next Week’s Memory Verse: James 1:2-3

Pondering the Passages: 1 John 3:1-3

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This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): 1 John 3:1-3

1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

John is making a statement in verse 1 about how great the love of the Father is. He gives one reason here, though I’m sure there were many that came to his mind. Such as…

  • that He would allow His son to die for a bunch of reprobate sinners.
  • that He would guarantee us a place in His eternal kingdom.
  • that He would not count our sins against us.
  • that He would inhabit us by His Holy Spirit.
  • that He would choose us to be a part of His redemptive plan.
  • that He provide for us our daily needs.
  • that He invite us into His throne room through prayer.

Indeed, how great is the love the Father has lavished on me! I am His child. He claims me as His own. But do I claim Him and proudly boast of my Heavenly PaPa?  He takes great delight in me.  But do I take great delight in Him? He has demonstrated that He is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for me. But am I willing to make even a little sacrifice for Him?

I am His child! And one day, Scripture says,  I will be like Him because I will see Him as He is. But what about now? Am I like Him now. The longer I know Him, theoretically, the more I should resemble Him. The older I get, I have been told the more I look like my dad. My folks divorced when I was six and my dad died when I was 13 (he was 42) so I have to rely on pictures to see this for myself but what do you think?

I wonder if people see the family resemblance between me and my heavenly Father. At Metamorphosis last week, one of the college leaders we recruited from NC State knows my son Tucker. We chatted at supper and when we were finished she sent a text to Tucker that said, “O my gosh, I can’t believe how much you act like your dad.” As people sit down and chat with me do they go away thinking, “Wow – he sure acts like his heavenly Dad.”

As we ponder passages I keep being reminded that I do not think often enough nor deep enough about “that day” – the day of His appearing. According to this Scripture, the hope of His return should be a HUGE motivation for me to live a holy life – a life that resembles my Father.

Note to self: Think intentionally this week about what it will be like when my Savior comes for me or when I die and go to Him.

You’ve no doubt heard the question: If you knew that Jesus was going to return tomorrow would that change the way that you live today? Definitely somthing to think about.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Weeks Passage: Ephesians 1:15-23
Next Week’s Memory Verse:  Ephesians 1:17

Pondering the Passages: Galatians 2:20

This week’s verse to ponder AND memorize: Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

When you read this verse in the context of chapter 2 you really get the sense that Paul is absolutely dumbfounded. For the life of him he can’t figure out why his Galatian friends have reverted back to trying to find favor with God by following a bunch of rules. He is flabbergasted how quickly they have forgotten that it was faith in the crucified/resurrected Christ that brought about reconciliation between the God who saves and the man who sins. And yet…

And yet, don’t we do the same. We walk through this life as believers with a “got to” attitude rather than a “get to” attitude. And as a result, instead of experiencing the liberating joy of the gospel we feel bound up by the incarcerating rules of legalism.

Do a mental checklist by answering these questions:
Do you ever feel like if you want God to bless you and be pleased with you that you’ve…

  • got to go to church
  • got to read your Bible
  • got to pray
  • got to tithe your money

The bad news is this: If you feel that way then you are for all practical purposes what Jesus called a Pharisee and you might want to check out what He said about them (Matthew 23 for example). You probably have little or no joy in being a Christian and little or no motivation to serve him and His Church. The good news is this: You don’t have to do any of that stuff to find favor with God. If you did then you would not need Jesus. And He would have experienced an excruciating death for nothing. But because of what He did on the cross and not because of ANYTHING you have done, you have favor with God. Your relationship is restored and your relationship is secure. You don’t have to worry that if you mess up that He will abandon you – because your relationship is not based on what you do but on what He did. Talk about liberating! This is why Paul went on to say later in his letter to the Galatians these words:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

So you don’t “got to” do any of that stuff. Instead you “get to”. You have the marvelous invitation to get into His Word and to pray and to experience relationship with your Heavenly Father. You have the opportunity to join with other believers to regularly worship together and enjoy the nurture and fellowship of the redeemed. You have the privilege to demonstrate your gratitude to God in a practical way by giving to His Church so that the advance of the gospel can take place.

You and I “get to” do all this stuff because we can dare to say these audacious words: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Here are the questions that this verse provokes me to keep asking and why this verse is so ponderable:

  • Has my old sinful nature indeed been put to death (crucified)?
  • Is it evident that Christ is alive in me?
  • In what ways does my life (and my lifestyle) demonstrate that I am living by faith?
  • Do I daily treasure the fact that Christ loved me so much that He gave Himself for me?
  • How do I display my gratitude to Him for rescuing me?

Not I but Christ! May those words spur me onward each day to live a crucified life, a faith-filled life, and a life that reflects my gratitude to the One “who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Such a great verse of Scripture. I hope that your faith has been fueled as you have pondered this past week. Keep it up because God’s Word is so resplendent that even spending one week on one verse can ignite a passionate desire to live faithfully for Him.

I’m just sayin’!!!

Next Week’s Passage: 1 John 3:1-3
Next Week’s Memory Verse: 1 John 3:1a “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

A Dad and His Daughter

A quarter of a century. That sort of sounds like a long time. But for those of us on the plus side of 50, we know that it is the blink of an eye. 25 years ago today my daughter made her first appearance into this world. And the world has been a better place ever since then. Especially my world! I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful my daughter is and how blessed I am to be her dad. She is an absolute joy. A treasure to my heart! A few things you may not know about her:

  • When she was just a few months old she got dropped on her head and was concussed. Scared her mom and dad a bunch.
  • At some point in her younger years she was into horses, The Backstreet Boys, beanie babies, and soccer.
  • She and I were involved with the YMCA program called Indian Princess’ for 3 years, Her name was Little Rainbow and I was Swift Buffalo.
  • She was a cheerleader for one year – the 7th grade.
  • She can quote every episode of ‘Friends’ by heart.
  • Her husband is the only man she has kissed.
  • She has taught 2nd grade for 3 years and been recognized as Teacher of the Year.
  • She went to Appalachian State and led the football team to 3 national championships while she was there.
  • She has always loved missions and has taken short term trips to Bolivia, Peru, Jamaica, Haiti, Botswana, China, India, Alaska, and Slovakia.
  • She and her husband leave for India in June. They will be there for 14 months working with our IMB partners – doing training with Indian believers and discipling teams that are working there.

I have been asked if it bothers me that she will be so far away from us and the answer is an easy one. This is what we raised her to do. This is what she loves. She and Chad eagerly anticipate serving the Lord oversees for a year+ and then seeing where the Lord directs them. With Skype and e-mail it just won’t be that hard to stay connected. And I figure it gives us a place to go where we can visit them. Yes we will miss them but we are excited for them at the same time.

So Christy, just want to say Happy 25th Birthday. It has been a thrill to be your dad and a pleasure to watch you grow into a delightful, joy-filled, God-fearing, missions-loving young woman. I am very proud of you and look forward to watching your God-story unfold in the years to come. I love you!

So here are a few pictures of a dad and his daughter through the years.

Pondering the Passages: Philippians 2:4-11

This Weeks Passage: Philippians 2:4-11

4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

This Weeks Memory Verse: Philippians 2:4-5

4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus

I will be much briefer this week than I usually am.

So after pondering this passage, I’ve decided that I’m egocentric rather than christocentric. I wish it wasn’t true but, alas, I’m afraid that it is. I really do love me some me. I am so much more concerned about my own interests rather than the interests of others. My attitude is in no way, shape, or form the same as that of Christ Jesus. Three words that stand out in this passage that describe Him but would never describe me: servant, humble, obedient.

So here is my action plan for this week. I’m going to focus on one of these words – servant. And I’m going to try to be intentional about being a servant. My goal is to find 5 ways to serve in this coming week that would not automatically happen as a part of my job or husband responsibilities. Feel free to ask me how this is going – and if there is any way that I can serve you then let me know.

There is a lot going on in this passage beneath the surface. For those of you who are really into this passage here’s a research project for you. Rather than me spelling all this out for you I’m going to let you dig a little on your own.

1) What do the terms “kenosis” and/or “hypostatic union” have to do with this passage? Bonus points go to those of you who post answers to this.

2) Also, why are verses 6-11 set apart as they are from the other verses? More bonus points if you can answer this.

For those of you who have been with me from the beginning you will know that I had talked about taking a week off every 4 weeks. I think I shall renege on that. But the passage to ponder next week will be short and sweet. In fact, it will be only one verse long. But even though we will spend the bulk of our pondering on this one power-packed verse, don’t forget to read it in its context.

Next weeks verse to ponder AND memorize: Galatians 2:20

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