Crossroads Fellowship

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Year In Review

Rather than continuing with the study of Romans today, I would like to take the day after Christmas to reflect on the last year. This last year has been full of challenges, trials, triumphs, joy, let downs, and many other things. There have been days when I looked with fear at what was ahead, wanting to trust God for the outcome, but battling my flesh the whole time. There have been other days when I felt like I was invincible, and that nothing could go wrong. All in all it has been a wonderful journey this past year. Because of the empowerment of God's Spirit Crossroads Fellowship has been able to continue growing in an ever increasing secularized world. We have helped three different people get into drug rehab centers. We have seen many couples on the brink of divorce hang in there and keep going. We have seen babies born into the world to parents who were told they were not ever going to have more children. Personally I became interested in the Way of the Master evangelism technique, entered the Way of the Master School of Biblical Evangelism, and graduated from the course. To add to that I began street preaching and stranger evangelism, two things I never thought I would do. Then 20 adults began the first Way of the Master Basic training course that would be taught at our church. Well more than half finished that course which required them to sacrifice eight Friday nights and two Saturdays. It also required them to hand out tracts to complete strangers, and by the end to share their faith with a total stranger.

Because of all of this we have seen the most amazing thing happen. Even though we are in a church that is hovering around 100 folks we have seen 51 people repent of their sins and trust the Savior for salvation, many of these are people we never met before. Once a month a team goes out witnessing, the last two times it has been door to door evangelism. Last year, 2005, very few in the church shared their faith on a regular basis. This year, 2006, many men and women are sharing Jesus with much fear and trembling so that the King of all Creation may be glorified.

We have had ups and downs, but all things considered this has been the most awesome and humbling year I have ever spent in ministry because of the awesome people who are ministering alongside of us. Thank you all for your faithfulness to God, may we continue to see his Kingdom grow.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Spiritual Gifts (Part 2)

Next I want to talk about how we treat the Spiritual gifts that God has given us. The Christian and Missionary Alliance, the denomination that I am a part of, talks about our view and treatment of the Spiritual gifts in a paper called, “Expectation Without Agenda.” It has become quite the thing in the last 100 or so years to esteem certain Spiritual gifts above others. For example some denominations and groups teach that the gift of tongues is the initial evidence of being filled with the Spirit of God, and that all believers should seek after this gift first and foremost. However, it is my stance, the stance of the C&MA, and dare I say the stance of God that no Spiritual gift is greater or more necessary than any other gift. To see what I mean let us look at what Paul says about it. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:4-8

This passage of scripture seems to be very clear in stating that not all members of the body, the Church, have the same function. It states that we have gifts that differ according to the grace given each of us, and that we should use those gifts faithfully in the service of God. I want to give you the scripture that says that each believer needs to speak in tongues or they are not filled with the Spirit, but there is one big problem of why I can not do that. There is no verse that says that. I also would love to give you the verse that says that some of the gifts are more important than others, but again the problem is that there is not one.

We are told in scripture to earnestly desire the higher gifts. But as other places in scripture would help us to understand the “higher gifts” are those that help in building up the church, and bringing unbelievers into the church. So couldn’t it be said that any Spiritual gift, as long as it is used with discernment, love, and compassion for building up the church is a higher gift? The point that I am trying to make is that each of us should be happy with the gifts that God has given us, and use them to build God’s church up. Let us seek to discover how God wants to use and gift each one of us, let us be content with how he sovereignly chooses to do that, and let us not be given over to silly debates about one gift being required. For as the scriptures say, God gifts each one of us differently.

Father God,
May I discover my Spiritual gifts, may I use them to glorify you, may I never be jealous of how you have gifted another, and may I always seek to build your church.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Spiritual Gifts (Part 1)

As we find that we are made to worship God, and as we strive to do exactly that, some of the neatest things begin to happen to us. Those things that begin to happen to us is that God himself empowers each of us uniquely to serve him. I want to look at this empowerment of the Spirit in two parts. First let’s look at what scripture has to say on the subject. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:4-8

The apostle Paul is saying here in this passage that if we have given ourselves over to the true worship of the Lord Jesus that we should expect that God will gift us with spiritual gifts. I do not expect here to fully treat the subject of Spiritual Gifts, but I do want to point out that scripture is clear that God will gift us for service in the ministry. The list of spiritual gifts varies depending upon who is making the list, but for the purpose of this lesson we will look only at those mentioned in this particular passage of scripture. Paul lists many gifts here from prophecy, to teaching, and even giving financially. But what makes a gift a gift rather than a natural ability or talent?

To understand the answer to this question we need to look at a few factors. For example I have in my experience often seen that God has given the gift of teaching to someone, who before they were a Christian couldn’t teach a dog to pant, but after Christ are really quite exceptional teachers. This was clearly something that the Spirit of God changed in them, and gave them the necessary skills to do. Others may have been shy and reclusive, and perhaps still are, but when approached about preaching they jump at the opportunity and love to preach the Word of the Lord.

The next factor we can look at to discover if it is a gift or talent is to see if people seem to be helped in their spiritual walk when we exercise this. For example a man may be a great math teacher, but when he teaches about the things of God it doesn’t really seem to help others. Probably for him teaching is a talent, and he may someday learn to use that talent for God’s service, but it was not necessarily a Spiritual gift.

The next factor we need to look at in discovering our gifts is to the elders and other leaders in our church. If, by chance, we think that we have the gift of evangelism we can look for those in leadership to confirm to us that they have seen that gift operating in our ministry. God sets godly leaders over each of us to encourage us and help us in learning to walk more effectively and serve God in increasing ways.

The last thing that I want to discuss about discovering Spiritual Gifts is experimentation. Do you think that God may have given you the gift of teaching? Then experiment by asking the elders and or Pastor of your church to allow you to teach a Bible study, or Sunday School class. Do you think that you have the gift of service? Then experiment by serving others and seeing if God uses it. Do you think that God has given you the gift of prophecy? Then seek opportunities to preach the Word. In all of these things do not be discouraged if you fail. I believe strongly that I have the gift of evangelism, but not every time I share the gospel does someone get saved. It takes time, patience, prayer, and daily Bible reading to develop the ability to listen to the Spirits leading as you seek to use the gifts that God has supernaturally endowed to you.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Why Were We Made?

What is our response to the Gospel message? I know that this seems like a silly question, but it really is of the utmost importance. What motivates us to repent of our sins and put our full faith and trust in the Lord Jesus? I think the answer is simple. God has put in each one of us a desire to live, and it is that God given desire that the Lord uses to our advantage. But after turning from sin to God what are we to do? The answer again is easy; we are to worship God, to present ourselves as living sacrifices holy and acceptable. The modern day Psalmist says it something like this:

You and I were made to worship,

You and I are called to love,
You and I are forgiven and free,
When you and I embrace surrender,
When you and I choose to believe,
Then you and I will see who we were meant to be.

The apostle Paul also says it very beautifully as well. Read these awe inspiring words! I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:1-3 What powerful words! Paul has explained the Gospel of Christ, and then he says I appeal to you brothers, by God’s mercy, present yourselves as living sacrifices, which is worship true and pure. Your spiritual worship, which gives whole new depth of meaning to Christ’s words, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:24

What does this presentation of our bodies look like? We will discuss that in more detail soon enough. But at the simplest explanation that I can share is this. God – the Supreme and Most High – can never be promoted or elevated higher. So then the only way to exalt or elevate Him is by making ourselves lower. This it what it means to bow down before the King! If we seek to raise God up we MUST lower ourselves in humble adoration. Brothers this is what Paul means by not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. Let us think of ourselves with sober judgment, and let us render unto the King of Kings true and loving worship, because you and I were made for exactly that.

Father God,
You did make me fresh and new by the blood of Jesus when I first repented and believed. I was made to worship You on that day, and so I ask you that You lead me into a life of worship, love, and obedience to You. May I alwasy exalt Your holy name.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Israel A Big Part Of God's Redemptive Plan

I want to move back in again to studying how God dealt with Israel so that all the world might be saved. This is one of the most important facts about the Gospel that we can ever understand because it speaks to us about just how great God’s mercy and love are that he would work his plan out in this fashion. Here is what Paul says about it: Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob"; "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins." As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:25-36

I want to try to break this down in the most simple form possible. Paul is saying that a partial hardening of the heart has come upon the nation of Israel so that men everywhere might be saved. Had Israel not been hardened in their heart they never would have rejected Jesus as the Messiah. If they had never rejected him, he never would have been crucified for our sins, and had he never been crucified we would have no grounds to stand before God as redeemed people. God has even saved Israel, his chosen people, by the Messiah the rejected. Christ himself told his disciples that it was absolutely necessary that he be crucified and raised to life again. Through their disobedience and rejection of Jesus as their Lord and King that have been a major part of God’s redemptive work of all mankind. That is why Paul says that he has consigned all to disobedience that he may have mercy on all. With Paul we can say WOW! How amazing and unsearchable are all of God’s plans, for only God could have come up with this plan that redeemed all of mankind. PRAISE BE THE FATHER, SON, AND HOLY GHOST!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

God Is Able To Restore Us

Now that we have again spoken about personal holiness and the way that God deals with the wicked, both those outside the church walls and inside the church walls, I want to give you some really great news. God is so good that if we just repent of our unbelief and disobedience he will take us back and graft us back in. God has the power to take what is dead and bring it back to life again. It is one of the most amazing things about God, and it is only true of God. God is the giver of life and the restorer of all things. No one else in all of the universe can make that claim except God himself. But I don’t want you to take my word for it, take God’s word for it. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. Romans 11:23-24

Thank you Jesus that you can restore me to life. THANK YOU JESUS!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

"Asking Jesus into your heart" is not enough!

I want to talk about God’s punishment of the wicked. When I say I want to talk about God’s punishment of the wicked I am not speaking of the unsaved, unrepentant masses out on the streets only, but also those who worship inside the church who are living in sin. Every time I talk about this subject I feel like a broken record, but it must be an important subject because as you read through any book of the Bible God is dealing with the wickedness of those who would call themselves His people. One thing that I have found is that I strongly believe in personal holiness, even though I fail miserably at it way more often than not. (And I am not just saying that.) Personal holiness is something that God wants for each of us as believers, and when we do not walk in that holiness we can expect that God will deal with us in a most effective manner. The apostle Paul slips in another tag for personal holiness as he writes to the Romans about the Israelites. Here is what he says: For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. Romans 11:21-22

Paul is saying here that if God did not spare the natural branches, or the Israelites, then neither will he spare us for sin. God has dealt severely with those who have fallen, and we should expect that he will deal severely with us if we fall. Popular “church” teaching says that you can "ask Jesus in your heart" and keep on living your sin filled, and sin infested life. But this was not the message of Jesus, nor is it the message of the apostles. We are called to repent from all known sin in our lives, and turn wholly towards a holy God. If we do not bear the fruits of holiness in our life, or the fruit of the Spirit, then he will cut us off from the vine.

Jesus said that we must remain in him, obey his commandments, and then we would bear fruit. He also said that if we do not remain in him he will cut us off from the life giving vine and throw us into the fire. I want you to understand that I believe in the perseverance of the saints, or as some would say, “Once saved – always saved.” But, and it is a big but, just because we say we are saved doesn’t make us saved. Our lifestyle should start to change and we should have a desire to be holy if we are really saved. We may stink at being holy, but we should desperately desire it. Our sins should lead us to grief that causes us to repent. If this is not true of us then I fear we are in danger of being cut off and burned in the fire. May we all bear fruit for the King.

Lord Jesus,
I am not to good at not sinning. About the only time that I can keep from sinning is when you keep me from it by your power and life giving Spirit. I realize that, and I realize that I must remain in you, the vine, if I am to bear the fruits of personal holiness in my life. May my sin always grieve me and eat me up unitl I repent before you. Help me - because I NEED your help.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christians Are Full of Hate OR Racial Prejudice Is Murder (Part 2)

I believe that many Christians are full of hatred towards others. We have spoken about racial prejudice, and the hatred that is involved there. I want to keep racial prejudice in mind, but at the same time include hatred based upon other things such as gender, grudges, rivalries, social status, economic status, etc. The Bible says that hatred is the same exact thing as murder. Some of us will say, "Yes, yes I remember Jesus saying that." But I don't think we really understand why he said that. Here is what he said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. Matthew 5:21-22 Why does Jesus take such a strong stance on this and call these acts of hatred murder? I think that the answer lies in the heart condition of the "hater" and those actions that the heart condition will pour forth. Let's explore this a little bit.

I want to define hatred right from the onset of this writing, because I am make a very strong accusation that Christians are full of hate.
1hate \ˈhāt\ n

1a: intense hostility and aversion usu. deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury
b: extreme dislike or antipathy : loathing
2hate \ˈhāt\ vb
1: to feel extreme enmity toward
2: to have a strong aversion to : find very distasteful vi : to express or feel extreme enmity or active hostility.
Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

I wanted to define hate because every "good Christian" knows we are not supposed to hate so they always say, "Well I don't hate them, I just really really dislike them." Unfortunately hatred covers extreme dislike, therefore everyone one of us is guilty of hatred even though we don't want to admit it. Sometimes hatred is based on such silly things as skin color. However, more often than not hatred goes much deeper. Hatred most of the time, in my experiences, seems to derive from a sense of injury. We start hating someone because we feel like they did something wrong to us. This seems to be the prevelant form of hatred among those who are a part of God's church. We hate those inside the church because we feel as though they slighted us; we hate those outside of the church because they don't hold our beliefs. Hatred just seems to run more and rampant with every passing day.

Folks at this point may be saying that they don't agree with what I am saying. But let's dig deeper shall we? Have you ever seen someone, or been someone, who left a church because someone in the church, or the Pastor, hurt your feelings? Most of the time when this happens the person who has left never approaches the person to deal with the issue, they just decide in a moment of anger to leave. Many times they might even go so far as to not ever speak to the offender again. Or let us take a look at those outside the church that we hate. I hear American Christians always talking of how we just need to wipe out the radical Muslims with a bomb, or air raids. Isn't this hatred of them as well? Is this type of behavior acceptable for those who are inside the church? I would have to say no it is not, and I think the words of Jesus that we read earlier would back that up. These are just a couple of examples, the lists go on and on.

Why is this type of behavior, or hatred, considered murder. The reason is this plain and simple. If you feel that way about someone, whether they are Christian or non-Christian, what are the odds that if they are in need you will help them. If they are non-Christian what are the odds that you will ever share the Gospel with them? The odds are slim to none, and that makes you and I murderers if that is how we live and behave. If you have the words of life, the truth of the Gospel, and hold it back from someone because you hate them, and by holding it back I mean avoiding talking to them about salvation or any other conversation, then a murderer at heart you be. What bigger form of murder can you do than to seal the fate of someone by letting them go to Hell rather than telling them about how they might be saved. Even if the person is already saved if you feel this way about them then you would let them go to hell if they were unsaved.

I believe most Christians are full of hatred towards at least one other person if not more. If this were not the case then we would not ever be having church splits, rivalries and controversies in the church, or bitter dissensions. I am taking my own medicine here as well. There have been plenty of times when I would have rather seen someone go away and never come back than speak to them again, and this is an attitude of hatred that the Lord Jesus calls murder. May we quit playing word games with God, admit that we struggle with hatred, and ask the Lord to cleanse us all of this grievous sin.

I am guilty of this sin, and I ask that you clease me that I may no longer be considered a murderer. Take away all bitterness from within me and make holy, and wholly yours. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Racial Prejudice Is Murder (Part 1)

Living in the Southern part of the United States offers many different challenges. I am originally a mid-westerner, and some of the things I am going to say about the South are true there as well, but just not to the same extent. One of the biggest obstacles in the South is racial prejudice. Our country has come a long way in overcoming racial prejudice, but there is still a long way to go, especially in the south. Paul talks about prejudice in the book of Romans in a slightly different context than what I want to address. Even though the context is different here are the scriptures anyhow. Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Romans 11:13-21

Admittedly this passage is telling the Gentile believers not to be arrogant and prejudicial towards the Jews. But I think that we can apply this to our lives today not just in prejudices towards Jews, but prejudices towards anyone. The thing about living in the South is that tons of people are prejudice, but will deny it until the cows come home. For instance the town we live, Hopkinsville Kentucky, has recently built a new water park with slides, a pool, and other things. This was built by our Parks and Recreation Department after our City Council voted for it. Many people got up in arms over the water park saying that it was a waste of money. The number one complaint that I heard was that blacks were going to tear it up. That complaint was almost always prefaced with the words, “I am not prejudice but….” Others made comments like, “The water park needs to be cheap enough that we can use it, but expensive enough that the black kids can not hang out there.” Again these people claim to not be prejudice. In Clarksville, TN where I Pastor the stories are the same, but just about different issues. Prejudice is alive and kicking in the South still today.

The question I have is this. Does God love people regardless of race? Does God want to see men, women, and children from every tribe, nation, and tongue born again into the Kingdom of Heaven? The answers to both of those questions are a resounding YES HE DOES! So our prejudices must be sin then. We can make all the excuses we want, but prejudice is flat out sin and rebellion. And it doesn’t stop with just hatred, the sin of prejudice bleeds over into our evangelism. If you hate someone it is highly unlikely that you will share the Gospel with them, which then compounds your sin because you are disobeying the Great Commission. The church in the South is not free from prejudice either. Almost all of the comments made about the water park were by people who attend church on a regular basis. (None of them attend the church I Pastor) Are you and I prejudice against others? Are we sinning by holding hatred in our hearts? If your son or daughter married someone of a different race would you be ok with it. I hope that you would because really there is only one race, and that is the human race. May we seek to repent from our prejudices and may we share the Gospel with everyone regardless of their color, gender, national heritage, or any other factor.

Father God,
If I hold any prejudice in my heart I ask that you reveal it to me and then lead me in repentance from it. May you have your way in my life.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Israel's Inclusion

We have asked the question has God rejected the church. The answer to that question is the same answer that Paul gave to the Jewish nation when he said has God rejected his people. The answer of course is a firm no. God has not rejected the church or the nation of Israel, but rather we have abandoned him. So then we ask the same question again that the apostle Paul asked. If it is by grace and not by works – what then? But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day." And David says, "Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever." So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? Romans 11:6-15

God has used the hardened heart of Israel to be able to bring salvation to the entire world and not just to the Israelites alone. Through their rejection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the door was open so that we might have eternal life. All of this was by God’s gracious choice. Now Paul poses a most interesting question at this point. He says that if Israel’s rejection of Jesus has brought this much glory and honor to God as people of strange nations and tongues, then how much more glory will God get when Israel is fully included. Their rejection of Jesus meant reconciliation for the entire world, which was absolutely glorifying to God the Father. God by an act of grace and mercy reconciled the world to Himself, showing himself to be a loving Father who will forgive. What greater glory can God receive than that of millions and billions of people turning from idols and pagan practices to worship of the one true and living God?

However more glory, God will yet receive. A quick reading of the book of Revelation shows that God will work out his divine purpose for the nation of Israel before the end comes and heaven and earth are recreated. When Israel is fully included then these words will ring true and bring such glory and honor as never before seen. One day every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This gospel will be preached as a testimony among all nations and then the end will come. God still is working out His plan. He is still seated on the throne and running the universe. Glory to God in the highest!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Has God Rejected The Church?

I have put forth that our hardened hearts have helped in causing many people to go to hell for all of eternity. Like the nation of Israel we, the church, have become hardened to what God would have us to do. We have become hardened to personal repentance, corporate repentance, and also have become hardened to preaching a gospel to lost people that involves repentance. This disobedience is sin, and when we disobey in this manner we abandon God. Notice that I said we abandon Him! Just like that nation of Israel the church has abandoned God, and so now I think it only fitting to see what the scriptures would tell us to expect. Here is what Paul says happened with Israel. I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life." But what is God's reply to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. Romans 11:1-5

Has God rejected the church? By no means has God rejected the church. Just because much of the church has rejected him by serving money, or serving pop culture, or serving the easy gospel of “you don’t have to repent, just ask Jesus in your heart,” does not mean he has rejected and left us. For I say, like Paul said of being and Israelite, I am of the church – a child of God by faith and repentance. Often have I said as Elijah said, “Lord they have rejected you, they have forsaken you and left your house as a haunt, they have went after money, power, sexual immorality, and other sins. Now they even seek to lead me away.” Yet God’s reply has always been the same. He has said, “Jerry I have kept a righteous remnant for myself. I have people besides you that have never bowed a knee to any of these false Gods, and have do not serve sin.”

It is a wonderfully comforting thought to know that God has people in the world, if only a remnant, that serve him. It is wonderful to know that I have the privilege and honor of serving the Lord with such brothers and sisters. It is a beautiful thing when we meet together to evangelize on the streets, or to lead worship services, or to study God’s word in homes. No matter how frustrated we get with the church, may we always keep in mind that God has a righteous remnant. The real question is are we a part of the righteous remnant or are we apart of the big crowd that divorced God and got married to sin?

Gracious Lord,
Speak to me through your Word, the Bible. May your Spirit speak to my conscience. If I have abandoned you show me so that I might return and reconcile to you through Christ Jesus. I want to serve you and obey you for all of my life.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Are We Watchmen or Executioners?

We are to take the Gospel of one God and his only begotten, Jesus Christ, to all nations. Yet we hesitate when we hear God calling us. We take a step, then a stutter step, and then no step at all. We sit back in fear, or laziness, and keep the most amazing good news to ourselves. We have our excuses why we can’t take the gospel, and they sound so good to our ears. The excuses range from having to properly care for our family, to not enough education, to fear, and many others. Yet at the heart of the matter is our hardness of heart and our disobedience to our Lord and savior. The same disobedience and hardness of heart that plagued Israel plagues the church today. Listen to how the apostle Paul describes it. But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for "Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world." But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, "I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry." Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me." But of Israel he says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people." Romans 10:16-21

I want to put forward to you that believing the Gospel is not repentance from sin and faith in Christ only, but rather believing the Gospel is those things and more. Believing the Gospel is more than personal salvation, it believes that it is the only chance of salvation for all men everywhere. Israel neither repented of her sins, nor did she teach others to repent of theirs and put their faith in God’s grace and mercy. The later is more tragic than the former, for with the former unbelief only the person who doesn’t repent is harmed, yet to know the truth and keep it from others because of a hardened heart not only condemns the one person, but it condemns every person who should have been told. And God finds this a most grievous sin. Here what he says to Ezekiel about this very thing as he is commissioned to warn the people. "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Ezekiel 3:17-18

Is there blood on your hands and mine because we have been hardened, disobedient, and contrary to God? Have we warned every person we know of the wrath of God to come? Have we told people how much they need the savior? Or have we like Israel become complacent in our religion and comfortable within the confines of our little church buildings. I pray that it may not be so, yet I fear that it is. Let us repent as individuals and as a church. Let us begin to share our faith daily. Because if we don’t share our faith we look more like executioners than watchman!

May I serve as a watchman and evangelist for you. May I reach out to those around me with the Gospel, and may I ever be sensitive to your calling to take the Gospel to the nations.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Ultimate Passover!

As we have been looking we have seen that the scriptures definitely declare that there is only one God. We have seen that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved, and we are faced ourselves with the very dilemma that Israel was faced with before we, as Gentiles, were adopted into God’s family. The dilemma we are faced with is this. But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" Romans 10:14-15 Israel was faced with this same dilemma all through out its history. Listen to the Psalmist: All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. Psalms 22:27

Shall we keep the name of the Lord our God to ourselves, and repeat the sin of Israel as she did not make his grace and forgiveness known to all the nations? For even Israel was to let outsiders, strangers, come to know the God of Israel and allow them to participate in the Passover. Here is what the scriptures say. And if a stranger sojourns among you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its rule, so shall he do. You shall have one statute, both for the sojourner and for the native. Numbers 9:14 Just as Israel was to allow a stranger keep the Passover, which was God’s tangible showing of his grace and forgiveness, so we too are to let those who are strangers to God experience the ultimate Passover as they experience grace and forgiveness in the cross. And like the scriptures say, how shall we let them experience unless they believe, and how shall they believe unless they have heard the news, and how shall they hear the news unless you and I tell them? Shall we not get on our face and repent before a holy God for this most grievous sin?

Lord God and Father,
May I answer your call to missions, may I take your name to the peoples of all the earth, and may I start by telling those around me.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Is There Really Only One God?

How many Gods are there? This seems like such a simple question with such a simple answer. Probably anyone who reads this would quickly say there is only one God. Yet our actions seem all too often to say something so different. Even inside of the Christian church we deny the truth that there is only one God by our actions. Even the nation of Israel with her creed of “Hear, Oh Israel, hear the Lord our God is one,” tended to deny that fact by her actions. Hopefully I have gotten your full attention, and now I will explain.

I have heard in the church so many times that so and so would never be receptive to the gospel because he has so much money, and his life is going so right. Whether we want to admit it or not this is an announcement that our God is only the God of the poor and down trodden, and those who are rich financially are ok, and don’t need our God because there god is doing ok for them. Now I can hear everyone saying, “Now wait a minute,” but there is no need to wait, what I am saying is true. Someone might disagree that is what we mean when we say those things, but at the very heart we are saying that he won’t receive our God because he doesn’t need him. Yet if we really believe our God is the only God, and the only Way, then we should KNOW that he needs him.

Let me expand on this idea a little bit. I recently spent some time in South America, and the missionaries there are starting to try to reach the wealthy professional class. However some of us back here in the States have been giving them flack, because our missions dollar is being used to reach a people that have more money than we do. This again is a subconscious admittance that we believe there is more than one God, saying these people have money they don’t need God. I know this might hurt a little as we read it, but it is the truth.

We can expand this argument to the popular thinking in our culture right now of relativism. Relativism says that it’s “your truth” and that your truth and my truth can coexist, so that I can worship my God and you can worship yours and we are both right. Christians all over our country are not telling people about Jesus because they already have a God they worship. In our political correctness we let Muslims continue to walk in darkness here in our own cities, with out so much as raising a finger to reach them, because they are worshiping their God. This is the exact sin that Israel was guilty of when she did not make God’s name known among all the nations. There is only one God, and Israel should have been his light in the world, yet they were hard of heart and did not make him known. Essentially saying, “He is our God and they have their God so it is ok.”

The scriptures however testify to something completely different. It says that those gods are not gods at all. Several places actually say that those gods are demons, both in the Old and New Testaments. (Deut 32:17, Psalm 106:36-37, 1Cor 10:19-21, Rev 9:20) Hopefully it gives new meaning to what Paul says here: For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:12-13

Father God,

May you please open my heart and mind, and may I believe that there is You and You only. And may when I see people worshipping and serving other gods that are not gods at all may you put a burning passion in my heart to tell them the truth about Jesus. Do all of this regardless of their financial or social status, there seeming comfort they may have, or political correctness. May I radically obey your command to take the Gospel to all nations.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Faith Vs. Physical Evidence

I want to think of the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. I want to look at the events as they were recorded for us there. So many times when thinking of those events we think of the great price the Lord paid, and rightly so. Sometimes we think of thief on the cross that Jesus told would be with him in paradise that day. Sometimes we think of his disciples gathered around mourning his death. And sometimes, but very seldom, we think of the Jews who said if he was truly the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, that he should come down of the cross and save himself. However when Paul is writing in Chapter 10 of Romans I think that is exactly what he was thinking of, was the Jews taunting him to come of the cross and save himself. I think that is exactly what Paul was thinking of when he wrote these words. But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) or "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). Romans 10:6-7 Not only do I believe that is what Paul was thinking of when he wrote those words, but I think that is exactly what God had in mind when he inspired the words that are recorded in the book of Deuteronomy that Paul was quoting.

Moses in Deuteronomy 30 was talking to the people as the Lord had commanded him concerning repentance, and the forgiveness of sins. He told them as they would have to choose between life and death that they should not say, “Who is going to go up to heaven and get proof for us of God’s promise? Or who will go across the sea and get proof.” Moses told the people that the proof was near to them already. It was in their mouth and in their heart. For to go and get proof from heaven is to tell God that he must send the Christ down again and show a sign that all might believe, or to allow them to see into the abyss to have proof that Christ was not there. Paul says it this way: But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) or "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." Romans 10:6-11

The righteousness that is based on faith believes it because God testifies to it, and it is believed in the heart. The righteousness that is based on faith is not a righteousness that is based on what is seen, but based on the very promise and character of God. The righteousness that is based on faith is based on admitting that Jesus is the only perfect Lord and Savior, not because we have physically seen him seated at God’s right hand, but because God has revealed it to our hearts and we believe Him. The righteousness that is based on faith says that you will never be put to shame, because God is God. The Israelites struggled to believe this truth about Jesus. They said that it was impossible to believe it because Jesus did not look like the messiah they expected. They were hard to the truth, but it was because they chose to be hard and trust in their own works and the righteousness they believed they could earn. But God……through Moses said "For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.” Deuteronomy 30:11 The righteousness that is based on faith trusts in God that it is not too hard to believe and choose life rather than death, and that is why when we choose death there is no excuse, because the same God who gave the Son gave us the ability and mustard seed of faith to believe.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Straight Line

Each of us might remember the days when we were young children in school if we sit and think long enough. As you reflect upon your days in school I want you to remember those wooden rulers that had the metal strip on one side so that you could draw a straight line. That straight edge was the greatest thing until it got bent or pulled loose from the ruler. Once that happened it was just a useless little piece of metal, that became impossible to use for anything helpful, and often whole rulers were thrown away because of that one little piece not being any good. This is hopefully an interesting illustration to help you in understanding what Paul is saying to us in Romans 10:1-5. Now keep the ruler in mind while you read the scriptures. Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. Romans 10:1-5

See Paul is saying here that his heart’s desire and prayer is that the people of the nation of Israel would be saved. He even testifies that they have zeal for God, but it is zeal that is not founded in truth. They are zealous, but they are still wrong. They are like that one kid who has mangled the metal side of his ruler, the straight edge, yet he keeps trying to draw a straight line with it. The line is ragged and crooked every time, yet he won’t give up, but instead keeps trying with zeal to make the line straight. Likewise the Israelites kept trying to draw a straight line from themselves to God by keeping the law, but the truth is that each one had already broken and bent the law out of shape by his own sin, and could not use it as a straight edge. The whole time they keep working to draw that line of righteousness, the Lord Jesus is sitting next to them having made the most perfect line to God, so perfect in fact, that each person could substitute Jesus’ line for their own.

Christ should have been the end of the Israelites trying to work salvation by keeping the law, yet he was not. Christ was righteous by the law’s standard, and therefore he lived and continues to live because he kept the law. He is standing next to the Jew as well as the Gentile offering to let us borrow his straight line, or his righteousness. Yet both Jew and Gentile alike have to look up from trying to draw a straight line with a mangled straight edge, long enough to see the offer and accept. All the zeal in the world will never make our crooked line straight. We need to look up to him and no longer be ignorant that our straight edge is broken, but admit it is broken, admit that Christ’s fulfillment of the law was once for all, and put our faith in him. That was Paul’s desire for the Jews, and it is his desire for us as well.

I hope and pray that this illustration made sense, and I look forward to hearing your comments on it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

God's Promise of Election Fulfilled (Part 4)

So how does all of this work together for the ultimate good? Let us look at the rest of chapter nine of the book of Romans to find out. As indeed he says in Hosea, "Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,' and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.'" "And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' there they will be called 'sons of the living God.'" And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay." And as Isaiah predicted, "If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah." What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." Romans 9:25-33

You see Israel found Jesus, and God’s sovereign choice to save not only the Israelites but also the Gentiles through his atoning work to be a major stumbling block. They found this to be a reason to rebel against God and seek to even further alienate themselves from their creator. Yet God saves people by faith as a fulfillment to his promise. Not just as a matter of human ancestry, but as a matter of belief in the promise. Yet the Jews would claim that if this was so that it would make God unjust, and they knew that God was not unjust, so this could not be so. And so they rejected the Messiah based on the grounds that they did not understand how Jesus could be the Messiah.

We too stand at a crossroads where we can reject the truth of God and exchange it for a lie. We can say God what is the point of taking the gospel to people. If you have mercy on whomever you will and harden whomever you will then there is no point in any of this. Yet just because God knows who will be saved and who will not be saved does not mean we are off the hook. We can become angered and bitter towards God, full of resentment. Or we can reject the doctrine of election because of our lack of understanding of it. Or we can accept it, seek to understand it as best we are able, and strive to reach the lost. The doctrine of election and predestination has been something that has caused confusion and bitterness towards God for all of time. It has moved entire denominations to abandon the cause of world missions as being useless. Yet God’s foreknowledge of the events to come is not a reason to reject reaching out to the lost. Instead his foreknowledge should be an encouragement to us to seek the lost. For God says that around his throne there will be some from every tribe, language, and nation. He has promised us success, because he knows that we can and will succeed when we believe Him and are empowered by the Spirit.

Lord God Almighty,
You are perfect in knowledge and deed. May your infinite knowledge be a reason that I trust you for sucess in my ministry. May I believe you for souls saved, and may I believe you that you will empower me to reach the lost. In Jesus' name, Amen.