Monday, November 4, 2013

When to Cut Out that Habit!

Yesterday in our Life Group (a small home group that studies the Bible, prays together, and serves together in a local area) we heard of the "Change of Kingdoms" from the world/self/Satan over to Jesus Christ we have through faith by grace (God's unearned mercy).  We also heard of "The Battle for Holiness" on knowing the tactics the enemy uses to trick Christians to not grow in purity for God and then the methods of growing in purity.  Both were chapters out of the great, but short book, The Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges.  An unjustly short summary of these would be:  God makes you right with Him (righteous) by your dying with Christ (Romans 6:1-12) and being raised spiritually to a new kind of life, so that by remembering that after you are saved, you can pursue kingdom goals (like various forms of purity, Romans 6:1-12). 

In my own Bible reading, there is a powerful change passage in the Gospel of Mark 9, verses 42 to 50 that really zooms in on this habit theme.  Jesus is teaching.  The disciples are around.  People have questions in the crowd.  Jesus has just driven a demon out of a boy which none of the disciples could do since it required prayer and they had not even prayed about it.  Jesus is going then into this battle for personal holiness that belongs to Christ followers.  He says what appears to be a stumbling block to log headed seperatist groups that over literalize things, "And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell."  Of course, none of them ever do that.  I firmly believe the Bible is to be taken literally, but in its context.  Language allows expressions to make a literal point, and this is one of those, as I do not see anyone cutting off their foot today who ignores that.  This expression means...

A Christ follower will take radical steps to cut sin out of their life.  If your foot is carrying you past the prostitutes house, the computer with pornography access, the time to access an online pop magazine that encourages greed in you, the neighbor's house that loves what you struggle against in sin, you will cut it off.  You will no longer allow that 'route' of your feet to that place to stay in place.  Just as the gospel refers to feet that carry the good news of peace, so this is the flip side, cutting out routes that disable your serving the Lord.  You will disable it, by avoiding it, for the glory of God in your life.

Application:  How radical are you about changing where you go?  Most of us probably as creatures of habit and in spiritual sloth do not change.  But God calls you to take a different road, to avoid that computer, to not go to that one neighbors house, so that you can show for a walk with Jesus Christ instead.  It's better, believe that.  Today is the day to walk differently.

Also, Jesus continues this language to make a literal point, 9:47 "And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out.  It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell," and with this the same idea.  No one is taking out their eyes.  The way of talking in the Greek or Aramaic was understood by the hearers to underline the necessity of cutting out access, not the eye.  One's feet or eyes do not make one unholy.  One's own heart inclination when it is entertained and it works against a plan of God and it is allowed to come to fruition makes one unholy in an action (understand, NOT salvation, just your walk with Jesus). 

Application:  How radical are you about what you see?  What can steer you to wrong plans, will you cut it out?  The sooner you make the change the better.

God bless you!

From Valley to the Vista: How Your Being Perplexed or Your Mess IS God's Opportunity to Shine

When it comes to God growing our faith he does so in steps.  When we need something and God puts our situation so that through faith we grow and mature, that is a process called growing in holiness.  It is also a concern for God's glory, or weighty namesake, in our life.  Paul says that we have the power of God to save us and change us from the God who said "let light shine out of darkness," 2 Corinthians 4:6.  So there is no lack on God's end of things.  That's the irony, in our life and world which are so often a broken mess, as Paul explains "afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies," he is getting at a purpose in that mess.

IN your mess, God's glory shines brighter.  Whether it is the struggle to see how to honor God in this cirucmstance or that, in home, in friendships, in work, God would have the life of Jesus be manifested not your glory.  This applies both individually and corporately as a church family.

Some of this is persecution, sure.  But a lot of it is just living in a fallen world (4:8 a,b)!  You cannot see the solution, but by faith you trust God for what is needed and to handle it in a godly way, so there is some being perplexed.  You are a victor, yet you are also in this world.  Afflicted in EVERY way has to include more than persecution!  Weaknesses you face actually make you a more glorious example of God's work, and in turn make you stronger in faith, and also mentally-emotionally, for His glory.  You can look back and see how God made something beautiful out of the perplexing or difficult situation.  It leaves you saying:  who could do this but God the Father who saved us by His Son Jesus!  Surely no one can plan to turn our ancestor's choice to sin and its consequence we are born with into an opportunity for amazing salvation, we are utterly unable to create/make at all, and then to grow us in pursuit of holiness as a next step not in salvation but in pointing to God's glory with all of your days.  What is God calling you to trust Him through today, and to find solutions that He can answer in prayer and that He can be glorified in?  Think on that.

Some examples individually:  Any believer in work or life, ministers at their job, their church, their home out of strong points for sure.  If you're gifted in an area, that is from God, and you make a living at it, or you can do so, or you study to do so, and practice.  Get peer advice.  But you are reminded too by the challenges of real work (aka real efforts) that you are a jar of clay.  You are humble, even if you are an expert in your area.  I'm reminded that though trained by the best church planters out there through several different networks, my ministry as any is also from a jar of clay. 

I'm a jar of clay.  Others are jars of clay.  We work and live and love out of this humility that God gives the power to show Himself glorious (2 Corinthians 4:7).  If you're a wise worker at home or business you are constantly learning.  A leader is always a learner.  I am humbled by going to certain trainings myself or peer trainings by the level of wisdom God gives some, but then I get to know those people and they are truly once you know them jars of clay too.  Imperfect and all, just like you and me.  We are perplexed at times.  Then God uses the power He has displayed through these other jars, not to replicate their exact situation, but to remind you to keep faith, and God grows you and does amazing things in you and me too.  This can be applied to any area of your life (parenting, finances, family devotions, etc.).  Some people do not get it.  They imagine in their job, their family, their church they are some kind of glorious vase, not a jar of clay.  Lol, I've learned to see through it, maybe you too.  True leaders see they are jars of clay and never bow a knee to someone who knows it all.  But you can learn from those who are wise.

Some examples corporately:  we have had wizards and witches ask us to not invite them to worship services in our area.  That would give someone without Christ, our powerful Savior, a lot of trepadation.  We of course do not mail someone who does not want to be mailed invites to worship God.  However, the threats that someone like that lays at you might cause concern.  However, the God who is in us (God in Christ, the Holy Spirit) is stronger than the god who is in the world.  So we keep up ministry.  That would be one form of persecution like is found in the Book of Acts, but a modern contemporary update. / We have also had First Baptist Wylie send staff members to one up us at Wylie Chamber events.  A Chamber of Commerce if you ever go, often has gatherings where you can explain what you do for 30 seconds or a minute, and you share what you can.  Well they would send someone to one up us later in the 30 second commercials with "well, Woodbridge can do that, but we can do this..." for weeks on end.  Eventually after more than once the pattern became obvious and this perplexes you as a church planter in an area with 194,000 persons, with only a handful of good solid Bible following churches.  But you press on because in spite of that, God is faithful.  Perplexed. / Struck down:  when we first launched we had about 100 people in attendance.  That is great, but of course, any church start keeps about 50% of those who come to a grand opening.  So we kept 50, of whom at least 10-15 were there to just help launch a new church (missions commitment, rather than membership).  But we grew about 50% that first year with people who love Jesus coming to be in a truly local church ministering to real life.  Then the next year we grew another approximate 50%, with more who had that passion to have a life that matters for Jesus, using their gifting where there is an opportunity rather than surplus.  God gets the glory for this continued growth (2 Cor 4:15 and thanks).  But in 2011 it felt like struck down the week after launch.  But keeping faith God blessed immensely to grow the church a tremendous amount!  So what you might see by comparison as an sos God sees as a way to show Himself glorious.