Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Where do you pledge your allegiance?

Here is the article I wrote for the monthly newsletter at Oakland EFC.


This week we will celebrate the birth of our nation, and that leads to the question of where we should place our allegiance? Because of the news this last week we need to consider how to behave when our country which was founded with Christian ideals is becoming increasingly hostile towards those same ideals? I want to lay out some biblical principles that may help guide us as we face increasingly difficult circumstances.

1. Pledge your allegiance to Christ first. Matthew 6:33 tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God,” and not worry about the physical stuff of life. Joshua challenged the Israelites to “chose today who you will serve (Joshua 24:15).” The trials and pressure may not be great today, but if you do not consider what you believe and why in the good times, you will not be prepared in the bad times.

2. Be a good citizen. Paul in Romans 13:1-7 tells the church to be good citizens even of a non-Christian pagan government. We should respectfully participate in the process of government and teach our kids to respect the authorities, while teaching and showing them that all things are done to give glory to Christ.

3. Expect persecution when following Jesus. We have been blessed for many years with a government that was influenced by Christian principles, but that has not been the norm throughout history nor it is the norm in the world today. In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus told us to expect persecution, and the history of the church starting in Acts and continuing into the present day is one of persecution for proclaiming the good news about Jesus.

4. Love your neighbors and your enemies. Jesus tells us to love our neighbors (Matt. 22:39, and even our enemies (Matt. 5:44). He came and died for those who were his enemies, which includes us. Our mission to a lost and hurting world does not stop because they hate us, call us intolerant, or do not want to hear the message. We can in many ways show the good news of the gospel by loving people. You do not have to compromise the truth about Jesus to invite your neighbor over for a barbecue, visit someone in the hospital, volunteer at community events, or any number of other ways we can show people we (and God) care about them.



Our mission to a lost and hurting world is becoming more clear, and the cost of following and sharing Jesus is becoming more clear as well. Jesus deserves our allegiance because of the love He has shown us, and as we put Him first, we will be better friends, neighbors and citizens.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Allow God to transform you.

Here is another quote from Dallas Willard's book, Divine Conspiracy, p. 112

We must recognize, first of all, that the aim of the popular teacher in Jesus’ time was not to impart information, but to make a significant change in the lives of the hearers. Of course that may require an information transfer, but it is a peculiarly modern notion that the aim of teaching is to bring people to know things that may have no effect at all on their lives.
This concurs with one of my main goals in preaching which is that it should be transformational, not just informational. (See 2 Timothy 3:16) Hopefully, as I have studied the Bible and I have listened to the Spirit of God as He has spoken through the written Word, then the information will reveal more about the nature of God, humanity and the world.  I attempt to use the gifts that God have given me, to develop a message that helps to bridge the gap, between the message and the hearer. Finally, as the hearers are open not just to be entertained or informed, but to hear from God, then His message will impact their hearts causing them to reflect upon what He is saying to them and in fact changing their attitudes and actions.

My encouragement to others and myself is to be open to a transformational message from God when listening to someone else preach, reading the Word or reading another book by another Christian. The delivery of the message may not always be exciting, but our attitudes as hearer/readers can make the difference between just taking in information and being changed by the message because you have really connected with God in that moment.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Great Quote from Dallas Willard

Here is a great quote from Dallas Willard in his book, Divine Conspiracy, which I think accurately describes how many modern "Christians" live.

P. 90 The idea of an all-encompassing, all-penetrating world of God, interactive at every point with our lives, where we can always be totally at home and safe

Read Isaiah with me

Over the last few weeks I have begun to preach from Isaiah. At the same time I have been reading through Isaiah in my personal time with the Lord. I generally only read one chapter a day, but I am finding it so rich. Isaiah has so many applicable lessons for me. If you come to Harvest, I want to encourage you to read it with me. Write out one (or more) lessons from each chapter.

Here are a few of my notes from the last couple of days.

Today, I read chapter 30
15 For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength
(Isaiah 30:15 ESV)

I had just prayed for strength when I read this verse. I wrote this note:

Wow I just prayed this. Lord please be my strength. Let m me sit in quiet at your feet.

In chapter 29, this section struck me:

 13 And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
14 therefore, behold, I will again
do wonderful things with this people,
with wonder upon wonder;
and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
15 Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel,
whose deeds are in the dark,
and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us
(Isaiah 29:13-15 ESV)

I wrote this in response:

Secrets from God

When we hide our hearts from God, He hides his message from us. Probably rather, when our hearts are far from Him, we won't even hear when He roars! Think of the dwarves in The Last Battle.
That is a reference to a C.S. Lewis book, The Last Battle, where some dwarves are brought into heaven but refuse to believe because the "won't be taken in."

In chapter 28 I read:

14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers,
who rule this people in Jerusalem!
15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement,
when the overwhelming whip passes through
it will not come to us,
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;
16 therefore thus says the Lord God,
 “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
‘Whoever believes will not be in haste
(Isaiah 28:14-16 ESV)

In response I wrote:

A standard
The leaders thought they could make up their own rules, but God had established a standard upon which they will be judged. The same is true now. We think we can make it up as we go along but we eventually run up against reality. 

What is God teaching daily?

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Great God

I have been reading/ praying through a book of Puritan prayers, called Valley of Vision. Here is one that really hit me. I have highlighted several lines in particular that meant a lot to me.


The Great God

O Fountain of All Good

Destroy in me every lofty thought,
     Break pride to pieces and scatter it to the winds,
Annihilate each clinging shred of self-righteousness,
Implant in me true lowliness of spirit,
Abase me to self-loathing and self-abhorrence,
Open in me a found of penitential tears,
Break me, then bind me up;
Thus will my heart be a prepared dwelling 
     for my God;
     Then can the Father take up his abode in me,
     Then can the blessed Jesus come with healing in his touch,
     Then can the Holy Spirit descend in sanctifying grace;
O Holy Trinity, three Persons and one God,
     inhabit me, a temple consecrated to thy glory.
When though are present, evil cannot abide;
In they fellowship is fullness of joy,
Beneath thy smile is peace of conscience,
By the side no fears disturb,
     no apprehension banish rest of mind,
With thee my heart shall bloom with fragrance;
Make me meet, through repentance,
     for thine indwelling.
Nothing exceeds thy power,
Nothing is too great for thee to do,
Nothing too good for thee to give.
     Infinite is thy might, boundless thy love,
     limitless thy grace, glorious they saving name.
Let angels sing for
     sinners repenting,
     prodigals restored,
     backsliders reclaimed,
     Satan’s captives released,
     blind eyes opened,
     broken hearts bound up,
     the despondent cheered,
     the self-righteous stripped,
     the formalist driven from a refuge of lies,
     the ignorant enlightened,
     and saints built up in their holy faith.
I ask great things of a great God.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sim Gospel

In the computer game Sim City along with many role playing games you can create a second identity and fake world that fits the way you think things should be. I believe that many people want a Sim Gospel. They want to have all the benefits that they think God can give them, such as love, security, meaning, and hope for the future without the perceived negatives such as sin, submission, wrath, repentance, obedience,  etc.

This creates a real danger when sharing with others about Jesus that we fail to share the whole gospel, because some of the gospel is going to make people feel uncomfortable and that in turn makes us feel uncomfortable. Most people do not want to hear about their sin problem and the need for them to repent before a holy God. I know repentance does not make me feel good initially. It is generally easier to believe that the problems in my life and the world around me are the fault of circumstances beyond my control or are cause primarily by someone else's wrong doing.

Also God's wrath and eternal judgment are hard ideas to discuss, but they are true parts of the gospel because that is how serious sin is. We really have rejected God and the good, and unless we repent we will face God's wrath. Now the gospel is good news in that God does not want us to face this wrath and does want the best for us, which means coming into relationship with Him, but we have to understand the negative about ourselves and our condition to truly understand what God is offering.

I have been guilty of sharing a Sim gospel with people and I believe I know some people who have accepted a Sim gospel. These people's lives tend not to be transformed and they fail to become like Jesus because they have never truly repented and submitted their lives to Him. They liked the idea that Jesus loves them unconditionally, but they have never really recognized that their condition without Jesus is truly awful, so they have never wept over their own sin and come to the cross in true repentance.

Recently as I have tried to be more careful in sharing the complete gospel with people I am noticing the resistance to the negative parts. I am getting push back but I have noticed it is not intellectual doubts that are the problem, rather there seems to be an emotional/spiritual barrier. I think this is what scripture means when it talks about the eyes of unbelievers having scales on them. It is not a problem of intelligence or information, rather it is a problem of the will.

My response is to continue to love people so that they can see God's love in action, continue to share the whole gospel, and then pray that the Holy Spirit will break down the barrier so that they can see that God truly is good.

Have you accepted the true gospel or do have you rejected the parts that seem uncomfortable to you? If you have accepted the true gospel, do you share it with others or perhaps do you only share those parts that seem good to others? In the long run we are not doing anyone any good if we let them think that they can have a relationship with God without repenting of their sin and submitting to God.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Faith

Here are two quotes from Joni Erickson Tada's book,  Glorious Intruder.

"Faith, as the a Bible defines it, is a present-tense action. It's taking God's promises and acting on them today. "

" Great faith isn't the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It's simply taking God at His word and taking the next step."