I’m Not Ready!

I’m not ready!

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'” (2 Cor 12:9).

If there is one thing that is consistent throughout scripture, it is this: God calls people when they are not ready. God will never call you into service when you think you are ready. This is intentional on God’s part.

And, you can be sure when God calls you, you will have similar responses as Saul did when he was called to be the first king, or Gideon, when he was called to take down the idols in his nation, or Moses, when he was called to deliver his people from Egypt.
Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?” (1 Sam 9:21).

“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Judg 6:15).
But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11).
When God calls, you will most likely be in the most unlikely circumstances to receive that call. You will be in the midst of a crisis, you will lack resources, you will not have the skills you think you need. This too is the way of God.

God does this because He wants you to know your call is only based on His ability, not yours. When you think it is based on you, this is a false humility. And, it is unbelief and disobedience on your part.

Has God called you to something you have failed to do because you felt you were not ready? Repent before the Lord and let God accomplish His will through you.

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Being Led into the Desert

Being Led into the Desert

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (Matt 4:1-2).

After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist He was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be temped by the devil. Jesus was being tempted as a man, not as God. Jesus came to earth as a man to live His life with the same limitations as you and I. Satan wanted him to come out of His human condition into His God nature to deal with His hunger. It was Jesus’ first real test to be a human being.

Some people think God would never lead His people into the desert to be tested. Some would even say this is the devil’s doing. The fact is, both statements are true. God actually uses Satan to test His servants to help develop obedience in their lives.

Jesus had to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit in His life just like you must in order to have victory over temptation. God was testing His obedience. He was not allowed to be God in this situation. This would be true for the rest of His life. The miracles He would perform were the result of seeing what the Father was doing and obeying His commands. Jesus said we would do even greater works than He did because we have the same access to the Father as He did.

God led the people of Israel into the desert to learn something about themselves. They learned about their level of obedience when life became difficult. “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands” (Deut 8:2).

When God leads you into the desert, He is allowing you to learn something about yourself. We all need to learn how we will respond to temptations in our lives. As we press into God during these times the roots of our faith are forced deeper and deeper into the soil of His grace.

Do not fear being led into the desert. This too is the way of God.

Who’s Who: Mary the Mother of John Mark

Who’s Who: Mary, the Mother of John Mark

So, when [Peter] had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.
Acts 12:12

Recommended Reading – Acts 1:12-17

Being called by one’s name is a sign of inclusion, a sign that we are “known.” But when Luke, the writer of Acts, mentions a significant woman by name, he has to explain who she was because she was not well known: “Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark.” Most people would have been familiar with Mark, the cousin of Barnabas and missionary assistant to Barnabas and Paul. But very few knew Mark’s mother’s name.

Mary was not a leader that we know of. But she used what she had to serve the Jerusalem church. She apparently had a large house—vestibule, courtyard, and possibly two stories of living area—and a servant. Her house could be the one referred to as a meeting place in Acts 1:12-17; it was definitely a meeting place in Acts 12:12-17. It was the place where the church gathered to pray for Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem.

You may not have a large house and servants, but everybody has something to use—including the abilities and spiritual gift(s) God has given you. Ask God to show you how to use for Him what you have from Him.

The highest honor in the church is not government but service.
John Calvin

Believing is Seeing

Believing Is Seeing

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1

Recommended Reading – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Before the pioneering work of British surgeon Joseph Lister, it was thought that “bad (infected) air” was the cause of spreading diseases in hospitals. Surgeons operated without sterile hands or instruments. Lister discovered that carbolic acid was an effective disinfectant for hands, wounds, and surgical instruments. His work increased the understanding of the role of germs in spreading, and preventing, disease.
Germs couldn’t be seen, but their effects could be. Survival of patients was “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). And that is what faith is. We cannot apprehend faith with our senses, but we can definitely see its evidence. We see the world that exists and believe God created it (Hebrews 11:3). We can see the changes in our lives and believe the power of God is responsible (John 9:25). We pray and believe God answers our prayers (James 1:6). Like Abraham, we trust God’s words and believe we are made righteous in His sight (Genesis 15:6).

Don’t let faith be a stumbling block. Faith is ultimately dependent on the object of faith—in our case, God and His words. Place your faith in the God you cannot see—believing is seeing.

At the end of the day, faith means letting God be God.
John Blanchard

Amazing!

Amazing!

When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”
Luke 7:9

Recommended Reading – Mark 6:1-6a

These days it is easy to be amazed. With access to videos from all over the world via the Internet, we see things we have never seen before in all realms of life: science, sports, nature, even dogs riding skateboards and surfboards. “Wow, that’s amazing!” has become a cliché—but only because it’s most often true. We do live in an amazing world.

What do you think amazed Jesus? While there are many instances in the four Gospels of people being amazed at Jesus’ words and works, there are only two times when we read of Jesus being amazed at something (or “marveling” at something). Both times, He was amazed at faith—once when He found it where He least expected it (Luke 7:9) and once where He didn’t find it when He most expected it (Mark 6:6). Faith, or its absence, is apparently a subject of amazement to Jesus. He works in its presence (Luke 7) and doesn’t work in its absence (Mark 6).

If you want to amaze Jesus and commend yourself to Him, pray with great faith. After all, without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Faith is to believe what we cannot see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.
Augustine

Infinite Forgiveness

Infinite Forgiveness

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. Ephesians 3:20

Recommended Reading – Psalm 51:1-2, 7-12

Most of us would call this symbol—∞—a figure “8” turned sideways, but math majors know it as the symbol for infinity. Our English word “infinite” comes from the Latin infinitus, a combination of in (not) and finitus (finished). Therefore, infinity means “not finished” or never-ending.

Infinity isn’t easy to grasp, but it is biblical. For instance, Psalm 147:5 says, “[God’s] understanding is infinite”—His understanding is limitless. Paul doesn’t use the word infinity in Ephesians 3:20, but the impact is the same: God is able to do far beyond what we ask or think. There are limits to our thoughts, and God is able to do far beyond our limits in everything. Consider the matter of forgiveness. If we think there are limits to God’s forgiveness of our sins, we need to remember that God is able to exceed our limits in terms of what we ask or think. In fact, the Bible gives no reason to think there are limits at all on God’s love and forgiveness.

If you despair of asking God to forgive you “yet again” for your sins, remember that His understanding—and His forgiveness—are infinite.

God does not wish us to remember what He is willing to forget.
George A. Buttrick

Humility and Entrance Into the Kingdom

Humility

The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise 18:1-7

Preached @ Anchor Community Church on June 21st 2015

Intro

Is there a ‘special’ place in heaven for people like Billy Graham and Mother Theresa? Are there “Super Saints?” Why do we have categories like ‘fired up,’ ‘sold out,’ ‘radical,’ and ‘carnal?’ Is it because we are more enamored with what we are going to do for Jesus, that we have forgot Jesus? After all we go to conferences called ‘Exponential,’ Catalyst’ and ‘Launch,’ to get the strategies we need to change our world! And when we don’t change our worlds like the speakers say, we feel like lesser, second citizen Christians.

Many of us feel the need to be great; to change our world. When the evil Syndrome (The Incredibles) wanted to thwart greatness, he desired to give everyone powers and “When everyone is super, no one will be” No doubt the New Testament church turned their world ‘Upside down,” but was that done through strategies and celebrity speakers? What happened to Ordinary?” Is it possible that turning the world upside down meant being different than the world in very ordinary ways? Theologian Michael Horton writes in his book ‘Ordinary,” “Being Ordinary “is not a call to do less, but to invest in things that we often give up on when we don’t see an immediate return.” Is it possible that we are afraid of ordinary because our culture only celebrates celebrities; even in the church?

Maybe the disciples were feeling a bit of jealousy? Was Peter getting too much attention? Their question was simple, “Who’s the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” The disciples were still trying to figure out God’s “Kingdom” “Who’s going to be the political aids of the king when we take over?” Could it be that we’re afraid of being ordinary citizens in God’s kingdom. I think too often, we are searching for greatness, and the every day grind of being a believer in our world isn’t sexy, and we find out ultimately, it’s too hard. We’re looking to make ‘impacts’ for Jesus, but Jesus has called most of us to ordinary greatness in Him.

Jesus is teaching them that In the Kingdom of God, greatness is measured by humility!

From the Head…

Why A Child?

They were most vulnerable in that context. Most likely the child was a girl, because females in that culture were even more vulnerable. Women and children have often suffered greatly in many cultures, because they were seen as chattel, or insignificant, which is very true in the culture Jesus came into. This child was vulnerable, not by choice, but by the reality he/she was reliant on others for their survival.

It interests me in our culture how men like Sam Harris can assault God’s character because many children are killed daily and God doesn’t do a thing about it, and at the same time be Pro Choice, giving women the ‘right’ to kill their babies for no reason other than convenience.[1] How do we really care for dying children when we support the death of so many in the name of choice and freedom? Does God care? I believe that our text will show that He does.

Greatness In The Kingdom Is Measured By Humility (Mathew 18:4)

Entrance into God’s Kingdom begins with humility, and this word is defined as we said above by vulnerability. It’s a realization that we are incapable. It’s not a trait of the child, like their love, or purity, it’s the fact that child is a lowly citizen in a very cruel world. This is very similar to Jesus’ words in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” We come to Jesus with nothing, trusting that He has everything. This flies in the face of the proud that believe they can earn their way into God’s kingdom. To the atheist/agnostic, it is absurd, not only for believing in a heaven and a god, but assuming that any entity other than yourself is going to do anything for you at all. They mock reliance on a god or gods, or anyone else, and champion self-reliance, which makes them strong and independent. The problem is in reality, when we are truly honest with ourselves, we realize that we are not in as much control of our lives as we think.

Greatness In The Kingdom Is Measured By Serving the Weak (Matthew 18:5)

There are some commentators that see the children as God’s children and “Messenger” of Kingdom (See Matthew 10:40-42), thus receiving their message is receiving Christ. The context however seems to be talking about Humble service, serving those that are weak. It makes sense from the flow that humility (Vulnerability) brings you into the kingdom, then kingdom work would be natural as a result, and serving the vulnerable is at the heart of God. Proverbs 14:31 amongst many other Proverbs says, “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” In our book, Matthew 25:40 seems to reiterate Proverbs, and when talking about those that help those who are vulnerable in the culture, says “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” To “Receive” someone is to become intimately involved with them. The problem in our culture is the needy are invisible, because our worlds are isolated. It is too easy to read verses such as Proverbs 14 and Matthew 25, and skirt over them without any application in our own lives. That’s for other people to do, not me. I too struggle with its application, but it is no excuse for our ignorance of God’s calling on our lives.

Greatness In The Kingdom Is Measured By Holiness (Matthew 18:6)

Lastly, greatness in the God’s Kingdom is measured by holiness. It is better that we tie a “Millstone” around our necks and jump into the sea, than to make just one little one stumble! This is true about literal children and figurative (Spiritual) children. If our lifestyle makes someone else sin, woe be to us. Here we see God’s end game. If you want to exploit children, and make them sin (Via selling drugs, prostitution, robbery, etc.) you WILL get yours! Perfect, holy, righteous and loving justice will come your way! God will not be mocked, so Sam Harris et al, can know that in the end, God wins, and little children, as well as many other victims of exploitation and oppression will be vindicated either on the cross, or through a just judgment of their actions!

The problem is that in our culture, we thing a judging, wrathful God is archaic, and will only lead to violence and hate. Pastor Tim Keller gives the following 2 reasons why we need a judging God, and why it’s great to know there is one. First, it gives Meaning to our actions. Arthur Miller wrote a play called “The Fall,” in which he presented the idea that life is a series of proofs. You prove your smart, capable, good parents, great workers, etc. One day the main character in the story looks up and there is no judge judging, and it caused him great despair because he recognizes that all his actions result in nothing but “endless litigation and arguments.” Without a judge it’s all opinion, there is no real meaning in any of his actions. We may feel more liberated at first, but if we’re really thinking, we’ll eventually realize that without a judge, there is no real meaning in our actions, good or bad. We’ll be like Sisyphus, who pushes a rock up a hill all day, only to have to repeat it the next. And don’t think for a moment that we don’t have judgment, because as Arthur Miller says, that judgment is just a bunch of endless litigation and arguments. Just ask Caitlyn Jenner, Josh Duggar or Tom Brady. They’re judged in the court of public opinion with many opinions and hardly any facts.

A second benefit of a perfect, judging God is It brings Hope to a messed up world. The culture says “if you believe in a judging God, you’ll become violent.” Theologian and Philosopher Miraslov Volf wrote a book entitled “Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation.” Volf is a survivor of the genocide and destruction of the Balkan war. He has seen much oppression and exploitation, and brutal rapes and murders. Volf, himself is a pacifist, and says that the notion of a judging God brings real hope to a world that is characterized by righteous vengeance. He says,

“My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine judgment will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologians of the west. To the person who is inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining you are delivering a lecture in a war zone. Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plunders, then burned and leveled to the ground, who daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit…In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it (The liberal notion of an non-judging, loving God) will invariably die, one will do well to reflect about many other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.”[2]

In other words, those that don’t think we need a prefect, divine judge, they haven’t felt real pain and oppression, because the only thing, the only hope we have of escalating violence is recognizing that “Vengeance is mine says the Lord.” That’s how we can love our enemies, and “bless those that persecute us!

Sin is real, both corporate (V. 7) and individual (VV. 7-9). If you think oppression, exploitation, killing, etc. is wrong, you believe in sin, and you believe in justice. God is not allowing any children to suffer in vain, He is going to righteously judge those for their actions, or their judgment comes on the cross of Jesus Christ.

…to the Heart

Humility is elusive. Some find this “virtue” either weak (Nietzsche) or useless (Ayn Rand). But when we see for real, it’s admired. We’re not talking about successful people going, “Awe shucks, I’m not that great,” or the downtrodden saying “Wore is me, I’m so bad.” We’re talking about individuals who know that without Christ they are nothing, but in Christ, they can humbly serve mankind with an attitude of thanks, not pride. Many of us have read Philippians 2, and discussed the attitude we should have with one another, but we struggle to live it. We know it, but we can’t seem to live it. It is because of that, we can be grateful that Jesus died in our place, because even when we want to do good, we fail miserably. Thanks be to God there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, because God’s justice as well as His love is found on the cross.

Questions To Ponder

Why are these verses here at this time?

How do they speak to the justice of God?

How does this problem of evil connect to the cross of Jesus?

Why does God allow evil to co-exist with His love and grace?

In what way(s) do we contribute to the injustice toward children in the US and the world?

For Further Reading

A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener

The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins

The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti

Sermon On the Mount; Sinclair Ferguson

[1] Most abortions happen in the 1st trimester, and are the result of choice, not the mother’s health, rape or incest., which make up about %2 of abortions in America

[2] Miraslov Volf, “Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation”, pg. 304 (Kindle Reader)