Let me ask you a question that is sort of an extension of my last post.
What makes the heart of God glad or happy?
Have you ever thought about it? Many writers and speakers suggest that it is solely the content of your heart that matters to God. In the most basic sense I agree with them. However, it’s in the practice of our lives that I have a pretty serious disagreement with that sentiment. Let me restate that position with an addition that I believe makes the statement more accurate.
God is pleased solely by the content of our heart as demonstrated by our actions. More simply stated, you act upon that which you really believe.
1 Peter 1:2 states… “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”
We were chosen by God for obedience.
As I’m sure you understand obedience always carries with it the concept of behavior and not simply intention. It’s great that you feel and perhaps can even articulate strongly a particular belief, but until that belief begins to alter your behavior it is simply not…. what’s the word…. ah yes….it is simply not yet FAITH.
You see, faith alters behavior. Faith always alters behavior! You may concede a point stated in the scriptures, you may even include it in your own personal magna carta and defend that point to your peers, but until it begins to alter your life, it has not risen to the level of faith. We are not called to only believe, but to have FAITH! Faith alters behavior!
This morning I was thinking about how we have redefined yet another great word and in the redefinition have completely lost it’s meaning.
That word is repentance.
The word repentance is found in hundreds of biblical references. The Greek word used most often in the New Testament is the word μετανοέω pronounced metanoeō and it has a meaning different from the way we most often think about what repentance is. For most people, when you mention that a person should repent from their sins what comes to mind is the sorrow or remorse that a person feels and expresses at the moment of salvation.
While this is awesome and is a part of the definition of the word, it is an incomplete definition. When this word is used in the context of salvation it is the response to that remorse and sorrow that is crucial to the definition. This word does indeed denote a change of mind, but wherever it is used in connection with salvation it is the development of a desire to flee from the wrath that accompanies sin that is very important.
This sense causes a person to seek the relief that only comes from a change in lifestyle or the turning away from the old sin-filled life.
Stated more simply, it is not primarily about how you feel, it is about what you do in response to how you feel. In our effort to understand grace and a salvation not based on works we have thrown out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
Being a follower of Jesus begins and is lived in a state of being constrained. Just because a thing does not have the power to make you unsaved does not mean you should do it. In fact I have serious concerns about the state of a person’s salvation who consistently behaves in a manner contrary to the person of Christ. We have turned from the old life to the new. We have turned from the dark to the light.
Let’s not turn back!
I was thinking last night about something that I wish I would never have to think about again. I was dwelling on the faces of a couple who no longer attend our church. I know that it shouldn’t but it always bothers me when someone chooses not to attend. It’s always amazing to me how my logical mind can see all of the new families and excitement and yet the emotional part of me is still bothered for months about a few who have made a decision to do something else.
I think the reason that it bothers me is that no one learns anything and no one grows. You see it’s easy to quit. Pastors quit when leading gets hard or resistance is felt or they feel unappreciated. Church members quit when they feel unattended, uncared for or unheard. I have decided that even if a pastor faces difficulties and IS unappreciated and even if church members ARE uncared for and unheard you should NEVER QUIT! I have friends in the ministry that believe that it’s better for some people to move on to some other church. I wholeheartedly disagree!
My rational for that statement comes from thinking about what the purpose of the church is. Our foremost commission is certainly reaching the lost, but secondary only to that is the discipleship and growth of the members of the Body of Christ. Now do you suppose that the development of character and REAL strength comes from ease or difficulty? The difficulty of living in proper relation with others in the Body of Christ causes us to grow and become stronger. Perhaps the thing about your church that you dislike the most, is there by God’s design to change who and what you are. Perhaps it’s time that we as members of the Body of Christ put away the consumer mindset that says we should always have everything we want and we will shop until we find a church custom made for us and determine that we will learn, change, and grow to fill our place of ministry right where we are.
You can be sure that Satan is watching. If there is a thing that can cause you to quit, then you can be sure that it’s on the way. I have said for years to my congregations that the chance of me offending you is 100%. Stick around long enough and my life will be moving across yours. It’s in that moment that you and I both learn and grow. If we quit neither of us learns anything!
Just some thoughts!
Have you ever been around someone who is never thankful for anything? I regret to say that I have. These people are like giant sponges that suck all of the life out of everything and everyone they come in contact with. They are literally death.
Paul had an interesting take on what refusing to be thankful to God would lead to. In Romans 1:21-25 we read…
“Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened… Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised.”
Paul said that these people knew God but refused to glorify God or to give Him the thanks that He deserved.
In short, they refused to be thankful.
It is the end result of that strikes me as profound.
Their lack of thanksgiving resulted in immorality and sin. Thanksgiving is an insulator against immorality and sin in our lives. If you think about it, that makes sense. A God, who in our minds is worthy of praise and thanksgiving and who is seen as the author of every good thing in our lives, is also a God whom we wish to serve and obey. A God, who we view so small as to allow us to ignore his blessings and whose justice and righteousness we can disregard, is also one easily disobeyed.
Therefore, thanksgiving is a thermometer for you soul.
It diagnoses what is really going on inside.
Check yourself today. Are you a person more prone to complain or to give thanks? One leads to life and the other to death.
Blessings and have a great Thanksgiving Season!
Last night I was involved in one of the saddest evenings I’ve had in a very long time. A young lady that I know had posted some things on Facebook that I felt compelled to respond to. During the course of my response to her I simply assured her of our love for her and the constancy of that love no matter what she chooses. During the course of this, a couple of her friends began to post concerning the existence or lack of existence of God and the foolishness of those who believe in God.
My sadness resulted from the resoluteness of these early teens’ conviction in things contrary to God. They spouted things related to their belief like an understanding of DMT (Dimethyltryptamine), a natural occurring hormone in the body that contributes to our ability to dream and in recent years has been suggested to account for the “near-death heaven” experiences as it is released at death. DMT is a class one hallucinogen that is now used like LSD in the 60’s. These kids joked with each other about the availability of it in Alton and even jokingly encouraged each other to try it. All of this from very young teens and seemingly without any thought for the consequences of joking about these things much less actually believing in and potentially acting upon these beliefs. I realize that there is a pretty good chance that much of this communication is teen bravado and probably not the actual experience of these kids but the ease with which they speak of these things indicates at least a knowledge and perhaps actual experience.
My question is where are the parents of these teens? Where is the adult supervision of their development and where are the guardians of their future? To be honest I am concerned that they might actually be experimenting with DMT but I am more concerned that teens in the most formative years of their lives are being left alone to embrace whatever seems best to them and then to encourage through social network sites, their friends to do the same. From what I can tell, these discussions are a nightly occurrence with no parental consequence of any kind.
Teens are no different today than they have always been. They crave freedom, expression, independence, and notoriety. What has changed is that in past generations there were diligent, strong, caring parents present to guide these kids around the destructive patterns that I witnessed last evening.
What does that mean to us?
Our job has never been bigger or more difficult and our time has never been shorter. Will you join me in praying that God would give us strategies and resources to intervene in these lives before its too late? It will be yet another really hard thing, but hey we love those!
Just a few days ago kids from all over the world celebrated Halloween. Our church even entered a float into Alton’s Halloween parade. I commissioned the float, helped construct it, then walked with it in the parade. Our church even had a Trunk or Treat on the Sunday evening prior to Halloween.
My post today is for those who believe that Halloween is Satan’s Holliday and as such, the church should boycott anything and everything about this day. Now while I am in complete agreement with us refusing the things that have a clear connection with the evil aspects of this day, I refuse to accept that there is a day or a place that the church cannot go.
I believe that October 31 was a day created for God to be praised long before Halloween came to be. If Satan or the world stole it, then let’s take it back! We can’t do that at home with the blinds drawn, sitting in a back room with the lights out! Just a thought.
On Saturday I got a terrible message from one of my Facebook friends. In the message she told me of the tragic death of a wonderful lady and her grandson in a traffic accident. Most of you would not know this family but both generations who suffered loss in this accident were really great godly people who have been a great blessing to my life. In one moment a wonderful godly man and minister lost his wife and a nine-year-old grandson. Both of his sons who lost their mother are ministers. The eldest son’s wife is ordained as well and serves as the Women’s Ministries director for the Arkansas District and it was their son who was killed in the accident with his grandmother.
I refuse this early in their grief to try and make some sort of sense out of this. What I do ask that each of you who reads this blog would hold this family up in your prayers.
What I will point out to you is that even the very best and most choice of God’s people suffer.
I will however, draw some conclusions about what will happen to these people that will stand in sharp contrast to those who face these things without the Lord. These people will survive. How do I know this, because I know of their faith. These are not casual believers. They are not Christians in name only. They are the real deal. They have been tried before and while this is undoubtedly the greatest trial yet, they didn’t quit after the smaller trials. They have stored up in their hearts a faith that will hold them up now. It might be shaken but it will hold. The darkness that would overwhelm others will get deep but in the depth of the night when others are alone with their grief, this family will not be alone. They know a friend that sticks closer than a brother, (Proverbs 18:24) and the brother created for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17) They are in the fire, but there is a fourth man in the fire with them and he is the Son of God!
What about you? Would you survive? Would you indict God or continue to serve Him in the face of a thousand questions?
It’s about a real faith.