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No Good Thing…

mire

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. – Psalm 84:11

This is an incredible promise and one that those who trust in the Lord can place their hope. It’s also the kind of verse that is so often misunderstood and taken as a promise for the unbelieving, or even worse used in prosperity teaching. I have full confidence that this verse is completely true, yet I don’t always know what’s good for me.

Yesterday our two-year old daughter Lydia openly defied instruction and I was able to live out this verse in her life. She is my daughter, I love her, and I won’t withhold what is good for her. However, she didn’t see it that way. In fact she really didn’t care much for my love for her and I’m reminded that often what might not seem “good” is what we really need the most.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

This verse is also often misquoted as to provide comfort to people and used in evangelism without understanding the whole story. I know I’ve used this verse wrongly in the past and I’d like to really look at what’s “good” and what the LORD will not withhold from us.

Jeremiah was called by God to speak to a wicked and rebellious generation, to call them to repentance and return to the LORD. What an overwhelming task. What an overwhelming task before us today, to preach the gospel of peace to people. Those same people that don’t want to hear, just as those God sent Jeremiah to.

Jeremiah 38:6 So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the king’s son, which was in the court of the prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire.

When Jeremiah preached the good news he was rewarded with a trip to the dungeon and for God’s eternal purposes this was good for him. It’s not our general idea of good, but this word means – (to be good, be pleasing, be joyful, be beneficial, be pleasant, be favourable, be happy, be right). I’m not sure the experience of the mire was pleasant for Jeremiah, but it was certainly beneficial.

Our experiences, the ones that we don’t necessarily deem enjoyable are beneficial. They are meant for good. We see this in the example of Joseph.

Genesis 50:20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

Doesn’t this sound familiar to Jeremiah’s story and more importantly how it points us to Jesus?

Acts 13:27-33 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead. He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the father. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus.

Jesus considered the joy that was set before Him, the cross that He would die upon, the physical torture and for the only time in eternity, He would have the wrath of God poured out upon Him, a benefit. A benefit that His called out ones could bring Him glory on this earth, because this is the ultimate reality of salvation; the glory of God.

It is, after all, the chief end of man.

Beloved, we must consider our momentary trials and tribulations pure joy (James 1:2-4). The scripture leaves no room for any other interpretation. It’s not always fun. It’s not always our desire, but it is providentially God’s plan for you, and for me. This is a bitter pill to swallow far more often than we desire. But if you are in Christ, you are a new creation, and we can take comfort that God has a plan that far outweighs our comfort.

Kevin

 

Are Your Children Saved?

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One of the great tragedies of religion is the failure to identify and deal with the truth of biblical conversion. As I think back to my life before salvation and the different churches I had attended I was never once asked when and how I was saved. I guess it was assumed that being in a church meant I was saved.

Why would this presupposition be any different with children today?

I believe there is major deception among Bible believing churches and church attendees that don’t know how to deal with this subject. I can tell you that I didn’t know how to deal with it.

First of all, I didn’t even know that I wasn’t saved, until my salvation was challenged.   If you’ve ever asked someone about their salvation and they become offended I’d really wonder why? Isn’t this a legitimate question for Believers to ask of one another? Isn’t God brought the glory He deserves when we discuss how He saved someone?

Salvation is a super-natural work of God where He takes a dead, God-hating soul and regenerates that heart into a heart that has all new desires. It’s really here that this topic begins. We must first understand it’s a work of God. In order to be saved we must recognize we need saving.   We were, or still are, spiritually dead.

Ephesians 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…

If we don’t understand the significance of this verse, there is no understanding of the doctrine of salvation. Paul is writing to the saints (those set apart for service and worship of God) and he is telling them Christ made them alive. Why? Because they were DEAD!

Secondly, we must understand that God does it.

The prophet Ezekiel wrote about this super-natural work and we can see the purpose and reason behind salvation. Do we benefit from salvation? Most certainly, but is it primarily for our benefit, absolutely not.

Ezekiel 36:22-23   “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the LORD God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but my My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the LORD God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.

This is God exalting, pride crushing, man debasing theology at its finest. “IF” you are saved, if your children are saved, it’s by the grace of God to bring Him glory. If you think that your salvation is about you then you need to read this again and humble yourself under the mighty hand of God.

It’s important to quickly note that Israel is not the nation state of Israel. Israel is Believers; God’s chosen people, not just Israelites, although some are included in this group. See Romans 2:28-29, 9:6-13, 1 Kings 19:10-18.

Ezekiel 36:24-25 For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

Do you recognize your filthiness and your idols? When I think about mine before salvation and what God rescued me from, I’m overcome by the work that God has done in my life. Do you ever look back and think, “that was me, but for the grace of God?” When you go into a large public gathering do you look around and see the idols and the filthiness? Do you ever wonder who will be saved? Does it break your heart for the lost?

Ezekiel 36:26-27 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

Did you have anything to do with your salvation? Did you lead your children in a prayer or manipulate them into asking Jesus into their hearts? This verse could not be any clearer. Jesus affirmed this in John 3 when He challenged Nicodemus with his salvation.

Ezekiel 36:31 Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loath yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations.

Jesus said it this way “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3

If you have no recognition of your past, and your offenses against God, if you think that your children are relatively decent or well behaved children, you don’t understand the holiness of God. Without this recognition there is no chance for them to be saved.

God saves those of a humble and broken spirit (Psalm 51, Matthew 5:4, James 4:9). Broken and humbled over their sin and their offenses against a holy God; recognizing their filthiness. This applies to you, it applies to me, and it certainly applies to our children. Jesus told us the path that leads to life is narrow. Salvation is not decisional, it’s recognition of your sin, repenting and living in a manner completely different to which you were.

If we, as parents, can understand the gravity of salvation there is a much better chance for our children to be saved as we accurately present the gospel. In the end there is nothing more important.

Kevin

What’s Your Goal?

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Isn’t it important to have goals in life? Should we set one, five and ten year plans and then evaluate ourselves by how we’ve done?

Last week I had lunch with my Pastor and as we sat talking he said to me “what’s the goal?” We had been discussing sports and the ends that parents will go to see their children involved and to achieve a level of “success”. I’m not going to bash participation in sports, because this isn’t just about sports.

You name the activity that we can apply this to; it could be sports, music, or how about education? The answer really does come back to what is the goal, because as I sat there and thought about the discussion shouldn’t this be the ultimate reality?

If I have a desired outcome for myself, or my children, I really should make an attempt at evaluating where this might end up. I’m the father of four girls and none of them have shown a tremendous interest in sports, so I really can’t relate to loading up the old van and carting them off to a practice each and every day but we do have them involved in other activities, that can easily give way to over extending ourselves.

If I ask myself the question above, I should have a goal for what these activities will produce in their lives.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.   I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:12-14

Is this the goal?

Don’t skim over this verse today. I think if you have any other goal than this for your children you’ve got a man-centered focus. If you want them to be happy, successful, wealthy, married, live in a certain neighborhood, be close to you, be far from you, no matter what you hold dear, if it doesn’t include this as the primary goal, you are missing the mark. Your priorities are out of order.

You will undoubtedly say to me, “well of course this is our goal for our children, what a ridiculous statement.” Okay, fair enough, but do you live like it? I don’t want to get off track looking into a pragmatic lifestyle that includes Saturday night church so you can attend that special Lord’s Day practice, or the “well it’s only this one Sunday…” that we’ll miss to attend that game, or be part of the prestigious, you name it event. But I don’t want this to be about following a set of rules. Don’t throw me under the legalism bus, because this is not about legalism.

What’s your heart?

Scripture is clear… “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some…” Hebrews 10:25

Churches have had to react to the dismissal attendance of the Lord’s Day gathering just to keep people coming, rather than risk the loss of “business” it’s far more prudent to at least get them in on Saturday then not have them come at all right?  I will rhetorically ask the question, but isn’t the first day of the week the Lord’s “Day”?  Not just an hour and out, but a full day devoted to worship and rest?

Let me ask question. Would you trade your soul, or your children’s souls for all the riches in the world, or for the pinnacle of whatever activity they participate in?

You and I will of course say, “Absolutely not, and I’m offended you’d even ask that question!” But do you live like it? Do you tell your children that church is secondary to whatever activity you deem most important? Do you tell them by your actions?

When they walk away from any interest in religious activities after they are out of your house will you be surprised?   I see too many parents that call themselves Christians that are more than willing to sacrifice their children on the altar of Baal and I’m saddened and burdened by this decision. If we sat down to talk, I’m sure they would have the best of intentions, and they’d probably have a good reason why they think they are doing the right thing. I’m sure of it.

I don’t stand here today as some sort of a self-righteous, hypocrite that wants to beat my chest and say look at how holy I am… because outside of the grace of God I’d be there. I’ve been challenged to consider what it looks like to “really” desire the salvation of my children. I need to consistently resist the “opportunities” that surface, where it just might make sense to avoid a gathering at our church to do something else.

The pressure is consistently there and always pressing in on us.

“Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14

Could the Lord’s word be any clearer? Don’t be fooled into thinking you are offering your children anything better than seeing you humbled and on your knees before the Almighty God each and every opportunity you have to darken the door of your church. Allow them to see you reading your bible and leading them in family worship. Don’t miss the short few years you have to preach the gospel to their hearts, even if they become the best at whatever the flesh might offer them.

I hope someone reading this today will think about what is really important. I sure I hope I will.

“But seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (emphasis mine) – Mathew 6:33

 

Kevin

I have a headache…

distance

For those that are Christians and for those that profess Christianity this is a difficult topic but it’s a topic that affects us all. Let’s look to the Word of God as our source text to examine our lives and hold it up to the microscope of the Scriptures so we may honor God in His institution of marriage.

Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

This discussion begins with God’s design for marriage and married life. It’s really pretty simple. God designed marriage with three primary practical functions and a fourth function which is to mirror the relationship between Christ and the Church; I will not explore the relationship between Christ and the Church in this article, but we will briefly examine the other three purposes.

The first function of marriage is procreation. Genesis 1:28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Being fruitful and multiplying beyond two is not very popular today, especially if you get a boy and a girl. In an extreme case if you have two of the same variety, then it’s acceptable to try for the other, but it’s not generally accepted beyond three in our modern society. Has God changed His mind on this subject?  To the contrary, just because pragmatism and worldly thinking has invaded the church does not mean God has not clearly spoken. Be fruitful and multiply… I once heard someone say “if God is going to give you a blessing, why would you refuse it?”

The second function of marriage is companionship. Genesis 1:18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

Wives, God designed you to be a helper to your husband. He should be setting the vision for the family and your role is to help him achieve his vision and carry it out, another unpopular view for marriage in today’s world but no less truthful than it was in the beginning. Wives this should be a joyful opportunity to live out your God given role as a wife and helper.

The third function is sexual union for enjoyment and prevention of immorality. Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

God made them male and female, they fit together, this is obvious, and this is obviously why and how God designed it. God also designed men and women to think differently. It was perfect in the beginning and then sin entered the picture and the whole perfect design was distorted, polluted and infected with sin.

This is what we have today, and that sin has causes struggles and issues inside of God’s design. We clearly see it all around us that sexuality is distorted. We have distortions in all kinds of sexual perversions and deviations. But this was not God’s plan for any of the three reasons above and if you call yourself a Believer you are to live a life that brings glory to God and look different than the rest of the world. Your marriage should reflect Christ and the Church, it should procreate, help, and enjoy.

1 Corinthians 7 gives us a much more microscopic view of the topic of sexual intimacy that is to occur within a marriage. Within this are some sub-categories of the purpose of marriage. It draws husband and wife closer to one another. It’s designed to be a preventative against sexual immorality. And most importantly it teaches us to deny ourselves. When we don’t always “feel” like it, what an opportunity to seek the good of your spouse.

1 Corinthians 7:2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband.

Wives this is a big reason God has ordained intimacy in a marriage. Men are just plain wired differently than you and when you, as a helper, can complete him in this area you have assisted him greatly. Not only are you fulfilling God’s commands but you are also helping to keep him from sin. Have you ever considered it that way? You can be the gate-keeper or the one holding the gate open. This does not relieve your husband of his responsibility to control himself, but you play a big role.

1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due to her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.

At this point things begin to be challenging, so let’s look at this verse carefully. The word render means to give away, to perform, to give (again), to deliver (again), it means it’s not a one-time deal, but to be consistently giving away. Husbands it’s your responsibility to give your wife affection consistently. Affection can mean to grab her hand during the day, or touch her shoulder, communicate with her, but at its root is conjugal.

yoo’-noy-ah – kindness; euphemistically conjugal duty: – benevolence, good will. Husbands you are to render to your wife sexual intimacy.

1 Corinthians 7:4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

Try selling this one in today’s society. You will be laughed out of town if you stood on a street corner preaching this verse. Can this really be what Paul meant? No wonder his teaching is so hated and avoided by most “churches”. This means what it says. It’s so plain and obvious, and so rejected by most, even those that call themselves Christians. I understand the unbelieving world will scoff at this verse, I understand it will be rejected by them, but if you are redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb are you going to reject clear biblical teachings? This is a big question and one we must answer. God will hold husbands and wives accountable to this standard.

1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self control.

Quoting from the MacArthur study bible on this verse: the word deprive, Lit. “stop depriving each other!” This command may indicate that this kind of deprivation was going on among believers, perhaps reacting to the gross sexual sins of their past and wanting to leave all that behind.”

In order to bring glory to God, His word tells us the marriage bed is undefiled, yet it’s often treated and understood as something dirty and defiled. We all have past sins that either Christ has forgiven you of or He hasn’t; if He hasn’t then repent and be forgiven.

Be saved!

If He has forgiven you then live like it. Live in His grace and live in His design for marriage. Enjoy what the Lord has offered as a blessing and be grateful for His gifts.

Song of Songs 1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—For your love is better than wine.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Kevin

 

Let us reason together…

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“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

I’ve been challenged recently with how I reason with people. I’ve often been harsh and judgmental in my reasoning as I wrote about recently and this often hurts my testimony. It puts up walls and causes people not to hear the message. Yet, sometimes God uses this to grow me and mature me for His purposes. It doesn’t mean I stop learning, but it means that I plan my way and the LORD directs my path. Ultimately He is in control.

What does it mean to reason together?

yaw-kakh’

A primitive root; to be right (that is, correct); reciprocally to argue; causatively to decide, justify or convict: – appoint, argue, chasten, convince, correct (-ion), daysman, dispute, judge, maintain, plead, reason (together), rebuke, reprove (-r), surely, in any wise.

A Christian should be consistently refining and improving in this area of their daily life. Our job is to convict, reprove and to argue, but doesn’t this sound harsh and judgmental? Do we really go around disputing with people all day long?

The idea of reasoning is to present a case, to cognitively persuade someone of the truth; as in court, where the attorneys argue their cases. When I use the term argue I don’t mean what most people think of in terms of an argument, but a back and forth presentation of ideas.   Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:25 that in humility believers are to correct those in opposition.

What are they in opposition to? They are in opposition to the truth correct? Most people and even those that name the name of Christ object to the truth of Scripture. There is a tremendous amount of emotion when most people argue; I’ve certainly been guilty of this more than I care to recall. When we can learn to reason well, our witness is much more powerful and effective.

Reasoning and argument is a gift God has given us. He has given us the ability to “think”. If we can think properly and biblically we stand on firm ground and this should be the basis for our argument.

2 Timothy 2:14 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.

Ouch… Do we see what Paul is telling Timothy on how he should pastor a church? He tells him to teach his people how to argue; how to present the truth and be focused on the Lord.

And how do we do this Paul?

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

The directive is crystal clear if we are willing to accept it. And of course if we claim fellowship with Christ we must accept it or we are not truly His. We are to present ourselves approved to God, by rightly understanding Scripture and properly using Scripture in our arguments to convince people if they are in error.

We are to reason with them, gently, not striving and quarreling about useless words, but using God’s word to show them if they are in error.

This is not popular in today’s culture. It’s never been popular, but as we look to Christ as our example we can see that He always challenged people in their sin. His example is perfect and it was always done in love, but we must remember that He was hated for it. In fact so hated they crucified Him. Have you been hated enough for your reasoning they wanted to crucify you? If we argue and reason perfectly as Jesus did, then they will. It’s guaranteed.

2 Timothy 3:10-12 But you have carefully followed by doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions…what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

My sin too often gets in the way of my reasoning for it to be effective, but sometimes I argue well, and by God’s grace I’m growing in this area of my life. As I learn to properly divide Scripture I trust God will use that to grant some repentance. That they just might come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil. Whether they realize it or not they’ve been taken captive by him to do his will.

If you are a Believer and you spend time having discussions with people you must realize they reside in one of two camps. They believe or they don’t believe, and if you care about their eternal soul you will challenge their beliefs with the truth of God’s word.

Let’s learn to reason well; so that we can properly present the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ that some might be saved.

 

Kevin

I’m a Good Person…

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I don’t believe I’ve ever met a person that hasn’t thought themselves a good person, for the most part. Most of them will say, “I’m not perfect, but I’m basically good.”

I’m old enough to be a Seinfeld aficionado and there is an episode “The Bizarro Jerry”. Jerry, Kramer and George, have exact opposites and Elaine becomes friends with them. They are actually nice and the George counter-character is not cheap but generous. They like to go the library and read, not sit in a coffee shop making fun of people.

Christianity is kind of like the Bizarro-world. Everything is upside down. “The first will be last and the last will be first”, “he who desires to save his life will lose it and he who desires to lose his life will find it”. The Son of Man came to serve and be a ransom for many; it goes on and on…

So why is it not surprising to me that when people think they are “good” they are not? They might be nice, they might be kind and they are probably “good” by the world’s standards but how do they measure up to the biblical standard?

“They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” – Romans 3:12

Matthew 19:17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

And of course this man said to Jesus, “whew…I didn’t think I could be good enough to keep the commandments, now what should I do?” Unfortunately, just like you and me, this man thought he was good enough. His sin had him deceived and the hard impenitent heart must be broken and crushed. If Jesus didn’t love him He wouldn’t have exposed his sin. He would have allowed him to stay in his deception.

When I consider whether I really love someone or not I must expose sin in their life or there’s no chance to break up the “good person” fallacy. I must be like Jesus.

Matthew 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

That was it…the challenge to this young man’s life was to sell everything he had. Give up everything that is important to you. Abandon your life as you know it…   Stop sinning, and follow Me!

What do you place as a priority in your life over Jesus?

If it’s anything and I really do mean anything you are the rich young ruler. You MUST be willing to sell it all. The command is clear. It’s easy to read it plainly and understand what Jesus is demanding, so don’t tell me Jesus didn’t really mean I need to sell everything. Maybe He did for you? Maybe He did for me? I don’t know for sure, but I know He’s telling you and me today, that we are holding onto something that we deem more precious than Him.

This is why Christianity is even more bizarre than the Seinfeld Bizarro-world, it’s completely upside down and counter-cultural, and the world hates it. The world hates it because it loves sin, and we love our sin, until the great physician heals us.

The biggest question you can ask yourself today “Is this the Christianity that I know?” Will you willing give up your life as you know it to follow Him?

Are you “good person”, or are you in need of a Lord and a Savior?

When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” – Matthew 9:12-13

If your hope is built on anything but Christ’s righteousness, you only have your own righteousness. You are not sick and don’t need a physician. But if you realize your goodness can only be found in Him then you’ve found the right Jesus.

I must and Believers must expose the “goodness” of man for what it is, filthy rags, and call sinners to repentance. If you are to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ, then we must be like Christ in how we evangelize, if we truly love them and desire the best for them.

As we learn to love people more and more we must also realize that they crucified Jesus. His love was the perfect love, but it didn’t mean the message was always popular.

Let’s go out today and “Be Like Jesus”

Kevin

Take the good person test

Fertile Ground

IMG_6931We’ve lived in our home for nearly twenty years now and the one thing I’ve learned is that we don’t always get projects done around our house quickly. Not that we don’t have the best intentions, it’s just that life takes over and the things we’d like to do get put on the back burner.

The west facing wall of our home has been one of those non-priority projects that has take a bit of time to accomplish. We remodeled our basement to create some new rooms a couple years ago to accommodate our growing family and we put in some egress windows. These make the bedrooms legal so we can have two ways of escape in the event of a fire. This requires digging out the ground around the basement wall, cutting holes in the wall and then putting in windows and window wells which keep the dirt back.

We’ve wanted to plant something along this side of the house for years, and we finally, and when I say “we”, I mean Jen and the girls. Okay, mostly Jen, but the girls assisted with the little ones while she was planting them.

We took great care in selecting our new plants and our desire is for them to grow and flourish in the place we picked to plant them. What will determines success depends on many things. We must do our part in order for there to be a chance of success, but we can’t guarantee it, only give them care and nurturing and then trust what we’ve done will be enough.

Do you see the similarity to the gospel and the planting of God’s Word into the hearts of those around you?

I’m primarily thinking of my children in this analogy, but it certainly applies to all we come into contact, and I’m always hopeful someone that reads this will consider themselves and those around them.

In order to increase our “odds” I must take some steps.

Good Soil

We must plant our plants in good soil. Iowa has a lot of clay and around our home is no exception. It’s so hard and sticky, when we dug the holes it was a big job just to keep the shovel on the back hoe clean. It’s very hard soil and it won’t grow plants well without adding top soil and fertilizer.

Matthew 13:8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

If we want to yield a crop, we must plant in good ground. Jesus tells us in the parable of the soils, not all the seed will fall on good ground, so it’s crystal clear that not everyone will receive the word. But if it’s up to us, we must spread good seed (The Word of God), and it must land on good soil. This is not soil that we have prepared, its soil that God has prepared, it’s God that opens hearts to receive His word.

…but we must prepare hearts to receive the word through teaching and proclaiming properly. In the case of my children I prepare their hearts by cultivating it with the Word of God. As a practical example this means sitting with them and opening the Bible, reading it and teaching from it.

This is my responsibility as a father to my children.

Ephesians 6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

If I don’t bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord, I’m provoking them to wrath. Fathers, you are provoking your children to wrath if you don’t bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Have you ever thought of it that way before? [1]

Prepare the soil to receive the good seed, by training and admonishing them, do it today and everyday you have opportunity. Don’t delay, because every day that soil can harden and become more like clay.

Hebrews 3:13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

It Needs Water

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

If the word is received on good ground and it appears to blossom for a while, that young plant will need watering through reading and study of God’s Word.

Do you know or are you a Christian that doesn’t read and study your Bible? Then you’re not a true Christian, or you are a rebellious one. Jesus tells us you will need this like plants need water to live.

John 4:13-14 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Pull the Weeds

Weeds choke out and take over. If you don’t, fertilize, water and tend to the care of your lawn, or your garden you will have nothing but weeds. It’s true in this example and it’s true in the hearts of sinful man.

Matthew 13:7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.

God’s Word is clear and so is the instruction for the Christian. If this doesn’t describe your life, I’d urge you to humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. Seek his righteousness first, and don’t put off the preparing of that soil.

Kevin

[1] Elder Nick Rolland sermon on Ephesians 6:4

Do you have a reservation?

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My business has me staying in a lot of hotels. When I walk into a hotel there is always that anxious moment that my name won’t be on the list. Many times these reservations are made for me by someone else, and so it’s often a guess as to what name they used.

I’ve stayed in some pretty lousy hotels, but I’ve also stayed in some that are absolutely beautiful and way beyond my means. When you step into them you realize that this is a really nice hotel. It feels pretty good when you step up to the reception desk to be greeted by the hotel staff and asked “how can I help you?”

“I believe I’m staying here”, is often my response.   As I hand them my identification there is always that moment you wonder if your name will be there. I’ve been to the wrong hotel before, and that’s an awkward moment. Is it the other one that is across town?

There is coming a day when we will all stand before God and our name will either be on the list or it won’t and today it’s important to take a moment and think about your life. Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?

Revelation 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead small and great, standing before God, and the books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.   The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

If you think you are in awe when you walk into the lobby of a Hyatt Regency or some other extravagant hotels imagine the day you will approach the throne of God?   Heaven and earth cannot begin to look upon His glory, they must flee says verse 11.

Can you envision what this day will be like? All will be judged by two standards. Two books are opened. One contains our works. Everything we’ve ever done will be judged. All our works brought into judgment by a God so awesome we can’t even look upon His glory; so glorious the earth and heavens flee from Him.

In the beginning of his heavenly vision John fell to his face as if he were dead at the awesome sight of the resurrected Christ. This is not a God that is the “Big Guy” upstairs. He is God and He is to be worshipped and feared, because He will judge according to our works.

Every thought you’ve ever had, every nasty little thing you’ve done, every remark you’ve ever made about someone. As I think deeply about my thought life I’m repulsed by who I am. I need Jesus. I need Him to cleanse me; I need Him to purify me, because when the books are opened I’ve got no chance outside of His righteousness.

Revelation 21:6-8 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be His God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Do we see the transition here to the answer for eternal life?

He who thirsts… He who overcomes…

How do you get this thirst and how can you possibly overcome? Only through Christ is the answer. He is the only One that can satisfy. In myself I’m cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murdering, sexually immoral, sorcerer, idolater, and liar. I have no hope.

My sin is my problem. Jesus Christ is my remedy.

Romans 3:21-24 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…

We’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None is righteous in His sight. But God is rich in mercy and sent Jesus Christ to live the life we couldn’t live to justify those who believe in Him as their only hope.

It’s the Good News!

The big question is do you believe that? And will your name be written in the Book of Life?

Repent and turn from your sins if this is a God you do not know, believe in Him and believe His work is sufficient to save your soul.

Kevin

It’s all about me!

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I’m a selfish man by nature… I really can’t help, I was born that way.

I was thinking about this recently and discussing how easy it is to live that way with a brother of mine. It comes quite naturally in most situations, but one of the times I notice it most is when I return from business trips.

I’m in an unusual sort of business. Believe it or not someone pays me to provide times for the participants in a running race. This business requires me to be away from home on numerous occasions and sometimes during the peak running season I can be gone for up to a week at some of our very large events.

It’s in these times that I’m particularly prone to myself. It’s almost like a surreal world that I reside when I’m at these events. The bottom line is that I have a certain amount of work that needs to be accomplished and I need to ensure it gets done. I wake up when I need to wake up, do the things that I need to do, feed myself when I’m hungry (in most cases) and don’t have to wait around for a wife and children.

It’s probably similar to a military man on deployment. He’s hanging with the guys and then they head out on their missions. When I come home it’s sometimes difficult to re-adjust. I have to attempt to snap out of “Kevin only” mode and start considering the ones God has placed in my life to nurture. It’s really much more difficult than you think and on more than one occasion (or maybe all of them), my wife has to gently remind me that she desires adult conversation when I return home. And, “oh right, I almost forgot God requires me to lead my family.”

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s word is sharper than any two-edged sword, and it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and this is very sharp indeed for me.

Husbands love your wives…  Ephesians 5:25

Husbands your wife is a weaker vessel… 1 Peter 3:7

Father’s train your children… Ephesians 6:4

It goes on and on for me and I’ve often found myself knowing that I need to put things off to stay ahead of the impending email that will soon invade my inbox. I’m pulled in a lot of directions, because Jen wants me to lead and I just got done leading and I’m a bit worn out.

It would certainly be a lot easier to just hide somewhere, but I can’t wait to get home and I can’t wait to see Jen and the girls, so the war rages inside.   I have responsibilities and I must provide for my family, but I must also lead them and nourish them and train them.

So the battle continues and it will for a lifetime, because one day the kids will be out of the house and then my role will change, but God still doesn’t let me off the hook. Lord willing I’ll still be a husband, and Lord willing I’ll still be a father, and Lord willing I will be a grandfather and have the opportunity to live out a multi-generational vision for my grandchildren.

What a battle…what a life…what an opportunity to deny myself, take up my cross and serve and honor the Lord.   He never promised a life of ease and comfort, actually just the opposite. If the Christian life you live is a little too easy, maybe it’s not true Christianity and maybe a war needs to rage within you?

It’s pretty easy to live life on cruise control. Jesus said those who desire to keep their life will lose it and those who desire to lose their life will find it. I desire to lose my life, but that doesn’t make it easy.

 

Kevin

Money

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On a recent trip to Seattle I walked into a coffee shop and they had a tip jar with a clever version of a very familiar bible verse. It was slightly altered to meet their intended goals.

It said “Money is the root of all evil. Cleanse yourself here”, I’m not sure they ever read the verse in Paul’s second letter to Timothy where he instructs him to rightly divide the scripture, but that’s a topic for another day.

Money of course itself is not evil, how can it be, it’s an inanimate object. The “love” of money is the object of the verse as Paul is teaching his son, in the faith, Timothy how to pastor a church. Our relationship to money is the point of which Paul is addressing.

rootevil

What you think about “your” money reveals the condition of your heart, and is critical to your relationship with God, because it’s really not your money it’s God’s and He has entrusted you to steward it faithfully.

Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack; Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:21-22

The rich young ruler did all the religious things… He followed all the rules, but when push came to shove it was about his money. Jesus exposes his sinful, idolatrous, greedy, covetous heart and shows him that he is unworthy to follow Him.

Is your money a stumbling block to your relationship with God?

Don’t just pass over this question; your very life may hang in the balance. I can’t possibly know the condition of your heart, but Jesus does, just has He did with the rich young ruler. We all like money, and we all need money but how much is enough and for what reason do you need it?

Acts 2:44-45 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Am I telling you to sell all your stuff and give it to the elders of your church for distribution? No, but are you willing? What is your heart in the matter, do you bristle at the thought of this verse?

Jesus spoke much about money and material possessions and if we have somehow missed the significance then it’s time to reexamine our relationship with mammon (our stuff) because it’s at the heart of the matter you desire to serve.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:25

What does your life consist of? Does it merely revolve around finances, or do you set your mind on the things of God? Do you really trust Him with your life?

…For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:32-33

I urge you to examine your relationship to your money and how that relates to your relationship with God. This is a topic that must be discussed and exposed.   It must be exposed not because I say so, but because the Lord said so. Are you storing up for yourself treasures on earth, or treasures in heaven?

By God’s grace we can grow in this very challenging area of life, that it may bring Him glory.

Kevin

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