Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Prayer for Duncanville...

"The noise amongst the dry bones waxed louder and louder; all other talk but about spiritual and eternal things, was soon thrown by; all the conversation, in all companies and upon all occasions, was upon these things only, unless so much as was necessary for people carrying on their ordinary secular business." Jonathan Edwards on the Northampton revival from 1740-1742.

My deepest groaning prayer for Duncanville that God would grant such an awakening here. But it will not happen so long as ministers keep silent the Gospel in their pulpits. Edwards thundered out the Gospel of grace and impressed upon his audience their dire need for repentance and God moved on that region!  God responded by sending a true revival to that and surrounding areas.

We reduce revivals down to something we schedule... something we plan... as if God works on our time table and permissions.  We limit revivals down to one week as if to put God to the test and say 'revive us during this week or we are going back to our lukewarm state!'

How heartbreaking... we must exhaust a great many prayers to the Lord for revival and that begins not with a scheduled week long emphasis, but in the hearts of those who feel they need the least reviving.

A Prayer for Duncanville:

Lord Jesus Christ, from whom comes all who are appointed any authority in this world.

We gather in Your Name and humbly ask that you grant heavenly wisdom in all our discussions and in all our decisions.

Lead us to lay aside self-interest, prejudice, and partial affection so that Your Name is glorified and Your will is sought for our city.

As we pray for the members of this body, its officers, and all who share in its labors, we remember that you have appointed them with their authority and ask that you give them strong leadership and to the people of Duncanville that we receive a peaceable spirit that is willing to be led by those given charge over us.

Give us your peace and refresh us in our weariness, that this may be a day in which much good is done.  For those who are in You, grant them strength and endurance.  For those who reject You we pray you lead them to the foot of the cross for salvation.

Let our every breath honor you now and forever.  In Your Name we pray these things.  Amen.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Responding to Ferguson...

Because I've been asked several times now what my thoughts were on Ferguson I decided to shoot off just a quick blog post to address it.  This article is not intended to prove one side's guilt or innocence.  It IS hopefully going to help you think a bit more Biblically through this and any issue.

I.) The truth will likely never come out -

It is a sad reality but the truth will likely never come out.  What happened that day?  Was he surrendering to the police?  Were his hands up?  Did he charge the officer and make an attempt to get his gun?  What were the full details?  Ready for this... I don't know, and neither do you.  We weren't there and it is ridiculous for you and I to speculate based on what we see on our social media feed.  That doesn't mean that those charged with upholding the law should not seek justice and it does not mean that those affected should not seek answers.  We should just know ahead of time that this is a possibility and for those of us who are largely unaffected personally by these events, we should keep it mind that in forming our opinions we may not be forming them based on fact but fiction fed by the media.

2.)  Vengeance belongs to the Lord - 

Vengeance belongs to the Lord.  The rioting response to this is equally wrong.  Many who were not even involved will now and are now suffering as a result either from being the targets of looters or as innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire of a tense situation. 
That does NOT at all mean that we should not seek justice.  Those who are peacefully protesting have that right and I encourage it.  Peaceful demonstrations and the urging for of justice through those situations can be extremely helpful when the demonstrating party maintains their resolve to seek justice in a peaceful manner even in the face of hostile opposition to their protests.  Looting and rioting only feeds the stereotype.  All those involved with this are doing is giving those who hold prejudice and bias attitudes a reason to congratulate and justify themselves when they stereotype someone of a different color.

3.) Racism is a sin on either side - 

Racism is a sin.  It is a sin for a "white person" to hold that view towards a person of another color as sure as it is in reverse.  I live in a very diverse area of the Dallas/ Fort Worth metroplex and I see examples of racism coming from all skin colors on all sides almost daily.  It is sad.  It is dangerous.  It is sinful.  Moreover, it is the illustration of man's sinful depravity.  Romans 1 says that it is when man considers himself wise that he becomes foolish.  There is one race.  Yes, you heard me clearly, there is only one race on this planet.  The human race.  To make a distinction between the human race based on skin color or geographical origin is not only sinful it is foolish.

God created but 2 people in the beginning; Adam and Eve.  That was it.  He did not create a "white" Adam and Eve, a "black' Adam and Eve, a "Hispanic" Adam and Eve and so on.  From them were all the nations of this world birthed.  Racism is a sin because it is hating your neighbor or your distant distant relative if you want to look at it that way.

4.) Before you open your mouth, don't -

I have thought long and hard on whether or not to say anything about this in a social media form.  I realize it opens me up for criticism from both sides.  I am not doing this for pats on the back.  I was raised by parents who taught me not to see color in the derogatory sense, my wife and I endeavor to raise our children that way.  Ferguson brings the sobering reality that not everyone was raised that way, not everyone raises their children that way, and my children will have to engage in thinking through these things just like I have had to unfortunately.  I say that to say, before you open your mouth to say something about this issue, please think long about it.  If you are reacting to the media drivel you probably have little to say that is worth saying.  Do not become a source for misinformation dissemination.   Don't blindly regurgitate everything the media feeds you.  They have an agenda on one side or the other.  Don't think for a moment that there aren't parties on both sides of the issue who are only concerned with advancing their agenda and exploit a families grief and loss to accomplish it, they do not care.  Those are the sources you will hear from on the nightly news.  Be very weary of them.  Remember news stations win awards and ratings based on volume of viewers and fast response to breaking stories, not on accuracy and integrity in reporting.  You are a consumer and they feed you what you want.

5.) A man has died -

A man has died.  Michael Brown has died.  Whether he provoked the shooting or was a victim of racial profiling is irrelevant at the end of the day when we get to the root of it that a man has died.  If he was guilty in the situation and you want to celebrate "justice"  I would first ask you to consider what you define as justice, but second I would submit that a life has ended.  While execution (and this was not an execution regardless) has to happen in the course of justice and we celebrate justice, we must keep it in a right focus remembering that a life was ended.  He has died and now when the next big story comes along and the media vans drive away, the family still has to feel this pain and live through this pain forever.  Let's say a video is produced tomorrow that shows the whole thing and Michael Brown is clearly the aggressor and the Officer is vindicated, it is not like the family will see the video and then say, 'well we are sorry he's dead but he had it coming'.  NO!  They will grieve and hurt regardless.  The media wants you to be desensitized to the human element of this story but before you speak on it remember that there are real families involved and real feelings being experienced and your words should be tapered with that in mind.

6.) A man's life is over - 

No, not a repetition of the previous post for emphasis, but the officer involved, whatever his reasons were for shooting, he made the choice to end a man's life.  I have spoken with Police Officers and soldiers who have had to make that decision to pull the trigger and they have all without fail said that they feel that decision almost every day of their lives.  Even if this Officer is cold-hearted and doesn't care about what he did, his family and loved ones will be impacted whether they agreed with his actions or not.  Again, justified for what he did or not, this will have repercussions on him forever.  His career and life to a degree are over.  Yes, he still has his physical life unlike the deceased, but at what value will he have that?  He will always have to live in fear of retaliation. I am not in any way comparing the pain him and his family feel to that of Michael Brown's, of course not, I am merely pointing out again that everyone involved in this is real humans with real pain felt.

8.) Pray for the family, pray for justice -

While we sit back and wait to see how this plays out we, as Christians, need to be concerned with praying for chiefly the pain of the family for the loss of their loved one.  They are hurting and will not even be able to start the real work of grieving until some of this passes over.  The real hurt of this will start when the media and looting and other noise stops.  Pray for them.  Pray that there will be people in their life at that point to point them towards Christ who is the only source of real comfort and hope in these and all situations.  Pray that they figure out how to live life through the pain that will never ever fully go away.

My point is that Christians should be the most careful in their responses to this and any similar issues.  Let's focus on talking about and thinking through the facts that we DO know about the case and avoid jumping on the bandwagon of speculation with Fox News or CNN.  

Pray for peace in that community and the Nation at large.  Pray for the individuals involved in this and its resolution in any way and pray for their families.  Pray that God awaken our Nation to the sinfulness of sin and foolishness of man.  Pray for God to raise up faithful Christians in Ferguson who will share the sin-forgiving, life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ with the residents of that community. That and only that will bring the changes that we so badly desire to see in Ferguson and anywhere else.

Your comments will be allowed, I moderate all before approving their posting.  If what you have to say is inflammatory or derogatory in any way it will not be posted, sorry.  Please be sure that what you have to say adds to the discussion or just keep it to yourself.  The last thing we need is more fuel on the fire of an already tragic and tense situation.

***A word to the family of Michael Brown.***

In the highly unlikely event that my little blog should reach the eyes of the Michael Brown family.  Please know that no matter what the circumstances were, this was still the tragic loss of a life.  A life that was dearly loved by his family and friends I'm certain.   A life that will be sorely missed for years and years to come.  I am praying for you.  I am praying that during the times when the tears seem to flow endlessly and the pain seems unbearable that you will lean all the harder upon the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ.  No one will better comfort you in your despair than He.  In that light, should this somehow reach you, I would like to offer to send you a gift in hopes it will help aid you in the process of grieving.  Please feel free to contact me through the comments on this blog or by email faithbcpastor @ gmail.com.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Radio Interview on G220 Radio with Ricky Gantz

I was recently honored to be invited onto the G220 Podcast Radio program to discuss 2 previous blog articles.  Embedded below is the audio from that interview.  My portion starts around 30 minutes in but the whole program is very very good.

The articles discussed were:
- Whatever Happened to Hannah Montana?
- Do you want to build a worldview?

Check Out Christianity Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with G220 Radio on BlogTalkRadio with G220 Radio on BlogTalkRadio

 -- In case the embedded player below does not work correctly, here is the link to the page.

Friday, April 25, 2014

10 Truths We MUST Teach Our Sons

A few months ago I read a great blog article entitled "Seven Things We Must Tell Our Daughters."  It was so helpful to me as a Father of 2 daughters.  As I've thought through that article since then it occurred to me that the reason every generation of young women has increasing struggles with a healthy body image, self-respect, and purity is partially, if not near fully, due to males refusing to be men.

Sadly we are living in a culture that is embracing males who refuse to be men.  A generation where males are believing it acceptable to act like teenagers well into their 40's and the women they chase romantically are supposed to lower their standards and accept it as well.

So as a Father with a son of my own I am thinking through how I can raise him to be a real man.  One who is ready to lead his generation towards Christ and not conformity to this world.
Please know I do not consider myself perfect nor do I have any lofty ideas that I will do this without mistakes.  But prayerfully with God's guidance when I do fail I will demonstrate repentance to my son so that he learns even from my sinful shortcomings.

Here are 10 suggestions for truths that we must teach our sons to raise a generation of men, not boys.  These are not intended as a comprehensive list.  Feel free to comment with any you may have that are not on the list and I may include them in future updates to this article.

10 Truths We Must Teach Our Sons

1.) You are valuable

You have value simply because you have been created by God.  No matter what standard the world holds up as criteria for the worth of a man, don’t buy into it.  Even still you have a God-given value and as your father I will help you to see that value so that in turn you glorify God for it and grow to understand what it means to be a real man one day.

2.) Your ‘manliness’ is not determined by the bench press

Physical strength has value in both your physical health and ability to protect others.  However, you are not the sum total of your muscles.  You are not less of a man if you can’t track and kill an animal bare handed, build a car from scratch, and bench press a small train.  You may or may not be able to do any of those things.  You may be able to do many other things.  Real men commit to love God and love/protect their family above themselves.  My prayer is that you always see this modeled in me.

3.) You don’t NEED a girl

Not right away at least.  Take advantage of the time of your childhood and youth to learn what it means to be a Godly man as it relates to your relationship with a woman.  Use your pre-adult life to learn what you need to be to one day be a great husband and father.  God’s Word defines both of these things.  Seek out His truths as your treasure.  You do not learn how to be a husband by dating around and making emotional attachments with girl after girl.  Furthermore your singleness is not a bad thing.  If you are not ready to pursue marriage, you are not ready to have a girlfriend.  Your job as a man is to protect the heart of any woman you know.  From the friendships you develop through that, God will send you a wife who will be the delight of your heart.  I have that delight with your mother and I pray that you see that in the way I treat her. Beginning with your mother and sisters, the girls who you form friendships with in life, on to the woman that you will one day marry and the daughters you may have of your own in the future; strive to protect their hearts.  As your buddies go through relationship after relationship and heartache after heartache, just remember, if you are not prepared to love, care for, and sacrifice your life for her you aren’t ready to marry her.  You must be able to choose to love her the way that Christ chose to love you.

4.) You are ‘cool’ just as you are

This is not intended to inflate your ego or anything and it isn’t to make you believe you aren’t sinful and in need of Christ.  Rather I want you to know that ‘cool’ is not defined by popularity, athletics, or even academics.  You being satisfied and pursuing a life that pleases God is all you need to concern yourself with.  At many times that very thing will be the most ‘uncool’ thing you can do according to your peers.  I am not going to be more proud of you for being the star quarterback or straight A student than I am with you simply being who God made you to be; a young man who loves Christ and seeks to put away the sinful flesh in order to pursue Him more.

5.) ‘Boys will be boys’ is a terrible lie!
Of course boys will be boys in the genetic sense.  Boys are born boys and will remain males for their whole lives.  You must know that excusing ‘youthful indiscretion’ with the cliché that it’s ok because boys just do those sorts of things is unacceptable.  Hear me clearly that the lust of the flesh and crass crude behavior is a natural but not okay.  It is a temptation from Satan that men are prone to give in to all too easily.  You must resolve early on to wage war against those desires now.  Go to God in prayer and ask Him to help you apply His Word and to strengthen you.  Ask Him to protect your mind, eyes, and heart and keep them pure and undefiled.  ‘Boys will be boys’ cannot and will not be used as an escape in my house nor will it be tolerated as acceptable and you will cripple your development into manhood if you buy into this destructive lie.

6.) Your eyes are to desire your wife, not every woman you see

Related to the previous truth, the world will tell you that it is ok to look and lust after any woman you see and find desirable.  This is a lie.  Jesus has said that to look with lust is equal to having committed adultery with her.  You’ve sinned in your heart against God and her in doing so.  While the temptation is common and normal, it is not who God made you to be.  Though portrayed otherwise in most media, women are NOT lesser creatures to men.  They do not exist to fulfill your lustful desires.  You must train your mind to view women as God’s beautiful creation, not a source of lust, no matter how much skin she may be showing off.  It is ok to find a woman attractive and admire the beauty God has given her, but you must be very careful to guard your heart that it goes no further for any woman who is not your wife.  You need to understand that there is great beauty in a woman of modesty, not immodesty.

7.) Love your Mother

I will not always be around.  I will age and one day die just as everyone in this world does.  God has given me a son because you are to protect the family in my absence.  I hope that you see in me that I love your mother deeply.  When I am loving your mother as God has called me to, you will see modeled there how you are to love your wife one day.  I hope that I am training you to do that well and when you fail to do it, as I often do, I hope that you see me repenting and learn repentance yourself.  If you cannot love your mother and sisters, you cannot love a wife.  I will commit to teach you how to love showing you what that looks like.

8.) You have talents and abilities that God has given you

You have talents and abilities and gifts that God has given specifically to you.  He intends for you to use those to glorify Him with them.  If you aren’t using them to His glory you are in danger of sinning.  Pursue those talents with an eye on the cross.  Seek God for wisdom to distinguish between Godly desires and uses for those talents verses worldly ones.

9.) Follow Christ, not the world

Be courageous in the face of opposition of those who would have you go the way of the condemned.  The Bible says that it is the wise that walk in the way of the Lord.  It is he who walks in the way of the Lord who is blessed.  Do not waste your life walking with the fool in their folly.  As you decide what to do and what not to do, filter all of your decisions through Scripture and bathe them in prayer.  Seek counsel from me and other Godly men in your life.  Put not value on the wisdom of fools who do not love Christ.  They will lead you astray.  There is one passion and one alone worth living your life for and it is Christ.

10.) I love you

I love you.  I make it my goal to tell you, your mother, and sisters that on a daily basis.  You are not less of a man for being able to say ‘I love you’ to someone that you love.  I hope I model that for you.  I want you to hear that I love you because as you grow and feel turned away by this friend or that or experience disappointment I want echoing in your mind that no matter what, I will always love you.  More than that, you must remember that God loves you.  No matter how hard life gets remember God loves you and desires you to trust Him, not the world.  I want you to know that I will always be there for you whether we are celebrating your successes or crying together over failures or talking through your mistakes to learn valuable lessons.  I will always love you.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Do you want to build a worldview?

With the success of Disney’s most recent princess tale “Frozen” much discussion has been swirling about since its release concerning the overtones and themes hidden in the message of the movie.  One camp says that, though admittedly unintentional, the movie teaches several Biblically supportable principles. 

For example: The older sister, Elsa, contains her powers and ignores that she even has them until one day through a series of events she unleashes them on the kingdom and quickly ushers the entire land into a winter that is only reversible by her.  She then runs away and sings the now world famous song “Let It Go”, the ballad of her breaking free from the years of oppression and now she is just letting go and doing with her power what she wants.  What does she come to realize?  Spoiler alert: She comes to realize that though in her ballad she sang “no right, no wrong, no rules for me” that sort of behavior only brought about trials and misery for all those who looked to her for care. 

Additionally it isolated her from the rest of society.  Interestingly enough, the Bible teaches that there actually is a law, God’s Law, and it is written on the hearts of all mankind (Romans 1). If we violate that Law we are indeed sinning against God as well as our sin has effects on those around us who trust us or, in some cases, who look to us for provision and protection.  We would love to be able to say that there is no right, no wrong, and no rules that we follow but that is moral relativism that ultimately makes truth a subjective matter that leaves a true adherent to that worldview in total chaos.

The Bible also makes plain that there is absolute truth, God (Genesis 1:1).  When Jesus declares that He is the Truth, the Way and the Life He effectively closes the door on the validity to any other worldview that opposes that which is revealed in the Christian Bible.

Secondly, absent from “Frozen” but present in nearly every other Disney film is the theme of following one’s heart.  Disney has made billions of dollars selling the lie to our children that to find happiness and fulfillment all one must do is follow their heart.  While Frozen falls woefully short of labeling it dead in sin, it does imply that our hearts can be difficult to change and what is needed is love.  While I am certain that Disney’s definition of the love needed is quite different than the Bible’s, I find it interesting that they are sending this message.

Thirdly, Disney’s Frozen ultimately sends the message that what was needed was not the true love of a love at first sight romance that is usually so obvious in all of Disney’s princess films, (spoiler alert) rather it was the unconditional love of a sibling.  If we are to draw a parallel there to Biblical truth we might say that Anna, the younger sister, is the archetypal Jesus who we see loves her sister though her sister consistently rejects her and pushes her away.  Just as Jesus pursues us though in our sin we reject Him; His love never fails.  Ultimately it is the Anna who is willing to sacrifice her own life so that Elsa’s is spared.  Seems I’ve seen that act on a eternally grander scale somewhere before... Ephesians 2:1-0; Romans 5:1-10

None of those themes were in there for the benefit of the Christian community I assure you. It is not Disney’s hopes that people will repent and turn to Christ as a result of their film, so please do not begin to write your “Frozen” Bible studies because Lifeway, Family Christian, and Mardel are sure to snap them up and get them on the shelves quickly if you do... the next Christian publishing goldmine?

But if you, like my family, saw the movie and enjoyed it these might be some great themes to discuss with your children after the fact.

On the other side of the issue we have the not so hidden agenda of the homosexual community.  They would have us believe that the ballad “Let It Go” is ultimately a song about ending homosexual discrimination.  According to that view it is said that the message of the movie is that people need to learn to love their homosexual family/friends regardless of the consequences that their life choice may have on others.  Let me be clear when I say that Christians are called to love others period.  We do not have to agree with a person's behavior and choices and we may label some of those things (such as homosexuality) as sin.  However, the most loving thing you can do for a person is be truthful with them.  Not accepting homosexuality as natural and normal is not automatically equal to being intolerant or unloving.  If that is the theme of the movie there is a problem.  As pointed out above Elsa comes to realize that letting go and living with no rules is actually not helpful at all but very harmful indeed.

All of this coming to the forefront of the media due to a recent interview given by some of the song-writers who were hired by Disney to write for the film.  (Source story : http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/04/22/award-winning-song-writers-behind-frozen-out-with-giant-claim-about-disney-and-god/ )

The claim is that Disney does not allow God to be mentioned in any of their films and prefers for His Name not to even be mentioned at all in any form.  Some Christians are upset over this but I, for one, am thankful for it.

I do not need, nor do I desire, Disney to teach me or my family theology.  In fact, I am very glad that they keep their hands off of it.  Much harm has already been done to the doctrines held by many through films and other media that teach horrible theology as it is.  If Disney teaches me a principle through their media and uniquely labels it as God's truth and it happens to be false, then they are guilty of blasphemy and leading others to idolatry.  It is better Disney stick with their secular moralism than try and teach something that they are woefully unqualified and incapable of teaching, namely Biblical truth.  All the while Christians ought to remain prayerfully hopeful that not only those associated with Disney but that all who are lost and dead in sin would be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Even in the examples cited above of the Biblical truth parallels contained in Frozen, upon further dissection many of them break apart because as I mentioned it was not Disney’s intent to teach Biblical morals or truth through the film but rather to provide entertainment to the masses of moms and dads who would flock to the theaters with their daughters for one more princess film.

In the end, whether you go to watch Disney’s film or any secular media for that matter is more or less a matter of conscience.  Something that you must work out by examining what the Scriptures say about how Christians are to conduct themselves.  If you do go to see these sorts of films, please... please... I beg of you... do not go home thinking that now you’ve found the golden key for teaching your family Biblical truth.  You haven’t, because it is not contained in a Disney (or any other) film. The theology built on Disney film teaching or any other secular medium will fair no better than Olaf in summer.

If you have the Bible, you have the key to teaching your family truth and explaining to them the Gospel and their need for Jesus Christ.  Open the Scriptures with your family and explore them together.  It is God’s prescribed means for spreading the truth about Himself in this world.

[16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

[5] Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
(Proverbs 30:5 ESV) 

(In case you didn't see the movie, the title of this article is a play on the song "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" featured in Disney's Frozen.)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Local Church & Your Sanctification

The Local Church & Your Sanctification

We should all be well aware that the Christian life is to be one of continual sanctification (Matthew 3:8).  Christ has, by His sovereign grace, purchased us to be a people for His own possession.  The beauty of grace is seen, in part, in the fact that Christ pulls us out of the mire and death of our sin and makes us a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13).  Being that “new creation” implies change in our life.  To be clear, the Gospel is not about life-change as so many like to portray it these days.  The Gospel is about our desperate need for forgiveness of our numerous transgressions against a Holy God and the incredible sacrifice that has been made on our behalf by Jesus Christ so that that sin debt can be settled once and for all(Romans 3:21-26).  Even so, the pardoning of our sin sets us free from more than just God’s wrath for those sins, it also frees us to serve the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1-8).  The product of our salvation is change.  When Christ saves us we receive a new heart and new desires (Ezekiel 36:26).  The Holy Spirit works in us to change the old man into the one that God has created us to be (Ephesians 4:22-24).

While it is true that we are all individually responsible for our own sanctification, meaning that if I fail to pursue holiness as I’ve been called to do it is on me for that failure and no one else, but God has not left us alone in this quest.  Let me elaborate,  Just as we are saved by grace, we are sanctified by grace as well.  But God has not called us to merely sit stagnant in our sanctification.  As He works in us, grows us and conforms us more to Christ we are called to respond.  Even our desire to respond and obey and all our striving is given by the Spirit working in us.  To unfold this part of His plan God has placed the local church in our life as a means of our sanctification.  I would like us to consider 3 ways that the local church plays a vital role in our sanctification.
God sanctifies us by His power working in us through His Holy Spirit that we receive solely because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

1.) The church is God's method for the formative and corrective discipline of the body.
The failure of the individual affects the whole body.  1 Corinthians 12:1-30 teaches us that the church functions best when it functions as a single unit.  Each person exercising their spiritual gifts for the benefit for the other person and through that God is glorified in the unity of the Body.  Just as no part of the human body is without purpose, so it is with each part of the Body of Christ.  Each person in the local church plays a significant role in the sanctification of the other members.  One person’s sanctification is helped as other members exercise their gifts in service towards that person to help them grow in vast areas of their walk with Christ.  Conversely, that person’s gifts being exercised help them to sharpen themselves and they grow through their useful service to their brethren. As we serve others in the Body of Christ and are served by them as well, we grow spiritually to look more like Christ.

2.) The church is God's method for the watch care for the soul – Hebrews 13:17

God has ordained Elders and Deacons to watch over their flocks not for the purpose of commanding them or ruling with an iron fist as though a regime.  Rather, they are there for your benefit.  They are there to unfold God’s Word for you and lead you towards conformity to Christ.  Paul said in Romans 12 that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds; our minds are renewed by the Holy Spirit through engaging them with God’s Word, and faithful Pastors are one of the means God uses of applying the Word to your mind. So we are to be plugged in to a local church and we are to be submissive to our leaders, as they submit to the Lord, for they are caring for us and watching over us.  Rightly engaged this relationship will bring joy to both parties.  As the Pastor leads a believer away from sin’s dangerous snares that person is more sanctified and as the person submits to their Pastor’s leadership that Pastor’s joy is refreshed.  A Pastor with joy for his ministry will be a Pastor who lovingly guides his flock towards Christ.

3.) The church is God's method for the practical sanctification of His children. -  Hebrews 10:24-25

The church is God's method for the practical sanctification of His children.  The way believers grow in the practical ins and outs of Christianity is through the local church.  One purpose of our gathering for corporate worship and Biblical fellowship is so that we can “consider how to stir one another up to love and good works”.  Are not those two things directly connected to Christ conformity?  We learn to fulfill the greatest commandments by knowing how to both love and serve the Lord our God and our neighbor in a Biblical and Christ-like manner (Psalm 27:8,11) As we grow as a body and an individual and are thereby further sanctified, we display Christ to the world.  They see us reacting to success with humility, worship with reverence, temptations with resolves for righteousness over fleshly indulgence, persecution with an increased zeal for Gospel proclamation, and trials with unshakable trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is the heart of what is meant by shining our light in such a way that men see our good works and glorify our Lord (Matthew 5:16).

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Prayer for Year’s End

A Prayer for Year’s End - (Taken from The Valley of Vision)

O Love beyond Compare,
Thou art good when thou givest,
when thou takest away,
when the sun shines upon me,
when night gathers over me.
Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,
and in love didst redeem my soul;
Thou dost love me still,
in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.
Thy goodness has been with me another year,
leading me through a twisting wilderness,
in retreat helping me to advance,
when beaten back making sure headway.
Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past.
I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.
If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation,
thou wilt be with me in them;
If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation,
I shall not drown;
If I am to die,
I shall see thy face the sooner;
If a painful end is to be my lot,
grant me grace that my faith fail not;
If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
I can make no stipulation;
Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial,
as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.

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