Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Praying Peter Out of Prison

Acts 12:5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church (NKJV)

Frequently God's people find themselves in the midst of a prison situation. Prisons take many forms- some are in prisons of loneliness- some in prisons of depression- prisons of discouragement- prisons of fear. Regardless of the type of prison, there is a means of escape. It seems that everywhere I go, I hear about affliction among the body of Christ. People are fighting battles and demons that they have never fought before. Some are facing giants seemingly much more fierce than Goliath.

I'm afraid that the "quickie" prayer is not going to get Peter (or you and me) out of prison. I say this with conviction and with humility because I've tried many times (to no avail) to free Peter with a "now I lay me down to sleep" prayer. I've found that it's only when I prevail in prayer that the prison doors open. If you're like me it seems that there is a great war going on in the earth and in the heavenlies to steal my time. I must have time for family, for work, and for ministry, (and hopefully some downtime to rest- yeah right!). But somewhere in the mix I must incorporate some prevailing prayer.

When Peter was facing certain martyrdom, the church was not content to just say "we'll be praying for you Brother." How many times have we said that to someone, only to forget to even pray for them later? No, the early church didn't say that- they got down to business with God and rang the prayer bells of heaven (sorry for all the church cliche's today). It says that "constant" prayer was offered up to God by the church. Ladies and gentlemen, there are some issues that simply aren't going to budge until we start praying constantly about them. I know there is a theology out there which says you don't need to pray, but merely speak the word and stand by faith. I certainly believe there is a time for making bold confessions of faith- but equally (if not more) important is that constant prayer offered up to God.

We later read that God dispatched His angel and delivered Peter. Luke recorded this in Acts for a reason. It was not simply another event in the early church history, but something of import. Luke wanted his readers to know that when prayer is offered up to God constantly....deliverance comes. I hope this encourages you today- you may be praying and praying and praying and have yet to see the answer...but I assure you it's on its way!

Don't give up- keep praying!!!

Friday, April 21, 2006

"You Don't Have to Sin"

This is a phrase that came into my mind this morning as I was getting ready for work. I'm sure I've got your attention from the title. The wording is definitely important- you don't HAVE to sin- I didn't say you CAN'T sin or that you are INCAPABLE of sinning- they are totally different ideas. I realize this flies in the face of what you hear in most churches today. I'm appalled at the slave mentality that is propagated throughout the modern church world. I often encounter sincere Christians who say "I just can't help myself, I know I'm going to fall today." Or the tried and true "all have come short of the glory of God, I'm just an old sinner saved by grace." I have come to despise such a mentality (not the people who say these things...just this mentality). This is NOT the Christian experience as it is outlined in the Word of God. The Bible paints a picture of glorious freedom- not bondage. Let's briefly examine a few verses from the book of Romans.

Romans 6:11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 6:13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

Paul says that the true Christian is dead to sin. This sounds a lot different than what I hear from many pulpits and from many Christians on the street. What I hear are a lot of lame excuses why we end up in bondage to the same old sins over and over again. Now before you think that I'm coming to you from an ivory tower, I'm going to come clean with you. This is a truth that I have often struggled with. Countless times I have found myself on my knees saying "Lord I can't believe I'm struggling with this again." The problem is not so much with our intentions because I believe there are a lot of well-intentioned people who fall every day. The problem is with our "stinking thinking."

Consider the analogy Paul gives of a dead man. You can dangle any temptation in front of a dead man- you can call him names.......try to provoke him to anger....you can poke him and prod him...but he's not going to budge. Why? Because he's a dead man of course. It sounds so simple and yet it's profound- this is the picture of the Christian and his relation to sin. I realize in theory this sounds good, but it's the practical application of this that gives us trouble....because when we wake up first thing in the morning...our lusts, desires, and appetites are anything but dead! They are pleading with us and demanding our attention. This is why we must learn to "reckon" ourselves dead indeed unto sin. This word is an accounting term and it simply means to count it to be true. It's true....but you and I must appropriate this truth by faith.

Paul says that sin shall not have dominion over us because we are now under grace. We often hear about the power of grace to cover our sins, but we hear very little about the power of the grace of God to keep us from sinning! But this is exactly what Paul is teaching! He was trying to get the Roman Christians (and us too in the year 2006) to understand that we are no longer slaves- we are free! As long as we have a slave mentality, we will yield to the temptations over and over again. Only when we see (or "reckon") ourselves as the free people that we truly are will we have the victory. Then and only then will we be able to meet the temptation head on and confidently assert "I don't have to sin". I don't have any problem refusing foods that I dislike. You can offer me cottage cheese all day long and I can easily tell you "no thanks." But bring me a chocolate eclair dessert and it becomes a different story. I think God wants us to get to the place where sin is as appealing to us as cottage cheese (ok- I realize some of you strange people in the blogosphere actually like the stuff- so just substitute any food that you find repulsive in its place).

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Thank God for Good Ground!

Mark 4:20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred

Luke 8:15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience

Last week, we briefly surveyed the parable of the soils mentioned in the synoptic gospels. We ended the discussion on Thursday on a rather somber note....looking at the three types of unfavorable soil(s). Today we're going to look at the positive aspect of the parable. I ended the previous discussion by stating that we shouldn't get discouraged if we're met with a 75% rejection rate (after all...3 out of the 4 types of soil are not conducive to harvest). Good salesmen know that they can't get discouraged when the first person doesn't buy the product. We know from Paul's letter to the Corinthians that "he that sows sparingly will reap sparingly." The law of sowing and reaping assures us that the greater the sowing effort...the greater the harvest. Great inventors usually go through a tremendous process of trial and error before they uncover a masterpiece. We also must not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we will reap if we don't give up! (Galatians 6:9)

The beautiful thing about the good soil is that it not only hears the Word and receives it...but bears fruit. Christ is concerned with fruit bearing. We will be judged by the type of fruit that we bear. Jesus said that a tree (whether it be good or bad) is identified by the fruit that it bears. An interesting point about the good ground is that even though it is good ground...there are still various degrees of fruit-bearing among good soil. Some seem to hit on all cylinders- they hear the Word of God and want to do everything they can for the LORD. Others joyfully receive the message, but are content with a "moderate" approach to the faith. Not wanting to be too radical, but not content as a pew-warmer either...these are the sixty-fold group.

Then you have the thirty-fold group. These are the ones mostly content to have eternal life, but show little interest in eternal reward. They are often difficult to motivate because their motivation ended the day they got saved. These types of people tend to view salvation as an "event" that has taken place and now they are content to ride out the storm safely on the boat. This doesn't mean they are bad people, only that their level of fruit-bearing will not be on par with the hundredfold crowd.

The final note about this parable is that fruit bearing is done with patience (that's why I posted the passage from Luke's account). It takes endurance to be a good seed-thrower. Rome wasn't built in a day, and we seldom receive instant deliverance from our trials. But in that great process of endurance, God is able to work in us a far more and exceeding weight of glory than could ever have been imagined.

May God richly bless you today and get out there and sow some seeds!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

I realize that we've been looking at the parable of the sower for the past few days, but somehow I felt I needed to deviate from that theme today. Today the whole world remembers the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I think it's amazing that here we are almost 2,000 years later, and Jesus Christ still is the pivotal figure in human history. I am convinced that no mere man could leave such a lasting legacy on the human race. No, I must echo the words of the centurion spoken on that fateful afternoon:

Matthew 27:54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God

I think it is fitting, that I should post a passage regarding the sufferings (the Passion) of Christ today:

Isaiah 53:1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 53:9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 53:12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

In a few days, we will celebrate the glorious resurrection of Christ. For truly this is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. But let us never forget the sacrifice of the cross. Think about Him today and what He has done for you and me.

I love you Jesus,

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Parable of the Soils Part IV

Today, we will briefly look at the various types of soil. If you've been following along, you know that my recurring theme has been that the soil determines the type of harvest. As long as we are faithfully sowing and watering the seed (the Word) then we are assured of success. Jesus mentioned three types of "unfavorable" soils (if I can use that terminology). I always believe in giving the bad news first, so today's entry will focus primarily on the negative aspect(s) of this parable.

The first type of soil mentioned is "beside the road" (NASB) or the "wayside" (KJV) or "along the path" (NIV). This first type of soil describes a person in which the Word of God (in a sense) goes "in one ear and out the other." There is no comprehension of the message, and Satan comes immediately to prevent the person from making any progress. We often find that these are the types of people who immediately change the subject when we bring up the topic of Christ or the Bible. They are not necessarily hostile to the message of Christ (although they often can be), but have nothing more than a passive interest in what you are saying. It comes as little surprise because Paul told the Corinthians that the natural man does not discern the things of the Spirit of God..they are foolishness unto him (paraphrase of I Cor 2:14). We also find that these are the types of people that love to debate and ask questions that bring about little or no true understanding of the supremely important message of the Gospel. They will ask questions about the bible, but often out of an attempt to prove some perceived contradiction they think exists or to add fuel to a controversial debate.

The next type of soil described is the "rocky" soil. Now these can initially show encouraging signs because they immediately receive the Word with joy. It is difficult to know initially if you are dealing with rocky soil because the first stages are much like that of truly good ground. All Christians can point back to the initial joy they felt at knowing that their sins have been forgiven. Much like the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt 13:24-30) , it is difficult to discern between the true and the false until some time passes by. The rocky soil will eventually be shown for what it is, because trials and temptations are inevitable. The floods and the storms come to Christians and unbelievers alike. It rains on the just and the unjust. The difference lies in the root system. It proves faulty because when trouble finally does come (and it will), it will not endure. The NASB says that this person "falls away"(Mark 4:17). Luke makes mention that this type of person "believes for a while" (Luke 8:13)...only to eventually fall away. I believe this is why it is so important that we do not sugar-coat the gospel. We must make sure that individuals understand the cost of discipleship. I believe we set people up for certain failure and apostacy, by telling them that coming to Christ will solve every problem, and cause life to become a flowery bed of roses!

The next type of soil described is the "thorny ground." They hear the word of God, but they are not willing to make a clean break from the world and it's system and pleasures. Just as thorns and weeds will choke out vegetation in a lawn or garden, so worldly cares and pleasures will choke out the fruit of the Word of God in our lives. Remember, there's nothing wrong with the seed...the breakdown is with the soils. The bible mentions several "thorns" in this particular passage. Anxiety is mentioned- now truly we all suffer from some type of fear at one point or another (if we'll be honest). But this is a different kind of fear- this is a fear that chokes out faithfulness to God and His Word. A fear that takes away trust in God and places trust in fallen man and things. Riches and pleasures are also mentioned as thorns. These things have always been around and the temptations have been ever-present, but I believe we live in an age absolutely permeated with an insatiable desire for money and pleasure. We crave more and more "things" and then we are riddled with anxiety because we worry about how to pay for them....how to keep them secure....and how to insure them once we posess them. I'm reminded of the words of "the Preacher" in Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 5:10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. 11 When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? (NASB)

Ecclesiastes 1:8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. (KJV)

It seems that no matter how much we see, hear, or experience is ever enough....we WANT MORE!!! With this type of soil, we must be very careful and diligent not to preach the gospel as a means of material wealth. There are many ministers who have fallen into this error...supposing that "gain is godliness." This is one of the devastating consequences of teaching and preaching such a gospel...it is a never-ending cycle of covetousness...and it usually ends in disappointment, when people learn that the Bible is not some good luck charm or slot-machine.

That's about all for today....I realize this has been a rather negative type of entry...but it helps to know what you're up against. Remember if the parable of the sower is true (and I believe it is), then this group represents 75% of the soil out there. But don't lose heart....next we will talk about the good ground. Praise God...He does have some good soil out there just waiting to be sown, watered, and harvested!!!

Until next time....

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Parable of the Soils Part III

Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God (KJV)

Monday, we discussed the significance of the parable of the sower/soils. Yesterday, we looked at the ministry of the sower. Hopefully some of you were encouraged by the fact that as long as you are faithfully sowing the seed, you are successful. Today, we're going to look at the power of the seed. Jesus said that the seed...is the Word of God. I mentioned this yesterday, but it bears repeating- if there is any "breakdown" in the process...it is not due to failure on the part of the sower, neither is there any deficiency in the seed (in this case the Word)- the problem lies with the various types of unproductive soil.

If we are going to be successful (I'm hesitant to use the word success, because it is a relative term and means so many different things to different people)...or should I say faithful and fruitful in our evangelism, then we must sow the incorruptible seed of the Word of God. You will find that as you begin to minister and talk to others about the Lord, there will be a tendency to steer the conversation into debates and endless questions. We must keep the discussion centered on the Word of God. I realize that "lifestyle evangelism" has become a very popular method in the postmodern world. Let me say that there is some validity to this method because Jesus said that we should let our light so shine before men that they may glorify our Heavenly Father. However, there is another truth that cannot be denied- and that is that people are born-again by the Word.

I Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

In the tenth chapter of Romans we read that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." I believe that it is not enough for us simply to live out our faith quietly before our neighbors. I think the scriptures are clear that we must open our mouths and speak forth the Word of God. Paul told the Corinthians that God has chosen the "foolishness of preaching" (not foolish preaching...we have far too much of that) to save them that believe. In another place we read "how shall they hear without a preacher?" Certainly not everyone is called to be a preacher in the sense of pastoral ministry...but we are all ministers in some sense because the Holy Spirit empowers each and every one of us to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Again, I think it's interesting that the Word is likened to a seed. If you anything at all about agriculture, you know that usually anything that comes in seed form takes a period of time for fruit-bearing. You don't plant a seed in the ground today and expect a harvest tomorrow (unless it's one of those dreadful "Chia Pets" you see on TV). Instead, we expect that there will be a period of cultivation, watering, and yes....waiting! But- if we are sure that we have sown the proper seed, we can be assured that in due season there will be a harvest. I love this passage in the book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 55:10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it

God's Word is true and He says that His word will not return unto Him void. That tells me a few things. First, it tells me that I can't go wrong by sowing the Word of God. Although I may not see an immediate harvest, I can rest assured that things are happening in the realm of faith. I also see that not only will the seed produce a harvest, but it will also prosper in the area that it's sown. I'm reminded of Jacob and his evil father-in-law Laban. Laban had dealt deceitfully with Jacob (who was a trickster in his own right) but yet he realized that God had blessed him because of the presence of Jacob (Genesis 30:27). When you make a point to sow the Word of God into your area (wherever you are), you will see the power of God at work. Pulpits that preach the Word of God will be powerful. Christians that use the Word of God in their witnessing and evangelism will see results...maybe not always immediately...but they will come in due season.

To be continued.... (feel free to add your comments)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Parable of the Soils Part II

Mark 4:14 The sower sows the word (NKJV)

Today, we continue our look into the parable of the soils/sower. My emphasis today will be on the sower. I'm going to assume that everyone reading this has at least a basic knowledge of this parable (by that, I mean that you have at least read it at one time or another- if not, I refer you to Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke chapter 8). The first question we should ask ourselves is "what kind of seed am I sowing?" In the book of Genesis, God outlined a process as long as the earth remains- seedtime...and harvest (Genesis 8:22) . When speaking about the Kingdom, Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a man scattering seed on the ground (Mark 4:26). It has become cliche' and said probably far too often from pulpits, but I'll say it again- you can't plant tomato seeds and expect a harvest of apples. God has established in His Word that whatsoever a man sows...that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7). In this parable, Jesus clearly has in mind that the seed is the Word of God.

In today's entry and in the subsequent entry, I hope to establish that any "breakdown" in the process is not indicative of a shortcoming in either the seed or the sower. The problem (if there is one) lies in the type of soil. Now obviously you and I would like to come across "good ground" every time we scatter seed, but (as we are all too painfully aware) more often than not, we come in contact with other types of soil (rocky, thorny, etc.). Now as much as I'd like to only sow seed on receptive or fertile ground, this parable shows that the Word must go forth on all types. I believe this is consistent with the fact that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). Many are called, but few are chosen...the invitation is given to all, but of course not all will respond.

The enemy of our souls would love for us to believe that we have failed when we don't see the desired response every time we sow the seed (the Word). It becomes especially frustrating when we believe that we are doing exactly what God has called us to do and we still don't see the desired harvest. I'm going to share just a few examples with you today which hopefully will serve as encouragement to weary souls. Isaiah the prophet is one of the most pivotal figures of Old Testament prophecy. Many of the New Testament writers borrow from him to establish New Testament theology. One of my favorite passages deals with his vision of the Lord in the temple found in Isaiah 6. In this passage we read where Isaiah says "Here am I...send me." Obviously we have a willing vessel in Isaiah (you would be too if you had just seen the LORD)- he is ready and equipped for ministry. However, God tells him that his "ministry" is destined for rejection. Let's look at these words from Isaiah 6:

Isaiah 6:9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 6:10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. 6:11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, 6:12 And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.

Having heard that, would you be ready to launch out into an evangelistic crusade? Probably not! But, the rejection of the people was not indicative of Isaiah's sincerity or effort. God clearly told Him that the people would reject the message- nevertheless God wanted Isaiah to go and preach. Or how about Ezekiel? Let's look at Ezekiel's ministry for just a moment:

Ezekiel 2:3 And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. 2:4 For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD. 2:5 And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. 2:6And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. 2:7 And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious. 2:8 But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.

Again, God calls Ezekiel to go and preach the Word and function as a prophet to Israel. And yet, He forewarns him that he is being sent to a rebellious people who probably will speak evil of him, look at him with scorn, and utterly reject his message. Nevertheless, this is not indicative of any shortcoming or failure on Ezekiel's part. He is simply responsible for preaching the message that God gave him. The results then depend on the type of soil the seed falls upon.

Finally, I want to use as an example, the apostle Paul. In God's sovereign plan, He ordained that the Gentiles should hear the gospel by the mouth (and pen) of Paul. Nevertheless, his message had to be first rejected by the Jews. Notice this record in Acts

Acts 13:44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. 13:45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 13:47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed

Again, there was no problem with Paul or his doctrine that he had received from Christ. The problem was with the hardened hearts of the blaspheming Jews. Although Paul was preaching to them the Words of life- Words that would have rescued them from eternal destruction- the rejected it without batting an eyelash. However, we see that the Gentiles gladly received the Word and embraced eternal life. This is the good news of it all- even though some (yes many) will reject the Word of God- Praise God there are those who will embrace it and lay hold on eternal life. It is for this reason that we must not get discouraged when people reject the message of Christ. Some will doubt, some will mock, some will be indifferent, some will be angry...but praise God...some will receive and bring forth fruit!!!

To be continued..... (feel free to add your comments)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Observations about the Parable of the Soils Part 1

Mark 4:13 And He said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables? (NASB)

There is something peculiar and particularly unique about the parable of the soils, recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). In the coming days, I would like to discuss this particular parable in greater detail. Today, I'm just going to make some preliminary remarks and hopefully you will add yours as well. Perhaps Jesus was just speaking in hyperbole, but I'm inclined to believe that there is something special about the parable of the soils...hence Jesus' remark above "how will you understand all the parables?". I've been teaching a class on soulwinning (evangelism) at our church on Wednesday nights. We made our way into the parable of the sower/soils this past week and will probably stay there a while.

I believe that if we grasp the meaning of the parable, we will gain a greater understanding of the operation of God's Kingdom in the earth. I believe it answers the questions about why people behave in the manner that they do. I believe that some of the endless frustration we suffer at the hands of unresponsive or negative people can come to an end....or at least be greatly curtailed.

More to come...your comments are welcome :)


Friday, April 07, 2006

It's Friday!

This great big smile on my face is because the weekend is finally here. Friday's just have a different feel to them don't they? I'm really looking forward to spending some time with my wife and daughters this weekend. Oh yeah, and it's Palm Sunday @ church, so I'm excited about my sermon. This is one of my favorite times of the year- spring is a time of renewal and new beginnings. I often look at the flowers in bloom and think about Jesus coming out of the tomb on the third day. Have a great weekend as we celebrate what Christ has done for us.

Romans 8:34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (NKJV)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Preserve the Unity

Ephesians 4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

I think it's noteworthy that Paul didn't say "create" unity...but rather to keep (or preserve) it. There have been many attempts thoughout human history to create unity. In the book of Genesis we read about a Tower of Babel built to reach the heavens. No doubt there was tremendous unity in this for even the Lord said He would come down and confound them because soon nothing would be impossible for them to accomplish. This is an example of the negative side of unity, or one based on human effort and human ambition. We constantly hear the cries for "peace in the Middle East" (and this should not surprise us, because bible prophecy tells us that in the last days there would be cries for "peace and safety"). Anyone with even a cursory reading of the bible knows that true peace will never be achieved until the Prince of Peace arrives on this earth to rule and reign. For those like myself who hold to a literal view of bible prophecy, we will once again see the whole world unite under the banner of antichrist ( read Revelation chapter 13 for clarification). So unity is not always a good thing...BUT

There is a unity that is wonderful. In Psalm 133 the Lord says it is beautiful when Brothers dwell together in unity- in the 3rd verse of that chapter we read that it is "there" (the place where brothers dwell together in unity) that God commands the blessing! We read in the book of Acts and the second chapter that those disciples were all in one accord in one place. This was a miracle in and of itself- can you imagine 120 people being in one accord in the same place in perfect agreement? Through this single-mindedness and unity, the disciples were prepared to receive the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit ever witnessed until that time.

There is a unity that does (and should exist among believers in Christ). We read in another place in Ephesians that there is One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism. There is a commonality there- a unity- a fellowship of the Spirit that transcends all denominational or cultural distinctions. I think it's dreadful the way the body of Christ attempts to fragment itself. When Christ sees His church, I doubt that He has all of these divisions in His mind- I believe that He sees "THE church"- washed in His blood- forgiven, sanctified, and justified by His grace. Some of the greatest moves of God I have had the honor of participating in have been across denominational lines. While I don't embrace an ecumenical movement in which biblical truths are set aside in the name of unity- I also can't understand why we have such a difficult time cooperating in ministry efforts. Jesus even admitted that Satan's kingdom was not divided (when He was being accused of casting out demons by Beelzebub)- and that a house divided against itself could not stand.

Again- unity cannot be created- only God creates unity through the power of the Holy Spirit- but it can be preserved OR destroyed by us. Paul told the Romans to all speak the same thing and to mark those which cause division- that they were to glorify God with one mouth and one heart. He told the Corinthians to all speak the same thing and to have no divisions- he told the Philippians to be of the same mind. He told the Ephesians to preserve the unity of the Spirit. He told the Galatians not to bite and devour one another, but rather to bear one another's burdens. Of course there are times when we must go separate ways (Paul and Barnabas come to mind..), but let's do everything we can do preserve the precious unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace- for we know it is there that the LORD will command the blessing!