Friday, December 9, 2011
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
- What is the purpose of the church?
- What is the job of the church leader?
- Should the church exist to meet your needs?
- What style of music should the church have?
- What kinds of events and programs should the church have?
- What kind of church would make you happy?
We live in an individualistic, consumer-based culture where the customer is always right, and it’s all about you. A tragic issue arises when people view the church through consumerist eyes. People view “church” as a place you attend on Sunday that meets your needs and has good buildings; a place where the programs, music and preaching is centered on you. Basically, the church is there to help you have a happy life.
If I were in charge of the world, I’d cancel oatmeal, Monday mornings and allergy shots. If I were in charge of the world, there would be brighter night-lights, healthier hamsters, and basketball goals five feet high. If I were in charge of the world you wouldn’t have lonely, you wouldn’t have to clean, you wouldn’t have bedtime and you wouldn’t have ‘don’t punch your sister.’ In fact, you wouldn’t have sisters at all! If I were in charge of the world, a chocolate sundae with whipped cream and nuts would be a vegetable, a person who sometimes forgot to brush and sometimes forgot to flush would still be allowed to be in charge of the world.
- I would want people to see the church as God intended rather than as a consumer.
- I would want them to understand God’s design and determination for His people.
- I would want people to understand that every Christian is a minister.
The bottom line for us is that we understand that we join God rather than God joins us.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Christ Followers are Devoted to the Mission.
God is relational and His presence is attractive. His love and grace draws people to himself. Likewise, God’s community is magnetic. Note the early church’s experience in Acts 2:27, "The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
The community of God that I find in scripture is attractive. Recall how lonely people are today. When they see the friendships and activity of God’s presence among his people, the church, it’s captivating. This is only possible in an atmosphere of grace as opposed to legalism.
Our Heavenly Father is a relational being. The triune God himself lives in community. He lives in three parts that are intimately involved with each other, so with us being made in His image, it’s natural that He communicates to us through relationships. This community is to be found in His church.
- In true community you can see people for who they really are, people desperately in need of God’s grace.
- In community you can see God for who He really is.
- In community you can see the true friendships that God desires for every believer.
When people see these three things they are going to want in. “The Lord added to their number daily those being saved.” You don’t have to feel lonely any more. Do you want to be a part of a community that desires to be in God’s presence? Do you want to join people who are dedicated to each other and are devoted to God’s mission?
In his book When God Builds a Church, Bob Russell said,
"The church exploded in growth because the people loved being together. When you get a group of people together who genuinely believe something and who really enjoy each other, it’s such a contagious atmosphere that you can’t keep people away from it.”God’s mission actually resides in the midst of His gathered community. In the book Desiring God, John Piper explains, “Missions is the automatic outflow and overflow of love for Christ. We delight to enlarge our joy in him by extending it to others.” As Christ followers, we are meant for community and this design is missional. As Jesus said, “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples-when they see the love you have for each other” (John 13:35 Message Bible). As God’s gathered people, we are together and we are on a mission.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Christ Followers are dedicated to each other.
I want you to notice some of the imagery found in Acts 2:42-27. There’s a picture I see of the early church that is quite revealing…Everyone was filled with awe, all the believers were together, and every day they continued to meet together.
The early church understood and had a clear sense of community. They wanted to be together and they were dedicated to each other’s needs. We are told if a practical, physical need arose, the early church sold their possessions and gave to anyone who had need. If a spiritual need arose, this tight knit group of people would be available for that as well, to help and pray.
Life can obviously be difficult and unfair. Dennis Wholey says, "Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian." The bad news in life is that tragedy happens. A good example of this is Matt Chandler and PJ Smyth: godly men who have had to battle cancer. There is good news, however. If you are a member of the body of Christ, you don't have to go through difficulties alone.
Do you know what happens when a church loves to be around each other this much? What occurs when hardship comes on one who is part of God’s family? Encouragement is given. Prayers are offered up. Sometimes checks are written. The body of Christ does exactly what our name implies: we become Jesus to that person in the midst of hardship.
The local church is a community called together by God. We are friends together who will help you in anything. So when someone gets a job promotion or a raise or if they’re pregnant or getting married, we all celebrate together! Conversely, if something bad happens and someone loses a job or a loved one dies, we all mourn together. We are a people dedicated to one another. We are called to be like the church in Acts 2, where “all who believed were together and had all things in common.”
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47 ESV)
Thursday, August 25, 2011
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.This was a people who desired to be together with a spiritual purpose. This church was not a social club; they were not just a group of Christians who were "hanging out." They were dedicated to the things of God.
In his new book, The Spirit-Filled Church, Terry Virgo expounds on this vibrant community:
The early Christians were devoted to fellowship. They were constantly together and relinquished the right to individualism and selfishness by no longer regarding the things they possessed as their own. There was no coercion…. They expressed commitment to one another as a spontaneous outworking of their new life in Christ.Commenting on God’s design for community, C.S. Lewis states, "Christ works on us in all sorts of ways…. But above all He works on us through each other.”
Monday, August 22, 2011
The book "Song of Solomon" is a teaching on the sexual delight between a man and a woman. It could easily be a teaching for marriage, love and romance between a husband and wife. This book is also often thought of as an allegory about Christ and the Church, though it is not referred to in the New Testament as a type of Christ and the Church. However, it could be viewed as both and therefore we can't reject either interpretation.
Regardless of these perspectives, the “Song of Solomon” does reveal how God has made us to long for and to desire delight. This desire and delight is to be directed toward God. As we worship, we take pleasure in God. Not in God's gifts, but God himself.
Worship does bring transformation. Worship changes us. When we worship, we experience the alchemy of transformation. Those taken up with God are changed into His glorious image.
Jesus said God is seeking worshipers. In worship we are changed. All ministry must flow from this center, otherwise it is simply a religious exercise. It is legalism and not the grace of worship. We are ultimately gripped not by an objective assent to an idea, but by a personal encounter with the living God. As John Piper writes in his book Desiring God, “To see Him and know Him and be in His presence is the soul’s final feast. Beyond this there is no quest. Words fail. We call it pleasure, joy, delight but these are weak pointers to the unspeakable experience.” May our delight be found in Christ alone, who is worthy of our worship.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Americans are some of the loneliest people in the world. We are a mobile society where many graduate from high school, move away from home for college, and then move again for a job. Most people will switch jobs 2-3 times. This contributes to our loneliness, and you couple this with our high divorce rate and that makes for some very lonely people.
Concert attendance has been slowly declining over the last 10 years because people no longer want to go and get lost in a crowd. In contrast, another trend over the past 10 years is that coffee houses are up. One person was quoted in The State Journal’s article on coffee houses, "I come here because I like an atmosphere of busyness, I don’t like to feel like I’m alone."
The popular show Friends takes place in a coffeehouse where friends in New York City just spend time together while trying to make it in life. The popular show in the 90s called Seinfeld was said to be about nothing, but was really about a group of friends hanging out and talking about meaningless stuff.
We live in a society that is extremely lonely and many have experienced this feeling firsthand. Charles Swindoll mentioned a Kansas newspaper ad which read, "I will listen to you talk for 30 minutes without comment for $5.00." Swindoll said, "Sounds like a hoax, doesn’t it? But the person was serious. Did anybody call? You bet. It wasn’t long before this individual was receiving 10 to 20 calls a day. The pain of loneliness was so sharp that some were willing to try anything for a half hour of companionship"
Coffeehouses, being with friends and hanging out will satisfy a need in your life, but it’s not the totality of life experience that God wants for you.
God’s Plan for Community
God’s desire is for you to experience "community." In God’s design of us, He said it’s “not good to be alone.” God created the church as a community of people gathered around Jesus and who are called to be together on a mission. Real community is "hanging out with a spiritual purpose." We need to learn to come together for a spiritual purpose.
Larry Crabb makes the simple statement, "Community matters." That’s like saying oxygen matters. Community is essential in a healthy Church. As our lungs require air, so our souls require what only community provides.
You are designed by God (who himself is a group of three persons living in profound relationship with each other) to live in relationship. How can a person tell if he or she is experiencing true community? Answer this question: “How often during the week do I get together with people with a spiritual purpose in mind?”
In a local church, you can experience community any number of ways.
- Sunday morning worship: we gather together and edify one another.
- Become involved in a ministry team.
- Get involved in a small group.
- Pray together with others.
- Encourage spontaneous gatherings with a spiritual purpose.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
ADMIRATION AND REFLECTION
Praise is admiration and reflection. Just wanting an experience is religious existentialism. Worship must be rooted in reality. God loves us and the experience that His Spirit pours out is a greater reality of what we know. Our worship is a realization of that experience and is flooded with reality. We have a greater consciousness of being with the Lord. There is an appetite for God within us. David expresses this when he declared, "As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Ps. 42:1-2). An increasing appetite for God will move us on.
WORSHIP ENTAILS ENCOUNTER
We highly value being in God’s presence. When we worship, God touches us and dwells with us right where we are. The Message Bible describes Jesus’ coming to the earth as God “moving into the neighborhood” (John 1:14). God remains present among us today and worship manifests Him. In worship, there is intensity, God coming upon us with power.
In worship we express that we desire to encounter God. One song expresses this longing with the simple phrase, "I long for you, oh Lord…" We always want to know God and encounter Him in our worship!
We need to long to encounter God and find our highest joy in Him. As John Piper explains in his book Desiring God,
"The enemy of worship is not that our desire for pleasure is too strong but too weak! We have settled for a home, a family, a few friends, a job, a television, a microwave oven, an occasional night out, a yearly vacation, and perhaps a new personal computer. We have accustomed ourselves to such meager, short-lived pleasures that our capacity for joy has shriveled. And so our worship has shriveled."We must re-awaken ourselves to knowing and encountering the reality of the living God. He is our greatest delight.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
(Psalm 63:1-3 ESV)
Thursday, July 21, 2011
For example, you can't understand and appreciate football unless you grasp how the game is played and the skill involved. You can be in the stands of the football stadium while others are excited, but it doesn't help you if you don’t understand the game. Worship is not caught. Worship occurs in the midst of a relationship. A person who spends time getting to know God and His ways will praise Him for who He is and all He’s done.
The more we study, meditate and learn of God, the more we want to worship Him. We become fascinated about God. Study and read real material about God and not just the latest spiritual fads found in paperbacks. It is good to delve into biographies of great men and women of faith. It is good to read healthy theology written by godly men such as Wayne Grudem and Gordon Fee. We learn of God and get thrilled. Let’s pursue the goal to learn something of God on a continual basis.
In addition to reading, biblical worship also strengthens us with the truth about our God. Excellent worship songs speak of the wonders of God. When we sing great worship songs, do we really know what's behind these words? As we sing in worship, let’s reflect on the truth revealed about God and grow in our wonder and awe of Him and His great love for us.
We must know God, and true worship flows out of this relationship. Otherwise, our worship is weak, shallow and more focused on ourselves than on God. Our praise is enriched by our identification with Christ. For example, you can appreciate a good football team, but there’s much more excitement when it is your team. When my team scores…it's my team! I get excited! As believers, Jesus is our Savior and this truth comes out of relationship and out of a personal knowledge of Him. The less we understand, the less we praise. The more we understand, the more we praise.
Let me ask, are you impressed with God? If so, let’s praise Him.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
In Psalm 100:4, the psalmist instructs us to "enter His gates with thanksgiving." This is the first order of worship. God's reign has created a natural order. Romans 1 speaks of the downward spiral of being unthankful and ungrateful. This downward spiral starts because people do not give thanks. Therefore, one thing that should characterize us as God’s people is that we are thankful. One of the first things we teach our children is to say “thank you.” This should be our initial attitude as we worship God as well. Thankfulness is to be a chief characteristic in our daily life and worship. Gratefulness in every circumstance is the obvious evidence of one’s faith in a sovereign God.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Worship is grounded in truth. In John 4:1-24, Jesus gives great teaching on worship and brings solid truth on the back of it. Speaking to an unsaved woman, Jesus teaches an amazing truth when he tells her, "God is looking for worshipers." God is the only one worthy of worship. The question that comes to mind is "Why does God want us to worship Him?" Does God have a problem?
We, in fact, know that God doesn't need anything. However, we need to worship Him. When we worship the Lord, we gaze upon Him, come out of unreality into reality and in that process, we are changed.
True worship differs from religious form and practice. At times, we can go through the motions. Isaiah spoke of this with Israel, "They worship me with their lips but their heart is far from me" (Is 29:13). Religious activity is external and merely a form. God is seeking heart-felt worship that Jesus described as being “in spirit and truth.” Prayer and faith comes out of our worship life. Motivation to pray and to share the gospel comes out of real worship.
In the Psalms, David calls out to God, “Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you” (Ps. 5:11). David instructs us to “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Ps. 37:4). This inner delight is at the heart of true worship.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Any time there is a big event like the devastation in Joplin, there is a lot of information and misinformation to digest. Moreover, what’s communicated from afar is different than reality up close. I want to update you on the Jubilee/Newfrontiers effort to help Joplin and hopefully bring some clarity.
1) The devastation that this tornado has caused has not been overemphasized. It was a horrific tornado that destroyed a 1/3 of the town and the scene on the ground is unreal. It will take years, not days or weeks, to repair what was destroyed.
2) NOBODY from the Newfrontiers church in Joplin (Christ’s Church of Joplin) has been hurt and everyone is fine, has a place to stay and are optimistic about their present and future on a practical level. No one in the church needs any help at this point and all efforts to serve are directed toward the city of Joplin and those outside the church.
3) While there is a small team of Newfrontiers people who are going to go down there, there is NOT a very big immediate need for help. In fact, volunteers who want to help are being turned away. They don’t need food. They don’t need water. They don’t need clothes at this point. Those things are currently in abundance. A lot of people don’t want their homes touched until the insurance companies come out. Large teams of people going to Joplin either this week or even the next week could actually be counterproductive because it would put an administrative burden on the church to find stuff for people to do.
4) The need for assistance for people of Joplin will remain for weeks to come and as the attention turns away from that city, our help could make a big impact as the volunteer supply will start to decline. I am thinking that we could organize a team to go down there in a few weeks to a month…perhaps over July 4th weekend. If you were planning on going down there this weekend to help, by all means go, but just understand that the real need may be a few weeks out.
Our Joplin brothers and sisters are really looking forward to seeing you at Celebration Midwest! One of the great things about these conferences is having face to face contact with those we are praying for and are on mission with!
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
We have considered what the Bible says about marriage in my previous posts. In today’s world, one doesn’t need to look far to see the need for healthy marriages and families. Regarding this important issue of having a biblical marriage, there are three key principles to keep in mind:
- Marriage is designed by God rather than by western culture;
- Christ is to be the center of your marriage;
- Partner together as a team in your marriage.
Marriage was and is God’s creation and we need to recognize Him as the marriage expert rather than looking to our culture’s perspectives. Human behavior is consistent regardless of the age or culture in which we live. The same destructive patterns of behavior operate today with destructive force just as in the days of Adam and Eve. Ancient peoples had the same tendencies of wrongdoing and the same inner desires and needs that we have. Since mankind has not essentially changed, biblical instructions are just as relevant today in our culture as when they were first given. God’s design for a man and a woman to become “one flesh” as found in Genesis 2 remains intact today. "It is God's intention that in every marriage the couple love each other with an absorbing, spiritual, emotional, and physical attraction that continues to grow throughout their lifetime together" (Ed Wheat in Love Life for Every Married Couple).
Christ as the Center
A Christ-centered marriage calls us away from selfishness and thinking mostly about our own needs. Our model for marriage is to love our wives as Christ loved the Church in a self-sacrificing way and to respect and follow the leadership of our husbands as the Church does Jesus. Jesus desires marriage to last and fulfill God’s purpose through this union. He said that what God has joined together, no man should separate (Matt. 19:6).
Together With Grace
Marriage was designed to bring happiness, not misery. All marriages have struggles. We need to join together to face the issues rather than face off against one another. Stop fighting each other. Let go of the hurt. Train yourself to love and forgive.
When a barrier develops in your marriage, actively take it down.
- Forgive. Wipe the slate clean and begin again.
- Change your behavior. Don't look to your spouse to do it first.
- Renew your mind through God's word. Allow Him to replace the negatives with good attitudes that will bless.
Monday, April 11, 2011
“Let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)
“Even if any of them [husbands] are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your… respectful behavior.” (1 Peter 3:1-2)
Wives need to know about a husband’s need for respect. Today, more than ever, we need to think biblically and not just culturally. Emerson Eggerich talks of this in his “Love and Respect” seminar and materials…
“In this culture, a love-dominated society, a woman tends to talk far more about her need for love than her husband talks about his need for respect. Biblically there are two sides to the marital coin: love AND respect…. Only the husband is commanded to agape-love his wife (Eph. 5:25,28,33). Both Peter and Paul reveal that the secret for a wife is to show unconditional respect (1 Peter 3:1-2; Ephesians 5:33). Unconditional respect is as powerful to a husband as unconditional love is to a wife. This truth needs to be put back on the marital radar screen.”
There are many ways a wife can tear down their home by not relating with her husband in a respectful manner:
- Resist his physical affection
- Refuse to do fun things with him
- Take the leadership role
- Stop attempting to be attractive for him
- Neglect your home
- Ridicule him
- Remind him of past mistakes
- Don’t understand his desire to apply himself to his career (He needs to conquer out there!)
- Complain often (Criticism causes a person to become defensive, withdrawn and insecure.)
But what if a husband doesn’t “deserve” respect? Recall that God called the prophet Hosea to unconditionally love his undeserving, adulterous wife. Peter instructed wives to win over their disobedient husband through their respectful behavior (1 Pet. 3:1-2). Eggerich explains this more…
“A disobedient husband is not respectable and DOES NOT DESERVE respect. But such a husband, like all husbands, needs respect that only his wife can give. However, the culture teaches that respect must be earned whereas love is to be unconditional. Further, the culture has given a wife license to express, ‘I love him but don’t respect him.’ However, this is equal to a husband saying, ‘I respect her but do not love her.’”
Expressing the biblical marital value of unconditional love and unconditional respect will certainly strengthen a marriage. For a woman, this can begin by understanding God’s call to respect her husband. The husband needs to know that you trust his leadership.
How is this respect to be expressed? A simple first step is for the wife to ask her husband. A few suggestions might also include:
- Be loyal to his leadership
- Dress for him
- Play with him
- Express desire for him
- Prayer to God on his behalf and with thanksgiving
- Express admiration
May you be encouraged to find some way every day to communicate genuine affection and appreciation toward your spouse.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
God designed marriage to meet the first problem of the human race: loneliness (Genesis 2:18-22). Adam was alone and God said that this was "not good." God created a woman who would join together with the man and by God’s design; they are spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically exactly suited to each other.
Marriage begins with a need, a need for companionship or friendship and completion. Marriage was designed to relieve the fundamental loneliness that people experience. One good definition of love is meeting your spouse’s needs. To the degree that you don't meet each other's needs, the two of you are still alone. In many broken marriage relationships today, the husband works to get his needs met by control and the wife works to get her needs met by manipulation. This approach keeps us alone.
Husbands, meeting your wife’s needs is part of God’s call to “cleave” or “pursue” her. Wives, respecting your husband with how you treat him everyday meets a deep need in him.
While meeting your mate’s needs is the call to both husbands and wives, I want to help men tune in to the needs of their wives. Here are some of her key needs:
- She needs you to be the spiritual leader of your home (One woman I know says her husband “is the most sexy when he is reading the Bible.”)
- She needs you to be her partner in raising the kids and caring for the home.
- She needs you to pursue her.
- She needs you to communicate with her.
- She needs her friends.
- She needs you to encourage, affirm and love her.
- She needs emotional fulfillment.
- She needs you to understand and empathize. She needs a shoulder more than a mouth. More than a solution, she needs you to listen.
- She doesn’t need a newer car or bigger house but she does need the assurance that together we can face the best and worse hand in hand.
As Christ came to serve and give his life for us, so let us serve one another in our marriages. This becomes very practical… just meet the need before you.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
The Companionship Model
God’s design, as we understand from Genesis 3:24, is a companionship model of marriage. The primary factor in establishing a relationship on a solid foundation is that your relationship be based upon deep friendship. “Cleaving” and “knowing” are foundational to companionship. Friendship can be described as “a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each others company.”
Men are by nature builders and “fixers”. We want to build things and fix things that are broken. When it comes to marriage, husbands may look to make their marriage strong but are often uncertain how to do it successfully. I want to share some practical ideas that will help husbands retain or revive their own skills in relationships.
First, however, let’s consider various ways husbands can create marital problems. This is a “What NOT To Do” list!
How Men Destroy Marriage
- Don’t compliment her.
- Don’t demonstrate you are thinking of her.
- Don’t interact meaningfully with her.
- Be deceptive.
- Withhold money and spend it only on what you want.
- Do things with your buddies rather than with your children.
- Criticize her frequently.
- Don’t pay attention to her.
- Don’t do anything around the house.
- Make her feel stupid.
- Try to remake her.
- Be lazy.
- Compare her to other women.
- Verbally abuse and humiliate her. Demand, dominate and demean.
Now let’s discover what husbands can do to produce a strong marriage…
How to Build Your Marriage:
- Treat your wife as your partner and teammate.
- Tell her with your eyes that you love her, but tell her also.
- Give her non-sexual affection. Hold her hand in public, open the door for her, pray for her and help her.
- Stay connected to her. Let communication flow.
- Praise her at least once a day.
In the marriage seminars my wife and I have done over the years, I’ve said to both husbands and wives, “Working briefly on your marriage every day will do more for your health and longevity that working out at a health club.” Husbands, let’s build well every day!
Monday, March 14, 2011
The book of Ephesians speaks very powerfully to three areas of our life: marriage, parenting and jobs/career (see Eph 5:22-6:9).
Ephesians 5:33 states "…let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." Paul speaks on marriage and uses the illustration of Jesus and the Church. Men are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. What does that look like? Jesus laid down his life for his bride. As men and women, we want to preserve our lives, but in marriage we give up our lives for our spouse. Jesus gave up his life for you.
HUSBANDS LOVE YOUR WIVES
Paul refers to the original instructions regarding marriage that are found in Genesis. These 24 words that are the key: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" (Eph. 5:31). There are three elements here:
- Cleave ("hold fast")
- Become one
Paul calls for men to love their wife and for wives to respect your husbands (v. 33 is drawn from Gen. 2:24).
Paul tells the men to do three things. First is to LEAVE. Leave anything that does not contribute to your oneness. Second, men are to "CLEAVE" (King James Version). This means the husbands are to aggressively cleave to or pursue your wife. This is what it means to love her. It is about a commitment. As you do commit to one another, you BECOME ONE. Commitment allows love to be sustained. You behave your way into feelings; you don’t feel your way into behavior.
Ephesians and Genesis place the bulk of marriage responsibility on men. It is the husband who takes the responsibility of leadership in a good marriage. The husband’s great priority is to love and lead his wife. Many men are afraid to lead. They’ve not been trained and they easily err toward passivity, abdication or domination.
Practical steps in "cleaving" or loving
In marriage, there are many ways for a man to love his wife. Here are some practical ways for a man to genuinely express love his wife. Here are some suggestions:
- Affection Hold her and accept her. Pursue her and surprise her with a gift. You may want to express public affection. Put her first and remember the little things! (Yes, they matter!)
- Connection through communication Be attentive when she talks to you and look at her. Smile when you talk and answer her questions. Treat her as an equal. Be sure to listen and don’t instinctively try to "fix" her problem. Call her and tell her when you’re going to be late, laugh together and pursue her!
- Honesty Enough said.
- Openness Share your life with her. Value her and be open to share your feelings.
- Financial support As a leader in the home, you are to provide for her well-being.
- Family commitment She appreciates your involvement with the children. Help her around the house. This goes a long way in showing her how much you love her!
Men, it’s time to rise up and follow Christ’s example in your marriage. Lay down your life and pursue your wife!
Monday, March 7, 2011
In Strike The Original Match, Chuck Swindoll relates this humorous story:
“Four-year-old Suzie had just been told the story of Snow White for the first time in her life. She could hardly wait to get home from nursery school to tell her mommy. After relating how Prince Charming had arrived on his beautiful white horse and kissed Snow White back to life, Suzie asked loudly, ‘And do you know what happened then?’
‘Yes,’ said her mom, ‘They lived happily ever after.’
‘No,’ responded Suzie with a frown, ‘They got married.’
Getting married and living happily ever after are not necessarily synonymous.”
Marriages today often reveal the struggles that can arise as two people commit to love each other and live life together. In Bill McCartney’s autobiography, Sold Out, the former Colorado football coach wrote about his lifetime of failings, especially in his marriage. “Tucked away in the folds of my life are countless episodes that could strip away the mystique and pretense of what some think of me.” He calls himself a “highly flawed, ordinary man who has made it through only with the help of an extraordinary God.”
Sold Out is presented as Bill McCartney’s story, but the book also contains nine sections written by Lyndi, his wife. They provide a good window into Bill’s spiritual journey. Lyndi reveals the monumental price she paid as McCartney’s “trophy wife,” a woman who for years stood on the sidelines while McCartney coached Colorado’s football team to a national championship. Her comments help underscore what brought their never-great marriage to a crisis in 1993, when Lyndi says she found herself in “an emotional deep-freeze.”
That year began in soap-opera fashion when, on New Year’s Day, Bill came clean to Lyndi about an affair he had had with another woman two decades earlier in their marriage. That confession, which the McCartneys chose not to put in the book but was reported by the New York Times, left Lyndi devastated. At the time, Bill was at the pinnacle of his coaching career. In a manner typical of the way he operated at the time, he confessed his adultery just moments before walking out the door to coach the Fiesta Bowl game.
In the months that followed, Lyndi’s emotional and physical health reached the breaking point. To cope, she rarely left the bedroom of their home. She contemplated taking her own life. For more than seven months she vomited every day, losing 80 pounds. Bill, busy with football and with managing the Promise Keepers movement, remained oblivious. While Lyndi had no intention of leaving her marriage, she says she began building “emotional siege walls” between herself and her husband.
“The Lord was the only one I felt I could trust.” Lyndi claims she wasn’t bothered by Bill’s lack of attention during their 30-year marriage “most of the time.” She stayed reasonably happy with her responsibilities as a mother “most of the time.” But she admits they lived separate lives. As her husband soared to the pinnacle of his career, “I just felt like I was getting smaller and smaller.”
God used two events to turn McCartney around. One was a Promise Keepers rally where men were told to write down the number their wives would give their marriages if rating them on a scale of one to ten. Bill rated their marriage a six. The second event was in the fall of 1994, when a guest speaker at their church stated, “If you want to know about a man’s character, then look into the face of his wife. Whatever he has invested in or withheld from her will be reflected in her countenance.” Bill literally turned to face his wife and saw in his wife’s haunted, empty eyes his own sinful neglect staring back at him. “Escorting my wounded wife out to the church parking lot, I began to pray about the timing of my resignation from the University of Colorado.”
Whether you find yourself in a struggling marriage, know somebody who is having marriage trouble, are enjoying your own marriage or are just wondering about marriages today, let’s start with some good news. God created marriage! He did this so men and women would come alongside one another and partner together. Since God also created us, He has also given us the Bible that instructs us how to live life according to His creative design. I want to explore what a Biblical marriage relationship looks like in my upcoming blogs. I believe God’s truth can bring healthy life into marriages. As scripture states, “Marriage should be honored by all” (Heb. 13:4).
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
From the very beginning of the Christian life, the Holy Spirit is at work in the believer. Christians are ‘born again’ by the Holy Spirit. However, Jesus promised the disciples that they would receive a dynamic power to witness for Him when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:4-8).
Acts 2: 38-39 makes it clear that the Spirit is for us today and applies to us.
When Paul met ‘disciples’ at Ephesus (see Acts 19:1-7), he sensed something was lacking and asked them a very basic question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” He knew that there was a receiving of the gift of the Holy Spirit that every believer was entitled to have. However not every believer had this automatically. He expected them to know whether they had been filled with the Holy Spirit or not. The baptism in the Spirit is a definite experience (Acts 2:1-4; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 8:12-17; Acts 19:1-7).
Jesus is the one who baptizes his followers in the Holy Spirit (John 1:29-33). In John 7:37-39, Jesus gives us simple steps to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- If anyone is thirsty – This is a deep longing for God to meet you in this way. This desire is essential for receiving the Holy Spirit. If you are not thirsty, ask God “Why”!
- Come to me – Go to Jesus and ask. God gives to those who ask (Luke 11:13).
- Drink – Drinking is an act of faith. Lay hold of the blessing and be ready to receive.
- Faith – Jesus says the Spirit will be active in the one who believes in him. Faith plays an important role. When you come to Jesus, resist the temptation to passively wait for something to happen.
- Laying on of hands – This is a ministry to help you receive. It is biblical (Acts 8:17; 9:17; 19:6) and a channel of faith for imparting the Spirit.
We are called to restore the fullness of God’s salvation as revealed in scripture. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an important part of our new life in Christ. It is God’s desire to have a Spirit-empowered people who are his witnesses of the good news of the kingdom. One of our key values in Newfrontiers is to be “A church whose people are baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit, and brought into a genuine life in the Spirit.” Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Water baptism has been a part of the life of the Christian faith since the days of Jesus Christ’s ministry. After Jesus’ resurrection, He told His followers to go all over the world with the gospel and to be sure to baptize His disciples. Attending a church service with a baptism is a highlight moment in my life. The Bible tells us how baptism is to be practiced and what it really means.
It is For Believers
Baptism in Scripture always follows repentance and faith (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). It was after a person became a disciple that they were to be baptized (Matt. 28:19). In all the Acts incidents of baptism you will find the order is never reversed. Read the salvation story of the Philippian jailer’s family (Acts 16:31-34) and note that repentance and faith preceded baptism.
There is no age limit for baptism found in the scriptures. If someone is old enough to understand the gospel and believe, they can be saved and baptized!
It is by Immersion
The Greek word for “baptize” means “to dip; to immerse; to submerge.” New Testament believers were, therefore, immersed in water. So John needed plenty of water to do the job (John 3:23). Immersion is confirmed by the description of Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:10). Immersion can also be implied with the baptisms of Philip and the eunuch (Acts 8: 38-39).
What Does it Mean?
The moment you became a Christian, your life was linked with Jesus Christ. You were baptized (immersed) into Him and what happened to Him happened to you as well. You died with Him to your life of sin and to its power over you. And you rose with Him to a brand new life! When you are baptized you are identifying with Him (Romans 6:3-7).
When you go down into the water, you are saying, “Lord Jesus, You died on the cross for me. From now on, my old life is dead. I’ve broken with sin.”
When you are under the water you are saying, “Just as You were buried in the tomb, Lord, so my old sinful life is now buried in the water. This baptism is my funeral.”
When you are lifted out of the water, you are saying, “Lord, You were raised from the dead by God’s power and by that power I can live a totally new life.” Matthew 28: 19-20; Acts 10:48
Water baptism is a first step of obedience to Christ. It is a key time to declare that the kingdom of God has come upon a new life! Let’s celebrate!
Thursday, February 10, 2011
We Begin in Faith
Faith is the basis for our relationship with God from the beginning. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exist and that He rewards those that seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith actually comes from accepting what God says in the Bible. Paul wrote, “faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Scripture makes it clear we are saved when we believe what God has said about Jesus Christ His Son (John 3:16, Mark 16:16).
- We BELIEVE that Jesus is the Son of God sent by the Father as the only way of salvation (Acts 4:12).
- We TRUST wholly and only in Jesus and His death on the cross to save us from our sins (Romans 3:22-24).
- We CONFESS that Jesus is alive and is the Lord of our lives (Romans 10:9-10).
- We RECEIVE from God the gift of eternal life (John 3:36).
We are Justified by Faith
Justification is a picture from the law courts. A person is justified if they are declared legally innocent for a crime they were once pronounced guilty of committing. We WERE guilty of our sins before the court of a holy God. However, Jesus bore the punishment due to us. My sins have been PAID FOR and are therefore legally removed. I can be righteous (that is “in right standing”) with a holy God.
This is the gospel God has announced and my faith in this message means I can be justified. Faith in Jesus is the ONLY WAY I can be justified (Romans 3:21-26; 5:6-11).
We Walk by Faith
The Christian life is a life of faith. Abraham is a clear example of a life marked by faith (Romans 4:13-21). He heard the word of God and believed what God had promised him (v.13, 21). He did not consider his own abilities as the determining factor but embraced the hope expressed in God’s promise (v.18-19). He gave glory to God out of his faith in God, even before he saw the full accomplishment of the promise (v.20-21).
As Christians we are to live with a full confidence in God and the reality of our salvation in Christ. We believe that the gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).
Thursday, February 3, 2011
As we look to recover the Biblical theology and practice of salvation, one discovers all too often there is something missing in our Christian culture and practice: repentance. Repentance was clearly a part of receiving the gospel in the early church. To repent means “to turn away from” or “to return to”. To repent means you realize that you are going away from God, so you do a complete “about turn” towards God. Acts 17:30 states that the Lord “now commands all people everywhere to repent.”
To repent is to recognize that God is wholly right and we are wholly wrong. It is the realization that we need a change of mind and a change of heart as well as a change of direction (Romans 3:23 and Isaiah 55:8-9). Tim Keller defines repentance as “an inward change leading to the fruit of new behavior.”
To repent is a practical step. It involves zeal and action (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). This means when I repent, I stop doing ungodly things and start doing godly things. We are told to produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8). Repentance results in a change of behavior. In the Bible, when people repented they got rid of idols, burned occult books, paid back money they had stolen and so on. See Luke 3:10-14 for more examples of changes that resulted from repentance.
Repentance is not just something you do one time at the beginning of your Christian life. Second Corinthians 7:10-11 refers to Christians who were needing to repent of things they had done wrong. Repentance is part of our process of becoming like Christ. The good news is that God promises forgiveness and restoration to all who truly repent.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
What takes place when someone finally responds to the gospel? Do we ask for people to come forward and “pray a prayer” in a meeting? What response do we see people make to the gospel in the New Testament? We must reclaim not only the correct doctrine of salvation, we must also restore the experience of salvation as revealed in scripture.
The Gospel According to Peter
Speaking the first message following the resurrection of Jesus, Peter preaches about Jesus and God’s ageless plan (Acts 2:36-41). The people listening ask, “What shall we do? He gives the answer in verse 38: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Peter’s answer to the crowd includes four key elements:
- REPENTANCE: Turn away from what you’ve done wrong.
- FAITH: Believe in Jesus for forgiveness of sins.
- WATER BAPTISM: Be baptized in water to show you have faith in Jesus.
- BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT: Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Book of Acts
Throughout the book of Acts these four elements are always there. Here are a few examples…
Acts 8: 9-17 - Samaria
- The people turn from following an occult magician (v.9-13) – Repentance
- The people believed in Jesus (v.12) – Faith
- The people were baptized in water (v.12) – Baptism in Water
- The people received the gift of the Holy Spirit (v.15,17) – Baptism in the Spirit.
Acts 9: 17-18 – Paul’s Conversion
Paul repented (turned from) his old evil ways and believed in Jesus (v.1-6). Here he is filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized in water.
Acts 19:1-7 - Ephesus
This is the start of the church in the city of Ephesus. When Paul visits the city, he finds some God-fearing people but is concerned that something is missing. He asked them, “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” (v.2). Paul explains Jesus to these disciples of John. They evidently believed and are baptized as a result of believing in Jesus (vs. 4-5). Their baptism with Paul was not actually them being “re-baptized” as Christians since their first baptism was John the Baptist’s baptism and did not involve faith in Jesus for forgiveness of sin. After their water baptism, Paul laid hands upon them to receive the Holy Spirit and they were filled and spoke with tongues (v.6).
The salvation experience of the early church was a rich encounter as people responded to the gospel with an active faith! May we seek for the people we meet in our communities to undergo this great salvation experience themselves.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
In order to lead people to salvation in Jesus, we must first understand the radical nature of the gospel. It is vital to not only get the gospel out but to get the gospel right. I believe something is drastically wrong with the way we have presented and practiced the gospel. The gospel is reduced from its radical nature.
A bullet point model of salvation is most common. It has become “say this prayer so you will go to heaven.” We then warehouse people until they die. Discipleship becomes “optional”.
The Gospel According to Jesus
Mark 1:14-15 “The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe this good news.”
First and foremost, Jesus’ gospel is about God and not about us. The true gospel is not a consumer item we acquire, securing us for a blissful “happy-ever-after” eternity. It is about a present reality through the person of Jesus. Jesus’ gospel was about the kingdom of God.
To enter God’s kingdom, we first repent. We examine our whole way of doing life.
Second, we believe, placing our confidence in Jesus and the gospel. We act and live as if we actually trust it is true (Matthew 7:24-27).
Jesus’ Gospel is an invitation into the Kingdom of God. The kingdom is the realm in which what God wants done is done. When Jesus tells us to lose our life in order to find it (see Matthew 16:24-25), he is showing how we are to give up an inferior life outside the Kingdom for a superior life in it.
The goal of the gospel is formation in Christ in this present life. Bob Roberts, Jr. states, “The problem with evangelism (and any other tenet of Christianity) is not so much the sharing of our faith but the living of our faith.” Through the gospel, we are called to become a people who demonstrate the reality of the Kingdom in this life.
The gospel of the Kingdom of God is indeed radical to our religious culture today. As the church, we must renew our devotion and commitment to Christ’s gospel and to live radically in God’s kingdom in order to see transformation take place in our world.