Month: April 2015

~Consider what great things He has don for “YOU”~

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Lord, my God, I shall remember that You have led me all the way these many years in the wilderness, to humble me and test me, to know what was in my heart, whether I would keep Your commandments or not. I should know in my heart that as a man chastens his son, so You, Lord God chasten me.

I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statures. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You, Lord, have chastened me severely, but You have not given me over to death. You have not dealt with me according to my sins, nor punished me according to my iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is Your mercy towards those like me who fear You. You know my frame; You remember that I am dust.

Great are the things You have done for me – even in the wilderness of my life! I praise You, heavenly Father, for Your love and faithfulness.

But God!!! can change your past into a positive future, only God can move and arrange people to assist you in your difficulties, only God can give you peace amidst a storm that has assailed your life He is a healer and protector and provider.God said, let Me teach you thankfulness. Begin by acknowledging that everything—all your possessions and all that you are—belongs to Me. The dawning of each new day is a gift from Me, not to be taken for granted. The earth is vibrantly alive with My blessings, giving vivid testimony to My Presence. If you slow down your pace of life, you can find Me anywhere.

Some of My most precious children have been laid aside in sick beds or shut away in prisons. Others have voluntarily learned the discipline of spending time alone with Me. The secret of being thankful is learning to see everything from My perspective. My world is your classroom. My Word is a lamp to your feet and a light for your path.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
—Hebrews 12:28–29

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
—Psalm 119:105

~ Spirit-Word-Flesh-Obedience-Jesus~

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“Dear God

Please take away my pain and despair of yesterday and any unpleasant memories and replace them with Your glorious promise of new hope. Show me a fresh HS-inspired way of relating to negative things that have happened. I ask You for the mind of Christ so I can discern Your voice from the voice of my past. I pray that former rejection and deep hurts will not color what I see and hear now.

Help me to see all the choices I have ahead of me that can alter the direction of my life. I ask You to empower me to let go of the painful events and heartaches that would keep me bound. Thank You for Your forgiveness that You have offered to me at such a great price. Pour it into my heart so I can relinquish bitterness hurts and disappointments that have no place in my life. Please set me free to forgive those who have sinned against me and caused me pain and also myself. Open my heart to receive Your complete forgiveness and amazing grace. You have promised to bind up my wounds Psa 147:3 and restore my soul Psa 23:3 .

Help me to relinquish my past surrender to You my present and move to the future You have prepared for me. I ask You to come into my heart and make me who You would have me to be so that I might do Your will here on earth. I thank You Lord for all that’s happened in my past and for all I have become through those experiences. I pray You will begin to gloriously renew my present.”
Sue Augustine, When Your Past Is Hurting Your Present

“Nevertheless, should you have any doubts that we are stating sound doctrines, look up the references and see exactly what the Bible says and believe it in preference to any man. You cannot go wrong with this kind of advice. But in doing this, be sure you adhere to what is written, and that you do not let preconceived ideas cause you to be biased on any point. Do not try to make the Bible conform to your ideas. Always reconcile your ideas to the Bible. Let the plain language of the references given be read and understood in the same literal way that we would understand similar statements in any other book”
Finis Jennings Dake, God’s Plan for Man

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“There is no excuse for anyone to misunderstand God’s Word if he will, like a child, accept the Bible for what it says, and be honest enough to consecrate himself to obey it. He must accept the Bible as God’s Word. He must believe that God could not be honest if He sought to hide from man the very things He will judge him by in the end. He must accept the Bible as the final Court of Appeal on its own subjects, and forget man’s interpretations and distortion of the Word. He must believe that God knows what He is talking about; that He knows how to express Himself in human language; that He said what He meant, and meant what He said; and that what He says on a subject is more important than what any man may say about it.”
Finis Jennings Dake, God’s Plan for Man

~ The Essential Christ~

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The Bible itself reveals those doctrines that are essential to the Christian faith.  They are 1) the Deity of Christ, 2) Salvation by Grace, 3) Resurrection of Christ, 4) the gospel, and 5) monotheism.  These are the doctrines the Bible says are necessary.  Though there are many other important doctrines, these five are the ones that are declared by Scripture to be essential (I call them primary essentials since the Bible declares them as essential).  A non-regenerate person (i.e., Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness, atheist, Muslim), will deny one or more of these essential doctrines.   Please note that there are other derivative doctrines of scripture that become necessary also and the Trinity being one.

  1. The Deity of Christ
    1. Jesus is God in flesh (John 8:58 with Exodus 3:14). See also John 1:1, 14; 10:30-33; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 1:8
      1. 1 John 4:2-3: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
        1. The above verse needs to be cross-referenced with John 1:1, 14 (also written by John) where he states that the Word was God and the Word became flesh.
        2. 1 John 4:2-3 is saying that if you deny that Jesus is God in flesh, then you are of the spirit of Antichrist.
      2. John 8:24, “I said, therefore, to you, that you will die in your sins.  For if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
      3. Jesus said that if you do not believe “that I am,” you will die in your sins.  In Greek I am is ‘ego eimi,’ which means ‘I am.’  These are the same words used in John 8:58, where Jesus says ” . . . before Abraham was, I am.”  He was claiming the divine title by quoting Exodus 3:14.
        1. The Greek Septuagint is the Hebrew Old Testament translated into Greek and done by Jews around 250 B.C.  They translated Exodus 3:14 as ‘ego eimi’ “I AM”).
    2. Jesus is the proper object of faith
      1. It is not simply enough to have faith.  Faith is only as valid as the person in whom you put it.  You must put your faith in the proper person.  Cults have false objects of faith (false gods); therefore, their faith is useless–no matter how sincere they are.
      2. If you put your faith in a guru, a philosopher, or a past teacher (and not Jesus) to save you from your sins on Judgment Day, then you will be in a lot of trouble no matter how sincere or strong your faith is.  You might have great faith but so what?   Faith in something false has the same effect as no faith at all.
    3. The Doctrine of the deity of Christ includes:
      1. The Trinity–There is one God who exists in three persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are all coeternal and of the same nature.
      2. Monotheism–There is only one God in all existence (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:5, 14, 18, 21, 22; 46:9; 47:8).  Mormons believe that many gods exist though they serve and worship only one.  Therefore, they are polytheists which excludes them from the camp of Christianity.
    4. The Hypostatic Union–That Jesus is both God and man.
      1. The sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ–The sacrifice of Christ is completely sufficient to pay for the sins of the world, and it is only through Jesus’ sacrifice that anyone can be saved.
      2. As God–Only a perfect sacrifice to God is able to cleanse us from our sins.  This is why Jesus, who is God in flesh, died for us.
        1. He had to die for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Only God could do that.
      3. As man–Jesus must be man to be able to be a sacrifice for man.
        1. As a man, He can be the mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
    5. This means that the Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Way International, Islam, etc., are outside of Christianity.
  2. Salvation by Grace
    1. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9, NIV).
    2. “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Gal. 5:4).
      1. This verse and its context plainly teach that if you believe that you are saved by faith and works, then you are not saved at all. This is a common error in the cults.  Because they have a false Jesus, they have a false doctrine of salvation.  (Read Rom. 3-5 and Gal. 3-5).
      2. You cannot add to the work of God.  Gal. 2:21 says, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (NIV)
    3. “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Rom. 3:20).
      1. “However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness,” (Rom. 4:5).
      2. “Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God?  Absolutely not!  For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.” (Gal. 3:21).
    4. Salvation is not universal resurrection as Mormonism would declare.  Rather, it is the saving from God’s righteous judgment.  Furthermore, salvation, which is the forgiveness of sins, is accomplished by faith alone (Rom. 4:1-11).
    5. Roman Catholicism denies salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.  Therefore, Roman Catholicism is outside of Christianity.
  3. The Resurrection of Christ
    1. “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Cor. 15:14).  “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:17).
    2. To deny the physical resurrection is to deny that Jesus’ work was a satisfactory offering to God the Father.   It would mean that Jesus was corrupt and needed to stay in the grave.  But, he did not stay because his sacrifice was perfect.
    3. These verses clearly state that if you say that Jesus did not rise from the dead (in the same body He died in–John 2:19-21), then your faith is useless.
    4. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Muslims deny Jesus’ physical resurrection.  Therefore, they are outside of Christianity.
  4. The Gospel
    1. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal. 1:8-9, NIV).
      1. Verses 8 and 9 here in Galatians are a self-declarative statement that you must believe the gospel.  The gospel message which in its entirety is that Jesus is God in flesh, who died for sins, rose from the dead, and freely gives the gift of eternal life to those who believe.
      2. Furthermore, it would not be possible to present the gospel properly without declaring that Jesus is God in flesh per John 1:1, 14; 10:30-33; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 1:8.
    2. 1 Cor. 15:1-4 defines what the gospel is: “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” (NIV).
      1. Within these verses are the essentials: Christ is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14; 10:30-33; 20:28; Col. 2:9); Salvation is received by faith (John 1:12; Rom. 10:9-10); therefore it is by grace; and the resurrection is mentioned in verse 4.  Therefore, this gospel message automatically includes the essentials.
  5. Monotheism
    1. There is only one God (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8)
    2. “You shall have no other gods before Me.  4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:3-6).
      1. We can see that God will visit iniquity on the descendents of those who do not follow the true and living God.
    3. Mormonism, for example, is not monotheistic.  Mormonism teaches that there are many gods but only one is worshipped.  Therefore, Mormonism is outside of Christianity.

Secondary Essentials

Secondary essentials are necessary truths, but there is no self-declared penalty for their denial–yet they are still essential to the Christian faith.  Again, by way of example, Jesus says that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by him. (John 14:6).  I call this a secondary essential because there’s no penalty associated with its denial.  Nevertheless, it is a statement of absolute truth and is an essential Christian teaching that cannot be denied.

  1. Jesus is the only way to salvation
    1. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.‘” (John 14:6)
      1. Jesus declared that he was the only access to God the Father.  To deny this is to deny what Jesus said.
  2. Jesus’ Virgin Birth
    1. “’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’” (Matt. 1:23).
      1. Without the virgin birth, we cannot substantiate the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus being God in flesh.  This would put at risk what Jesus said above in John 8:24 where he said, “I said, therefore, to you, that you will die in your sins.  For if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
  3. Doctrine of the Trinity
    1. Matt. 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (see also, Matt. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6).
    2. This doctrine is not represented by a single verse per se though it is hinted at.  The doctrine of the Trinity is arrived at systematically by looking at the totality of Scripture.  It is, nevertheless, the proper representation of scriptural revelation concerning the nature of God.
    3. The Trinity is denied by Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, The Way International, etc.

~ Free Yourself and Then Others~

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As the late British scholar and writer C.S. Lewis once stated, “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it.  It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”  Indeed, throughout history, humanity has been blessed to explore beautiful expressions of excellent writers such as Herman Melville, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Virginia Woolf, Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, George Santayana, Frantz Fanon, T.S. Eliot, Anton Chekhov, Walt Whitman and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Oftentimes, rich literary treasures are not associated with writers of African descent, but objective evidence has shown and continues to denote that some of the world’s finest books have evolved from the minds of black authors. Whether fiction or non-fiction, these writings have been important not only as poignant reflections of reality, but also as interesting opportunities for cross-cultural understanding.

Written by the founder of Negro History Week (later to be expanded and renamed as Black History Month), The Miseducation of the Negro is a classic work in which Dr. Woodson critiques an antiquated and propagandist education system that left many blacks unable to think for themselves, uplift their race and solve problems confronting their community.  Dr. Woodson strongly believed that “miseducated” African-Americans should learn to become self-reliant  and sacrifice for the progress of their people, in lieu of seeking higher paying jobs and becoming dependent on their oppressors.

I really desire to share all the pain and struggles I had to endure to free my mind from the ignorance that once had me imprisoned mentally. I read and I prayed and I stood on His promises. I found my solace in my hope that I would one day know how important being a father and a husband really is. I held on to my hope that I would one day be able to share my intelligence and journey with people of the same struggle. I desired with every fiber within me to help men of color who have abandoned their calling  to re-engage and desire to stand their post in the community and family structure.

After receiving the Oscar for Best Song for “Glory” from Selma, John Legend gave an impassioned speech calling out the present-day state of affairs for African Americans. One line stood out: “We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850.”

It’s become a widely cited statistic, after the publication of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow in 2011 — which helped make mass incarceration a hot topic of discussion. But is it true? Yes, the basic numbers check out — although the stat is a little misleading.

The key to this is the term “correctional control” — which doesn’t just refer to prisons, but to jails (for people who haven’t been convicted yet, or are serving short local sentences); parole (for people who’ve been released from prison but are still being supervised); and probation (supervision as an alternative to a prison sentence). In all, as of a 2009 report from the Pew Public Safety Performance Project, one in every 31 Americans is under one of these four types of “control.”

So while there are fewer black men physically in prison today than there were in slavery in 1850, the addition of probation and parole brings it over the top.

Here are the numbers:

  • In 1850, there were 872,924 black men (16 or older) who were enslaved in the US, according to the Census.
  • As of December 31, 2013, there were about 526,000 black men in state and federal prisons in the US.
  • In 2013, there were about 877,000 black men on probation, and 280,000 black men on parole (according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics source cited by Politifact).
  • The Bureau of Justice Statistics doesn’t break down jail populations by both race and gender, but 86 percent of all 730,000 jail residents in 2013 were male, and 36 percent were black. So it seems plausible that at least a couple hundred thousand black men are in jail.

The totals: 1.68 million black men are under correctional control in the US, not counting jails. That’s over three times as many black men as were enslaved in 1850.

Here’s why this is a bit misleading: there are more black men (and more people, generally) in the US now than there were a century and a half ago. In 1850, there were 3.6 million African Americans in the US (men and women), according to the Census; in 2010, there were 42 million. So a much larger share of the black male population was enslaved in 1850 than is under correctional control today.

That doesn’t keep the statistic Legend offered from being true, or alarming. What’s even more alarming is the number of other statistics he could have offered to show the impact that mass incarceration has had on black men over the past few decades.One example: a black child whose father didn’t complete high school has a 50 percent chance of seeing him incarcerated by the time she’s 14. Or check out this video:

The United States has the biggest population of prisoners in the world, both in terms of the number incarcerated and as a percentage of the total population.

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Why the frontrunner position? It’s not because the United States has more crime than other countries. In general, Americans aren’t any more likely to become victims of crime than people in other countries.

Where America appears to distinguish itself is in the length of sentences for property crimes and drug crimes. One study found that sentences in the United States for burglary are about three times longer than sentences in England for the same crime.

The disparity is even bigger for drug cases. A first-time offender convicted of possessing a kilogram of heroin could get 4 months of prison in England. In America, the federal mandatory minimum sentence is 10 years.

The United States has the biggest population of prisoners in the world, both in terms of the number incarcerated and as a percentage of the total population.

Who decides how long a prison sentence should be, and how?

While juries are in charge of determining whether a defendant is guilty, the responsibility for figuring out the length of the prison sentence lies with the judge. For federal crimes, the government currently has a couple of ways to ensure criminal sentences are consistent among all federal judges. Those systems complicate the process of setting a sentence.

The first way the federal government can control the length of a prison sentence is through what are called mandatory minimums. Those are laws passed by Congress that explicitly state someone convicted of a certain crime has to spend at least a set number of years in prison.

Not all crimes have mandatory minimums written into law. And for the ones that do, just saying “at least” doesn’t give much guidance as to how long the sentence should be. That’s where the second part of the system comes in: the federal government’s sentencing guidelines.

The sentencing guidelines are a complicated math formula that takes a bunch of factors into consideration, including whether the defendant already has a criminal record; how severe the crime was; how involved the defendant was in the crime; and whether violence was involved. The formula spits out a recommended range for the sentence and the judge picks a sentence length that seems fair within that range.

Even though the federal sentencing guidelines are called “guidelines,” judges often treat them as rules. In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the guidelines were supposed to actually be guidelines, and that judges should be able to give defendants shorter sentences if they wanted. That’s called “downward departure.” The judge is departing from the guidelines to hand down a sentence that’s below the federal recommendation. However, in most cases — especially when there’s a mandatory minimum involved — judges tend to follow the guidelines.

~Mending Fences with My Son~

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“In spite of the six thousand manuals on child raising in the bookstores, child raising is still a dark continent and no one really knows anything. You just need a lot of love and luck – and, of course, courage.”
Bill Cosby, Fatherhood

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Fathers and Sons

Being a father is life’s fullest expression of masculinity. But for many males, life consists of a search for the lost father. My son Aaron and I have had a intricate time being together and bonding due to the complexities that once plagued my life. I was given another day that wasn’t promised to me. My morning started at 4;30 am with me screaming at the top of my voice with the words NO!!!NO!!!, sweating and shaking with thoughts that sounded like this, what if something happens to me before I get my relationship with little Aaron right? My dad died in February without our being able to reconcile our father son relationship and I know that’s why this matters so much to me.

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We know that raising children is the central experience of life, the greatest source of self-awareness, the true fountain of pride and joy, the most eternal bond with a partner. We know that being a father is life’s fullest expression of masculinity. So why did so many men forgo this for so long, and will the current crop of post-patriarchal fathers fare any better?

FOR A COUPLE OF hundred years now, each generation of fathers has passed on less and less to his sons–not just less power but less wisdom. And less love. We finally reached a point where many fathers were largely irrelevant in the lives of their sons. The baby was thrown out with the bathwater, and the pater dismissed with the patriarchy. Everyone seemed to be floundering around not knowing what to do with men or with their problematic and disoriented masculinity.

 In addition, over the same 200 years, each generation of fathers has had less authority than the last. The concept of fatherhood changed drastically after the Industrial Revolution. Economics suddenly dictated that somebody had to go out from the home to work. Men were usually chosen, since they couldn’t produce milk. Maybe they would come home at night or just on weekends.

As a result, masculinity ceased to be defined in terms of domestic involvement-that is, skills at fathering and husbanding -and began to be defined in terms of making money. Men stopped doing all the things they used to do. Instead, they became primarily Father the Provider, bringing things home to the family rather than living and working at home within the family.

This gradually led fathers to find other roles to fulfill when they visited home after working somewhere else: Father the Disciplinarian: “Wait till your father comes home!” and Father the Audience: “Tell Daddy what you did today.”

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FATHER THE PROVIDER

I always made it the excuse to why I clung to the streets and the games I played outside my home while trying to provide a higher life for my kids. I worked, I hustled and I paid the price for all of the unnecessary things I did because of greed. My kids are still somewhat distant, but most of them have forgiven mom and dad for having to leave them for a number of years.

If all father’s functions were economic, if all his status was measured by how well he provided, the rich and economically powerful father became a potential tyrant; but the father who wasn’t rich and famous was an inescapable failure, a disappointment, a buffoon. The father’s position in the family was no longer determined by how well he functioned as a father, but was scored by his status in the eyes of the world, in a set of economic contests in which there were few men winning by being the richest of them all, and most men losing.

Once a father had moved out of family life and became part of the work crew, family values ceased to be his primary definers of himself. He adopted instead the values and job descriptions of the other workers. His work ceased to be something he did for the sake of his family and became work for the sake of work.

He didn’t slow down when he’d achieved a level of sufficient comfort; instead, he strove even harder to get the approval of his fellow workers and to earn glory in their eyes. He worked because he worked; that was what he did because that was what he was. He was no longer paterfamilias, he was homolaboriosus. In the endeavors and identity dearest to his heart and heaviest on his schedule, he was a working man, and his family should understand that their claims on his time came second best.

In his mind, he had moved out. He had gone to conquer the world.

FATHER THE SUCCESS

When society decided that raising children was women’s work and that making money was the single-minded point of men’s lives, fathers became too busy for their children and boys began to grow up without fathers. That would not have been critical if there were uncles and cousins and grandfathers and older brothers around to model masculinity for boys. But our ideas of mental health and the goals of the housing industry required that families trim themselves down to the size of a married couple and their children.

Reducing the family to such a tiny, isolated, nuclear unit made it mobile enough for the purposes of industrial society. Workers were no longer rooted in the land or community. Now nothing came between a man and his job. Companies could extract the utmost loyalty from employees by making them a part of the family of work and cut them further away from the family of home. Men on the Daddy Track were severely penalized, much as women on the Mommy Track are now.

The children of this generation may grow up with the idea that a father’s life is his work, and his family should not expect anything more from him.

I recall one man, talking about the problems of his son, saying, “I don’t know what Betty could have done wrong raising that boy. I know it wasn’t anything I did, since I was busy working and left it to her. I barely saw the kid so I couldn’t have done anything wrong.”

FATHER Hunger

Life for most boys and for many grown men then is a frustrating search for the lost father who has not yet offered protection, provision, nurturing, modeling, or, especially, anointment. All those tough guys who want to scare the world into seeing them as men and who fill up the jails; all whose men who don’t know how to be a man with a woman and who fill up the divorce courts; all those corporate raiders who want more in hopes that more will make them feel better; and all those masculopathic philanderers, contenders, and controllers–all of them are suffering from Father Hunger.

They go through their adolescent rituals day after day for a lifetime, waiting for a father to anoint them and treat them as good enough to be considered a man.

They call attention to their pain, getting into trouble, getting hurt, doing things that are bad for them, as if they are calling for a father to come take them in hand and straighten them out or at least tell them how a grown man would handle the pain.

They compete with other boys who don’t get close enough to let them see their shame over not feeling like men, over not having been anointed, and so they don’t know that the other boys feel the same way.

In a scant 200 years–in some families in a scant two generations–we’ve gone from a toxic overdose of fathering to a fatal deficiency. It’s not that we have too much mother but too little father.

THE MYTHS OF MASCULINITY

Our modern mythmakers are busy tackling the relationships between fathers and sons to find connections between pre-patriarchal and post-patriarchal consciousness, between the old fear of the too-powerful father and the new longing for a father to love and teach and anoint us.

The pain and grief and shame from the failed father-son relationship seem universal, as evidenced in the popular movies of the past few decades which had father-and-son themes that overshadowed anything going on between men and women.

Father-son myths attracted huge audiences in the 1970s and ’80s. Men feared being like their fathers, but they wanted desperately to bond with them even if they could never really please them enough to feel anointed.

In 1989, the film that set the tone for the Men’s Movement was Field of Dreams. Baseball, with its clear and polite rules and all its statistics and players who are normal men and boys rather than oversize freaks, is a man’s metaphor for life.

In this magical fantasy, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) tells us his life story: how his mother died when he was two so his father gave up his efforts to play pro baseball in order to raise his son.

Costner hears a voice from his cornfield telling him “If you build it, he will come.” He understands the message to mean that if he mows his cornfield and builds a baseball diamond, his father’s hero, Joe Jackson, will appear. He does. Then Costner’s dad appears in his baseball uniform, and father and son solemnly play a belated game of catch. Father and son don’t talk much, they just play catch with total solemnity. And it is quite enough.

What goes on between the father and son-and what does not go on between them–is surely the most important determinant of whether the boy will become a man capable of giving life to others or whether he will go through life ashamed and pulling back from exposure to intimacy with men, women, and children.

A NEW GENERATION OF NURTURERS

It takes the fulfillment of all these relationships for a boy to become a man who is able to live in peace and cooperation with his community and to give something back to his family. Fathering makes a man–whatever his standing in the eyes of the world-feel strong and good and important, just as he makes his child feel loved and valued.

Mercifully, parenting is not an efficient process–the old concept of “quality time” is a cruel cop-out. A father who gets to hang out with his children is reliving the joys of his own childhood. The play is the thing.

Becoming Father the Nurturer rather than just Father the Provider enables a man to fully feet and express his humanity and masculinity. Fathering is the most masculine thing a man can do.

Will this new generation discover the healing power of fatherhood? As I look at the young men coming into manhood now, I see many who are willing to risk being hands-on fathers in a way that was rare in my generation. My son and son-in-law and nephews, for instance, are yearning for children, not just children to have but children to raise.

They are not alone. I feel optimistic about the sort of fathering these guys will do. The trend is dear: the boys who got fathered want to be fathers, and the boys who didn’t fear it.


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~Forsake the World~

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Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.

The text begins with a command—it’s the only command in the text and therefore probably the main point. Verse 15a: “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” Everything else in the text is an argument, or incentive, for why we should not love the world.

Love for the World Pushes Out Love for the Father

The first incentive John gives is that “if any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him” (verse 15b). In other words the reason you shouldn’t love the world is that you can’t love the world and God at the same time. Love for the world pushes out love for God, and love for God pushes out love for the world.

As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). So don’t love the world, because that would put you in the class with the God-haters whether you think you are or not. “If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.” That’s the first reason John gives not to love the world.

Then in verse 16 comes the support and explanation of that first argument. The reason love for the world pushes out love for God is that “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.” Leave out those three phrases in the middle of verse 16 and it would read like this: The reason love for the world excludes love for God is that all that is in the world is not of God. In other words it’s just empty talk to say that you love God if you love what is not of God.

John could have rested his case at the end of verse 16. Don’t love the world because love for the world can’t coexist with love for God. But he doesn’t rest his case here. He adds two more arguments—two more incentives not to love the world.

The World Is Passing Away and Its Lusts

First, in verse 17a he says, “And the world passes away, and the lust of it.” Nobody buys stock in a company that is sure to go bankrupt. Nobody sets up house in a sinking ship. No reasonable person would lay up treasure where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, would they? The world is passing away! To set your heart on it is only asking for heartache and misery in the end.

That’s not all: not only is the world passing away, but also the lusts of it. If you share the desires of the world, you will pass away. You will not only lose your treasure. You will lose your life. If you love the world, it will pass away and take you with it. “The world passes away and the lust of it.”

If You Do the Will of the Father, You Will Live Forever

Second, in verse 17b John says, “But he who does the will of God abides for ever.” The opposite of loving the world is not only loving the Father (verse 15), but also doing the will of the Father (verse 17). And that connection is not hard to understand. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). John said in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” So loving the Father in verse 15 and doing the will of God in verse 17 are not really separate things.

If you love God, you will love what he wills. It is empty talk to say I love God but I don’t love what God loves. So John is saying in verse 17, “If you love the world, you will perish with the world, but if you don’t love the world but love God, you will do his will and live with him for ever.”

One Commandment and Three Arguments

In summary, then, the text contains one commandment and three arguments, or incentives. The commandment is, “Don’t love the world or the things in the world.” The first incentive is that if you love the world, you don’t love God. The second incentive is that if you love the world, you will perish with the world. And the third incentive is that if you love God instead of the world, you will live with God forever.

A MEDITATION

Let’s meditate for a few moments on these final two incentives and especially how they relate to saving faith.

Saving Faith and Love for God

We have been well taught that we are saved by FAITH! “BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!” (Acts 16:31). But we have not been as well taught what saving faith is. For example, how often do we discuss the relationship between trusting Christ and loving Christ. Can you trust him savingly and not love him? Evidently John doesn’t think so, because the issue in this text is whether you love God or love the world, and the result is whether you die with the world or have eternal life with God. But John knows that eternal life comes through faith.

John says in 5:13, “I write this to you who BELIEVE in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” So eternal life does depend on believing in the Christ. But what is this “believing”? If we are courteous, and let John speak for himself, his letter fills out what he means. When he says that not loving the world but loving God so much that we do his will is what leads to eternal life, we learn that saving faith and love for God are inseparable. Both are the path to eternal life because they are the same path.

In John 5:42–44 Jesus confronts the Jewish leaders who do not believe on him with these words, “I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name and you do not receive me . . . How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” In other words the reason they do not receive or believe on Jesus is that they do not love God. They love the world—the glory of men—not the glory of God. So Jesus taught his apostles that where there is no love for God, there can be no saving faith. (See John 3:18–19.)

One Way of Salvation

That’s why John, when he comes to write his letter, can take “love for God” and “trust in Christ”, and treat them as one way of salvation. Look how he does this in 5:3–4. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” In other words it is our love for God that overcomes the obstacles of disobedience and makes the commandments of God a joy rather than a burden. “Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her” (Genesis 29:20). Love for God makes his service a joy and overcomes the forces of disobedience.

But then look at verse 4. Here he says the same thing but speaks of faith instead of love. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.” It is FAITH that overcomes the world—it is faith that conquers disobedience and renders the commandments of God a joy rather than a burden.

What shall we say, then, concerning love for God and faith in Christ? The path of victory that overcomes the world and leads to eternal life is the one path of faith toward Christ and love for God. Saving faith is part of love for God and love for God is part of saving faith. There are not two ways to heaven. There is one narrow way—the way of faith which loves God and the way of love which trusts God.

Paul and James in Agreement

This is why not only John but also Paul and James hold out the promises of life only to those who love God:

  • Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”
  • 1 Corinthians 2:9, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived . . . God has prepared for those who love him.”
  • 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If any one has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed!”
  • James 2:5, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?” (See 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12.)

So you can see what John is trying to do for us in verse 17 of our text. He is trying to show us that loving the Father and freeing ourselves from the love of the world is not optional. It is not icing on the cake of saving faith. It is a matter of eternal life and eternal death. It is number one on life’s agenda. Nothing in all the world is more important than experiencing love for God in your heart. This is the first and great commandment, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Matthew 22:36–40).

Two Possibilities If You Don’t Feel Much Love for God

Perhaps even as I say this, some of you are saying, “I don’t feel very much love for God right now.” There are two possible reasons for that.

1. You Are Not Born Again

One is the possibility that you are not born again. It is possible that you are a cultural Christian or a hereditary Christian. You may have developed patterns of religious talk and behavior because it is socially advantageous or because your parents or peers talked and acted this way. But you may never have experienced a deep change in your nature by the power of the Holy Spirit which gave birth to a stream of new love for God.

Henry Martyn, the brilliant missionary and translator of the last century, looked at his conversion four years afterward and said, “The work is real. I can no more doubt it than I can my own existence. The whole current of my desires is altered, I am walking quite another way, though I am incessantly stumbling in that way.”

So it could be that this has never happened to you and that your religion is all outward form and not inner experience of love for God. Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:1–5, “In the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it.” In other words we may expect that there will be numerous religious church-goers who know nothing of the new birth and genuine heartfelt love for God.

If you are among that number you should direct your heart to Christ and seek him earnestly in his Word. Peter said that we are born again through the living and abiding Word of God. So if you want to be born again, you should pour over the Word of God. You should cry to Christ that he open your eyes to know the Father (Matthew 11:27). You should plead with God to take out your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh that you might love God with all your heart and all your soul (Deuteronomy 30:6). You should forsake all known sins and give yourself to all the means of grace until the light dawns in your heart and Christ shines so bright in his power and love that he is irresistibly attractive and you fall in worship and love before him. And do not quit the pursuit until you have been born into new life. “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart.”

2. Your Love Has Grown Cool and Weak

The other possibility is that you have indeed been born again, but that your love for God has simply grown cool and weak. You’ve tasted what it means to have a heart for God. You can recall how once you felt that to know him was better than anything the world could offer. But this morning the wick is smoldering and the reed is bruised.

The prescription for your ailment is not much different than the prescription for seeking new birth in the first place. The same Spirit that begets life, also nourishes life. The same Word that ignites the fire of love, also rekindles love. The same Christ who once brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light, can take away the long dark night of your soul. So yield yourself to the Holy Spirit. Immerse yourself in the Word of God. Cry out to Christ for a new vision of the glory of his grace. Don’t be content with lukewarmness. Pursue a new passion for Christ.

And whichever of these groups you are in—or if you are here full of love to God this morning—let the remaining admonitions of this text stir you up to count everything as rubbish compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ.

Love for God and Love for the World Cannot Coexist

According to verse 15 in our text, if your love for God is cool this morning it’s because love for the world has begun to take over your heart and choke your love for God. The love of the world and the love of the Father cannot coexist. And every heart loves something. The very essence of our nature is desire. There is nobody in this room who doesn’t want something. At the center of our heart is a spring of longing. But that’s an awkward image isn’t it? A longing is a craving, a desire, a want, a need. But these aren’t very well described as a spring. A spring of needs is a contradiction in terms. Springs bubble up; needs suck in. A longing is more like a drain—or a vacuum. At the center of our heart is a sucking drain—like at the bottom of a swimming pool. We are endlessly thirsty. But we can’t suck water and air at the same time.

If you try to satisfy your longing by sucking in the air of the world, you will not be able to drink the water of heaven. And eventually your motor will burn up because you were made to pump the water of God not the air of the world.

The “World” We Are Not to Love

But now what is this “world” that we are not to love? Verse 16 says it is characterized by three things: “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” The word for “life” does not refer to the state of being alive but rather to the things in the world that make life possible. For example, in 3:17 it is translated “goods”—”Any one who has this world’s GOODS and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” Jesus uses the word in Mark 12:44 when he says that the poor widow in the temple “put in everything that she had, her whole LIVING.”

So the phrase “pride of life” means pride in what you possess—the things you have. Now we can see how the three descriptions of the world relate to each other. The first two—lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes—refer to desires for what we don’t have. And the third—the pride of life—refers to the pride in what we do have. The world is driven by these two things: passion for pleasure and pride in possessions.

And the passion for pleasure is described in two ways because there are two large classes of pleasure—physical and aesthetic. There is the lust of the flesh—bodily pleasures; and the lust of the eyes—aesthetic and intellectual pleasures. John is not naïve. He knows that the world is not limited to Hennepin Avenue.

There is the lust of the gutter and the lust of the gourmet. There is the lust for hard rock and the lust for high Rachmaninoff. There is the lust of Penthouse and the lust of Picasso. There is the lust of the Orpheum and the lust of the Ordway. This book ends with the ringing command: “Little children, KEEP YOURSELVES FROM IDOLS!”—whether they are crude or whether they are cultured.

Anything in this world that is not God can rob your heart of the love of God. Anything that is not God can draw your heart away from God. If you don’t have it, it can fill you with passion to get it. If you get it, it can fill you with pride that you’ve got it.

But against the pride of life the apostle says, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as though it were not a gift . . . Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:7; 1:31). So let there be no boasting in possessions. They are all gods.

And against the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes the psalmist says, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.” Therefore let us desire nothing but God. Possess nothing but God; pursue nothing but God.

What Shall We Do with Our Desires?

But someone will ask, “Should I not desire dinner? Should I not desire a job? Should I not desire a spouse? Should I not desire the child in my womb? Should I not desire a healthy body or a good night’s rest or the morning sun or a great book or an evening with friends?”

And the answer is no—unless it is a desire for GOD! Do you desire dinner because you desire God? Do you want a job because in it you will discover God and love God? Do you long for a spouse because you are hungry for God and hope to see him and love him in your partner? Do you desire the child and the healthy body and the good night’s rest and the morning sun and the great book and the evening with friends for God’s sake? Do you have an eye for God in everything you desire? (See Colossians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31.)

St. Augustine captured the heart of our text when he prayed to the Father and said, “He loves thee too little who loves anything together with thee which he loves not for thy sake.”

Therefore, brothers and sisters, do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. But if the love of the Father is in you, if you love God with all your heart, then every room you enter will be a temple of love to God, all your work will be a sacrifice of love to God, every meal will be a banquet of love with God, every song will be an overture of love to God.

And if there is any desire of the flesh or any desire of the eyes that is not also a desire for God, then we will put it out of our lives, so that we can say with John and with the psalmist,

Whom have I in heaven but thee,
and on earth there is nothing
that I desire besides thee.

~How Do I Press On After Being Rejected as “His” Minister~

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Have you ever walked out of a church service in a daze? You know the message was good, but you don’t know what it was about. You tried to understand what the preacher was getting at, but you’re not quite sure. You look at your Bible, look at the preacher, look back at your Bible and are a little confused. He didn’t help you understand what God was saying.

header_claritypreaching

Could any of this uncertainty be because you knew the preacher before he excepted his calling? Maybe it has everything to do with how you and the preacher willfully participated in sin together before the pastor or preacher was regenerated into a vessel of honor. Maybe it’s because of the taste morsels of gossip coming from those trusted friends that have an ought against him. I went to preach a “YOUTH” day service at such a church on Sunday and the rejection of the adults prompted me to search scripture to try and gain some leverage on this matter. I always want to improve my level of maturity in Christ.

To reject someone is to refuse to accept them. For example, if a man applied for a job with a company and they decide to not accept his application then they have rejected him.

The word rejection means that someone is either in the process of being rejected (not accepted) or has already been rejected.

Most people want to be liked so it is difficult when we are not accepted. This rejection may be because of the way we look, our personality or our behavior. To be rejected is an unpleasant thing to be cast on to you. It can be extremely hurtful.

Rejection by those close to you

Rejection from those close to you can be extremely painful because we trust these people more than others.

Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”  

Mark Ch.6:4  NIV

Jesus says in this verse that a worker for God (prophet) is never honored in his hometown. But this didn’t slow down his work for God, as this work was far more important than being respected or honored by others. If family, neighbors or friends don’t respect your work for God then don’t let this rejection stop you from serving God.

Overcoming rejection through teamwork

When the disciples travelled through the countryside, they did it in pairs. As individuals they probably could have reached more areas of the country but Christ didn’t want this. He decided that as a pair they could encourage and strengthen each other, especially when they were facing rejection. When we are facing rejection we can get strength from God but he also encourages us to meet our needs by teamwork with others.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians Ch.3: 9  NIV

Serving Christ requires us to work with others – as a team.

Overcoming rejection by drawing close to God

Christ gave an example of complete trust in God.

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to Him who judges justly.  1 Peter Ch.2:23

The example of Christ was one of absolute non-resistance to evil and complete trust in God. He could have avoided all his trials (Matthew 26:53), but he knew that the path of salvation lay through suffering and death, and like a good shepherd , he led the way. He overcame the rejection by others by putting complete trust in God.

Rejection of others

We are told by Paul to not reject others but rather accept each other.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.  Romans Ch.15:7

Accept other believers and don’t reject them on the basis of some trivial matter.

Rejection by God?

God promises never to leave or forsake us.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews Ch.13:5  NIV

God confirmed to Israel that we had not left them:

For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance.  Psalm 94:14  NIV

Paul made a similar point to the first century believers:

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel:  

Romans Ch.11:1-2  NIV

Even though Israel had rejected their Messiah and had refused to listen to Paul’s preaching, God’s promises were still relevant. If it is true for the Israelites then how much more so for the believer! God will never leave us or forsake us, providing we do not leave him.

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”  Hebrews Ch.12:5-6

Silence – Rejection by God?

Job suffered a lot in his life. He was especially upset because God was silent and gave no reasons for his suffering. Job misinterpreted this silence as meaning that God was rejecting him. This apparent rejection by God bothered Job even more than any suffering he was going through.

“Only grant me these two things, O God, and then I will not hide from you: withdraw your hand far from me, and stop frightening me with your terrors.  Job Ch.13: 20 – 21  NIV

Job didn’t want God to “withdraw your hand far from me”, in other words, reject him. God’s silence does not mean he has rejected us. Sometimes we will intervene in our lives in unseen ways.

Rejection of God

Sometimes, through our actions and thoughts we can make the mistake of rejecting God. This can be done in a number of ways:

  1. Selfishness

Sometimes selfishness can lead us to rejecting God. The Israelites did this:

You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’  

 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’ “

Malachi Ch.3:13-15

So here is a case showing the people’s arrogant attitude toward God. They basically rejected God saying “It is foolish to worship God and obey him. What good does it do to obey his laws, and to sorrow and mourn for our sins ? From now on, as far as we are concerned, Blessed are the arrogant, for those who do evil shall prosper, and those who dare God to punish them shall get off scot-free”.

So, we can see from these verses that selfishness is a rejection of God and all that he represents. Is that the same with us sometimes? Do we sometimes ask “what good does serving God do for me?”. If we do then our focus is selfish. Our real question should be “What good does serving God do for God?”

  1. Trusting our own judgement more than God’s judgement

There are many people in this world who ignore the evidence of God’s existence. The Bible tells us that these people are foolish.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.Psalm 14:1

There are others who are wicked because they refuse to live by God’s commandments. We become like these people when we rely more on ourself than on God.

  1. Trusting other humans more than God

Some people put church leaders or other people before God.

This has happened in the past as well. For example in the time Of Samuel. The true king of Israel was God. However, the nation of Israel wanted another king.

Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the LORD at Mizpah and said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’  But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, ‘No, set a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans.”  1 Samuel Ch.10: 17-19  NIV

Israel rejected God by asking for a human being instead of God as their guide and leader. If we look at history we can see that men and women have continually rejected God. This practice continues even today. We need to look at our lives and decide what is our highest priority. If we push God aside and treat someone or something else as being more important then we are rejecting God. There are many examples in the Bible for us to learn from and they all teach one thing – God should be foremost in our life.

  1. Not taking up God’s offer of salvation

God loved us so much they he gave us his only begotten son. Jesus perfect life, his truthful words and his sacrifice of love are designed so that we sit up and take notice and follow the example of Jesus. If we do this we are taking up God’s offer of salvation.

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

” ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone [cornerstone]; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?  Matthew Ch.21:42  NIV

However, if we ignore God’s gracious gift of his son, then we rejecting God himself.

Summary

As we might expect, the people whom God condemns are those who do not recognise their need and who are unwilling to submit to God and His word. Such were the Pharisees:

They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.  Matthew Ch.23:4

Such men are self-righteous and have lost their sense of dependence upon God. They may be divided into three classes:

  1. Those who ignore God’s word completely, who are willingly ignorant:

Like the people who lived in the days of Noah, they refuse to heed the warnings given by those who preach the way of righteousness. They deliberately choose to remain in darkness. Noah had certainly preached to his contemporaries, but when the flood came “they knew not”. They knew all right; they had heard the message, after a fashion. But inasmuch as they did not want to know, their ears had been shut to Noah’s saving message. The disciples were told to “shake the dust off their feet” when leaving the houses of such people.

  1. Those who deliberately distort it or reject God’s word:

The Lord refers to blasphemers against the Holy Spirit, for whom there is no forgiveness. These are “false prophets” who present a distorted gospel and invite men to believe in a hope founded upon the quicksand of human reasoning.

  1. Those whose lives do not sincerely attempt to reflect God’s word:

They are hypocrites, who act out a part when it serves their purposes; their piety is based upon self-interest. The Lord has a stern warning for those who hear the word of God but either ignore its directions, or manipulate its teaching to suit themselves:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.   Matthew Ch.7:21

It is evident that although God’s love for man was such that He willingly provided His Son to give his life for our sakes, the very lengths to which He went are a vivid reminder that God does not tolerate disobedience. It is not in man’s interests that He should do so: God wants us to be obedient to His commands, because He knows that this is to our eternal advantage.

~Pt.2 Desire Servant-hood rather than Significance~

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Concerns to Consider

In seeking to develop a servant’s heart, Christians naturally face the opposing forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil, all of which are directed toward promoting selfish concerns and especially the pursuit of significance. Even when engaged in religious or humanitarian works, selfish pursuits can so easily come to the surface. While there are undoubtedly many reasons for this, two fundamental concerns come to mind that I would like to address.

(1) People too often serve others from their own neurotic need for approval or for significance. The Christian community generally understands they are to live as servants, but our preoccupation with our own significance robs us of the ability to serve. Part of the problem is that in our society today such a selfish pursuit is no longer seen as a neurosis or as a disorder. In fact, it is not only seen as natural, but it is presented as a legitimate need and something everyone should pursue. It is more important today that children feel good about themselves than learn their ABCs. But the problem is that the world is searching for significance in all the wrong places and by all the wrong means. A search for significance as it is promoted by the world naturally produces the opposite of servanthood. It produces extreme selfishness and aberrant behavior.

People today often wear themselves out, overtly demonstrating the Christian model while inwardly they are actually serving in order to feel better about themselves or to gain position, praise, acceptance, etc. Again, such behavior stems from the worldly model that operates by a different world viewpoint. As a result, many people serve in various capacities in the church from a host of false agendas. Significantly, after the exhortation of Romans 12:1-8, which include service to others, the apostle warns, “Let love be without hypocrisy” (12:9).

If we are not extremely careful and constantly check our motives, we can fool ourselves. We can be engaged in all kinds of service while actually serving our own neurotic needs—desires for acceptance or feelings of significance or for control or for praise, position, power, and prestige. We can serve to feel important rather than because we love people and the Lord and because we are resting in who we are in Christ, complete in Him.

(2) We need to identify and work toward serving the real needs of others and not their neurotic wants. We live in a self-centered society that wants comfort and happiness. It is also a society that wants to be served by others. We might compare the many who followed Christ. There were curious followers and even convinced followers, but some were following from the wrong motives: some followed for political reasons thinking Jesus would remove the yoke of Rome. Others followed for food (John 6:15). Regardless, the Lord regularly challenged these impure motives.

This false mentality manifests itself in the church in a number of ways. For instance, consider the reason many, if not most churches today, hire a pastor or a pastoral staff. The biblical reason, of course, should be to be equipped for ministry. As Ephesians 4:11 shows, the leadership of the church has been given the mandate to equip the saints for the work of ministry—servant living. But churches far too often hire pastors to be their ministers, not to equip them for ministry. They want leaders who will serve them and make their lives comfortable. But this is contrary to the servant principle of Scripture and the biblical goal of leaders which is to help their people develop into true mature Christ-like believers. Leaders and disciples alike must recognize that having the wrong goal (making the flock happy and comfortable) ultimately leads to misery, not true happiness.

“Many of us place top priority not on becoming Christ-like in the middle of our problems but on finding happiness. I want to be happy but the paradoxical truth is that I will never be happy if I am concerned primarily with becoming happy. My overriding goal must be in every circumstance to respond biblically, to put the Lord first, to seek to behave as he would want me to. The wonderful truth is that as we devote all our energies to the task of becoming what Christ wants us to be, He fills us with joy unspeakable and a peace far surpassing what the world offers…” etc.

Why is servanthood so important to the Christian life and to Christian ministry? Well, just consider the very negative consequences of selfish service as seen in woes pronounced on the Pharisees in Matthew 23:13. Further, a self-serving kind of lifestyle is not only contradictory to the life, death, and message of the Savior, but it engenders division in the body of Christ. Service that is at self-serving simply cannot hold up under the pressures of the ministry and the large doses of criticism that often go with the territory. Eventually this kind of self-seeking service will crumble under criticism because it is more concerned about self and one’s personal significance than with the needs of others. In fact, if we fail to find our significance in the Savior, we will become obsessed with gaining recognition. This obsession will often lead to burnout—to anger, bitterness, and a heart that is poisoned against ministry.

Conditions that Hinder Servanthood

What are some of the hindrances to developing a servanthood mentality. As you consider the following, think about your own life and natural tendencies.

(1) The desire for status or to feel important is a tremendous barrier to biblical servanthood. This is very evident in the reluctance of the disciples to take the towel and the position of a servant as seen in John 13. But we need to understand this aspiration for status actually stems from a failure to rest in one’s significance in the Savior. When Christians fail to rest in who they are in Christ, they will constantly be battling the need for importance or significance from within their own desires and felt needs. Further, this need will be constantly inflamed by the influences of a world system that operates on a totally different basis. We think that happiness will come when we are treated in a certain way, but that’s just not the case for there will always be those who do not treat us like we want to be treated.

(2) Human strategies to meet one’s own felt needs pose another hindrance to servant living. Everyone faces the problem of meeting their felt needs by their own solutions and defense and escape mechanisms (i.e., the things people do to protect their self image or how they want to people to feel about them). Rather, our need and responsibility is to trust the Lord for our acceptance, ability, production, and strength. Based on biblical values and truth, we must, by faith and an act of our will, firmly reject the goal of seeking to serve our own needs and adopt the goal of becoming servants of others like the Lord.

(3) A poor concept of one’s self-worth, along with a faulty source for developing our self-worth, forms another hindrance to effective servanthood. As mentioned, people often seek their self-worth from the opinions of people rather than by the value God places on their lives according to His Word.

(4) Self-centered living or seeking happiness from the world rather than in the Savior and His purpose and call on one’s life is another cause for failing to live as servants. This naturally results in a lack of commitment and in wrong priorities and pursuits which will leave little or no time for the Lord or ministry to others and the body of Christ.

Consequences in the Absence of Servanthood

What, then, are some of the consequences of a lack of servanthood in the body of Christ?

(1) The opposite of a servant’s heart is self-seeking, which leads to consequences like jealousy, envy, disunity and division. This is most evident in the actions of the disciples (see again Luke 22:24-30). Paul’s exhortation and teaching in Philippians 2 is centered around the call for harmony among the Philippians where there was evidently some disharmony (see 1:27; 2:2).

Leonard Bernstein, the celebrated orchestra conductor, was once asked, “What is the hardest instrument to play?” Without a moment’s hesitation he replied, “Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists. But to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm, or second French horn, or second flute, now that’s a problem! And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”

(2) Failure to get involved in ministry. As was evident in the disciples’ behavior in John 13, the absence of a servant’s heart causes people to simply sit back while expecting others to serve them. This is what can be called the “layman mentality,” a condition that occurs when congregations hire the minister to minister to them. The attitude is, we are here to beministered to rather than be equipped for ministry.

(3) Burnout in those who are ministering. This can be caused by exhaustion simple because a few people are attempting to do all the work. Or, as mentioned above, burnout can occur because of the pressure and hurt brought on to a large degree by self-serving motives for acceptance, etc.

(4) The church fails to accomplish what it has been called to do in evangelism and all the aspects of edification because of a lack of ministering people. One of the clear goals ofEphesians 4:12ff in the equipping of the saints for ministry is the involvement of the whole body in ministry according to the gifts and abilities of the saints. In fact, this is a mark of maturity. Speaking of the goal of equipping the saints into mature servants, the apostle Paul said,

4:14 The purpose of this is to no longer be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who with craftiness carry out their deceitful schemes. 4:15 But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. 4:16 From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love. (emphasis mine)

(5) The absence of a servant’s heart leads to playing power games or spiritual king of the mountain. This naturally leads to bitterness, contention, and division in the body of Christ. Again, let it be stressed that Jesus’ style of ministry is the opposite of the world’s power-based mentality where certain kinds of accomplishment are viewed as a badge of importance and power. Christian love means putting the other person first, seeking the other person’s well being regardless of what it costs us, even if we are called on to play second fiddle.

(6) The absence of a servant’s heart is really the absence of humility or pride. As Scripture so plainly declares, the leads to the loss of the power of God on one’s ministry. “In the same way, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Pet. 5:5). Pride or the absence of humility quenches the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:13-26).

(7) Inability to lead others in the things of Christ because of one’s own self-seeking hypocrisy (Matt. 23:13).

In view of these consequences, an important question that needs to be asked is simply, “Do I have the heart of a servant?” If I think I do, then, “In what ways is it demonstrated in my life?”

Thoughts on Developing the Heart of a Servant

So just how can I develop the heart of a servant that will lead to genuine growth in selfless, servant living? Though certainly not exhaustive, the following thoughts I trust will be helpful in this regard.

Learning to live as a servant naturally begins by following the Lord Jesus. As believers who are to follow in the steps of our Savior, it is important that we focus on Him because He was and is the epitome of humility, maturity, and leadership. That which most uniquely characterized Him was servanthood. Even now, though seated at the right hand of the Father as the glorified Lord, He continues to minister to us as our Advocate and Intercessor and Head of the body of Christ. This is tremendously significant especially in light of who He was and is. With this in mind, let’s review the following truth.

(1) Though being God of very God, He humbled Himself by becoming true humanity and was found in the form of a bond servant (Phil. 2:5-8) and God highly exalted Him (vs. 9).The road to successful leadership is paved with the solid concrete of humble service for others. Even in the Old Testament, which anticipates the glories of Messiah’s kingdom, Messiah is seen as a “suffering servant.”

(2) If we are really following the Lord, we will be seeking to serve men. If we are not seeking to serve others from pure motives, then we aren’t following the Lord, at least not closely. Christ told His disciples, whom He wanted to follow in His steps, “the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve,” and in another place He said, “…I am among you as one who serves” (Mark 10:45; Luke 22:27).

(3) In the supreme act of service as our Great High Priest, Christ offered Himself on the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world and remains seated as our Advocate before God. Knowing and being confident of His identity (John 13:1f), knowing why He was on earth as the servant who must die for our sin, focusing of the rewards of the future, and acting out of a heart of infinite love, Christ washed the feet of the disciples. This was a symbol of the service He continues to perform for us in the daily cleansing of our sins even though He is the risen and exalted Lord.

Engstrom writes,

His kind of service set an example.… Thus He showed His followers how to serve, and He demanded no less of those who would carry on His work on earth. Jesus teaches all leaders for all time that greatness is not found in rank or position but in service (italics his). He makes it clear that true leadership is grounded in love which must issue in service.”

(4) Another truth vital to developing a servant’s heart is facing the reality of our own weakness and need. No one in their own energy has the ability to give themselves sacrificially as a servant according to the example of the Savior. For this we need the transforming ministry and enablement of the Holy Spirit and the renewing direction, grace, and strength that comes from living and growing in the Word. Thus, a Word-filled (Col. 3:16), Spirit-filled (controlled) life (Eph. 5:18) is an absolute essential to the ability to give ourselves as servants.

(5) Two more companion elements to living as servants are surrender and sacrifice as are found in the exhortation of Romans 12:1-2. The self-serving spirit and mind-set of the world is opposed to the mind of sacrificial servant living. Thus, based on the mercies of God available to believers in Christ, the apostle appeals to Christians to surrender themselves to God as living sacrifices. Essential to that, and in keeping with living a Spirit-controlled and Word-filled life, is the need for daily renewing the mind in the truth of the Word.

Romans 12:1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service.12:2 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.

Such surrender and sacrifice naturally forms the foundation and well spring for servant living, which is clearly God’s will for all Christians. Paul immediately, therefore, points his readers to their responsibilities in Christian ministry (Rom. 12:3-8). The point is that one’s consecration to God and a lifestyle transformed by the renewing of the mind is to be demonstrated in giving of oneself through the exercise of spiritual gifts in the body of Christ. Again, in the realm of surrender and sacrifice, the Lord Jesus is our perfect example. First, being willing to sacrifice His position and privileges, He surrendered Himself to the Father’s will. This also meant he was willing to serve and even suffer to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation for us. Therefore, as He was willing to sacrifice and surrender that He might serve our needs (become our Redeemer and Advocate), so we are to be willing to serve, surrender, and sacrifice to meet the needs of others as a display of the mind of Christ (Phil 2:3-5). For the Christian, then, this means (a) knowing the Word which identifies the true needs of people and then (b) working in the power of the Spirit to meet those needs according to our gifts, opportunities, and abilities (see Acts 6:1-6; Col. 1:27-2:1). It also means caring about people and getting to know them personally so we can help meet their particular needs as we are given opportunity, as we have ability to do so, and as the Lord provides a way to do so.

(6) Another important element in developing the heart of a servant is learning to rest and find our significance in who we are in Christ. In Him we are complete (Col. 2:10) and blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3). What could be more significant than being called a child of God, a title that applies to all believers in Christ.

1 John 3:1-3 (See what sort of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called God’s children—and indeed we are! For this reason the world does not know us: because it did not know him. 3:2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. But we know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. 3:3 And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure).

The Christian’s need, then, is to seek his sense of well being and happiness from his identity in Christ and not from people or from position. Otherwise, even if he does render service, it will often be from a self-serving motive like acceptance or praise (see John 13:1; Rom. 12:3; Eph. 1:6; Col. 3:3-4). Man’s obsessive pursuit of significance produces thinking and behavior that runs counter to the values and behavior that are consistent with Christ-like servant living. It invariably leads to defensive and protective behavior patterns that put self above others.

(7) Finally, another important element in living as servants is living according to the perspective of eternity, having eternal goals and values. If this was true with the Lord Jesus, and it was, then it must also be so with us (see again John 13:1f; and Heb. 12:1-3). This means learning to live as pilgrims, as those who are living in view of the Judgment Seat (Bema) of Christ and His “well done, thou good and faithful servant” (cf. 2 Cor. 4:15-18; 10:10-18; with 1 Cor. 4:1-5).

Principle: Following the example of the Savior, believers are to function as servants who seek to minister to one another in loving and selfless service.

Issue: Am I, in submission to the Lord and to others, seeking to serve, or am I seeking to be served in the pursuit of my wants?

Image result for images of a servants heart in the ministry

~Desire Servant-hood Rather than Significance ~

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In our quest for the marks of mature spirituality and leadership ability, we must not bypass that quality which so completely characterized the life of Jesus Christ, the quality of unselfish servanthood. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45) The apostle Paul added to this focus when he wrote, “Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but the interests of others as well” (Phil. 1:4). But then pointing to the Savior as our great example, he quickly added, “You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had.” Paul then followed this exhortation with a strong reminder of the humiliation of Christ (Phil. 2:6ff) who, though being God of very God, emptied himself by taking the form of a slave. There is no question that if we as Christians are going to grow and mature into Christ-like character, we must experience progress in giving of ourselves in ministry to and for others. While we can and should find comfort and encouragement in Christ (Phil. 2:1), when properly grasped, that comfort should propel us into servants of the Savior and one another. Servant living stands opposed to the primary concerns we see today where the focus of our culture and society is more on our own personal happiness and comfort.

The preoccupation with self today is readily seen in slogans like, “be all you can be” or “experience your potential” and in the titles and subtitles of books like The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life; The Total Woman; Joy in Sex, More Joy in Sex, and the list goes on and on. While many of these books may contain biblical truth or genuine help in dealing with certain problems people face as human beings, the message, whether explicit or implicit, suggests the prime goal we should be pursuing is our own comfort and the experience of some form of self-expression rather than growth in the character and quality of the life of the Savior. Simply put, our modern day society, and this includes a great number of Christians, is focused on making satisfaction its goal, indeed, its religion. There is much more concern for self-fulfillment than for pleasing God and truly serving Him and others as seen in the life of Jesus. Typical of today is the enormous number of how-to-books not just for the secular world, but for the Christian community. These are aimed at directing us to more successful relationships, becoming more of a person, realizing one’s potential, experiencing more thrills each day, whipping ourselves into shape, improving our diet, managing our money, and on it goes. Again, while many of these things are important and have their place, it does take the focus off what is truly the heart of Christianity—knowing and loving God, and out of that resource and relationship, living as servants in the power of the Spirit according to the example of Christ.

But what exactly is servanthood? Servanthood is the state, condition, or quality of one who lives as a servant. Further, a servant is first of all one who is under submission to another. For Christians, this means submission to God first, and then submission to one another. Then, as one in submission, a servant is one who seeks to meet the real needs of others or of the person he is serving. To put it another way, servanthood is the condition or state of being a servant to others, of ministry to others rather than the service of self. It means willingly giving of oneself to minister for and to others and to do whatever it takes to accomplish what is best for another.

However, when serving others and their needs, if the underlying motive and goal is some form of self love, like the praise of others for the service rendered, then one’s service is in reality hypocritical. This type of service is really aimed at serving selfish ends—usually in the futile pursuit of personal significance through something like praise, power, or status.

Christ’s plan and that which produces maximum blessing to the world and the church is servanthood. A servant is one who, even when in positions of leadership seeks to lead and influence others through lives given in ministry for the blessing of others and their needs. As the following passages will demonstrate, the Lord Jesus came as a servant with a commitment to serve. Just think, if He had come to be served, our redemption could and would never have taken place. Likewise, our failure to live as servants throws up a huge barrier to effective ministry as representatives of the Lord Jesus.

Components of Servanthood from New Testament Passages

Since servant living was epitomized so completely by the Lord Jesus, we would naturally expect a number of passages to explicitly deal with this issue. While space will not allow an indepth exegesis, it is hoped that the following highlights drawn from several New Testament passages will draw our attention to a few vital principles that describe the spiritually mature quality of living as servants.

MATTHEW 20:20-28 (SEE ALSO MARK 10:35-45)

20:20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling down she asked something from him.20:21 He said to her, “What do you want?” She said, “Permit these two sons of mine to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”20:22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 20:23 He told them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right and left is not mine to give. Rather, it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 20:24 When the other ten heard this, they were angry with the two brothers. 20:25 But Jesus called them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high position use their authority over them. 20:26 It must not be this way among you! But whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant. 20:27And whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

A consideration of Matthew 20:20-28 and Mark 10:35-45 shows us that there are basically two options open for people. Either we will seek to serve ourselves, a choice that nullifies our capacity to live as disciples, or we will learn to live as servants out of a faith relationship with God through Christ. In Matthew 6, the Lord stated it this way, “No one is able to serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. No one is able to serve God and possessions” (Matt. 6:24). When we serve money, we are really serving ourselves and our own desires for what we think money will purchase like significance, power, pleasure, security, or status. Money is not evil and having it is not evil, but if it becomes our master, it controls our values, priorities, and pursuits rather than God, and that is evil (see 1 Tim. 6:8-10).

Christ shows that His organization or organism, the body of Christ, is to function on the basis of service or servant-like ministry to others. Spiritually mature people who experience His life are those who have first of all developed a servant’s heart like that of the Savior. Thus, a true concept of mature Christian leadership means serving one’s followers and teaching them by example to be servants of others.

A mother approached the Lord, probably at the request of her sons, and sought a position of status for them. Why? Foolishly thinking that such status would give them happiness and significance, they wanted positions of authority, praise, and power. Our Lord’s answer showed that first of all they had been wrongly influenced by the attitudes of the world (vs. 25). Rather than thinking with the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5; 1 Cor. 2:16b) as His disciples should think, they were thinking like an unregenerate world. Thus, if they were to serve as His disciples, their thinking and orientation needed drastic transformation (see Rom. 12:1-8).

Naturally, the model for mature spirituality and leadership and all Christian living is the Lord Jesus. It is instructive to note that in this context of serving, He spoke of Himself as the Son of Man. This was a favorite designation of Himself (one used some 90 times) and a Messianic title based on Daniel 7:13-14. As such, it linked Him to the earth and to His mission, but it also stressed His pre-eminence, dignity, and authority (see Luke 6:5; John 6:62). The contrast between who He was, the Son of Man, and what He did, humble Himself, is stressed by the word “even” as given in Mark 10:45, “for even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve…” This Messianic title draws our attention to His awesome humility as one who, though God of very God and Messiah Himself, came in order to serve and to give his life a ransom. In other words, He came to serve in order to set men free to be the people God had created them to be.

Since in this passage the Lord was correcting the thinking of His disciples, this clearly illustrates how we need to spend time with Him in His Word that we might allow His life and the teaching of Scripture to transform our thinking and thus our sources of trust, aspirations, and actions.

When the other disciples got wind of the request of the two, they became indignant and a certain degree of division occurred among the disciples. This shows how longing and striving for position, power, and praise quickly ruins relationships in the body of Christ and creates disunity and division. Servant living does the opposite.

Principle: the purpose of serving others is to set them free to love and serve God, not to make them our servants or to serve our wants or needs. We are all responsible to serve one another, but never in order to be served or to satisfy our immature cravings.

MATTHEW 23:11-12

23:11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 23:12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Greatness in God’s kingdom is never to be found in position or power or in the praise and opinions of men, but in servant-like service to others.

We see again that one of the greatest hindrances to service or servant living is the desire for some form of exaltation—position, praise, prestige, and power. Those who take the secular route so typical of the world and who exalt themselves will eventually be humbled. They will not only eventually lose the very status they seek, but if they are believers, they will also lose rewards in the kingdom.

Following the statement of verses 11-12, the Lord began to pronounce woes on the Pharisees who typically longed for status and praise. These woes illustrate some of the consequences when men fail to live as servants.

LUKE 22:24-30

22:24 A dispute also started among them over which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 22:25 So Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ 22:26 But it must not be like that with you! Instead the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves. 22:27 For who is greater, the one who is seated at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

22:28 “You are the ones who have remained with me in my trials. 22:29 Thus I grant to you a kingdom, just as my Father granted to me, 22:30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

The setting here is that of the Passover and the institution of the Lord’s Supper, both of which spoke of Christ in His person and work as the suffering servant who would die for our sin. This scene presents a graphic picture of how preoccupation with self-centered interests (position, praise, and acceptance by others) ruins our capacity to even properly worship and relate to the person and work of the Savior. Because they were seeking their happiness and significance by trying to manage their own affairs they were blinded to what He was seeking to teach them and to what His life meant to them.

Servant living will be rewarded in the future. One of the hindrances to servant living is man’s impatience and his desire to be served now! Therefore, one of the keys to effective service is faith and constant orientation with the weight of eternity (2 Cor. 4:15-18). When we seek our reward now through the praise of men as did the Pharisees, we lose the power of God on our lives and ministries and we lose rewards in the future (cf. Matt. 6:1-4). But why do we do that? In unbelief, we turn from resting in God’s wisdom to our own foolishness through which we seek to handle life by our own plans or machinations.

JOHN 13:1-5 AND 12-17

13:1 Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. He had loved his own who were in the world, and now he loved them to the very end. 13:2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. 13:3 Jesus, because he knew that the Father had handed things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 13:4 got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. 13:5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself. . .

13:12 So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? 13:13You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. 13:15 For I have given you an example: you should do just as I have done for you. 13:16 I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 13:17 If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Perhaps no passage illustrates the source and nature of the heart of a servant more than John 13. Here, in the upper room on the night before His crucifixion the Lord Jesus dramatically drove home the issue and nature of what it means to be a servant. Imagine the scene. All had been prepared for this last meal with the disciples with the exception of one thing. According to the custom of the day a servant, with a basin of water and towel in hand, would wash the feet of the guests who had walked down the dirty, dusty roads of Palestine. But who would take the position of this servant and perform the task? I can just see the disciples looking around expecting someone else to do this, but never for a moment considering it himself. Then out of the blue, as a perfect picture and lesson of servanthood, the Lord Jesus rose to the task, laid aside His outer garment, put a towel around his waist, took water in a basin and began washing the feet of the disciples, all of which was a fitting analogy of yielding His privileges and assuming the role of a slave.

First, we should note that the source of Jesus’ actions lay in His knowledge and security of who He was and where He was going (vss. 1-3). Jesus was completely aware of His sovereign authority, His origin, and coming destiny as He submitted and depended by faith in what the Father was doing (cf. vv. 1, 18). Thus, in that confidence, He voluntarily took the place of a slave and washed the feet of His disciples. His thinking and action contrasts sharply with the self-seeking insecurity of the disciples, none of whom were willing to pick up the towel and take the place of a servant (cf. Matt. 20:20-24; Mark 9:33-34; Luke 22:24-30).

Christ’s security, His love, and His confidence in the Father and future allowed the Lord Jesus to assume the position of a servant, an amazing example of condescension (vss. 4-6). This attitude, faith, and action portrayed His entire ministry on earth (cf. Phil. 2:5-8) and provides us with the perfect example of what He wants to do in our lives. But this also demonstrates how servant living is accomplished in us—through faith and understanding of who we are in Christ and by confidence in the eternal glories of the future. After Jesus finished washing the feet of the disciples, He returned to His place and made this very pointed application:

John 13:12-15 So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? 13You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example: you should do just as I have done for you.

Having pointed to His actions as an example for them, Christ then drove home an inescapable lesson, here defined as a “solemn truth.” If He, their master and the One they worshipped, assumed the role of a servant to minister to others, then certainly they must likewise take the towel of servanthood as a minister to others rather than seek to elevate themselves. Ironically, and contrary to the thinking of the world, true blessing comes in serving others.

16 I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

PHILIPPIANS 2:1-8

2:1 If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, 2:2 complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. 2:3 Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. 2:4 Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but the interests of others as well. 2:5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, 2:6 who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped, 2:7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. 2:8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross!

This classic passage on the humiliation of Christ (verses 5-8) is here set forth as the supreme example for unselfish servant living for Christians. The apostle presents the Lord Jesus as One who, in his supreme superiority, manifests what is the model for all Christians; it points us to the humility needed to live as servants of others. Though existing in the form of God with all the rights and prerogatives of deity, Christ Jesus emptied Himself by taking on the form of a slave, by becoming true humanity. Christ veiled His deity and voluntarily laid aside the right to use and manifest His divine prerogatives in submission to the Father. In doing this, He humbled Himself that He might die even the death of the cross.

But the focus we dare not miss is Paul’s statement in verse 1 and the implications drawn from this. The main verb of the passage is “complete my joy.” Seeing men and women come to Christ in faith gives joy, but as one devoted to seeing believers mature into Christ-like living (see Col. 1:28; Eph. 4:13), nothing could give Paul greater joy (vs. 2) than to see believers live unselfishly serving one another with the mature mind of Christ (vss. 2-5). But before the apostle says “complete my joy,” he begins by getting the Philippians to think through what was theirs in Christ by the work of God. Literally, the text begins with four “if” clauses. He wrote, “If there is any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort by love, if any fellowship in the Spirit, if any affection and mercy…” In Greek, these are first class conditional clauses, which, for the sake of argument or for a response from the reader, assumes the statement to be true. It is what can be called the response condition. Paul was not questioning the reality of these blessings in Christ. Rather, he used the first class condition as a kind of rhetorical device to get the reader to think through the issue and respond properly. The point is there is encouragement, comfort by love, and fellowship in the ministry and power of the Spirit, and the result—compassion and mercy that all believers should have for others.45 But we must never turn such blessings into merely personal comfort. The goal and result must be servant living, living as expressed especially in verses 3-5:

2:3 Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. 2:4 Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but the interests of others as well. 2:5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had.

The fundamental issue in living as servants, as those committed to meeting the needs of others, is a deep down humility that is willing to pick up the servant’s towel regardless of one’s status or station in life. No matter what one’s station or condition in life, whether king or peasant, slave or free, rich or poor, strong or weak, brilliant or slow of mind, nobleman or common, etc., in Christ God calls all Christians to live as servants serving others with the Lord Jesus as the perfect example of One who, though God of very God, took upon Himself “the form of a servant.”

… When Jesus Christ came into the world, it was not to come into a wealthy man’s home where all material things might be His. The home was characterized by poverty. He did not come into a royal home so that He might be respected as heir apparent even though He has the right to rule this earth. He was not born in Caesar’s home so that in due course He might follow His father to the throne. His station in life was that of a servant. A servant is characterized not so much as a person to be despised, but as someone without rights; a servant submits himself to the will of his master. What Paul emphasizes is that, when Jesus Christ came into the world, He came as One who had no rights of His own. The One who had all the rights that belonged to the eternal Son of God gave up the exercise of these rights; He came into the world as a servant who has no rights but is subject to the authority of another.46

The real test of whether we are truly maturing and learning to become a Christ-like servant is how we act when people treat us like one. I see so much suffering in the church and amongest leadership. Let’s read the word and become more intimate with His character as it relates to how He endured to complete the “Finished work” of our Father.

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~ The Flag I once served and was willing to die for has images of Blacks hanging in the wind ~

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Care for Thy Soul as Thing of Greatest Price

BY WILLIAM BYRD

Care for thy soul as thing of greatest price,
      Made to the end to taste of power divine,
Devoid of guilt, abhorring sin and vice,
      Apt by God’s grace to virtue to incline.
Care for it so as by thy retchless train
It be not brought to taste eternal pain.
Care for thy corse, but chiefly for soul’s sake;
      Cut off excess, sustaining food is best;
To vanquish pride but comely clothing take;
      Seek after skill, deep ignorance detest.
Care so, I say, the flesh to feed and clothe
That thou harm not thy soul and body both.
Care for the world to do thy body right;
      Rack not thy wit to win thy wicked ways;
Seek not to oppress the weak by wrongful might;
      To pay thy due do banish all delays.
Care to dispend according to thy store,
And in like sort be mindful of the poor.
Care for thy soul, as for thy chiefest stay;
      Care for thy body for thy soul’s avail;
Care for the world for body’s help alway;
      Care yet but so as virtue may prevail.
Care in such sort that thou be sure of this:
Care keep thee not from heaven and heavenly bliss.

tbmc

We are always looking for facilitators and workshop presenters. If you’d like to present, facilitate or you are interested in bringing the Institute to your city, school or community contact us atteam@theblackmancan.org.

2015 Tour Dates

My suffering runs close to my passion. My diagnosed symptoms from combat to life experiences haunt me more than for a moment. Any news related to human suffering and injustice plagues my peace. I just “Care for the Souls” that are being vilified and killed.

A Palestinian hold a poster with a picture of slain Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh during a protest in front of the Jordanian embassy, in the West Bank City of Ramallah, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

They burned him alive in an iron cage, and as he screamed and writhed in the agony of hell they made a sport of his death.

After listening to one newscast after another rightly condemn the barbaric killing of that Jordanian air force pilot at the bloody hands of ISIS, I couldn’t sleep. My mind kept roaming the past trying to retrieve a vaguely remembered photograph that I had seen long ago in the archives of a college library in Syracuse.

Suddenly, around two in the morning, the image materialized in my head. I made my way down the hall to my computer and typed in: “Waco, Texas. Lynching.”

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Sure enough, there it was: the charred corpse of a young black man, tied to a blistered tree in the heart of the Texas Bible Belt. Next to the burned body, young white men can be seen smiling and grinning, seemingly jubilant at their front-row seats in a carnival of death. One of them sent a picture postcard home: “This is the barbeque we had last night. My picture is to the left with a cross over it. Your son, Joe.”

The victim’s name was Jesse Washington. The year was 1916. America would soon go to war in Europe “to make the world safe for democracy.” We as individuals have a duty to empower and educate our “YOUTH’, to protect our families and especially our women. I am involved with so many campaigns at present, but I must find time to embark upon another. I must engage the men of every pulpit I am familiar with to start clinics to introduce our men of color to tactics and behavior that will empower them with obedience to a higher calling than just revenge. We need to get active in the lower parts of our deprived communities and smaller churches to get this message out. We need to form a chain linked coalition of pastors, ministers, fathers and mothers, sisters and aunties. A message or cry of this type doesn’t get media attention or does it interest the common viewer of a website. In my hundred days of prayer for America and the church I will be entreating God for a miracle that includes me and my wife to begin a world changing movement outside of the walls of a church…..

I would come to learn, when local white folks still talked about Washington’s execution as if it were only yesterday. This was not medieval Europe. Not the Inquisition. Not a heretic burned at the stake by some ecclesiastical authority in the Old World. This was Texas, and the white people in that photograph were farmers, laborers, shopkeepers, some of them respectable congregants from local churches in and around the growing town of Waco.

Here is the photograph. Take a good look at Jesse Washington’s stiffened body tied to the tree. He had been sentenced to death for the murder of a white woman. No witnesses saw the crime; he allegedly confessed but the truth of the allegations would never be tested. The grand jury took just four minutes to return a guilty verdict, but there was no appeal, no review, no prison time. Instead, a courtroom mob dragged him outside, pinned him to the ground, and cut off his testicles. A bonfire was quickly built and lit. For two hours, Jesse Washington — alive — was raised and lowered over the flames. Again and again and again. City officials and police stood by, approvingly. According to some estimates, the crowd grew to as many as 15,000. There were taunts, cheers and laughter. Reporters described hearing “shouts of delight.”

When the flames died away, Washington’s body was torn apart and the pieces were sold as souvenirs. The party was over. I am not sharing this to incite a riot. I want to share this because of the effects it still has in modern day America.

Large crowd looking at the burned body of Jesse Washington, 18 year-old African-American, lynched in Waco, Texas, May 15, 1916. (Library of Congress)

Define Yourself, Redefine the World Journal

TBMC Journal

Through empowering words, motivating experiences, and insightful quotes of wisdom, this journal will put you on a path of evolution. TheBlackManCan Presents Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Boys and Men of Color is a one-of-a-kind proactive tool that will help to propel any man, young or otherwise, to actively question the man he desires to be. It is a journal that will open your mind, strengthen your heart, and provide you with an outlet to release your thoughts.

There is no other journal specifically designed for boys and men of color, and this one takes a life-changing approach. Every quote and essential question will leave you feeling closer to your destiny. It explores topics related to education, spirituality, purpose, passion, career, leadership, culture, and fatherhood, all of which are vital concepts for your development.

TheBlackManCan Presents Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Boys and Men of Color can be used as a parent-child workbook, teenage journal, or even given as a Father’s Day gift.

Reviews:

Click Here to Read Review by Black Gives Back
Click Here to Read Review by From Ashy to Classy
Click Here to Review by Revolutionary Paidiea
Click Here to Review by Healthy Black Men

Testimonials:

The Journal specifically and effectively addresses the need for introspection during the transition from childhood to manhood for Black boys. The guide is a useful tool in offering something that is much needed during a critical stage of development. As a father of Black Boys I will add this tool to my toolbox to aid me in helping my sons become the best man they can be, while also allowing me to reflect on how I can improve as a man. ~Levy T. Gillespie, Sr. Father of Three

This is a brilliant idea! In a world where the concept of Black manhood is destroyed by faulty images of Black hyper-masculinity, this journal provides a space for men and boys to reflect upon their own ideas of masculinity in a healthy manner. In the true spirit of self determination, this journal provides an inspirational slate for boys and men to define themselves outside of the mass mediated controlling images they are bombarded with on a daily basis. I’ll be getting copies of this journal to share with my sons and the other men and boys I love…and I hope you do the same. ~Prof. Don C. Sawyer, III Quinnipiac University, Department of Sociology

Profound and essential for young men everywhere! After reading Define Yourself, I was impressed with the vision and content that Brandon has compiled for our young warriors. In a time where expression is often suppressed, this is one of the prescriptions to change our community-wide disease of uneasiness in communicating. Define Yourself will greatly impact students to learn more about themselves and ultimately enable young men to be an asset to himself and the community in which he resides. ~ Alfred Blake Author of The Students Handbook to Breaking All the Rules(www.alfredblake.com)

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~ Is Justice now justified or Is waiting for the righteous judgement enough to continue to live right~

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No Justice, No Peace:

To me the phrase “No Justice, No Peace” is not so much a threat as much as it is a cry of the heart. It is not simply a call to protest, but also a naming of the powers and what those powers have done.

A lack of justice has resulted in a lack of peace.

So many of the people of color, in particular the people of African descent in my life went to bed on last night without a sense of peace. And I am not sure that some of my non-Black friends understand why.

There is a lack of peace because of the painful reminder that historically black lives are valued less than the lives of others. This painful truth is reiterated by the invoking of names like Emmett Till, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant III, and Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown,and now Walter Scott It is reinforced through disparities in legal sentencing, in execution rates, and in drug policing.

Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police, 1999-2014

To view the many fallen people of color and others please click this link:

http://gawker.com/unarmed-people-of-color-killed-by-police-1999-2014-1666672349.

Heavy hearts now lack peace because of the lack of justice in our nation.

But there is a lack of peace also because of the very real fear that many of us parents who have children of color, will feel every time our kids walk to the store. It is the twinge of fear and lack of peace that I and other black men feel every time we are profiled just because of the way we look.

No peace because of no justice.

Soon after the story of Trayvon’s killing became national news I found that many of my white friends did not understand the hurt and anger that I and many others felt. Likewise after the verdict was read, I again received messages from friends who didn’t get the powerful response that they witnessed on social media sites. A lack of understanding is alright, but a lack of care, a lack of concern is not.

After the jury’s verdict came down I like so many others was stunned. Dumbstruck. Silently screaming. My first instinct was to go for a walk and cry. To be quiet. But there is a time for silence and there is a time to raise our voices. Mine is now raised in calling for justice, in calling for divine intervention, grace, and guidance, and in calling out to all of us to work for change.

So now that we see that there is neither justice nor peace, what is next?

We must work for both: To fix a broken justice system and a to fix the broken peace within our hearts and within our communities.

A lack of justice and a lack of peace is a call for action on two different fronts. This means organizing to change dangerous laws like the “Stand Your Ground” and the “Stop and Frisk” policies as well as heartless gun laws in our country. But it also means working to restore peace on an individual level. This is reaching out to those who are hurting. Preaching and writing about this not only prophetically, but also pastorally. It’s working not only to change laws, but to change a culture that is far too violent in the first place. It’s not only ensuring that the taking of black life is prosecuted just the same as when a white life is lost, but it is working to build abeloved community in which no lives are lost to unnecessary violence. Change laws, get guns off of the street, and change our culture.

The “WAR” on drugs is another bogus attempt to render Justice to our communities that failed. Here is a video and a case we are working with FAMM to overturn: https://youtu.be/C_ES5m4ovPM

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Please watch Julie’s video, and share it with people you know. Because the fight for sentencing reform isn’t just about wasted money or prison over-crowding, it’s about real human beings.

Thanks,

Aaron & May Pratt

Second chance Alliance

~Asking the difficult questions on Fresh Oil~

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Is your church worship more of the world or christian?

There is a great misunderstanding in churches of the purpose of music in Christian worship. Churches routinely advertise their “life-changing” or “dynamic” worship that will “bring you closer to God” or “change your life.” Certain worship CD’s promise that the music will “enable you to enter the presence of God.” Even a flyer for a recent conference for worship leaders boasted:

“Join us for dynamic teaching to set you on the right path, and inspiring worship where you can meet God and receive the energy and love you need to be a mover and shaker in today’s world…Alongside our teaching program are worship events which put you in touch with the power and love of God.”

The problem with the flyer and with many church ads is that these kinds of promises reveal a significant theological error. Music is viewed as a means to facilitate an encounter with God; it will move us closer to God. In this schema, music becomes a means of mediation between God and man. But this idea is closer to ecstatic pagan practices than to Christian worship.

Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. He alone is the One who brings us to God. The popular but mistaken notions regarding worship music undermine this foundational truth of the Christian faith. It is also ironic that while many Christians deny the sacramental role of those ordinances which the Lord Himself has given to the church (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) they are eager to grant music sacramental powers. Music and “the worship experience” are viewed as means by which we enter the presence of God and receive his saving benefits. There is simply no evidence whatsoever in Scripture that music mediates direct encounters or experiences with God. This is a common pagan notion. It is far from Christian.

In his helpful book True Worship Vaughan Roberts offers four consequences of viewing music as an encounter with God. I will summarize them.

1. God’s Word is marginalized.
In many Churches and Christian gatherings it is not unusual for God’s Word to be shortchanged. Music gives people the elusive “liver quiver” while the Bible is more mundane. Pulpits have shrunk and even disappeared while bands and lighting have grown. But faith does not come from music, dynamic experiences, or supposed encounters with God. Faith is birthed through the proclamation of God’s Word (Rom 10:17).

2. Our assurance is threatened.
If we associate God’s presence with a particular experience or emotion, what happens when we no longer feel it? We search for churches whose praise band, orchestra, or pipe organ produce in us the feelings we are chasing. But the reality of God in our lives depends on the mediation of Christ not on subjective experiences.

3. Musicians are given priestly status.
When music is seen as a means to encounter God, worship leaders and musicians are vested with a priestly role. They become the ones who bring us into the presence of God rather than Jesus Christ who alone has already fulfilled that role. Understandably, when a worship leader or band doesn’t help me experience God they have failed and must be replaced. On the other hand, when we believe that they have successfully moved us into God’s presence they will attain in our minds a status that is far too high for their own good.

4. Division is increased.
If we identify a feeling as an encounter with God, and only a particular kind of music produces that feeling, then we will insist that same music be played regularly in our church or gatherings. As long as everyone else shares our taste then there is no problem. But if others depend upon a different kind of music to produce the feeling that is important to them then division is cultivated. And because we routinely classify particular feelings as encounters with God our demands for what produce those feelings become very rigid. This is why so many churches succumb to offering multiple styles of worship services. By doing so, they unwittingly sanction division and self-centeredness among the people of God.

Scripture is full of exhortations to God’s people to sing and make music to the Lord. Our God has been gracious to give us this means to worship Him. But it is important to understand that music in our worship is for two specific purposes: to honor God and to edify our fellow believers. Unfortunately, many Christians tend to grant music a sacramental power which Scripture never bestows upon it.

~ Asking The Tough Questions On “Fresh Oil”~

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Can I be a Casual-Sex Christian?

Embracing the difficult struggles of living a intimate life committed to Jesus is the forefront of my existence. My ministry hasn’t been a comfortable lackadaisical one. All my pains and sins have been the proving ground of whether I sought after Jesus for fire insurance or for relationship. Put your salvation to the test, interview yourself with He who is greater within you and ask the tough questions about the sins that plague your life. We experience grievous separation from our care giver when we sin. Please examine yourself and prayerfully seek wisdom from the giver of all knowledge to rid yourselves of any debilitating sin that besets you from the creator.

     

I dated a female who graduated from a Christian college in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley. It was seemingly perfect from the outside: small campus with professors who adored teaching, numerous Bible studies and Christian groups to keep you spiritually challenged…and the sadly typical sexual immorality underneath the surface.

Casual sex at a Christian college? Yes.

Today’s hookup culture is everywhere. In a blog titled “Loving Jesus & Hooking Up,” author and blogger Mary DeMuth describes a situation in a church singles’ ministry where casual sex ran rampant. Many of those in the group were post-divorce and believed that hooking up was acceptable.

We know the Bible story of the woman who was caught in adultery. She was brought before Jesus where he did not condemn her, but offered her what DeMuth calls “outrageous grace.” He then says, “Go and sin no more.”

It is that last part that has been forgotten, DeMuth says.

Our sins were paid for when Jesus died on the cross. This does not mean we have the green light to continue sinning when we know better!

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”

In the pursuit of feeling good, we sin against our own bodies. DeMuth writes that “we prove that our true allegiance is to ourselves, our desires and not to Christ and His kingdom.”

In addition, we are stomping on Jesus’ gift of grace.

“He offers a gift to us, the same gift He beautifully demonstrated to the woman caught in adultery: forgiveness of sin and sanctification (working out that forgiveness by walking closely with Jesus). When we hook up casually and falsely believe Jesus is okay with it, to put it bluntly, we are not following the real Jesus,” DeMuth writes.

In an iBelieve video, author Nicole Unice talks about godly dating. When done correctly, dating honors women (and men), Unice says. She recommends dating to be approached as one would approach getting to know a new friend. When you meet someone, it is safe talk to them about who they are over a cup of coffee.

“The way I think women get themselves into trouble is over-investing emotionally far before they should,” Unice says. “To make yourself available emotionally…you may be doing it in the spirit of ‘this is how I’m showing that I’m interested,’ but it can come across as way too much too soon, it can come across as just trying too hard and also I think it…creates opportunities for you to be hurt.”

DeMuth laments that it is almost impossible to tell the difference between believers and non-believers today. Too many Christians have embraced the modern way of the world with its sexual sin.

“We are called to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Christ–even as we approach sexuality,” she writes. “But we’ve settled for a sanitized Christianity, a palatable one, where, outside the confines of marriage, we do whatever we want in bed with whomever and whenever, then ask God to stamp it with His approval.

“That’s not grace, friends. It’s license.”

~Even while I grope through my sins I desire a closer relationship with thee…~

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“How can I have a closer relationship with God?”

Developing a closer relationship with God is an admirable goal and reflects a heart that is truly reborn, for only those who are in Christ desire a closer relationship with God. We must also understand that in this life we will never be as close to God as we ought to be or desire to be. The reason for this is lingering sin in our lives. This is not a deficiency on God’s part, but on ours; our sin remains a barrier to the full and complete fellowship with God which will be realized once we’re in glory.

Even the apostle Paul, who had about as close a relationship as one could probably have with God in this life, still longed for a closer relationship: “Indeed, I count every thing as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:8-9). No matter where we are in our walk with Christ, we can always have a closer walk, and, even glorified in heaven, we will have all eternity to grow in our relationship with the Lord.

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There are five basic things we can do to have a closer relationship with God.

The first thing we can do to have a closer relationship with God is to make a daily habit of confessing our sin to Him. If sin is the barrier in our relationship with God, then confession removes that barrier. When we confess our sins before God, He promises to forgive us (1 John 1:9), and forgiveness is what restores a relationship that has been strained. We must keep in mind that confession is more than simply saying, “I’m sorry for my sin, God.” It is the heartfelt contrition of those who recognize that their sin is an offense to a holy God. It is the confession of one who realizes that his sin is what nailed Jesus Christ to the cross. It is the cry of the publican inLuke 18who said, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” As King David wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

The second thing we can do to have a closer relationship with God is to listen when God speaks. Many today are chasing a supernatural experience of hearing God’s voice, but the apostle Peter tells us that we “have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). That “more sure prophetic word” is the Bible. In the Bible, we “hear” God’s voice to us. It is through the “God-breathed” Scriptures that we become “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So if we want to grow closer to God, we should read His Word regularly. In reading His Word, we are “listening” to God speak through it by his Spirit who illuminates the Word to us.

The third thing we can do to have a closer relationship with God is to speak to Him through prayer. If reading the Bible is listening to God speak to us, speaking to God is accomplished through prayer. The Gospels often record Jesus secreting Himself away to commune with His Father in prayer. Prayer is much more than simply a way to ask God for things we need or want. Consider the model prayer that Jesus gives His disciples inMatthew 6:9-13. The first three petitions in that prayer are directed toward God (may His name be hallowed, may His kingdom come, may His will be done). The last three petitions are requests we make of God after we’ve taken care of the first three (give us our daily bread, forgive us our debts, lead us not into temptation). Another thing we can do to revive our prayer lives is to read the Psalms. Many of the Psalms are heartfelt cries to God for various things. In the Psalms we see adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication modeled in a divinely inspired way.

The fourth thing we can do to have a closer relationship with God is to find a body of believers with whom we can regularly worship. This is such a vital component of spiritual growth. Too often, we approach church with a “what can I get out of it?” mentality. We seldom take the time to prepare our hearts and minds for worship. Again, the Psalms show us many calls from God to His people to come and worship the Lord (for example,Psalm 95:1-2). God invites us, commands us, to come into His presence for worship. How can we, His people, fail to respond? Not only does regular church attendance give us an opportunity to come before the Lord’s presence in worship, but it also gives us an opportunity to fellowship with the Lord’s people. As we come into the house of the Lord in worship and fellowship with His people, we can’t help but grow closer to the Lord as a result.

Finally, a closer relationship with God is built upon a life of obedience. Jesus told His disciples in the upper room, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:23). James tells us that as we submit ourselves to God through obedience, resist the devil, and draw near to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:7-8). Paul tells us in Romans that our obedience is our “living sacrifice” of thanksgiving to God (Romans 12:1). We must keep in mind that all biblical exhortations to obedience are presented as our response to the grace of God we receive in salvation. We don’t earn salvation through our obedience; rather, it is the way we show our love and gratitude toward God.

So, through confession, Bible study, prayer, regular church attendance, and obedience, we can develop a closer relationship with God. It seems rather simple, if not simplistic. But consider this: how do we develop a closer relationship with other human beings? We spend time with them in conversation, opening our hearts to them and listening to them at the same time. We acknowledge when we’ve done wrong and seek forgiveness. We seek to treat them well and sacrifice our own needs to fulfill theirs. It’s not really that different with our relationship to our Heavenly Father.

~Romans 14:22-23- Dogma or Doctrine, Theology Which one Clarifies Sin Concisely?

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Unfortunately, many young believers – and some older ones, too – do not know that there will be times in every person’s life when circumstances don’t add up – when God doesn’t appear to make sense. This aspect of the Christian faith is not well advertised.

James Dobson

Is it Wrong for a Christian to Have a Drink of Alcohol?

Is it a sin for a Christian to have a drink of alcohol?

It is an important question for our time. Millions and millions of Americans have been brutalized and devastated by the abuse of alcohol. I have had to deal as a minister with the shattered lives that occurred through the addiction and abuse of alcohol. This is not just an American issue but I live here so I will talk about what I know.

I am going to make some preliminary remarks and then do my best to back them up with the Scriptures and reason.

1.  Jesus did make wine. 

His first miracle was turning water into wine. I have heard many pastors that I respect go to great lengths to demonstrate that the wine that Jesus made was basically non-alcoholic. They talk about how the distilling of alcohol didn’t really happen until centuries later.

Problem: People got drunk in the Bible. There was such a thing as “strong drink” beginning in ancient times.  Therefore, the argument that the wine that Jesus made was almost non-alcoholic seems farfetched to me and to most Bible scholars.

I don’t think Jesus made wine to have a party or to even enjoy it. I think He did it to demonstrate his divinity.  Nonetheless, I am sure the people enjoyed it.

2.  There has been a HUGE paradigm shift in American Evangelicalism concerning drinking alcohol.

It is hard to believe that most pastors now advocate drinking in moderation compared to how I grew up.  Abstinence was just about THE litmus test for sanctification! The party line was almost “We are godly because we don’t drink!” That idea, although extreme, was a reality.

I think the reasoning behind it is simple: if you don’t drink you won’t ever have to worry about abusing alcohol. That is a decent argument.  However, there has been a grace revolution in our thinking over the last 20 years. I think this paradigm is for the better but it opens up the can of debate that can lead to disunity.  Sometimes debate is worth the possibility of disunity.  Sometimes.

1 Cor 10:23 “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”

I love what John Piper said in a video I watched a while back.  He intimated that although there is grace and “tee-totaling” is a choice not a law, as pastors we must not be cavalier in the advocacy of drinking alcohol.

I think there are way too many Christians that just blurt out a quick “yes” or “no” without really thinking through the complexities of this question.  I used to be one of them.

I do NOT want to present the advocacy of drinking alcohol in a cavalier way.  We live in a culture of addiction and abuse.  Drunk driving, teenage alcoholism, child abuse stemming from drunk parents are HUGE issues.  Moderate drinking CAN lead to alcoholism.  It is a possibility so we must be extremely careful.

3.  It is a sin to cause another person to stumble into addiction.

Romans 14:20 “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.”

If a mature Christian’s freedom causes a person to fall headlong into sin then it is wrong.  This is not a warning for people who walk in grace to be stifled because they are worried about legalistic Christians criticizing them.  This is a warning to make sure that we never destroy the work of Christ in a believer’s life by abusing our freedom.

The $10,000,000,000 question:  Is it a sin to drink alcohol?

1.  No, it is not a sin to drink alcohol.

I cannot find anywhere in the Scripture a defining verse or passage that says that alcohol is intrinsically evil.  I have read tons of books, articles and sermons on this subject and I have never been satisfied that alcohol is intrinsically evil.  If so, then taking Nyquil is a sin.  So let’s ask a better question than this one.

2.  Is it wise to drink alcohol? 

Not necessarily.  For many, many people it is unwise to drink at all.  A person’s background, disposition and environment must be factored into this discussion.

Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”

What this passage means is that wine and beer are powerful and one must not be led astray. The fact that one could be led astray by these liquid entities should give every Christian a heart check.

I have heard often people comparing overeating to overdrinking.  Here is the difference: if you go to Cracker Barrel and eat 6000 calories of saturated fact you are not likely to get pulled over by the police because of your fat saturation level.  You are not likely to drive into a mini-van and kill a whole family because of it.

There is the possibility that you may have gastrointestinal issues that cause the people in your vehicle to vomit but you won’t be going to jail for manslaughter.  You are just guilty of air-quality slaughter.

3.  Is it unwise to drink alcohol?

Not necessarily.  A Christian can enjoy a glass of wine or a glass of beer and it not cause havoc in the world. Here are a few verses that my super-fundamentalist pastors never preached on when I was growing up.

Psalm 104:14–15 “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth 15 and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.”

Ecclesiastes 9:7 “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.”

Isaiah 62:8–9 “The Lord has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: “I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink your wine for which you have labored; but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord, and those who gather it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary.”

4.  Is it a sin for a Christian to drink in public?

I think the correct answer to this question is going to be found in the context of each unique situation.

Remember that we are not talking about getting drunk.  We are talking about having a glass (or 2) of wine or beer.

If, by drinking a glass of wine, a Christian selfishly causes a weaker Christian (a former addict or one who may have an over proclivity to become one) then the answer is yes.  Don’t guess and don’t go there would be my strong recommendation.

If a Christian is sitting down to a nice dinner with their spouse or friends and has no fear or guilt about drinking a glass of wine but has faith that God has given them freedom to do so then the answer is yes.

Romans 14:22-23 “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

Summary:

I have not addressed every single issue on this subject but I have tried to give us a “helicopter ride” over this subject. The possibility of fallout is okay with me because I really believe that a pastor must dive into the complex issues of our time with honest questions and thoughtful answers.