Characteristics of a Godly Woman, 3/17/19

**Note from the Pastor: Despite this sermon concentrating on the traits of Godly women, there are important points that could affect men and women, alike. So, read and reflect, whether man or woman.**

 

Proverbs 31:10-31 provides, perhaps the best, insight on the characteristics of a Godly woman, in the entire Bible. But women will often ask, “How can I possibly live up to the expectations of a Godly woman as presented in Proverbs 31?” Well, not every one of these qualities and traits may be true for each woman, but they should all at least be taken seriously.

Almost immediately in this passage we read, “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will not lack anything good. She rewards him with good, not evil, all the days of her life.” Sometimes, women don’t speak life over their husbands. This may come from the emasculating of men by women which stems from oppression of the female sex throughout history. Nonetheless, women should not have reaction to his action without first seeking God. They are always to be Godly women, no matter the circumstances. Matthew 18:18 tells us that we have the ability to bind things on Earth and in Heaven, or to loose them on Earth and in Heaven. This specifically refers to the grudges/burdens we hold on to, but with that we gain the understanding that our words have power, too. The things we forgive, or don’t forgive, others for, have the ability to bind or loose the individual and ourselves. By loosening someone, or forgiving them, we free our own hearts by ridding ourselves of the grudge/burden. Throughout history, women were being bound by the words spoken over them. Because of this, women decided to fight back in a feminist movement. Women weren’t wrong to fight for their rights because their rights shouldn’t have been taken to begin with. But, it has caused us to become a divided society; men vs. women. Now, society is in a cultural movement where we are trying to come out of the feminist movement, but still have women trying to be right and prove a point. What we must understand is, we are actually equal in the eyes of God. The world is creating a culture where men are more important. So, women tend to belittle them to feel better about themselves. But, if a woman is talking bad about her husband, putting him down, and emasculating him, how is he supposed to trust her?

Women are feelers, if they are in a fight, the first thing they want to do is call someone to talk about it. On the other hand, men don’t usually work that way, if they have a problem, and they want to talk about it, they usually talk with their wife about it. Proverbs 21:9 says that it is better to live outside of the home than in a home with a quarrelsome wife. A man should know he can trust his wife. Men want to feel like men and they feel fulfilled when they know that their wives are honoring them. By talking to others about their husband, a woman can change others’ opinions and views about her husband. So, who do we go to when we have problems in our marriage? The first person is God. He can take whatever we have to cry out to Him. Our husbands should be able to trust us no matter what that we have their back and are not putting them down. When a man feels like a man, a woman gets to feel like a woman and they will each be happy in the relationship. A man will value and cherish a wife who is capable of recognizing that she cares for him in spite of his weaknesses.

Further along in Proverbs 31: 13-16 we read, “She selects wool and flax and works with willing hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from far away. She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and portions for her female servants. She evaluates a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard with her earnings.” This demonstrates to us that women are allowed and may even be expected to work outside the home. In fact, scripture tells us that Miriam, Deborah, Anna and many other women of the Bible were prophets. So, it’s obvious that God has important work for women. However, when women try to take over leadership in the house, they aren’t walking in their rightful place as God created them; man and woman, side-by-side. This doesn’t mean that women can’t do anything, but God has chosen men to be leaders of the household and each gender was created to compliment the other in this way.  Men were designed to lead. When we allow them to be the spiritual leaders and head of the household, we are building their confidence. By building their confidence they are more likely to step into that role of being the leader.

Furthermore, the question is raised, what if my husband isn’t a believer? 1 Peter 3:1-2 tells us, “In the same way wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives.” Many times, if a man isn’t a believer but his wife is, she will try to force God, and religion on him, but God has a plan and we must trust Him. No matter what he does, her actions will speak loudly to him. So, it is important for women to show love and demonstrate godliness.

And, for those women who have the control, how do they give the control back to the men? The best way is by slowly filtering things back their way and giving them responsibility, by encouraging them to do it and trusting them to do it even though it may be different from the way a woman would do it. The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:4 that women have gentle and quiet spirits. Even if she thinks that that isn’t who she is, if God has it written then it must be possible for every woman by His spirit. Gentleness in scripture refers to a “load lifter,” someone who can help relieve some burdens off of others so it is important to ask, what can I do to lighten his load each day?

So women, you have been given the task of giving back the position of leadership to your husband. It may not be easy, but it’ll be worth it.

 

Ask the Pastor:

Q: How is it that people who have not been saved or invited the Holy Spirit into their lives can still get conviction?

A: “I believe God imparted something in us that wants us to do good, it is probably something that was given to us at the time God formed us. I believe we call it our conscience until we become believers, then the Holy Spirit takes over. I think that even when we do not know our biological parents, we still have their traits and with God being our Father, we probably inherit some of His traits. This is a tricky question, because another thing that comes to mind is maybe the teaching we are raised in. Imagine if we grew up in an upbringing where murdering people to have food was the norm, then would they believe that it was wrong or not?”

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The Character Qualities of a Godly Man, 3/10/19

**Note from the Pastor: Despite this sermon concentrating on the traits of Godly men, there are key components that women can benefit from as well such as, these being the traits they look for in a man if they are currently unmarried. So, take your time to read and reflect, whether man or woman.**

What is a father?

Oftentimes men will witness how their father acted and will think it’s okay to behave the same way, and many men get an ego from providing monetarily for, or “taking care of,” their family, but fatherhood is much more than that. Ephesians 5:21-6:4 tells men to be the head of the household and provides 3 foundational commands that allow men to take on their role as head of the household. .

First, we must understand what it means to be the head of the household.

Ephesians 5:22-24 tells us that wives should submit to their husbands as the church submits to the Lord. This command is not given as an excuse for a man to force his wife into submission. Instead, these verses say that the husband is the head of the wife just as Jesus is the head of the church. So, while giving reason for the command given to women in these verses, Paul also reveals the role of men in marriage–to be the head of the wife which expands to children when they come into the picture. Being head of the house doesn’t mean being king of the house, rather, it means being the #1 servant of the household. A head of household would lead the members of his family in the direction of God by following the lead of Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit and grace of God to work in and through him.

There are 3 commands given that provide a foundation for men to be able to take on the role as head of the household:

  1. Love your wife (Ephesians 5:25-28)
  2. Earn respect from your wife (Ephesians 5:33)
  3. Teach your children how to live (Ephesians 6:1-4)

There are two ways men are instructed to love their wives: 1) as Christ loves the church, and 2) as they love themselves. The first of these two illustrates that men are to love their wives through action. Christ gave His life out of His eternal love for His bride (the church) and men are supposed to follow the lead by loving their bride eternally and willfully making sacrifices for her. Secondly, men are commanded to love their wives as they love themselves. Essentially, the man is supposed to take on the well-being of his household as his responsibility and to care and provide for them as he does his own body. This command focuses on the nourishing and cherishing of the family’s spiritual relationships with God. However, 1 Timothy 5:8 tells us that physical provision is also important, but just because a man can provide* doesn’t mean that he is nourishing and cherishing as he should be. When a man nourishes and cherishes appropriately, he will be respected by his family.

Some people believe that the only difference between man and woman is our physical make-up. But in reality, men and women have many differences that extend far beyond our physical attributes and we work best together because we have features that complement one another. For example, Women prosper most when they feel loved, but men prosper most when they feel respected. Respect must be earned, not demanded, but this is not an excuse for women to disrespect their man if they feel like he hasn’t earned it!

Finally, men are commanded to teach their children how to live, or to lead them spiritually. The responsibility of training and leading your children is not to be taken lightly because you are the man and it will define who you are as a father. This means teaching them how to pray, showing the importance of reading and understanding the Word, demonstrating what it means to follow Jesus, and explaining the gospel to them. You are their primary teacher, the church is just a supplement.

In conclusion, marriage and fatherhood are biblical norms, but not biblical mandates. Being a godly man means acting the same way in private as you do in public. All the aforementioned traits and qualities are those of a godly man and every man has someone whom they can love and lead to Jesus.

*This does not mean that the woman can’t work outside of the home to help provide for the family.

Ask the Pastor:

Q: What is your opinion/what does the Bible say in regards to using the cross as a decorative way to display information? For example, a wooden cross displayed in someone’s front yard with their house number on it?

A: “I have never really thought about that. But after praying about it and thinking about it, I would say for myself, if I were to see it used in this fashion, I would not be offended by it. We are not supposed to be ashamed of the gospel and a display of a cross in any fashion, should symbolize what Christ did for our salvation, the cross should not be idolized. With that being said, it is not a blasphemy against God in any way. In my opinion, it is someone trying to display their faith and I am not here to judge in one way or another toward anyone other than myself. I personally have never thought to do this and probably won’t, but I am not going to judge those who do. To be honest, I would probably smile because of the attention it would bring to the cross and what it represents.”

Dare to Be Strange & Live Differently, 2/24/19

God expects something different from His children.

Hebrews 11:1-13 gives a brief summary of some heroes of faith including: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. These are the people that stuck with God through it all and were able to see, not only the glorious process, but also the beautiful outcome. None of these individuals really knew what was happening as it happened. But, they trusted God through it all, and because of their faith, they became some of God’s “MVPs”.

The story that often stands out the most is that of Noah. He had spent many years of his life preparing for a flood while others mocked and ridiculed him. But, he remained faithful to God and spent his years preparing for a blessing. That is strange.

As believers, we are meant to live differently as well.

Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in anywhere? Are your values and lifestyle different from others around you? Do you sometimes feel like an outcast? Believe it or not, these are good things. We, as Christians, need to be strange and dare to live differently because there is a difference between playing church and actually being the church. If we are being the church, we’re going to be different. When we feel blessed, we want to share it, which often means seeming a little strange to others.

As servants of God we’re called to be different. Psalm 119:19 says, “I am a stranger on earth;” and Hebrews 11:13 describes all the great men and women of the Old Testament as “foreigners” and “temporary residents” of Earth. 1 Peter 1:17 tells us that we are to conduct ourselves in fear during the time of our temporary residence. Earth is not our home, it is temporary to us. We do not belong here, we are not of this world.

God calls us to be different, holy, and set apart. He calls us to honor Him in every aspect of our lives. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are “born again.” We begin a process that changes the way we live our daily lives. We no longer focus on ourselves. Instead, we turn our focus to God and His wants and His desires for our lives. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.” There are changes that we must be willing to make in how we live our lives. There may be things in our lives that are against God’s will, but we should be stepping out of our old ways and into His light.

How can God expect us to be different? Can we be different by relying on our strength alone? Can we allow God to work in and through us? Would we be changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit?

In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Power, as it is used here, translates to dunamis power which refers to strength, power, or ability. It is the root word of dynamite, dynamo, and dynamic. Thus, it is a word that carries a lot of boldness and when we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, dunamis power will show up and show out, like dynamite. Now, that’s different.

Be different and live different.

Everything we do, here on Earth, should reflect our eternal destination. The Psalmist of Psalm 119 acknowledges he is a servant of God and he wants to live by obeying the words and commandments of Him (17-19). Modern society would call him strange. Strange because he believes there is a God. Strange because he believes that God is good. Strange because he believes in obeying God’s word. Strange because he believes the Word is Truth.

If we dare to be different, dare to live as followers of God, some people will think that we are strange. Truth is, some of us are stranger than others. We are meant to be different from the world around us. As a matter of fact, the Bible provides us with instructions! Paul uses 4 metaphors in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 to tell us how we are to live differently:

  1. We are not to be in the dark, we are sons (and daughters) of the light.
  2. We are sons (and daughters) living in the day, not the night.
  3. We must not sleep, but remain awake and alert.
  4. We must stay sober and not be drunk.

We are also told in Matthew 24:42 and Matthew 25:13  to be alert because we do not know when the Lord is coming.

We are urged to examine ourselves to see if we are, in fact, different. If we’re fitting in all the time, we’re probably not following God’s will. In end times, unbelievers will be repelled by Christians because we are carriers of The Light and darkness cannot overcome light. We must dare to live in opposition of our dark surroundings.

 

Ask the Pastor:

Q: What words best describe our church?

A: “Loving, welcoming, equipping, and uplifting.”

Get with His Will, or Get Out of the Way, 2/17/19

“So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Hold firmly to the message of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing. But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me.” Philippians 2:12-18

The Church of Philippi was the first community of Jesus followers that Paul started in eastern Europe (as found in Acts 16). Philippi was a colony in ancient Macedonia, full of retired soldiers, known for its patriotism to Rome. Obviously, a place where Paul faced resistance. After he had left, those he had left behind continued to face resistance and persecution. However, they remained vibrant and faithful to Jesus. Paul sent them this letter of encouragement, found in Philippians, from his place of imprisonment.

Whenever we are trying to learn from someone, we want someone worth learning from.

This letter wasn’t one single idea, like most of his writings were. For this letter, he arranged a series of short reflective essays that all revolved around the poem found in chapter 2 verses 6-11; which describes Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and exaltation. In each of these short essays, Paul used key words from the poem to show how living as Christians means being a living expression of Jesus’ story. As believers, we should be reflecting Christ in everything we do.

Paul may have been in a “valley” at the time this letter was written, but he still worked toward growing The Kingdom. He was optimistic about his release from prison, but even while faced with the possibility of execution, he said, “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Paul’s life is defined, in the present and the future, by a love for Christ. He had a “persecution is good, but dying is great” mentality. Essentially, he was saying that it would be great if he lived because he would continue building the church. But, if he were executed, that would be even better because he would be present with Jesus. We all have God-given talents meant for building The Kingdom, but not all talents are the same. Some may play the piano, some preach, and others may pray for people. We shouldn’t bury our talents, but use them. One of Paul’s many talents was encouraging others in their faith. For Paul, dying for Jesus wouldn’t be a true sacrifice, rather staying alive and being a witness for Christ while facing persecution, on Earth, would. We should always be willing to do God’s will, or get out of His way.
Paul goes on to urge the Philippians to participate in Jesus’ example by taking on the same mindset. Our lives should be consistent with the life of the Messiah. We should reflect him 100%. God has gifted us with the people in our lives; He wants us to represent Him to the fullest to bring these individuals to knowing and desiring Jesus. After all, we never know who may be watching us. Christ didn’t exploit His status, as a matter of fact, He humbled Himself, became a servant to all by being humiliated. He was obedient to the Father by going to his death on the cross. But, through God’s power and grace, Jesus’ shameful death has been reversed; through His resurrection–He has taken on the name above all names, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, the Messiah.

Paul then speaks in the letter about Timothy and Aphroditus. Both examples of people living out Jesus in their everyday lives. Timothy was like Jesus because he is always concerned about the well-being of others. Aphroditus was sent with a gift from the Philippians to Paul; he ended up risking his life to serve Paul. Paul had ended up sick in prison and Aphroditus almost died trying to help him. These are only a couple examples of people’s lives who are worthy to imitate because they lived like Christ.

Paul then turns to his own story as an example. He was constantly being reminded of his own past, when he used to be a persecutor of Jesus’ followers. He used to be like the Pharisees, with high status. But, like Jesus, he gave up his high status to become a servant. He does it all in hopes that Jesus’ love will carry him through his life to his true citizenship not here on Earth.

Finally, Paul challenges the Philippians to keep living the Jesus story. He challenges them (and us) to bring Heaven to Earth. God lives in us, we have the power and authority to do so. We should work alongside one another, in unity. As a church, we should be practicing humility, reconciling with one another and becoming unified. Paul then urges us not to give into fear, but to vent all our needs to God who will give us peace. This peace comes from focusing on what is true and lovely. There is always something to complain about, but there is also always a gift to rejoice about. We can choose to see the beauty and grace in life’s circumstances. He concludes, by saying that being imprisoned isn’t true hardship for him, it has actually become one of his greatest teachers. He learned that no matter the circumstances, he will be content to trust in the One who strengthens him (Philippians 4:13).

Ask the Pastor:

Q: What book of the Bible has had the greatest impact on your understanding of leadership?

A: “Probably Exodus, mainly seeing Moses step up to the plate and do something he didn’t feel worth of doing and seeing the struggles he dealt with trying to do good for people and his reaction to the resistance.”

Finding Joy in Sorrow, 2/10/19

Sometimes it’s hard to live by faith.

Habakkuk 2:2-5 says: “The Lord answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly com and not be late. Look, his ego is inflated; he is without integrity. But the righteous one will live by his faith. Moreover, wine betrays; an arrogant man is never at rest. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and like Death his is never satisfied. He gathers all the nations to himself; he collects all the peoples for himself.” (HCSB)

How do we handle evil times?

When society has a couple of decades of good times, we start living like everything is good and will always be okay, but that’s not the norm. We start to believe that in the good times is where we grow in faith, but really, it’s the valleys that really cause us to rely on God. When it’s easy we see no reason to rely on God. So, obviously, the good times is not when we are growing.

Habakkuk brings us back to Earth by showing us the good times are not the standard. He shows us that there is a wide world around us and we may be able to fence ourselves in, but we can’t forever fence the world out. He demonstrates that there are new depths in spiritual formation, deeper levels of our spiritual life. There is spiritual gold around, but it isn’t easily panned for in the stream. Sometimes it is easy to find the spiritual gold, other times, we have to go down into the caves and mine for it. Sometimes when we go through a trial or problem, our faith grows stronger. Just as we sometimes have to, Habakkuk had to go into the mine to find the gold.

God can and will use evil times to bring us back to Him.

God revealed to Habakkuk that Judah would be judged for its sin by the Babylonians. But, Habakkuk doesn’t even mention this to the people in hopes that they would change their ways, so that evil times could be avoided. God tells Habakkuk that the only way to find a way through these evil times is through faith. In verse 4 it says, “…But the righteous one will live by his faith.”

What does it mean to live by faith?

  1. It is God-centric rather than man-centric
  2. It is all about the future hope and not about the present situation
  3. It is admitting weakness rather than demonstrating strength

 

God-centric rather than man-centric

How do we react to evil times? Typically, with anger and frustration. We often think, “how could this happen to me?”

The reason these emotions come out in evil times is because we have a distorted view of omniscience. We start thinking that we know because we are human. But, all the questions that come about only reveal that we are finite, that we are not God. They expose our weakness. Habakkuk thought he understood how things were supposed to go.  He had placed his finite understanding at the center of his life and now everything in his life exposed the smallness of his understanding. He cried out to God asking for an explanation of what was happening. In the passage from Habakkuk 2, God basically tells him, “you think that you see the beginning and the end, but I am the only one who knows all and sees all. Habakkuk, you aren’t God. Stop living as though you are the center of the universe. I am the one with the cosmic visions, the plans, and I am the one who sees the end and the beginning. I am the one with the eternal plans that I am working out right now. My plans started before you and they will continue after you.”

We will never learn to rest in Him if we are always thinking that we are the center of the universe.

Stop living a man-centric life and start living a God-centric life.

Focusing on future hope rather than present happiness

There are 2 ways to live your life: 1) focusing on the here and now; and 2) to live life considering the future.  These two ways have different motivations and different outcomes. When we set our hope on today, we are only motivated by what the day can bring us. But, in verse 3, God says that His plan awaits Habakkuk at an appointed time. Even though it seems slow, God tells Habakkuk to live motivated by his future hope and to prioritize his life based on God’s promises and to trust God with the results. Our future hope is in Christ’s second coming, we must always be in preparation for the time to come.

We read in verse 5 that greed is like the grave (Sheol). For thousands of years the grave has swallowed up bodies and its hunger is never satisfied. If we are greedy in life we are either unhappy or we want more of it because it didn’t satisfy us the way we thought it would.

David Foster once said:

“Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.”

Why are we never satisfied? It’s because we put our hope in this world and this world doesn’t leave us enough to live on.

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”-C.S. Lewis

God has placed desires within us that this world cannot satisfy. Even on the brightest days, we won’t be okay. The moment we begin to mistake current happiness with what we really need, that’s the moment our current happiness turns a deaf ear to us and those moments of happiness will soon become wounds of bitterness because they’ll leave us.

Admitting weakness rather than demonstrating strength

Some try to go God by demonstrating their strengths; they show God how good they are by obeying His commands. They hide all their mistakes and highlight their goodness. Their goal is to impress God. Others come to God as beggars; they don’t put a fake persona on, they admit their weakness and talk about their failures; they own their shortcomings.

Verse 4 explains that the righteous aren’t “puffed up” and Romans 1:17 says, “For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.” Only those who live by faith are truly righteous. Righteousness is not achieved actively, rather received passively. This means that we can never please God with our religion or acts. We will never find God’s favor by demonstrating our strength. God desires to give us His righteousness. The righteousness that saves and rescues us is not our own, it is not what we have done that rescues us; it is something that we receive passively from our faith–the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Jesus owned His own righteousness, when we place our faith in Him, God places the merits of righteousness from Jesus to us. Jesus gives us His righteousness.

 

ASK THE PASTOR

Q: What is your favorite part of being a pastor?

A: “Watching the chains of bondage coming off of people who have been incarcerated in the life they have been dealt, be it bondage of the things of this world like drugs, alcohol, or pornography. It could also be bondage to religion.”

Being a Superbowl Christian, 2/3/19

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” -Vince Lombardi

Superbowl Sunday.

A battle takes place.

For four 15-minute quarters, men put all their energy into moving a pigskin ball down a field of grass.

So much is riding on this game. Around the world, millions watch the game each year; there are fortunes made and fortunes lost. Many Americans are glued to their televisions, all to answer one question: who will win?

To answer that question, we must ask ourselves, what does it take to win?

The team with more desire.

The team with greater discipline.

The team with the most commitment.

The team willing to sacrifice.

The team with character.

The team who contains these traits, are always going to win.

It is these 5 traits, applied day-in and day-out, that make any team Superbowl champions. Only two teams made it to the Superbowl. All the others were home, no matter how hard they worked, they just weren’t good enough to make it.

When a football player goes in to play a game, he must play from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Every inch of him has to play to be the best that he can be. Many people can play football, but only a handful will ever make it to the Superbowl, and even fewer yet, will win a Superbowl.

But, there is another Superbowl that we all have the opportunity to play a part in…. Superbowl ∞. Unlike the football Superbowl, our Superbowl is for eternity; it has eternal consequences. Similar to the NFL, though, there are still only some that will make it to “Superbowl Christian Status”.

 

What does it take to be a Superbowl Champion Christian?

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, ” you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize. Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

And in Philippians 3:12-14 he says, “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”

 

The Five Traits of a Superbowl Christian:

1. Desire

Paul says, run to win. Desire is wanting something so bad that you can taste it. For a Superbowl Christian there should be no greater desire than to be close in relationship with God.  There should be a burning in our hearts to desire Christ!

“The highest desire that can possess any heart is longing to see God.”-Vernon McGee

Such desire for God should compel us to run with all that we have. Unfortunately, instead of going for gold, we too often settle for silver and bronze. It begins with a burning desire to compete and win.

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather, a lack of will.” -Vince Lombardi

Desire isn’t enough, though. Desires will only take shape when accompanied by discipline.

 

2. Discipline

The fuel for success. Without discipline a Christian life will never grow. We must shed any excess “weight” that is only there to hold us back or bring us down. We are responsible for our own salvation. We have to work toward our own goals, it is not someone else’s responsibility to make sure that we are pressing forward to fulfill our desires. So, how bad do you want it?

Paul tells us that a competitor goes into strict training. He, himself, went into strict training to be who God created him to be.

1 Timothy 4:7 tells us, “train yourself to be godly.” And, Hebrews 12:7 says, “Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline?”

Just as there are no shortcuts in peak physical condition, there are no shortcuts in peak spiritual condition. Unfortunately, too many Christians run aimlessly. They will never win the prize, because they refuse to train. The word discipline has become a dirty word in our culture. It isn’t easy and it’s not fun, but it is essential to success. Knowing our identity comes from strict training.

“The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.”-Tom Landry

Most of us want to win, but don’t want to suffer for it. Discipline puts feet to a Christians’ desires to become a Superbowl Christian. Yet to perform at the highest level, a Christian must be focused and committed.

 

3. Commitment

Focus and commitment will determine whether we view Christianity as a recreational sport or a serious pro competition. Unfortunately, commitment is a dying quality of American life. It’s a quality known more to prior generations. The “stick to it” mentality has become a passé, yet a Superbowl-quality performance cannot be achieved without it.

We need to be committed to our relationship with Christ so everything we do reflects our desire for Him.

Philippians 3 tells us that Paul pressed on toward the goal. He was focused and committed to completing his Superbowl. He didn’t give up or quit. He had a vision of what was at the goal line and pressed on toward it.

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”-Vince Lombardi

Once a man has made a commitment to a way of life, he puts the greatest strength in the world behind him. We call this heart-power. After the commitment is made, nothing will stop him short of success. This step is crucial. Without laser-point focus and commitment, we fracture into many areas and we become double-minded. But, the book of James tells us that a double-minded man is unstable in all he does (James 1:8).

However, even if we have all of these traits, they mean nothing if we aren’t willing to sacrifice.

 

4. Sacrifice

The key to success in anything we do is our willingness to sacrifice.

Hebrews 12:1 says, “lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us”

Whatever sin we are holding on to weighs us down and separates us from Christ. The longer we hold on to it, the slower we become and the further behind we fall. A lighter load makes it easier to chase after the goal.

To sacrifice means to give up something for a specific purpose, or to “pay a price.” A Superbowl Christian will sacrifice. There are things that they will give up and things that they will take up. They’ll give up their sins and take up their crosses. Give up freedoms and take up submission. In doing so, their time, their thinking, and their actions will be radically changed. But, the beauty and burden of sacrifice is that it’s not just a one-time event. A Superbowl Christian, like a Superbowl athlete continually trains and sacrifices–there is no off-season for these individuals. Paul didn’t even rest in his success, not even when he grew old. He did not rest, he pressed on, he knew the goal-line, but was still a few yards away from it; he was persevering to that goal-line and building his character along the way.

 

5. Character

This is the element that ties all the other traits together and gives them shape.

“Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.”-Charles Reade

Where are you going?

What are you sowing to get where you’re going?

It begins with an act–reading the Bible daily, which becomes a habit. Then this habit will start reflecting in our lives–showing Christ-likeness. We will begin understanding and knowing our identity and reflecting it–becoming our character. Then, our destiny becomes clear–to pass through the narrow gate leading to everlasting life.

Without exception, every Superbowl team has a game plan that includes all these elements into their winning strategy. For a Superbowl Christian, character is the element that integrates desire, discipline, commitment and sacrifice all together. Character, for a Christian, can be defined as a Christ-likeness–that is why Paul trained so hard. He wanted to be just like Christ and he didn’t settle.

 

In Philippians 3:10, Paul says, “My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death”

Paul acknowledged that he was not yet there, but he was moving in the right direction. Each day he grew closer because he had the desire; he was disciplined, committed, and focused; he was willing to sacrifice, and he was developing a Godly character. Paul lost his life to a Roman sword, with the drawing of his last  breath, he had crossed the goal-line to glory. The time clock sounded and he had won the game. Paul was a Superbowl Christian, waiting on the other side was a prize, a prize greater than any Superbowl ring or Lombardi trophy. For Paul, there would be crowns that would last for eternity.

Sometimes it’s as simple as wanting it more, no matter what it takes.

New Fruit for the New Year, 1/6/19

We all start the new year thinking of the concept of new and what the new will be like. Usually it’s on our minds so much during the new year season that we even entertain the idea of a new year’s resolution. We may resolve to lose weight, read more, keep our home tidier, or to spend more time with God in the coming 12 months. However, not everyone has always had the same outlook. In Ecclesiastes 1:8-10 King Solomon openly writes that “what has been is what will be,” “there is nothing new under the sun,” and “it has already existed in the ages before us” (HSCB).  So, what is really “new” about a new year?

 

As Christians, we remember our pasts and we are grieved by them, but we are able to have hope because God’s mercy is new every morning (Lamentations 3:19-23). This is not referring to new as “different,” but rather, “refreshed.”  Just like how we wake up some days feeling “like a whole new person,” we aren’t really a different person, but we are refreshed. We should all look ahead with expectation and anticipation as Paul spoke about in Philippians 3:13-14. There is something much greater waiting ahead, than what we’ve experienced in our past. God is bringing forth something new, He is making a way in the wilderness; even while it may seem that we are walking through a “dry season” or “desert land” He provides the rivers that will allow us to keep pressing on to the new that He has in store for us (Isaiah 43:15-20).

 

In Ezekiel 47:1-12, we read of a river that flows from the temple, bringing nutrition and life to the plants and animals that use it for nourishment. We are promised new fruit in verse 12, but we must understand that this new fruit is not  material things, or possessions. In fact, Luke 12:15 warns us to guard ourselves against greed because our lives are not found in the things we own. The more we get, the more we tend to want, and contentment won’t come until Christ is present in our lives. Rather, the new fruit that we read about in Ezekiel 47:12 is the seeds that we have planted, as a church, in the hearts of the unbelievers; it is the harvest from what we have planted and watered. However, before this promise of new fruit can be fulfilled there are some things that must align.

 

First, we should recognize that the temple/tabernacle in the Old Testament is the only place where God dwelt among His people. So, we can understand that the priests and Levites needed water supplied to the temple for ceremonies they would perform/take part in. But, there was no water at the top of the hill, so, the water would need to be piped up to it for their supply. Next, we read that as the water flowed out of the temple it grew gradually deeper until it was no longer tread-able, but only swim-able.

 

There are a few examples of symbolism in this scripture. First, the water. The water was life-giving. Jesus tells us in John 7:37-39 that the Holy Spirit is the living water (post-Jesus-being-glorified). So, it is obvious that the water found in Ezekiel 47:1-12 represents the Holy Spirit. Next, we come upon the temple. The temple represents us as Christ-followers. Here, is where the Holy Spirit is drawn to because of our worship. It is also where the water is used and worked with, as in our own lives, here is where we should put the Holy Spirit to work. We should be living, breathing, walking examples of what God wants us to be like. Then, the water flows out of the temple. This is representative of how the Holy Spirit should be working in our world. The Holy Spirit is not meant to be locked inside and hidden, it is for us to share with everyone we meet. When we share the Holy Spirit with the rest of the world, we harvest new fruit for God’s Kingdom. The more we share, the more we harvest. As we saw in the passage, the further the water flowed, the deeper it got, and the more that grew and prospered because of its presence.   If the river stops flowing, there will be no new fruit. 2 Corinthians 3:6 tells us, that God has made us ministers of the Spirit that gives life. We should be saturating Earth with so much of the Holy Spirit that the only option anyone has is to swim in it. When water is unable to flow, it sits stagnant; the longer it sits stagnant, the worse it will smell and the more pests it will attract.  The same goes for the Holy Spirit. When we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to flow, the more “pests,” or sin, we will attract. Finally, the new fruit. The new fruit presented in the scripture is representative of those we aid in coming to Christ. The more water, the more vegetation and life. The more Holy Spirit, the more healing and life.

 

How will the Kingdom of God grow through you in this coming year?

 

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “The man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.”

He Knows My Name 2/25/2018

Luke 19:1-10 tells the story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector. At the time tax collectors were considered to be the worst of all occupations. They took from the poor to essentially feed their own extravagant lifestyles. This didn’t stop Zacchaeus from wanting to see Jesus, though. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus so badly that he climbed a tree because he was too short to see around the crowd. Jesus saw him in the tree and told him to come down because He was going to  stay at Zacchaeus’ house. Now, by human standards, Zacchaeus had nothing about him that was worth saving. However, as we all know, Jesus befriended even the lowliest, but that’s not what’s important about this story. Jesus called out to Zacchaeus in the tree, by name. He knew his name, and He knows ours, too.

Moses was an 80 year old shepherd who had killed an Egyptian and fled; he went on to save the Israelite people from slavery. Paul threatened murder against the disciples; even while that was happening, he received salvation and went on to write several books in the New Testament. David was considered to be “a man after God’s own heart” despite his affair with Uriah’s wife while Uriah was at war. Even worse, David wrote Uriah’s death warrant when he was unsuccessful at hiding what he had done. Despite the wrong in each of these individual’s lives, God used them. He chose them even before the foundations of the earth were formed, just as He chose you and me.

There is no sin that is so great that it could separate us from God. He sent Jesus to Earth to pay the price for our sins. Jesus took a punishment he didn’t deserve to save people who didn’t deserve to be saved–that’s how much God loves us.

So, I want you to do me a favor. Read the title again, out loud. Understand this: God knows you. He knows your name, the number of hairs on your head, and everything else about you. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. He knows what your tomorrow holds. He knew you before the foundation of the earth was formed. You are His child, you belong to Him, and He loves you and will use you to fulfill His purpose.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit 2/18/2017

It all begins with desire. As followers of Christ we must desire more of Him and the gifts that are offered to us through the Holy Spirit. In John 14:26, Jesus states that the Holy Spirit will teach us and be a reminder to us of His teachings. However, if we look at 2 Timothy 1:6 we are told that some have ceased producing fruits because they have deviated from instruction. Our faith journey is often referred to as a fire within us and just like a real fire, you have to feed it to keep it burning. Sometimes the fire will die out, but if we wipe away the ashes and stir up the hot coals we can reignite it; the fire that is started within us once we accept and start believing is the same way. By just stirring and feeding the hot coals we can reignite our passion for Christ. However, saying we desire more of God does nothing; our actions speak louder than our words.

1 Corinthians 12:2 states that we must be transformed so we can discern what is good, pleasing, and the perfect will of God. We are led to idolize worldly things, whatever is important to us, but this must change once we become believers. The Holy Spirit strives to bring man into reconciliation with God which is achieved with the gifts. These gifts aren’t optional or reversible to believers. They are distributed as He wills (often determined by how badly we want it). They serve to bring unity and life to people and they are all given by God for the good of all (1 Cor. 12:4-7) and to glorify Him. There are 3 main categories of the gifts:

  1. Ministerial
  2. Motivational
  3. Manifestational

Beginning in Ephesians 4:7-13, we are introduced to the ministerial gifts to which only some people are called. We can think of these in relation to the five fingers on a hand:

  1. Apostle= thumb
    • teaches all other ministries because he/she gets along with others in the ministerial gifts
    • brings unity among the other ministerial gifts
  2. Prophet= index finger
    • points out the direction to and not to follow
  3. Evangelist= “the long middle finger”
    • involved in lots of outreach often to the ends of the earth
    • calls others to the body of Christ
  4. Pastor= ring finger
    • “married to the flock”
    • loves and cherishes the followers of Christ, keeping up with the day-to-day aspects
  5. Teacher= pinky
    • very detail-oriented

Next, Romans 12:3-9 describes the motivational gifts. All believers have at least one of these gifts which are based on ones’ talents. They use each person’s personality to serve one another. The motivational gifts are as follows:

  1. Prophecy
    • Prophecy is used to speak against compromise and evil and to restore relationships
  2. Service/Ministry
    • A person with this gift is driven to meet others’ needs through love and acts of selflessness
  3. Teaching
    • This gift is used to uncover and research the truth
  4. Exhortation
    • The exhorter is motivated by seeing others succeed and grow in spiritual maturity
  5. Giving
    • The gift of giving is exactly what it sounds like, this person uses resources to meet the needs of others through giving
  6. Leading
    • Leaders are good at delegating tasks through analysis of others’ talents and abilities
  7. Showing Mercy
    • This gift is sensitive to the emotional and spiritual needs of others; these people demonstrate compassion, understanding, and love easily

Finally, we return to 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 where we read about the manifestational gifts. These are given by God to secure the church against the devil and they represent the coaction of human personality and behavior working with the divine powers of God as one. There are nine manifestational gifts in total that can be separated into the following categories:

  1. Revelation
    • Word of Knowledge
      • this is the Holy Spirit giving us knowledge about things that we have no way of knowing based on our own understanding
    • Word of Wisdom
      • this is the ability to apply the word of knowledge in order to solve the problem you are dealing with
    • Discernment of spirits
      • this refers to one’s ability to discern between demonic, angelic, and human spirits in order for one to receive deliverance when necessary
  2. Power
    • Faith
      • this is a gift that grows the more we get to know God; the more faith we have in Him, the more we are able to do for Him
    • Healing
      • this gift is exactly as it sounds, the Holy Spirit working through us to heal others of disease, illness, or sickness; this doesn’t have to be a full-time ministry, but can come on any believer at any time
    • Miracles
      • this is God working through believers to reveal Himself to people through the impossible
  3. Inspiration
    • Prophecy
      • this is the receipt of a word from God for someone else
    • Speaking in Tongues
      • this is the ability to speak in a foreign language one has no prior experience using
    • Interpretation of Tongues
      • this is the interpretation/understanding of tongues that have been spoken by oneself or another

In conclusion, God has a variety of gifts He wants to bestow upon us as believers, but none of these gifts have any meaning without love first (1 Corinthians 12:12-21). Additionally, we are only a working part of a whole that won’t be completed until Jesus returns, then there will be no more need for them (1 Corinthians 8-13). They are to be used for the strengthening of the church (1 Corinthians 14:26) and should be desired for that purpose, not out of jealousy (1 Corinthians 14:12). They are necessary for battle in spiritual warfare, without them the struggle will be much greater. Finally, there is only one way to receive the gifts; they cannot be earned or merited, only gifted as God chooses. Understanding, flowing with, and using the gifts are essential for the end of time.

Our actions will always speak louder than our words.

 

Other sources used:

https://iblp.org/questions/what-are-seven-motivational-gifts

https://www.bible-knowledge.com/gifts-of-the-holy-spirit/

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