Monday, March 30, 2009

New Blog

Blogpost has been good to me. I have always wanted to journal my thoughts because
I believe that writing breeds clarity. However, I have never been really good at doing it. Mostly because I lack consistency. So, when I found blogging and picked it up it has been helpful by giving me a format to write and also to share with others. The hope has been that others will grow spiritually from my spiritual journey as well. Trust me, that is more of a humbling thought than any pride or arrogance.

So, if I will share this online I might as well do it in a format that allows for the spread of greater communication. Therefore, I am transferring blogspot for wordpress. One reason is that it allows for me to post documents that may be helpful in communicating to those in ministry. They will hopefully have a little more access to those types of things. Wordpress also gives a little more flexibility in formatting different tabs or links to express my life, family, ministry and so forth.

All that to say that all blog posts will now be found at

Monday, March 23, 2009

Se7en: Envy (and gluttony)

Not long ago Verizon named one of its cell phones the enV. It has all the high multimedia features such as video, camera, and of course the QWERTY keyboard for texting. The phone is typical though the name is intriguing. The "enV". Its name is meant to create the desire for all to have. We are all supposed to be envious of those who own this phone and go out to purchase our very own. (Although it's not as cool as this one)

This message is a continuation in our series of the Se7en Deadly Sins. You might of guessed which sin. Envy forms out of the desire for more... and more... and more. Envy is an externally less dirty appearance of lust. The person battling with this sin is never satisfied. They are always searching, craving, yearning for the next big thrill or fix. It may be as simple as cookies from the counter or somebody’s possessions we want to pocket. Envy goes beyond the problem of wrong desires to resentment of others who enjoy certain benefits or pleasures. It asks, “Why does that person have and enjoy _____ and not me?” Ultimately, this sin points to sinful pride believing that our wants and desires should be fulfilled because we demand them to be so. It places ourselves in the role of God; something we are unable to fulfill.

In Proverbs 23:1-5, we see the author warning against envy. Things you see in or with others may appear as “delicacies” but in reality it is “deceptive”. Those things will fade away, or “sprout wings and fly away”. The author’s advice is summed up in verse 4, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.” The point is to not seek fulfillment in others but show self-control and patience in what God provides. In a word, contentment is the answer.

What are some common areas of envy, lacking contentment for teens? See if you find yourself in any of these possible scenarios.

- Envy in position & prominence (Mark 10:35-44).
Are you in a place where you are playing second string on some kind of team or organization? Are you jealous of those who are above you? Do you selfishly desire to unseat those in front of you? Are you seeking your name to be the highlight of every achievement?

Jesus reverses the world’s standard for position and prominence. He says, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for man" (Mark 10:45).

- Envy of persons (John 21:20-22).
Do you see someone else and want them or what they have? Are you overly competitive in nature? Do you often compare yourself and struggle with measuring up to others?

Jesus reverses the world’s standard for comparison to others. Our focus should be on our own character and calling before God. When we shift this to others we become filled with pride and envy.

- Envy of possessions (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11).
Our country is very materialistic, even in a time of economic depression. Loads of debt overwhelm many families and young people all for the sake of filling our desires to make us happy. This is envy at its finest. We need to discern the difference in every purchase between needs and wants. We also must consider how our possessions can be used for God’s glory rather than our own amassing of objects that rust, fade, wear and collect dust.

Contentment eliminates envy.
In all, the root of envy is finding satisfaction in god-substitutes. The answer is understanding that there is a greater treasure of infinite value – it is knowing and loving Jesus Christ. Therefore, the call for believers is to find their contentment in Christ.

The Christian is to find their greatest joy in Christ. Contentment is a choice to embrace Jesus as the all-sufficient source of joy and provision. It is being able to say, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of contentment – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13). For “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). It is realizing you can be “satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

When a person can embrace these truths they can eliminate envy. They will not look to position, prominence, people or possessions for fulfillment. They will already have it in the presence of God.

- Why do people get envious?
- Where do you see envy in society?
- What do you most commonly envy?
- What does the Bible have to say about envy/jealousy (do a search)?
- How does contentment eliminate envy?
- Read Philippians 4:11-13 & Hebrews 13:5. How do they relate to each other?
- What does it mean to be content but not complacent with Jesus?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Se7en: Lust & Greed

As we continue our series on sin, the impact of lust and greed in our culture is overwhelming. Lust and greed are probably the more prominent sins of our consumer driven, instant gratification society. We have to have what we want with as much as we want and of course when we want it. This is true whether we're at a traffic light waiting for it to turn green, in line at the cashier rushing to get out the store, or at the computer feeding perverted desires.

In Proverbs 6:20-29, the author warns of the dangers of lust and greed. The example is lust for a women but it can easily be replaced with any other object of choice. Lust or greed may promise to please but in the end it fails to fulfill. It’s like the fish who sees the worm dangling for food only to bite and become hooked at the mouth. The actions will not go without consequence.

The problem with lust and greed is when the desire of an object becomes a demand leading to dependence on such object. This is commonly known as addiction. Lust and greed, as any addictions, are god-substitutes and biblically known as idols. We must ask ourselves, “For who or what am I lusting/greedy?” or the biblical question, “Who or what am I worshiping over God?”

John Owen, in his classic work On The Mortification of Sin in Believers says, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.” In other words, you cannot simply fight lust or greed on your own terms by avoiding it, hoping to wound it and let it go away. You must get to the root and destroy it by fighting with the spiritual weapons God has provided.

SO, how do I kill the sin of lust/greed?
Fight with Saturation
God is to be feared because he is holy. However, this fear is not to make you scared as much as it is meant to increase your intrigue of him. God, the Creator of heaven and earth has created you to saturate yourself in him. Don’t miss this! Therefore, I pray the imaginations of your mind, the affections of your heart and the desires of your heart will be awakened to true and everlasting joy in Christ. This can happen by saturating yourself in the Psalms and cultivating a life of prayer. Time with God, or lack of, will shape your appetite for lust and greed.
Psalm 16:4a,11 “The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Jonah 2:8 “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”
Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”
Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Fight With Scripture
God gave the Bible so we can know Him and be equipped for life. As mentioned, fighting lust is not just a physical battle but a spiritual one. Therefore, you must use the proper weapons. When Jesus encountered temptation he used Scripture to defend and attack against the pervasiveness of sin.
Psalm 119:9,11 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I have hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you.”
2 Peter 1:3-4 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

Fight With Strategy
Addictions must be fought with a hard determined look at reality. Those who struggle with lust can track where, when and how they have failed in order to anticipate when temptation is arriving. We must set and keep boundaries that God has designed for our joy and protection.
Psalm 16:6 “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

−Remove and limit your opportunity for lust and greed. If the computer or t.v. is a source of your lust then place it in a highly trafficked area. Don’t use them alone or especially at night when you are physically and emotionally exhausted. Whatever the source of your lust or greed is then seek to diminish your contact with that person or object. Parents need to take the lead in this area, even if it hurts or causes conflict. Your teen will thank you later for it.
Matthew 5:29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

−Report to a close friend. Have your friend hold you accountable by asking you pointed questions which you must answer honestly.
Proverbs 27:6 “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

−Repent immediately after failure. Sin can drive a wedge between you and God. Youth who are especially emotional may use their sorrow to turn them away from their relationship with God. The key is to ground your emotions and failures in the truth of the gospel. God’s focus is not on personal perfection but in your cross direction; looking unto Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3). When you confess your sin God forgives and cleanses from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
2 Corinthians 7:10 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

−Rest in the gospel, knowing that God forgives and gives mercy. This should not neuter the power of the above principles, yet it should empower you to move forward growing in grace every day.
Titus 2:11-13 “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for our blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Missional Families

According to a recent survey by Lifeway Research, parents are open to their children attending church if they don't have to be the ones to take them (Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research Insights' Feb. 23 newsletter). The survey found that 76 percent of parents agreed with the statement, "If a neighbor I trusted invited my children to go to church with them, I would let my child go with them." Whereas, only 24 percent of the 1,210 adults surveyed disagreed with the statement.

This finding is somewhat regrettable as a pastor who desires families to know God and worship him together. Yet, it also carries significance for believing families to live missionally. Notice the wording, "... a neighbor I trusted". This is a call for Christians to get into their communities and know their neighbors. It's a reminder that a simple friendship and invite can go a long way in the process for children and families to come to repentance and faith in Christ.

So what can your family do to live missionally, for neighbors to trust you? Here are some ideas:
- Know the names of your neighbors and allow them to know the names of everyone in your family.
- Invite neighbors, co-workers or classmates over for coffee, dessert, dinner or all of the above. This can easily be done by making use of special occasions and holidays.
- Participate in community functions and parties in effort to know people.
- Volunteer with local organizations, get involved with schools, sports teams, clubs, etc.
- Bless your neighbors, office or class with little but special gifts like baked goods, candy, yard work, appreciation notes & cards. It's the simple thoughts that count.

Above all, "as you go" (Matthew 28) and meet people engage in spiritual conversations when appropriate. People are not opposed to talking about spiritual things. They are opposed to you doing it without earning their trust first. You must have a genuine interest and value for people. Do not be afraid to let your friendships go beyond an evangelistic witness encounter. When I look at Jesus I see that he cared very deeply for people, even to the point of weeping on occasion. He loved strangers. I have to admit, I do not share this same compassion as much as I want or should. It's a shame, and worse it's sinful. I'm guilty and need to repent. I'm going to go do that now. What about you?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Se7en intro

A father named Benjamin Brown had 2 sons, Byron & Bradley. When Benjamin died he left a small house in Baltimore to split between his sons. Byron & Bradley were not very fond of each other. They fought over who would own and live in the house. Byron wanted the house to be used for a book store while Bradley was going to turn it into a bead store for his wife. Yet the two could not agree to any compromise. Therefore, Byron came up with an idea. He told Bradley he could have the house if he could keep just one nail that hung inside it. Bradley never gave it any more thought and took the deal. After Bradley moved in to the house and turned it into a bead store his brother Byron returned to take ownership of that one nail. Byron entered the store with a duffle bag and pulled out a dead skunk. On that one nail hanging in the center of the house he hung the dead skunk. Since it was his nail he could do whatever he wanted. After a couple days Bradley concluded he could not keep the store because of his decision to allow a competing owner rule the inside of his domain.

Likewise, we have a decision. Will we allow a competing owner to rule the inside of our lives or will we submit to the rule and reign of Jesus? This decision is life altering. Once you make it you are deciding you will not allow others to return and take back ownership.

In Luke 11:21-28 Jesus teaches a powerful spiritual truth about man and the ways we deal with our sin. We develop means of coping with our sin (mistakes, wrong choices, failures, etc.) to give us emotional and spiritual security.

Some of these strategies are…
- Rationalization. We rationalize and excuse our sin. Common phrases are “I can stop any time.” “It’s not my fault… so and so made me do it.” Or worse, “It’s not that big of a deal, I’m not that bad.”
- Escape. We escape consequences of sin in many ways. Sometimes through avoiding conflict or perhaps through addiction to alcohol, drugs, lust, manipulation or sex. We indulge our fantasy desires so to avoid feeling conviction or guilt.
- Religion. We make ourselves feel better about our sin by adding religion to life. We develop a system of works that balance out the good and bad, hoping the former outweighs the latter.

The reality is all these are god-substitutes. They all fail to withstand the influence and power of Satan. Satan is the “stronger man” attacking our lives. We may cope or manage our sin for a time and feel good about ourselves. However, it’s a false sense of security because you are no match for Satan. He will overpower you. In all, he’s a lying, scheming false god promising to please but failing to fulfill.

The solution for overcoming our sin is none other than obedience to God. The root of obedience starts with our hearts and works outward to the fruit of our behaviors. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” The only secure and sure way of removing sin is the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

- Our new series is Se7en. The seven deadly sins are not exactly defined in the Bible. However, they are common and prevalent sins that stand out above others. As stated, every sin is condemning to send a person to hell. The issue at hand is the way we seek to deal with our sin. This series will help us understand common sins and how we attempt to overcome. Ultimately, it will point us to our desperate need for grace and appreciation for the cross of Jesus.

- Who is the “someone[thing] stronger” object in your life? In other words, how do you often attempt to deal with your sin based on the 3 coping strategies presented?

- How does sin get stickier or worse… as the 7 spirits who return to make the person’s life worse than at first? Describe possible situations in your life or observations in others.

- How does obedience help you overcome sin (Luke 11:28, John 15:5-11)?

- How does grace help you overcome sin (Titus 2:11-14)?

- Why is obedience more than external actions but deep to the root of our heart?