Dealing With a Difficult Past

March 19, 2019 
 
Psalm 77:5  If we were to look through photo albums together, what would I see? What stories are represented, and what are the highs and lows? It seems we could benefit from help with those difficult things in our past.

 

What are Some Categories of Things in the Past?

  • Good Times – victories, success and accomplishment, peaceful and enjoyable times, and times of investing in the future
  • Difficulties and Challenges – hard circumstances, hurts and grief, injustices and betrayals
  • Failures – missteps and misjudgments, life detours, and sin
  • God’s Work – His work in Jesus, His work in our lives, and His work through us in others

 

How do People Relate to the Past?

  • Live in the past
  • Deny or re-shape to fit their preferences
  • Let it and their response to it destroy self and others
  • Deal with it redemptively – This includes repenting of sin, seeking deliverance and healing of hurts, entrusting the past to the Lord for Him to use in some way.

 

What Kind of Things Can Come out of the Past?

  • Stability and good foundations – strength of character, insights, wisdom, life principles
  • Crippling and destructive things – fear, resentment, hatred, hardness, bitterness, anger, regret, false beliefs and assumptions, and destructive patterns and habits
  • Growth and tools to help others – When we respond to our past well and grow in the grace of God, we can become more able to come alongside others and help them deal with things in a God-honoring way.

 

I believe we need to set the past in perspective under God and His truth. We may seek deliverance from its bondage, learn from it, and sometimes find encouragement from it. We can revisit what is helpful, learn what is needed, celebrate God’s goodness, and live more fully today in Jesus.

 



What’s God’s Job and What’s Our Job?

March 12, 2019 Philippians 2:12-14  As we think about life and our world, how involved is God? As you think about your faith and life, what does God want and what do you want when it comes to His work and yours? What is God’s job, and what is our job?  

  • When it Comes to Witness and Serving? – Look at passages like 1 Peter 3:15, Matthew 16:13-19,  Matthew 28:18-20, John 16:5-16,              1 Corinthians 3:6-8, Romans 12:1-8, and 1 Corinthians 12.  Sometimes, we try doing the work of God in our own ability, while other times, we might think God should do, on His own, anything He wants done. What we see is a cooperation in which God empowers and we serve.

 

  • When it Comes to Christian Growth and doing Church? – Look at passages like Philippians 2:12-14, Romans 8:5-17, and 2 Peter 1:3-11, and John 151-8. Notice, again, the call to intentional cooperation between us and God. God molds, enables, and empowers as we surrender abide in Jesus, and obey.

 

  • When it Comes to Salvation? – Look at passages such as John 3:5-8, 16-17, Ephesians 2:8-10, and Matthew 11:28-30. God put salvation’s plan in place, God in Christ made salvation possible, and God the Holy Spirit convicts us about Jesus and makes us new when we come to faith. We cannot earn it but must receive it by God’s grace in repentance and faith in Jesus.

  We are called to cooperation with God – surrendering, placing faith in Jesus, abiding in Jesus, walking by the Holy Spirit and relying on God to save us and empower us. I think sometimes, we either try to do God’s job for Him or fail to do what He expects of us. And, don’t forget that even our “part” in things still must be empowered by God.  It takes God to know God, to grow in God, and to serve God.



How do I Point my Family to Jesus? – Part 2

March 05, 2019

Joshua 24:14-15 & 1 Peter 3:15  Last week, we began looking at how to point our family to Jesus – whether lost ones that need saved or born-again ones that need to get on track or grow in Christ. We said the first two things are to accept the responsibility and recognize the challenges, and here are the next two.

 

Be Faithful and Prepared – As you think about the responsibility and challenges of pointing family to Jesus, what might open doors and help with that? I think 1 Peter 3:15 tells us. Think about how family see and experience Jesus if you hold Him as Lord in your heart and live that out. Also, notice the call to be ready and share truth in gentleness and respect. Demonstrating the goodness of Jesus will help you keep from undercutting the faith with your family and should open doors to point them to Jesus. And, I believe this holds for lost family and for born-again family you would influence for Christ.

 

Do the Work of Prayer – What is the connection between prayer and pointing family to Jesus? I believe a look at Scripture shows us it is vital, and here is how we can pray. For one thing, we need to pray for our own walk with Christ – ask the Lord to help you live out the Scriptures and bear the fruit of righteousness, and pray for wisdom, courage, grace, and opportunities to point them to  Jesus. Then, add to pray for your family members – for spiritual hunger, understanding of the Gospel, devotion to Jesus, and teachable spirits.

 

Pointing family to Jesus can mean sharing the Gospel with lost kinfolks, living faithfully and praying fervently until God   softens family enough for you to speak, or coming alongside a born-again family member to encourage or correct them in Christ.

 



How do I Point my Family to Jesus? – Part 1

February 26, 2019

 
Joshua 24:14-15 & 1 Peter 3:15  If you are a born-again Christian, what or who pointed you to Jesus? When you have had detours in your Christian life – who pointed you back to Jesus to get you on track again, and how did they do it?  What are the ripple effects of pointing a lost person to Jesus or a saved Christian back to a right walk with Jesus? What if we are  talking about lost or saved family members? How do we point them to Jesus?

 

  • Accept the Responsibility – What is your responsibility toward family? What if you see them not as family, but simply as other people who either are lost or saved? What is your responsibility toward them? Let me make some Bible-based observations about this. We are called to let love for God and the truths of His Word permeate our private and public lives. This would include family relationships. We are called to be wise toward non-saved people, let them see Christ-likeness in us, and share Jesus as we have occasion. We are called to encourage and help other Christians practically and in their walk with Christ.

 

  • Recognize the Challenges – One challenge is that we think too narrowly. We think only in terms of parents guiding non-adult children to accept Christ and be church attendees. We think only in terms of adult children of aging parents showing respect and care. We think pointing people to Jesus only means witnessing to lost people. Another  challenge is that we relegate spiritual growth to church and get distracted by other things in the sphere of the family. A third challenge is that, because of the family tie, because family knows your faults, or because of other reasons, you don’t have the sway with family you might have with other people.

We will look at two more pieces to this puzzle next week. But, remember, if we think of family simply as other people who are either lost or saved, we have a responsibility to point them to Jesus in whatever way is appropriate.



We’ve Never Been Here Before

February 19, 2019

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10, Psalm 25:4, Psalm 46:1-2  Sometimes, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory – situations of which we would say, “We’ve never been here before.” In the Bible, I find some themes and principles to help us. I also think there are some good questions to ask when we are in this sort of place in our lives, homes, or church.

 

When Might we Say, “We’ve Never Been Here Before”?

  • When we first were born again and began trying to follow Jesus the world
  • Living in a culture that opposes our faith and values more than before
  • Changed family situations we had not anticipated
  • Declining health and the challenges of aging
  • A church without a building and looking at the prospects of closure in the foreseeable future

 

What Can be Going on When “We Haven’t Been Here Before”

  • Sometimes, we are on the way to a place of blessing and provision.
  • Sometimes, are in a place discipline.
  • Sometimes, we are in place of detour or waiting.
  • Sometimes, life is just challenging.
  • It always can be a time of growth and a time for potential good or bad response.

 

Guidelines When “We’ve Never Been Here Before”

  • God is a God of purpose – purpose for it or purpose in it.
  • God’s people are people with a purpose.
  • Your place doesn’t change who God is or who you are.
  • Scripture doesn’t say a lot about being in new situations as a distinct category of situation. It seems gives us principles by which to live consistently regardless of the situation.
  • Guard your faith and faithfulness against drift and the temptation to abandon God or harden against Him.
  • Be a person of the Word even when it doesn’t agree with the world.
  • Draw close to God as a person of dependence and prayer for His strength, wisdom, etc.
  • Keep living as a Godly person, being faithful to God’s purpose and glory so that guides you.

 

Guiding Questions When “We’ve Never Been Here Before”

  • How can we get our bearings and a Godly perspective? – the Word, reflection, Godly counsel, etc.
  • What might God be doing, and how can the Kingdom be furthered?
  • What is my best response and my role in this situation?
  • What resources do I need to walk through this in a Godly manner?

 



The Flesh and the Spirit

February 12, 2019

Romans 8:5-11  The New Testament contrasts the flesh and the spirit, but before we look at this, let’s clarify some ideas. The flesh can mean tangible things, our humanity, or the sinful nature / that which is opposed to God. The spirit / spiritual can mean simply non-material realities, our spirit, Godliness, or the Holy Spirit and His work.

 

Flesh vs. Spirit as Seen vs. Unseen (i.e. 2 Cor. 4:16-17) – Because of  practical needs, the world’s values and priorities, and our sinful desires, the seen and the things of this world make loud demands for our attention. However, we are to set our eyes on the unseen things of God’s glory, the Gospel, and God’s purposes.

 

Flesh vs. Spirit as Opposed to God vs. Honoring God (i.e. Rom. 8:5-14 & Gal. 5:16-25) – There is, on one hand, that which is good and God-honoring and, on the other, that which is evil and opposed to God. Our call is to honor God, and the power of God’s Spirit is how we do that.

 

Flesh vs. Spirit in our Efforts to Honor God (i.e. Gal. 5:16, Rom. 8:5-14, John 14:16-17, Col. 1:9, 2 Cor. 10:4) – If we are born again, we will want to honor God, and there is a resource given to us – the Holy Spirit – whose job it is, in part, to empower and guide us into Godliness. Our responsibility is to cultivate dependence on Him and to live in Him so that He produces Christ-likeness in us.

 

Flesh vs. Spirit in Coming to God (i.e. John 3: 5-8 & 6:63) – In John 3, Jesus spoke of the need to be born again by the Spirit – Nicodemus needed and we need to make a shift from the realm of our inability and fleshly effort to a           supernatural re-birth through repentance and faith in Jesus. In John 6, Jesus spoke of ongoing faith in Himself and feeding on Him in a spiritual sense – the people turned toward the physical, as we often do, and Jesus pointed them to the spiritual.

 

We can serve the flesh or pursue the things of God. We can follow the desires of the sinful flesh or crucify it and let the Holy Spirit enliven us for Godliness. We can try to serve the Lord in our weakness and come up short or rely on His enabling. Those who are not in Christ can do the best they know in the flesh and come up short or be born again by God’s Spirit through repentance and faith in Jesus.

 



The Seen and the Unseen

February 05, 2019
 
2 Corinthians 4:16b-18  What is the measure of success in our culture? What do  people value? What is driving force in your life? What if the normal pursuits are sidetracking us?
 

Fixing our on What is Unseen Rather Than Seen – What if that statement is not as crazy and contradictory as it sounds? What if there is more than what is most obvious, and that which is less obvious is more important? The “seen” can be daily routines and normal life issues, struggles and difficulties, wealth and possessions, accolades and influence, and more. The seen can be very demanding because a lot of “the seen” is important, because of our culture’s values, because of our sinful flesh at times, and because we are blinded to the glory of the Gospel and of Jesus. What is unseen is the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” and the realizations that go with that.

The temporary nature of what is seen and the eternal nature of what is unseen motivate us to fix our eyes on the unseen. What if what we can’t see is more real and lasting than what we can? How should life look if that is true? What if the unseen shaped and guided our relationship to the seen? How might we shift our thinking and actions to deal with the eternal unseen rather than being distracted by the temporary seen?
 
Priority and Pursuit – Take a look at 1 John 2:15-17, 1 Timothy 6:7 & 17, Matthew 16:24-26, and Colossians 3:1-4.  As important and           attention-grabbing as the seen is (some parts more important than others), there is an unseen reality that is more important. Of all the priorities we might have and all the things that might catch our gaze and hold our attention, the unseen, the glory of God in the face of Christ is where it is at. Where are your eyes fixed?


Swimming Upstream

January 29, 2019
 
Matthew 7:13-14 & Romans 12:2a  Do you tend to be different or “go with the flow”? There is a tension between our culture and Biblical Christian life, so let’s look at “swimming upstream.”
 
Downstream is More Natural – In a river, if you sit in a boat and don’t do anything, you go downstream. When we look at Scripture (the Beatitudes, the Fruit of the Spirit, etc.) the Bible’s teachings are not what comes naturally. In our own lives, it can be easier to “go along to get along” and give free reign to our inclinations. However…
 
The Christian is Called to Swim Upstream – Occasionally, in a river, you might want to go upstream, like salmon that are compelled to swim upriver. The Bible shows us clearly that the Christian lifestyle and values go against the grain and that we are called to this change even though it puts us at odds with others.  You may have experienced this in your own life.
 
Challenges to Swimming Upstream – In nature, challenges to getting upriver include weakness, current, obstacles, and more. In our Christian lives, challenges include the sinful flesh, and traditions, opposition, and persecution. You may have sinful tendencies you are still overcoming.       You may have family members who are not waking with Christ. Work situations may push us to compromise and make faithfulness more difficult.
 
Helps for Swimming Upstream – Better strength and outside help can assist in going up a river, and I think of the fish ways or fish ladders that let salmon get past dams. In the Christian life of bucking the current, the Bible points us to the helps of Godly priorities, Godly discipline and strength, the Word and prayer, the Holy Spirit, and encouragement from other Christians.
 
Two Rivers Heading the Same Place – The dirty flow of the Trinity River and the pristine waters of the Frio River both end up in the Gulf of Mexico. Some people live evil lives that obviously head away from God. However, others live seemingly good lives, do good works, and practice some form of religion. Both types of people need to realize they are heading away from God. Scripture makes clear the common destiny of the obviously bad and the seemingly good apart from repentance and faith in Jesus.   Bucking the current does not make us Godly, but Godliness in Christ will result in “swimming upstream.”


The Place of the Cross in the Life of the Christian

January 22, 2019

Galatians 6:14  Realizing that, when we talk about “the cross,” we are talking about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, what do you think about the cross, and what place does it have in your life, home, and church? Let me suggest the cross is…

 

Central to God’s Redeeming Plan and Offer of New Life

  • God has standards, and, all of us have missed the mark.
  • We are created to know God, but sin breaks that fellowship, leads toward condemnation, and makes walking in God’s life impossible.
  • So Jesus, God died in our place and rose again so God can offer us forgiveness and life.

 

Central to How One Becomes Born Again

  • Some think the call of Jesus means join a church and follow rules, but that’s not what Jesus said.
  • Some think it means simply believe facts about Jesus, say a prayer, and go on living the best you see fit, but that’s not what Jesus said.
  • The call of Jesus involves a cross for the Christ-follower.
  • The call of Jesus demands He is top loyalty / priority, even if causes division and difficulty.
  • It is a call to daily put to death everything in us that dishonors God and follow Him.

 

Central to Daily Life and Christian Growth

  • We are called to agree with Him about what is not righteous and is destructive to His honor, to us, and to others and so, to put it to death and live by His power and for His glory daily.
  • The cross and resurrection power of Jesus is how we do that.

 

The Cross is the instrument of death by which our salvation and new life was purchased and is the place of hope to which the guilty sinner looks. The Cross will be that to which both God and the Christian look at the judgment bar of God. The Cross is the means by which you and I grow and live like children of God until then.

 



A New and Better Name in Jesus

January 15, 2019

 
Ephesians 3:14-21  In the sermon last week, I mentioned the Johnny Cash song “A Boy Called Sue” and talked about legacy. Legacy flows out of character and choices. In some cultures, name is thought relate to character and destiny.

 

In Bible times and other times and places, a person sometimes gets a new name when she or he gets a new role or enters a new culture. The four Hebrew heroes of Daniel got new, Babylonian names in their new place of service, but those names did not change who they were or their loyalty to God. Conversely, Jabez did not change his name, but he prayed that he might  overcome his name, and God honored it. Sometimes, the culture tries to re-name us, so-to-speak, or others have said things of us that are destructive, but we are called to overcome in Godliness, honoring our new name of “Christian.” Going a step further, God sometimes changed people’s names in the Bible or gave them names before they were born. These instances tend to relate to the covenant with God as His people, and the encounters of name change tend to have to do with an experience of God that changes identity and role related to God’s purposes. The Bible speaks of us coming into God’s family through faith in Jesus in terms, among other things, of adoption. Look at the following verses: John 1:12-13, Romans 8:15-17,   Galatians 4:4-7, 1 Peter 1:18-21, and 1 Peter 2:9-10.

 

In Christ, we have a right standing with God, a new identity, a new vocation, and God’s resources for life and serving Him. The new identity in Christ involves a new relationship to God and a new purpose, and it is achieved by entering covenant with God in Jesus through repentance and faith in Him.