Stand Out and Be Different

One of the great tragedies in life is that people give in and conform to what those around them communicate is suitable, appropriate, and comfortable.  Starting from the presupposition that we are all made in the image of God and that our standard for living is having the mind of Jesus Christ and walking out the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.), there is no way that anyone should give up their God given right to live out the individual purpose that the Lord has created them for.  Based on this platform, never forget that:

  • People do not define what you are worth–God does.
  • People are selfish and often do not care about you–God does.
  • People are as different inside (purpose) as they are outside (looks).
  • Following rules, laws, and being obedient to those in charge is NOT sacrificing your uniqueness.
  • Your autonomy is meant to be expressed in the context of community.
  • Standing Out and Being Different should always lead to unifying others in the name of Jesus.
  • Our unique gifts, given by the Spirit of Jesus, are not for us.  They are for others.
  • Not being silenced by those who oppose you, when you follow the Lord’s purpose for your life, is your calling.
  • Where people want you to be silent and change is where you must remain consistent, vocal, and unwavering.
  • Where we separate from everyone else is where we connect with God and where we make the greatest impact for His kingdom.
  • Those who answer the individual call of God on their lives become part of a family that uniquely serve one another by owning and unleashing the special way that God has given only them, to love those in their community.
  • Those who are not following the Lord will always try to snuff out your individuality as a child of God.

For you and for me to live out our purposes, that are defined by God Himself, we must develop a habit of not seeking the approval of other people.  Does this mean you become a rebel?  Do you live as one who has no authority?  Absolutely not.

Remember that before one can actually live out their God given purpose they must first submit to the Creator.  Moreover, the Scriptures clearly teach that submitting to the Lord also entails submitting to governing authorities (Romans 13), one another (Ephesians 5:21-22), and to church leadership (Hebrews 13:17).  The idea here is that when you are submitting in the aforementioned ways, you are submitting to the Lord because He is the one who created the human authority.  But no human authority overrides God.  Sometimes it is necessary to obey God and disobey men because the authority is in error and their directions are sinful (Acts 5:27-29).  But we must take care not to revolt against ungodly leaders who demand we obey their commands.  We are to follow orders.  We are to do what they want.  We are to give up our own desires and follow their rules and laws.

  • Ephesians 6:5-8 says Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart.  Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord.

That is, until they ask us to deny Jesus, His love, and His commands.  In these instances, we must not obey.  Instead, we must do what is right before the Lord and suffer the human consequences of our rebelliousness.  But we don’t rebel because we don’t respect them, or because we don’t think they care for us.  This is not part of our command from God.

Going back to being a rebel.  We cannot be rebels to God’s authority or those He has placed in authority over us–except when they ask us to disobey Him.  In this sense, we become rebels and are often mistaken for troublemakers because we refuse to follow the ungodly expectations of men who follow their own interests rather than God’s.  This was the case for the Apostles in the book of Acts as they went from town to town.  They were constantly accused of stirring up trouble and were often beaten and eventually killed for their lack of conformity to their culture.

CONCLUSION

When you feel all alone in this world because you have decided to embrace the uniqueness that God has wonderfully created you for–REJOICE!

  • Be a reject–by the world’s standards.
  • Be different–by the world’s standards.
  • Be misunderstood–by the world’s standards.
  • You are different individually–as Christians who have been gifted by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-7).
  • You are different corporately–as a church who is separate from the world (Jn. 18:36).

But love the world and die for those who reject you.  Then you will truly be like your Creator who so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die, but live forever! (Jn. 3:16)

  • Jesus said:  I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27; 35-36).

 

Can You Hear the Truth?

Are you concerned with truth?

Is it more valuable to you than all the comfort in the world?

When we want truth in our lives we are seeking to live in light of God’s Word…not our desires.  What we selfishly want to hear is something that would gratify our emotional, physical, and relational needs.   We want “good news” that tickles our senses–we do not want to experience any unpleasantness.  But the truth often hurts because it confronts our errors.  The problem with a self focused person is they will never be truly happy. They can never consume enough to feel full.  But truth satisfies–it has an end; a fixed position. You know where to stop.  If we didn’t have truth, we wouldn’t have anything worthwhile to preach–it would all be up to every individuals’ desire.

Consider 2 Timothy 4:2-4  Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new.  They will turn away from hearing the truth…

But the truth is not a respecter of persons.  It is not concerned with feelings.  It is simply a fact.  We change it to fit our needs, but the truth never really changes.  It remains consistent so we can see it and hear it for what it is and can always come back to it.  Now, when we become aware of the truth we can wield it in such a way that hurts people, but this is not from the Lord.  Truth is elixir of life.  If we can hear it, see it, understand it, and most importantly–apply it–we are truly cured.

John 8:31-32  Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Those who are not truly His disciples will not hear the truth because their hearts are not for Him–they are for themselves.  Consider Matthew 13.  After Jesus tells the parable of the sower.  He explains how the truth is spread to people with different “soil” which the truth seeds are sown into.  He describes how the soil is a metaphor for the condition of their hearts and that the only hearts that will respond to the truth are those who “hear and understand the word, who bear fruit and yield…” (Mt. 13:23).  The heart is a picture of our desires, our affections, and what we truly love.  The parable explains that every heart that does not receive the word of truth in a way that produces a change/result, though they heard the truth, it did not yield any change in their life, which means their hearts were hard (Mt. 13:15).

Jesus said in John 18:37  I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice. Pilate’s response in vs. 38 is “What is truth?” 

The entire New Testament describes the tragic story of how the Jews thought they knew the truth, but really didn’t.  When Jesus came He tried to get them to see that He was God and that they needed to worship Him and follow Him–that all the prophets who spoke of a coming ruler were talking about Him.  That’s when they killed Him.  They did not hear the truth and they did not want to hear the truth.  They wanted to believe what they wanted to believe and it cost them their souls.

CONCLUSION

If you were confronted with the truth, would you adapt yourself to it?  Would you give up everything in your life that does not align with it?  When you are unwilling to change because a principle that is undeniably from God is hurtful to your position, your emotions, or your goals–you are in unbelief.  You are in danger of judgment.  When we repent and believe in Jesus Christ we give up our rights to believe what we want and we assume a submissive and learning position.  We are no longer the lords of what is right and wrong in our lives, we are slaves to HIS truth and we give up everything to find it.

The value of truth is found in the parable of the Pearl of Great Price:

Matthew 13:45-46  The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.

  • Of course we know that the Pearl of Great Price is Jesus!

What Can Jesus Do? The Answer = Size of Your Faith

Your belief about what Jesus is capable of, will determine how content and full of peace you are in this world–not what He actually does, but what He could do.  Faith in Jesus is not concerned with the demonstration of power.  Faith in Jesus is demonstrated by the peace drawn from the conviction that His power will be used in your best interest.

What is happening in life that hurts?  What situation causes you to become anxious and worry?  Which person do you know who makes your life difficult?  Guess what…God knows and He is guiding you through that dark path.  If you believe He is there, even though you can’t see Him, and if you love Him, then you will be convinced that the darkness you are experiencing is what He wants you to experience, or else He would save you from it.  It boils down to what you believe He has the power to do and embracing your current situation because if He desired you to not endure it, you wouldn’t.

Here’s an example of this relationship.  If I bring Michael Jordan to a 2 on 2 game of basketball against 2 of my friends, I know that Michael and I will win.  I know that Michael would win without me, playing against my 2 friends.  He does not have to prove that he could dunk the basketball from the free throw line to demonstrate his ability.  Based on his reputation and my belief in him, I know we would win and I would have no fear.  Now if my friends started scoring some points and got ahead of us I would get confused and wonder what in the world was going on…after all, I’ve got Michael Jordan on my team.  But I would know that he was letting them win.  I wouldn’t know why, but I would know it was on purpose.  Maybe Michael is trying to teach me a lesson about something, if he didn’t tell me I wouldn’t know at the time necessarily, but I would know it was intentional because I know Michael’s power and ability.  Jesus loves me and the purpose he has for “letting the others win”, whatever that looks like, is for my good and for others to witness His power through me–the power to believe in what is greater than seeing a demonstration of power–belief in who God is and what his intentions are for me.  We have to come to grips with the reality that our victories may not be seen on this earth.

Are you about to die on the open sea?  Why be afraid if you believe in Jesus? Someone might say that it is normal to be afraid of such a frightening situation!  But believing in Jesus is not normal.  That belief grants you peace that surpasses human understanding (Phil. 4:7).  If you are going to die then it is God’s will.  If you ask for deliverance and are not delivered then it is His will that you not be delivered and you know that your faithful suffering is like an aroma to God that communicates your trust/faith.  If you pray for a person in your life to change and they don’t, then you know it is not God’s will that they change–at least not in order to alleviate your suffering.  You can have peace in the darkest valley of life knowing that the God of the universe has not plucked you from the painful circumstance you are in, but that He could.  So you know that if He has that type of power, to do anything you could think of, then if He has allowed you to endure the pain of your life, that power to endure rests on you because He is with you in that valley.  Consider Psalm 23:1-4

  • The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right path for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

This Psalm is not a song of praise to God for never making life hard when we are following Him.  It is a Psalm of submission.  One exclaiming that the green pastures, the right paths, are sometimes treacherous and hurtful–leading to our death (either physical or emotional).  But our joy and faith rest in the fact that no matter where we go, Jesus has taken us by the hand and is leading us there–which means He is with us and we are at peace.

Matthew 10:29;30; says “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent…So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

The idea is NOT this:  Because you are more valuable than 2 small birds worth a single penny, God will not let anything bad happen to you.

The idea is this:  Because God cares enough to “sign off” on the death of every small bird, you can guarantee that what happens with you is fully under His control, SO…don’t be afraid!  The trial in your life is your ministry at this time.  Rejoice!  God may not remove the trial from you.  Will that prove that He is not that big after all and will you constantly question God’s love for you?  Will that make you question His power and existence?  Or will you humble yourself and understand that your suffering is justified in His eyes.  That your pain glorifies Him.  That any issue you have had in life is meant for your good and to show His great power.

It is not about what He does, but what He can do.  If we live our whole lives believing that He can do ALL things but never receive a physical sign of that power, we will be truly blessed–that is faith.  What else can you believe?  He is real.  He is the Creator.  The fact is that physical deliverance does nothing for the soul.

In Matthew 8, Jesus encounters two types of faith:

  1. Little Faith
    1. His own Jewish disciples
      • Matthew 8:24-26  Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping. So the disciples came and woke Him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!” But He said to them, Why are you fearful, you of little faith? Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.
  2. Greatest Faith
    1. A Roman Centurion
      • Matthew 8:8;10 “Lord,” the centurion replied, “I am not worthy to have You come under my roof. But only say the word, and my servant will be cured…Hearing this, Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, “I assure you: I have not found anyone in Israel with so great a faith!

In these examples, the disciples were in the presence of God but were not comforted by that fact.  They were focused on their immediate trouble and forgot who they were following.  They forgot who was in the boat with them.  Obviously Jesus wasn’t concerned…He was sleeping!  The disciples should have taken a page out of Jesus’s book, pulled up a pillow, and caught up on their sleep.  But they couldn’t, they were terrified that they might die.  However, they could have peacefully rode out the waves like their Master–THIS IS US!  If we are on the stormy sea, if we are in the dark valley of the shadow of death, we can sail through it without a care if we look next to us and remember who is in the boat!!

On the other hand, look at the centurion.  He was already convinced of Jesus’s power before he demonstrated it, the centurion did not need to see it which is why he simply said all that Jesus needed to do was speak the words and it would be done.  That was his faith.  We so often want to see it, but the centurion was past that.  He believed with all of his heart.  Had the centurion been in the boat, I bet that he would have been snuggled up with Jesus asking for a pillow.

 

 

 

Embrace Dishonor for Jesus

Acts 6:41b (HCSB)  …rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be dishonored on behalf of the name of Jesus.

Under command of those who hated the name of Jesus, the apostles were beaten and shamed in front of everyone.  What was the response of the apostles?  To rejoice!  These were not sadists.  They did not desire punishment or physical pain, but when it occurred, they knew that they had not deserted Jesus as they had in the Garden of Gethsemane.  This time, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they stood for Jesus without apology and without fear of what man would do to them.  We have this same Spirit within us that gives us the power and ability to withstand persecution.  In fact, dishonor is part and parcel of living as a Christian and should come to no surprise when it happens.  We do not desire to be rejected, but can we say that our response is rejoicing when it does?  In our American culture we are often quick to assert our rights, but I wonder if we miss out on some of the fellowship with Jesus and other Spirit filled Christians when we do not endure dishonor with peace.  God is so great, that as a tool used in his Kingdom work, we know that we are honorable in His eyes, even if we are discarded as worthless by the world.

Philippians 1:8-30 says:  Not being frightened in any way by  your opponents.  This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance.  For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.

Paul is clear that when we believe in Jesus we will suffer at the hands of those who do not.  In Philippians, he encourages the saints while he awaits possible execution for his faith. In Acts, the other Apostles went back to their Christian family and told of how they were able to endure the same mistreatment as followers of their Lord and Savior–Jesus.  My prayer today is not that we would suffer, but that when it comes, in whatever form, we would perceive our rejection as connection to Christ, rather than mistreatment from men.

When Jesus Calls

Matthew 4:21-22  Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.

If you believe in Jesus that means you have been drawn to Jesus by God the Father–you’ve been called (Jn. 6:44).  This is the general sense in which you answer the call of repentance and testify that Jesus Christ is who He claims to be.  When this happens your life completely changes and you are now set on a new road in life.  The brothers in this passage immediately left their material possessions, their job, and their security and simply went with their Lord.  They started a new life.  Unless we are willing to abandon everything else, we are not able to answer the call of Jesus.  We cannot stay with the boat and our father (so to speak) and also follow Jesus.  Consider this quote from Jesus:

Luke 9:61-62  One said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

What Jesus is really showing here is that to follow him there can be no excuses.  There can be no other affection that would compel you FIRST to say:  “Let me do _____ first.”  Jesus says that if this is your response, you are not fit to be His disciple.  If we have answered the call to Jesus Christ we must remember that our dedication to Him is extreme and it is complete.  All other things in life are a distant 2nd to Him and all things are subject to being cut out of our life if Jesus requires it.

 

Result of Original Sin

Genesis 3

The curses that man and woman received after their disobedience flowed from their original purpose when they were created.  Man was created to take dominion over all creation–plants and animals.  Woman was created to “complement” (Gen. 2) man.

The woman’s curse was relational.

  1. Pain in childbirth
  2. A conflict in marriage whereby she experiences desire and pleasure with her husband, but at the same time there is now a leadership role and authority whereby the husband is expected to be accountable for his wife.  We find out later, that according to the apostle Paul, this is because the woman was deceived and incidentally deceived her husband, whereby causing herself to be under his “rule”(Gen. 3:16).  Here is how Paul explains a woman’s role in the new church:  1 Timothy 2:11-14 “A woman should learn in silence with full submission.  I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent. For Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.  But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good judgment.”  In these verses we see reference to the curse, both in childbearing and in man “ruling” over his wife.  This curse is noticeably awful in certain circles where women are mistreated and treated as less than human.  However, in Christianity, there is a proper orientation towards the woman and she is cherished once again as his “complement”, though the effects of the curse still remain until the final return of Jesus and the authority of the man persists in the house.

The man’s curse was occupational.

  1. As the woman would experience labor pains, the man was cursed with painful labor.  He was taken out of a garden that instinctively yielded wonderful fruits and vegetation and was placed outside into a land that would require his own efforts to bring forth food.  Obviously, man is not the caliber of gardener that God is and therefore man would always strive to produce for himself and his family and constantly be working in difficulty.

 

Speaking in Tongues (Languages)!

Acts 2:3-4; 8; 11 (HCSB) And tongues [or languages], like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech (brackets added)….How is it that each of us can hear in our own native language…We hear them speaking the magnificent acts of God in our own languages.

Key Points:

  1. The word tongues (glossa) in verse 3 is the same word in the greek as languages in vs. 4.  Therefore, you could translate the word the same vice versa.   The greek word is sometimes used to mean a literal tongue and is also used to mean languages we speak.  The point is that it is a language.
  2. The word “fire” in vs. 3 is the greek word πυρός .  It is the same word used in Revelation 19:12 to describe the eyes of the triumphant Jesus returning to earth to destroy the wicked with the Word of God.  Moreover, it is the same word used in Matthew 3:13 when John the Baptist says of Jesus, that “He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  This fire is the power of God.
  3. The word divided in vs. 3 is the picture of the different languages that the apostles would speak being given to them.  In other words, as the languages “rested on each of them”, this meant that one apostle was able to speak the Parthian language, another apostle was able to speak the Elamite language, and still another was able to speak an Asian language, and so on and so forth as is referenced in Acts 2:8-9.
  4. This was a gift of languages.  There was no part of the human being in it except the literal tongue that was used to speak it.  In vs. 4 it says that “the Spirit gave them ability for speech” or to speak the language that rested on them.  First was given the language that they would speak, then the Holy Spirit gave them words.  The gift of languages that comes from this event is totally derivative of the Holy Spirit and cannot be authentically duplicated by human effort.  This applies to every gift of the Holy Spirit–either you have it or you do not.  Either God gives it to you or He does not.  You cannot achieve it by your own will.
  5. (Vs. 8) The bystanders, who we find out are unbelievers who turn to God to be saved, do not understand how they are hearing their languages because they see these apostles all speaking different languages and know that they are not from their region.  Moreover, they are noticing that all of the apostles are doing this together towards the crowd (vs. 6) which reinforces that something very strange is happening.
  6. (Vs. 11)  The apostles were not having a conversation with the individuals of different nations, they were “speaking the magnificent acts of God” out loud.  Not to them in particular, but they were just speaking the words and the bystanders were there to hear them–it reminds me of a street preacher just declaring the Word of the Lord to whomever will hear it.
  7. (Vs. 14)  When Peter started talking to people specifically it was because the people of Judah and Jerusalem…THE JEWS…that spoke their same language, could not understand them and assumed they were speaking gibberish; they declared that the apostles were drunk.  This is when Peter explains to them what is happening and cites several passages from the Old Testament regarding signs and wonders such as these, as well as the authenticity of Jesus’s claims of being the Messiah.  BOTH the unbelieving Jews and the unbelieving gentiles were targeted in this outpouring of miraculous intelligible speech.

Cross Reference Points

  1. 1 Corinthians 14
    1. Speaking in tongues (languages) itself is not directed at people.  It is directed at God because it is the act of praising God as we see in Acts 2:11.  Paul confirms this in 1 Cor. 14:2.  In Acts 2 we see the foreigners hearing the apostles speak the acts of God in their own language spontaneously as the Spirit comes upon them, not interacting with them individually. This then shows that when a person speaks in tongues they are not talking to a person, but from the outward appearance, they are talking to themselves. Point of fact, they are talking back to God as He (the Holy Spirit) gives them “ability for speech” (Acts 2:4).  Those around them benefit from the utterance–at least they will if they are speaking by the Holy Spirit!
    2. Paul indicates that it is also possible for a person to interpret the foreign language that they are miraculously speaking, IF they are given that ability from God.  It follows that they may not be given that ability and if that be the case, they should not speak in their foreign language in front of others who do not know the language because it would useless to anyone (except the speaker who feels edified because he/she is using their gift).  Additionally, if they speak in this foreign language that no one can interpret, Paul states that people will think they are crazy, much like the Jews did on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.  Because the Jews were then convicted of their misspoken judgment when Peter stands up and declares the Word of the Lord, it stands to reason that he was interpreting the spoken message in tongues.  This also shows that the individual has control over their gift, knows what they are saying and doing, and can choose not to use it (or use it).
      1. If I have the gift of exhortation, it flows from me.  I am pressed to use it.  It is hard for me not to encourage, correct, and inspire others…but not impossible.  I can choose not to speak.  When I do speak in this gift of exhortation, there is something that comes from within me that does not originate from me.  But I am able to manage it; tame the tongue so to speak (James 3).  There may be a time when I cannot explain the gift that I have, but the gift is there nonetheless, if the Spirit has chosen to give it to me.  Other church leaders are there to confirm and send me out to use it in God’s service.
    3. If you can speak in a foreign language by the power of the Holy Spirit, you should ask God for the interpretation of the words you’ve been given so that you can share that information with those around you who do not know the language.  Then you will be prophesying, exhorting, or teaching those around you.  If you are among unbelievers who speak the foreign language you are miraculously able to speak, then you are free to exclaim the acts of God so that they can hear them in their  own language and see the miracle taking place.  The point is that if someone in the general area does not understand what you are saying, the only person you are edifying is yourself and that is not the purpose of Christians, or the gift of languages.

Conclusions

  1. Tongues (languages) are a sign to people who do not believe in Jesus that the Holy Spirit, and consequently, Jesus, are real and that your testimony is valid (1 Cor. 14:22).  The actual miracle that takes place when a person speaks in a foreign language they have not learned is the sign to unbelievers.  The content is able to edify believers and unbelievers alike, that is, if there is someone able to interpret the words.
  2. If you speak a foreign language miraculously and you are not out in the marketplace declaring the acts of God in that foreign language, where others understand it, but instead you are in the church–you shouldn’t even speak in the foreign language (unless someone knows the language and can interpret it)…instead you should speak the interpretation of that language which is the Word from God so that your brothers and sisters can understand.  If you do not have the interpretation from God, you should not speak the message in a foreign language, unless there is another individual in the room who says that they can speak that foreign language and interpret it.
  3. Speaking in a tongue (foreign language) is completely from the Holy Spirit and does not originate from a single human thought or impulse.  Like any other true gift given from Him.

REMEMBER THIS:

The gifts are given by the Holy Spirit.  He gives them as He chooses.  If you have the gift of the Holy Spirit that He has determined to give you, it cannot be invalidated.  It is real.  But just because there are certain gifts, does not mean that He has to give them.  He chooses.  God determines where and when His gifts are used.  We cannot speak in tongues (foreign languages) just because we want to.  He must miraculously grant us the ability to speak in such a way and we will know that it is from Him.  The gift of tongues (foreign languages) is a gift that can be validated, like every other gift.  Either the hearer will know the language and declare this or the message that is interpreted by the individual who received the interpreted message will edify the listener.  That is it.  So I say, if the Spirit has granted the gift, let it be done in the manner outlined above and be validated in this way.  If the Spirit has not granted the gift of tongues which is demonstrated by a lack of validation, then let the counterfeit gift remain unspoken.

Be His Witnesses

Acts 1:6-8:  So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, are You restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by His own authority. 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.

Lesson 1:  Do not worry about when the Lord will do what He is going to do.  He has the authority, we are His slaves.  This sounds crass but the level of submission required as a Christ follower mirrors that of slave to master.  It is a good thing we have a wonderful owner.  We should not be preoccupied with end times prophecy and the day that He will return. A warning of God’s judgement to come is good, but excessive pursuit after knowing the details of His return is frivolous and ultimately not in our lane.  It is going to happen.  God knows when and how.  We don’t.  We won’t until it happens.  Stop being anxious and declare the good need we do know! The disciples were very sad that Jesus was leaving and they wanted to know what He was going to do and when He would be coming back.  He tells them not to worry about future events because knowing God’s timeline is not part of their authority. If they knew the details then they would share them with the world and obviously God did not feel they, or any of us, needed to know them–so we won’t.  If anyone would have known the details about His future plans, it would have been His apostles because they were given “apostolic authority”.  But, they were simply to go with the flow of God’s schedule and be His witnesses.  They needed to refocus on their authority which was given to them–to share the good news (a privilege given only to His children).

Lesson 2:  The apostles were men who had seen Jesus throughout his entire ministry, including after His resurrection.  Acts 21-22 talks about how they chose the man who replaced Judas–specifically that He needed to be a man who was with Jesus from his baptism by John until that moment.  These were apostles.  Witnesses of Jesus Himself during His earthly ministry and after His resurrection.  One caveat to this is Paul, who was not commissioned with the 12 during Jesus earthly ministry, but who was commissioned by Jesus directly when He appeared to Saul, later named Paul, on the road to Damascus.

Consider these 2 passages as well:

  1. Matthew 10:1-4
  2. Acts 9:26-27
  3. 1 Corinthians 15:1-9

When we evangelize today we bear the good news of the gospel.  We bear witness to the soul saving power of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit that has saved our souls.  We are not apostles today–we are Christians with other gifts.  Reread the text and you’ll clearly see the qualifications of an apostle.  We did not see the earthly Jesus, but we have been given His Holy Spirit. Some were given as apostles, and those apostles are gone.  Other offices remain but this one does not…and IT’S OK!

Acts 1:21-23; 26  Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning from the baptism of John until the day He was taken up from us—from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of His resurrection.” So they proposed two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias…Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias. So he was numbered with the 11 apostles.

Let us bear witness this year to Jesus whom has been revealed to us beginning with his apostles 2000 years ago and shared until this moment today!

Goals for 2018

Habakuk 2:2 “And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” (ESV)

A person without goals is like a ship without direction.  Not having goals is like a military unit that has no mission.  The individual without goals will live reactively and not intently.  I need the structure of goal setting in my life because without it, I fall into a reactive state of mind and do what I “feel” like doing, rather than what I “intend” to do.  I don’t know about you, but what I “feel” like doing is a lot of stuff that gratifies my selfish desires and gets me fat, lazy, sinful, isolated, and stagnant.  I want to live 2018 with a sense of purpose and I pray that my goals demonstrate a purpose that Jesus Christ approves.  These goals are subject to revision as the year progresses.

Spiritual

  1. Read the Bible in one year
    1. Do daily devotions using the D.A. Carson’s reading plan (Volume 1).
  2. Journal/Blog every week this year
    1. Write SOMETHING/ANYTHING in my blog every week.  This is part of my Bible study.
  3. Pray everyday
    1. Start and end my day with prayer.
    2. Pray for each member of my immediate family by name.
    3. Pray for my friends by name.
    4. Pray with my wife and kids everyday outside of meal times.
  4. Go to church every Sunday, or if I cannot, teach my family from the Scripture.
  5. Constantly seek to walk in the Spirit everyday and stay away from temporary fixes.
  6. Seek God in prayer every time I have a decision to make for my family.
  7. Memorize the book of Philippians by June 1.
  8. Memorize a second book of the bible.
  9. Exhort without apology.
  10. Identify and lead a group of individuals in becoming more Christlike together.
  11. Preach a sermon every quarter, wherever the Lord guides.
  12. Encourage others constantly.
    1. Never talk about anyone behind their back and say something I would not say to their face.

Physical

  1. Weigh 185 lbs. by March 6.
  2. Maintain a balanced diet the whole week, with one cheat meal or desert on the weekend.
    1. Do not eat more than 2500 calories in any given day, except cheat day.
      1. On cheat day, no more than 3500 calories.
  3. Run 3-4 times per week
  4. Do weight training or body weight exercises 3 times per week.
  5. Achieve a 300 APFT by the end of 2018.
    1. Never complete weight training day without doing my required reps for push ups and sit ups.
    2. Do 3 sets of max pull ups every weight training day.
    3. Do a timed 2 mile run every month.
  6. Do a half marathon in the summer
  7. Run 100 miles in February

Mental

  1. Reduce anxiety
    1. Live each day fully and in the moment.
    2. Do not worry about anything outside of my control.
    3. Spend 5 minutes per day in silence appreciating my environment.
  2. Pursue truth
    1. Be aware of what I “want to hear”
    2. Apply to myself what I would apply to others.
  3. Do not put others down
    1. Always remember I am part of a team
    2. Seek to find the best in people and call that out
  4. Honor my commitments
    1. Never change my plans unless an emergency.
    2. Say “No” if I am not certain I can accomplish it.
    3. Commit to less and allow free time in my life

Professional

  1. Be the best Therapist I can be
    1. Read one book on therapy every month
    2. Finish my case notes every week.
    3. Journal every week on my counseling strengths and weaknesses
    4. Start a new counseling related program/group on campus
    5. Talk less, listen more
    6. Arrive to work 5 minutes early every day
  2. Be the best Chaplain I can be
    1. Be mindful during every drill
      1. Do not worry about what is going on back home
    2. Remain faithful to my spiritual disciplines
    3. Prepare a sermon for every drill
    4. Be physical prepared to pass an APFT during every drill.
    5. Read one military publication every quarter.
    6. Read a Chaplaincy related book every quarter.
    7. Read one Christian book every quarter.
    8. Meet new soldiers during every drill.

Personal

  1. Watch less T.V.
    1. Only one movie per week and only one 30 minute program per day.
  2. Listen intently when others talk–ALWAYS.
  3. Love and Respect my wife at ALL times.
  4. Give my wife a compliment everyday on 3 levels–physical, spiritual, and practical.
  5. A date night with my wife every week.
  6. Alternate date night with each of my daughers every week.
    1. Sophia one week, Ella the next week, then Ava the following week.
  7. Teach my daughters something from the Word every day.
    1. Read something from the Bible to my kids every night before bed.
  8. Put my kids to bed every night that I am home.
  9. Give my kids baths every night that I am home.
  10. Stop and listen to my kids when they talk to me.
  11. Never give up on my wife.  Always love her.
  12. Do a minimum of 30 minutes housework every day–the most necessary duties.
  13. Finish house by March 6.
    1. Work on house a minimum of 30 minutes, until finished, every day except for Sunday.
  14. Call mother and father every week.
  15. Call grandparents every month.

Finances

  1. Balance budget every month.
  2. Do not spend more than we take in every month.
  3. Reduce debt every month.
    1. Eliminate credit cards by lowest number first.
  4. Give presentation to my wife every month on our financial standing in all areas.

Creative

  1. Create a marriage group that seeks to rejuvinate and empower marriages–especially men in their leadership role.
  2. Create a men’s weekend where men identify with their God given role in their families and work through issues that are holding them back.

Rejected By Mankind

Isaiah 53:1-4

Think of the Disney movie Aladdin.  Remember when Jasmine, the princess, dresses as a commoner and goes out into the market place and people mistreat her until she reveals who she really is?  Jesus pulled a Jasmine when He came to this world!

If God didn’t reveal the truth to us, we would never get it.  Jesus is unexpected.  He does not come in the form that we want Him to.  When He lowered Himself to nothing he confused us because He became the opposite of ourselves.  Our nature is to become the most impressive, accomplished, and noticeable person that we can be if only to prove to ourselves that we can.  When we seek out trainers or mentors, we seek out those who are better than everyone else–those who stand out as winners.  When Jesus took the form of a human being he became so lowly that he became a stumbling block to people.  He became a rock that people would trip over.  Everyone looks up, but Jesus was down low and they fell trying to reach God when Christ was at their feet–washing them!

Why did He do this?  To show what love really is.

Jesus could not pay for our sins without being killed.  He had to be killed by the people He would save in order for them to one day see that His sacrifice is their salvation and in so doing, would become their example of Godliness.  If Jesus had come in the fullness of His deity they would not have killed Him because they would have been unable to stand in His presence.  But when He hid his deity inside of a human being where they could not see it, it revealed the character of God without the flashy glory and awesome majesty that He has.  And we hated it!

I say “we” because even though “we” were not there 2000 years ago, crucifying Jesus, we have each crucified Him with our rebellious lives.  Think of the disciples.  Jesus’s blood was on each one of their hands.  Judas betrayed Him, but they all deserted Him.  No one stepped up and took His place.  No one stood up and vouched for Him.  He was completely rejected, completely alone, and utterly abandoned.  Everyone of us, even those who have known Jesus their whole lives as they can recall it, have not seen Jesus for who He really is and have sought their own lives before His.

Isaiah says in 53:2 that “He didn’t have an impressive form of majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him.”  This does not mean that Jesus was physically ugly as a human being, but that as a human being, He would not be sought after as God.  In the form of a human being, all the while being God in the flesh, no person would desire to worship Him.

When Jesus, who is equal with God, was rejected by every human being, he became our mentor.  Today, we worship a King that we would have let die on a cross, had He not showed us the error of our ways and revealed His true self to us.  Not a single person accepted Jesus during His weak and fleshly existence on this earth.  Not truly.  It took His miraculous resurrected body to appear and His Holy Spirit to enter for us to see who He really is.  The man behind the curtain.  This Jesus. Today, embrace your humble Lord, follow humility to death, and you will be truly and utterly blessed, as you will know what it is like to be a real Christian.