Friday, May 26, 2017

What’s the Big Deal Between Men & Women?

This past Sunday (5/21/17), I taught part 5 of my church's relationship series. My topic was, what is now, the title of this blog. I'm not a fan of topicy-topics, and this topic is so broad and so polarizing that up until after both services I was not sure how it was going to be received. Surprisingly, it was received far better than I could've imagined. Awesome how the Holy Spirit works, right! Based on the feedback I received, and since I had manuscripted the whole message (minus the parts where I expounded on the Bible references, and so on), I decided to post it along with the link to the audio sermon. May this not only bless you but challenge you to better understand and obey God accordingly.

I. Introduction
As a student of Scripture and a student of history, I have observed, relating to the topic I’m teaching on today, that a noticeable and touchy complication in relationships is in how men and women regard and treat one another’s similarities and differences. And that is pretty much my objective this morning, to biblically address how men and women are to regard and treat one another’s similarities and differences. In order to do so, I’ll be tackling 4 things: (i)how men and women are similar, (ii)how men and women are different, (iii)how things get complicated, and (iv)how we are to be in regarding and treating one another’s similarities and differences.

Some things to NOTE:
  • Topicy-topics are so broad they can pose the problem of the preaching coming across as too narrow. So if by the end, some of you think that I didn’t touch enough or address other specifics, forgive me in advance.
  • Most of this won’t be surprising. But it will challenge what we say we believe to be true with how we actually live out what we say we believe to be true.
  • A lot of what I’ll be touching on today is applicable for all relationships and interactions with others, not just between men and women. But my context for this message is between men and women. So keep that in mind.
II. How are men and women similar?
-According to Scripture, we are similar universally in...
  1. being image-bearers of God (Gen. 1:26-27)
    Because God decided in His love, goodness, and grace to create us in His image and according to His likeness, He has placed a divine imprint of value on humankind (both man and woman). And by doing so, God has dignified man and woman above every other aspect of His Creation, including heavenly hosts. So, whether a person believes in Jesus or not, every human (man and woman) is worthy of dignity because their mere existence is God’s testimony of His divine imprint of value upon them. Yet, because of sin, there is a constant depreciation of viewing and treating each other with this value and dignity.
  2. our humanness (Gen. 1:27)
    You know what this mean? This means whatever trait we can think of for a human, we, both man and woman, share it (minus some biological traits, clearly). And to be sure this is being truly understood, I’ll push in a little further.
    The traits that we normally attribute to men or women (e.g. men are physical, sexual, logical, etc; and women are nurturing, sensitive, emotional, etc), the Bible does not declare those things as reserved distinctly for one or the other only. Those differing traits may be true of many men and women, but not all, and they certainly don’t define a man as a “man” or a woman as a “woman”. But that’s exactly what we (society, culture, & the Church) do. For example, there are many women who possess traits normally attributed to men (e.g. toughness, works with their hands, analytical, driven, etc) in which we (society, culture, & the Church) chauvinistically call them “tomboy” or “boyish” or say things like “they wear the pants”, etc); and, there are many men who possess characteristics normally attributed to women (e.g. sentimental, affectionate, docile, etc) in which we (society, culture, & the Church) chauvinistically call them “effeminate” or “soft”, or say things like “he’s not a man’s-man”, etc. If God does not define a man as a “man” or a woman as a “woman” by the traits mankind normally attributes to men and women, then neither should we define each other as such. Because when we do so, we are compartmentalizing our humanness to suit and justify our control or minimization of the other sex (or the same gender).
    We, as the Church, through the Holy Spirit, must follow the wisdom of God in Scripture and describe individuals (each man and woman) by how God has uniquely, fearfully, and wonderfully created that man or woman in His image. We have to stop defining men and women by the customary, societal, and cultural qualifiers that overtly and subliminally emphasize the superiority or inferiority of one sex over the other, or by swinging the pendulum to the other extreme and attempt to terminate the distinction between male and female altogether. None of these are right or pleasing to God.

  3. We are co-equal as image-bearers of God and co-equal in our humanness. Until we trust God enough to see this and accept this and stop defining one another by mankind’s flawed opinion and not God’s Word, we will not be able to treat and value each man and woman with dignity and equality.

    -According to Scripture, we are similar, exclusively for those who are born-again, in that...
  4. we are equal in Christ (Gal. 3:25-29)
    What does this mean? This means God makes no distinction between man and woman in our spiritual status in Christ Jesus. We are equal brothers and sisters because we are both equally unconditionally loved by God as daughters and sons. We are both equally seated with Christ in the heavenlies. We are both equally citizens and ambassadors of the Kingdom. We are both equally ministers of the Gospel. We are both equally disciples of Jesus. Neither man nor woman is superior or inferior to the other in Christ. And we should never make the other feel as such.
These 3 are how men and women are similar: (i)in our value in God’s eyes as image-bearers, (ii)in our humanness, and specifically for Christians, (iii)in our spiritual status in Christ. We need to value and treat each other appropriately in these ways, and yes it will be tough, but we can do so through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

III. How are men and women different?
-According to Scripture, we are different universally…
  1. in our individuality (Ps. 139:13-16)
    While your biology defines you as a man or woman (i.e. male = man; female = woman, cf. Gen. 1:27), it is your character (i.e. the sum of your traits, disposition, and convictions) as an individual man or woman that defines what kind of a man or woman you are. When you add how God fearfully and uniquely created you in His image + your sinful nature (which has distorted some of God’s image in you) + how you’ve been nurtured and influenced throughout your life (i.e. “the days that were formed for [you]”) = your individuality that defines what kind of a man or woman you are.
    And therein lies another reason why men and women are different, because this equation is filled in differently for each person. Hence, you will never find two of the same individuals. So, men and women, embrace and appreciate your God-shaped individualities without equating superiority or inferiority to the other, because your individuality is what makes you “you” and others “them”.
    Now, I’m not saying we have to like everybody. I’m also not saying we have to like everything about everybody. I’m saying because we’re co-equal in value to God, co-equal in our humanness, and (for believers) co-equal in our status in Christ, we have to value and respect the different individualities of other men and women.

  2. -According to Scripture, we are different, exclusively for those who are born-again...
  3. in our roles in marriage
    Scripture is clear from OT to NT, man has his particular instructions for his role/responsibility as “husband” and woman has her particular instructions for her role/responsibility as “wife”. The most emphatic and defining example of the difference in the roles in marriage is Jesus and the Church (Eph. 5:22-33). Jesus’ marriage with the Church is a model of how the roles in a marriage relationship are to be:
    –Jesus = groom/husband | Christian husband’s role = sacrificial love, servant leadership, and to exhaustively care for, protect, pursue, and value his wife like Jesus does so for His Bride/the Church
    –Church = bride/wife | Christian wife’s role = loving, respecting, pursuing, and following her husband’s lead like the Church does so unto Jesus
    Notice something, Jesus never steps into the Church’s role and the Church cannot step into Jesus’ role. There is a clear and necessary distinction in these roles. To change or ignore this undermines and rejects the nature of the relationship with Christ and His Church as well as the clear instructions to each spouse in Scripture. The consequences of changing or ignoring or disobeying these distinct roles in marriage leads to the same kind of fallout as Adam and Eve—Adam dropped the ball in his role and left his wife vulnerable and that led to sin, death, and destruction entering; Eve dropped the ball in her role and that too led to sin, death, and destruction entering; neither of them were innocent because both stepped outside of their roles.
    God gave us these different roles in marriage for two reasons, (i)for our complementary benefit and (ii)when carried out rightly (which we can do because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) these roles, even through our imperfect marriage, still portrays the hidden beauty of Christ and the Church....and also of the Holy Trinity.
    –The two, husband and wife, become one flesh = plurality in oneness \ There is plurality in the oneness of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    –Husband and wife are equal as image-bearers, equal in their humanness, and equal in Christ, but are also distinct in their individuality and roles \ The Trinity is co-equal as God and distinct in personhood as God.
    –Thus, marriage as also a portrait of the hidden beauty of the Holy Trinity.
    All of this reinforces the severity of marriage, because marriage portrays to a watching world the hidden beauty of Christ’s relationship with His Church and the Holy Trinity. Christian singles should not rush into marriage and Christian spouses cannot afford to be lazy in marriage.
IV. How things get complicated...
For Christians, our normal response to how things get complicated between men and women is what...? Sin. And maybe some of us will include and say “our differences/incompatibilities”, right? Yet as men and women, we complicate relationships not solely because of the generality of sin or because we’re different, but also because sin, selfishness, and fear specifically corrupts how we view our similarities and the good from our differences. And that corruption turns us either chauvinistic toward the other or preferential towards what’s familiar.
So you know what happens then? You get us men who, in our thinking, attitudes, and behaviors, whether knowingly or unknowingly, undervalue or devalue women. So much so, that by the 1800s women began contending for liberation from the discrimination of male domination; and the Bible was the basis for this movement in the US. And from the broader positive perspective of that movement, they were right to use the Bible as we’ve already seen today from our shared similarities. Feminism exists because of the sin of men having consciously and persistently failed at treating women and loving our wives like Scripture commands.
  • Men, women are not to be objectified sexually or by their appearance (this includes our wives too). They are image-bearers of God who are to be treated, valued, and loved as such. Be intentional about guarding against your lust and checking your desires for sex because of lust.
  • Christian men, as husbands, marriage is not your totalitarian domain. You are to be servant-leaders who follow Jesus’ example in how He leads His Bride/the Church. How you lead your wife affects how she loves you, and that ripples down to how your kids will lead and love their future spouses.
  • Men, don’t presume a woman’s role is to motherhood only or to be a stay-at-home wife/mom only. That can (not will, but can) limit the beauty and potential of their God-designed individuality.
  • Men, no woman owes you a single thing. You, like they, are indebted to God alone and none other.
You know what else happens because of sin, selfishness, and fear specifically corrupting how we view our similarities and the good from our differences? You get women, yes, you ladies, who, in your thinking, attitudes, and behaviors, whether knowingly or unknowingly, either overvalue men or become manipulative or biased toward men.
  • Christian wives, your husband is not an emperor or a savior, you are not a subservient subject or a co-dependent doormat. You are to be lovers of Jesus your Savior and seek to ultimately please Him in your marriage as He has instructed you.
  • Christian wives, on the other hand, don’t misapply God’s design for marriage by removing or reinterpreting or reversing the distinct roles He’s clearly and repeatedly laid out in Scripture for both you and your husband—even if your husband isn’t living up to it (cf. 1Pet. 3). Be on your guard against the curse of Eve (cf. Gen. 3:16), because your fleshly desire will be, in some way, for your husband’s role.
  • Women, you are not to “use what you got to get what you want”, that is sinful and distorts and devalues the beauty of God’s image in you.
  • Women, men are not sugar-daddies or boy-toys or meal-tickets or emotional plug-ins. They too are image-bearers of God who are to be treated, valued, and loved as such.
  • Women, don’t assume the worst of men to the point that you become guilty of the same sin committed against you—discrimination, unfairness, chauvinism.
  • Women, despite the centuries of male chauvinism, no man owes you a single thing. You, like they, are indebted to God alone and none other.
Bottom line, things get complicated (and real messy) between men and women when we don’t view or treat each other as God defines in Scripture. We must recognize our necessity of each other. Man was incomplete without woman (cf. Gen. 2:20). This would then imply woman was incomplete without man (for she came from man). And since the beginning, they now both come from one another (cf. 1Cor. 11:11-12). Which means neither man nor woman is superior or inferior to the other. In actuality this affirms our necessity and complementation of each other. Otherwise, man and woman would still be incomplete.

V. Conclusion: How we are to be regarding and treating one another…
I started this morning by saying, a noticeable and touchy complication in relationships is in how men and women regard and treat one another’s similarities and differences and that we were going to have to address several things to discover how to biblically deal with this. Throughout my sermon, if you’ve noticed, I have pointed out several things we, as believers, “are to be doing” (and can do because of the Holy Spirit) concerning how we regard and treat one another’s similarities and differences.
  1. We are to see and accept our co-equality in value to God, in our humanness, and in our status in Christ, so we can esteem and interact with each other appropriately in these ways.
  2. We have to stop defining one another by mankind’s flawed opinion and not God’s Word, so we can treat and value each man and woman with dignity and equality.
  3. We are to value and respect our God-shaped individualities as men and women without equating superiority or inferiority to the other, because your individuality is what makes you “you” and others “them”.
  4. We are to rightly carry out our distinct roles as husband and wife modeled after Jesus’ marriage to the Church for our complementary benefit and to portray the hidden beauty of Christ and His Church (as well as the Holy Trinity).
  5. We must recognize our necessity of each other because we are incomplete without the other.
My hope is that by now you’ve come to realize that the big deal between men and women is that our similarities and differences are good and necessary. Our similarities are good because there is no superiority or inferiority between men and women in our value and dignity—we are co-equal as image-bearers, co-equal in our humanness, and (for Christians) co-equal in Christ. Our differences as men and women are good because in them we can see how they cause us to complement one another and not dominate the other. And our similarities and differences are both necessary because things get complicated (and real messy) between men and women when we don’t view or treat each other as God has defined in Scripture, and thus sin, selfishness, and fear creep in and corrupt that which is good between us.
We must be anchored in the truth of knowing that our similarities and differences are an extension of God’s love, goodness, and grace. Therefore, when we regard and treat one another appropriately in these ways we then are being an extension of God’s love, goodness, and grace to each other; which also means the opposite is true, we are then withholding God’s love, goodness, and grace when we don’t regard and treat one another appropriately in these ways.

I’ll end with some reflections questions and a time of response.
  • How are you with treating and valuing each other with dignity and equality?
  • How are you with regarding and respecting each other’s individuality?
  • How are you representing Christ in these ways toward each other?
  • How are you at encouraging and urging other believers to represent Christ in these ways toward each other?
Know that however you respond today, and anything you may have been guilty of from this message, it does not diminish the love, forgiveness, or grace of God toward you in Christ Jesus. He allowed you to hear this today because He loves you, because He has forgiven you, and because He is gracious toward you. So respond to Him today confidently knowing these things.
For unbelievers, what you need to know is that the God that you are running from, rejecting, and rebelling against created you in love and has placed His divine imprint of value upon you. You are valuable to God, so much so that He doubled your value by sending His Son to die for you. I implore you to respond to Him in faith today for your salvation.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Is Abuse Biblical Grounds for Divorce?

Three days ago I received an email from a brother in the Lord with a most interesting question. After answering his email, I thought this would be good to post. From the articles I had read on this topic, I hadn't come across one that I thought answered this question credibly. I hope I have done an adequate job biblically addressing a sensitive and serious subject that has grave ramifications.

NOTE: I have removed some of his email for privacy sake.
__

"Hey it's ________. I met you a couple weeks back.... I had a question for you... _________ mentioned that ___________ believes abuse is biblical grounds for divorce. Can you expound on that and bring clarity? I've only seen two grounds for divorce in the Bible. Adultery and abandonment. I'm curious about abuse as well. Thanks. Hope you're having a great day"
__

Hi ________,

Thanks for reaching out man! I wanted to respond to let you know I have received your email. And I am glad you asked rather than assumed. As a pastor, I appreciate someone wanting to check for biblical backing of a point made in a sermon. It shows you were listening and it holds us accountable to preaching the Word in proper context and interpretation.

Because I cannot speak for what __________ may have had in mind, I am going to answer your question as a merely stand-alone question proposed to me.

The Bible does not directly speak on abuse as grounds for divorce. And that may be because of 3 reasons:
  1. God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). Hence, there is not going to be many reasons for it permitted in Scripture.
  2. Because there is no mention of spousal abuse whatsoever in Scripture that must not have been a common thing among the Jewish people during the time span from OT-NT. Thus, we're not going to find a correlating scriptural reference/example.
  3. The Bible was not meant to be an encyclopedia. Therefore, we cannot expect to find a direct answer to everything.
Now, some will use 1Cor. 7:15 and stretch it to fit abuse. But that is an improper use of that text in context. If the abusive husband wants the marriage to end or to separate, then that verse can be enacted. Until then, that verse does not fit abuse. There are OT laws concerning violence against others (Exod. 21:12-27) that could be used for the argument of divorce from abuse. But contextually that was not the original intent of those verses. Furthermore, Jesus supersedes those laws by telling us to not resist an evil person but turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:38-39ff). To be clear, Jesus isn't affirming abuse or passivity. The context of that passage with Jesus has nothing to do with marriage. However, He is addressing how we are to rightly respond to mistreatment from another---(no retaliation, retribution, etc)---which can be applied to marriage.

So does that leave married women prey to abusive husbands? No. God hates sin and wickedness. Thus, He hates abuse of every form. And if God goes so far as to say that His wrath burns toward those who afflict widows and fatherless children (Exod. 22:22-24), then no doubt would this also include married women. So, in this case, it would be clear that God is on the side of the abused wife. But, He also hates divorce, which would appear to put abused wives in a catch-22. I believe the answer to this catch-22 is implied in 2 verses:
"Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die; save them as they stagger to their death." (Prov. 24:11, NLT)
"But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers." (1Tim. 5:8, NLT)

Proverbs 24:11 demonstrates, in this case, that it is clearly acceptable and tactically responsible for an abused wife to rescue herself from her abusive husband (i.e. leave him and/or press charges so she can live). Even more, this is not only an imperative for her but also for anyone else who knows she's being abused (Prov. 24:12). 1Timothy 5:8 demonstrates, in this case because of the nature of abuse, that if there are children or others in an abusive home, it would be uncaring and a denial of faith for an abused wife to remain and allow her kids to remain in that home. And again, this is not only an imperative for her but the verse implies it is also toward any other family member who knows about the abuse.

I believe both of these verses imply that it is permissible and warranted for an abused wife to remove herself (and children) from her abusive husband. Does that removal have to be divorce? Could it be separation? I cannot answer those questions (and neither should anyone else but the wife) because each abuse case is different. What I can say with confidence is that there are biblical grounds for a wife to remove herself (and any kids) from that abusive husband---not out of retaliation or retribution but rather because she's trying to save her life (and care for her kids)---and I believe God is on her side because His wrath burns towards those who afflict others.

I hope that answers your question well enough, brother.

5/10/2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

11 Reasons Why I Value & Love Church History

Many people don't know this about me, but I am a history buff. I find history fascinating! Ancient history, biblical history, history of philosophy, historical theology, western-culture history, Church history, and contemporary history. I love all of these! I have 4 volumes of history books and 2 historical encyclopedias in my personal library. Reading history is like watching a good movie with a riveting story line...but in a book. I'll watch history shows or films and listen to audio lectures too. Books, however, just taste better to my brain and imagination.

In this blog, particularly, I simply want to share my 11 reasons for why I value and love Church history. Since I am a "generational cusper" (born in 1980)—I'm at the tail end of Generation X (I'm their little brother or cousin) and the beginning of the Millennial Generation (I'm their big brother or cousin)—I've observed how many believers around my age and younger tend to pass over the importance of knowing our history. Hopefully this brief blog will spur on another (whether older or younger) to reading, learning, and appreciating our history as Christ-followers.

My 11 Reasons...
  1. Church history reinforces my dependency upon God's sovereignty and comfort in His sovereign plan.

  2. Church history validates my belief and hope in God working through His Church for the holistic redemption of others—even in our failures, dysfunction, and shortcomings—and for His glory.

  3. Church history educates me in my ignorances of how our present Church came to be and how to learn from the mistakes of our past.

  4. Church history grounds my apologetics and polemics in that even though our understanding, application, and explanation of God's truth have evolved throughout the course of history, God's truth in His Word and the essential truths of our Faith have not.

  5. Church history deepens my appreciation of all who came before (known and unknown) that expended and sacrificed greatly for the present advancements of our Faith we now live in/with.

  6. Church history arouses my righteous anger toward the sins and stupidity of the Church, my need to repent of my contributions toward the sins and stupidity of the Church, and my voice to speak against us repeating the same or similar sins and stupidity.

  7. Church history moves me to lament over the Church's divisions and injustices, which keeps me humbled, sensitive, and in intercession.

  8. Church history drives me to forgo the pettiness and over-complications of the present Church in how we "do church" and are to "be the Church".

  9. Church history impassions me to want to do my part in our Church history through my pastoring, discipling, & raising up solid Gospel-centered, biblically-sound believers during my lifetime.

  10. Church history reaffirms that I cannot waste time because soon my present will be the past and I will have either spent it vainly or spent it for the glory and advancement of God's kingdom.

  11. Church history entrenches the indispensable truth that the Gospel must be the only lens through which every born-again Christian views all and does all in this life.

This is what I get from Church history and why I love Church history.

4/27/2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Psalm 23: Declarations & Assurances for Life


“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23, NKJV)

I have been reading through the Psalms for my morning devotion. I absolutely love Psalm 23. It is one of my most favorites passages in Scripture. As I was reflecting upon it, I was invigorated to worship. I unquestionably believe Psalm 23 is a must scripture memory for every Christian. It is jam-packed with declarations and assurances about God as our Shepherd and us as His sheep. You get 8 actions and assurances about God as our Shepherd that benefit us as His sheep, and 5 additional assurances for us as His sheep.

The 8...
  1. “He makes me to lie down in green pastures” (v2a) = He provides us with all we need.

  2. “He leads me beside the still waters” (v2b) = He sustains us by way of peace not turmoil.

  3. “He restores my soul” (v3a) = He wholly replenishes us.

  4. “He leads me in the paths of righteousness” (v3b) = He hand walks us in righteous living for His glory.

  5. “You are with me” (v4c) = He goes with us, everywhere, every season; never leaves nor forsakes us.

  6. “Your rod and staff...comfort me” (v4d) = He protects and disciplines us for our good.

  7. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (v5a) = He sets up His blessings for us, even in the midst of our adversities.

  8. “You anoint my head with oil” (v5b) = He overflows us with His blessedness.

The 5...
  1. “The LORD is my shepherd” (v1a) = It is part of God's character to shepherd His children (i.e. those who believe in Jesus Christ). He cannot not shepherd us in these ways.

  2. “I shall not want” (v1b) = We will never experience true lack because God is our Shepherd. He cannot deny Himself, and He is all-satisfying.

  3. “I will fear no evil” (v4b) = We have nothing to ever be afraid of because our Shepherd is always with us. Always!

  4. “goodness and mercy shall follow me...” (v6a) = The goodness and mercy of God is always pursuing us, everyday. Everyday and always!

  5. “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (v6b) = We will never not be in God's presence because His presence now lives within us through the Holy Spirit.

Is this not thoroughly encouraging? What declarations! What assurances we have! This Psalm, 6 verses long, is loaded with so much truth that we can feast on it for a lifetime. In stormy seasons of life it is a great reminder of our Shepherd and the comfort for us as His sheep. In the sunny seasons of life it is a great encouragement to pursue our Shepherd with all vigor, and also motivation to go find His lost sheep and bring them back into this fold.

Be grateful! Be encouraged! Be empowered! Be exuberant! Be worshipful! The LORD is your Shepherd!

__________
*Philip Keller wrote a fantastic little book on Psalm 23 entitled, “A Shepherds Look at Psalm 23”. A must for every Christian's library.

4/11/2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

Our Incredible God Deserves Incredible Worship

Since God can be nothing less than incredible, the worship He deserves and requires can be nothing less than incredible. We are going to skim through the story of Nehemiah, park at chapter 9, and see how our incredible God showed up during then, the incredible worship the Israelites responded with, and how all this relates to us now.

Background of Nehemiah chs. 1-8
  • The Israelites are in captivity to the Persians during this time in history (around 445BC).
  • Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer, but he wanted to see God’s remaining people go back to their homeland because he was burdened about the walls being rebuilt.
  • Nehemiah’s plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was met with opposition from some of his own people, but he and those with him pressed on.
  • Nehemiah was later appointed governor of Judah and the walls were rebuilt while still facing opposition from some of their own people.
  • In addition, it is said that rebuilding walls of a conquered city was seen as a flagrant threat to Persian rule. And yet, Nehemiah put his faith, his desire, his effort, and his voice in the hands of his great God and God did something exceptional with it. Jerusalem went from a forsaken land, in shambles, with no walls or gates, and the people of Israel scattered and in shame, to a city rebuilt, it’s people returned, shame removed, order established, a hometown governor appointed (who was just months earlier a cup-bearer for the king), and the law of God reinstituted, proclaimed, and understood again. Is this not incredible? And that’s just chapters 1-8!
Nehemiah 9
So, after all this in chapters 1-8, worship begin breaking out. Chapter 9 is all worship. It’s a declaration, from their past to their present, of the greatness of the most incredible God. Notice also how their declaration of God’s incredible greatness is true in our past to present.

“You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.” (v6)
The Lord (YWHW) alone is God, the Creator of all things, and He preserves all His Creation (lit. He keeps all His Creation in existence). Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.” (vv7-8)
As God did to Abraham, He has done so to you! God chose you. He changed your name from ‘Child of Wrath’ and from ‘Wicked One’, to ‘Child of God’ and ‘Beloved’. He made a covenant with you through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters. By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.” (vv9-12)
God has seen your afflictions and has heard your cries and He has and will continue to deliver you from them. He wants to declare the fame of His name through your life. What a privilege! What greater sign and wonder is there other than your transformation? Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant. You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.” (vv13-15)
In the same way God has provided you with food and water to eat and drink, He has given you His perfect, His true, and His holy Word, which is your heavenly food, to feast on and obey (cf. Deut. 8:3). Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst.” (vv16-20)
Guess what? Even when you disobey, or your wonderment/awe of God becomes dull, or you return to a former bondage He delivered you from, there is always a “but God” in the life of a believer. God is ready to forgive, He is gracious, and merciful, slow to anger, overflowing with kindness, does not forsake those He has redeemed and continues to sustain them. Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.” (v21)
God has sustained you in all of your wildernesses. You have remained and still remain because of God. Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“And you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner. So they took possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon and the land of Og king of Bashan. You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathers to enter and possess. So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they captured fortified cities and a rich land, and took possession of houses full of all good things, cisterns already hewn, vineyards, olive orchards and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and became fat and delighted themselves in your great goodness.” (vv22-25)
God goes before His people and prepares their days to delight (take pleasure) in His great goodness. What an incredible expectation we have as born-again believers! Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.” (vv26-31)
God loves us enough to give us chance after chance, warning after warning, and correction after correction (Heb. 12:5-6). God does not give up on us even when time after time we may give up on Him. Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress. Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.” (vv32-38)
God is just/righteous in what He allows to happen in our life and He only deals with us according to His faithfulness (2Tim. 2:13). Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

Conclusion
You'll notice, I did not start chapter 9 at verse 1. I started at verse 6. I saved the first 5 verses until now. I want to conclude with highlighting how the people of God during that time chose to demonstrate some incredible worship unto their incredible God.
  • In verse 1, (i)they fasted in humility. They knew what they were deserving of (which was judgment) and they fasted in humility recognizing they were unworthy of any of the favor they received from God.
  • In verses 2-3, (ii)they separated themselves from whatever would corrupt their relationship with God (i.e. lineage). (iii)They confessed their own sins and the generational baggage passed down from their family. (iv)They made reading the Word, confession, and reverencing God the top priority of their life.
  • In verse 4, (v)they prayed to God with no restrictions.
  • In verse 5, (vi)they proudly praised God.
This incredible kind of worship was their response to the incredibleness of God in their lives. Our worship unto our incredible God should be no less than theirs. He has rescued us like He did them. He has showered His favor in our life like He did theirs. He has delivered us like He did them. He has protected us like He did them. He has sustained us like He did them. He has helped us overcome our opposition like He did them. He has given us His Word like He gave them.
And He has gone further for us under the new covenant. For He has given us the Holy Spirit as a seal, never to leave us, and He has secured our eternity. Our God is truly incredible and has done many incredible things in our lives! Is He not worthy and deserving of the sacrifice necessary to give Him incredible worship in response to all He is and has done for us?
Some of you need to repent today because you’ve been giving God leftover and moldy worship, not incredible worship. Some of you need to tighten up, there are some things you need to separate from, some sins you need to confess. Don’t read this today without responding to God about how He has convicted or challenged you through this writing. God gave us the most incredible salvation! How dare we give Him anything less than incredible worship as our response? We have the Holy Spirit within us to help us do so. We are truly without excuse.


2/14/15

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Encouragement & Wisdom for Leaders #3: Philippians 2:17

Intentionality is always the first step in working toward a goal or plan. As a leader you have to know your reason why and have a game plan for what you're working toward. This is also applicable in other areas of service and desired growth. Do everything on purpose and with a purpose if you want to experience any kind of success in whatever you're pursuing.

There was young guy and gal that responded to an altar call one Sunday after a convicting message at our church. This couple also decided to be baptized that same day. Guess how this couple came to our church? Another guy named Hesus that was intentionally invited to play flag football with the men's ministry invited them. From that first connection point with flag football, Hesus comes to know Jesus. Some months later Hesus intentionally invites a young couple who responds to Jesus and gets baptized. Hesus was invited on purpose and with a purpose, and then Hesus invited the young couple on purpose and with a purpose. God did the rest.

Don't waste the opportunities or the influence you have. Do everything on purpose and with a purpose and you will experience success in your leadership. But remember, success in leadership is never without cost.

“Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” -Philippians 2:17 (NKJV)

This is the call of leadership: giving of yourself as an offering, sacrificing, and serving for the faith of others. Apostle Paul said he gladly welcomes this call and rejoices!

Sometimes as leaders we do not get recognized for all of what we do. Sometimes as leaders we feel unappreciated for what we do for those we lead. This is part of the call of leadership. Paul understood this clearly, and despite the sacrifices and giving of himself he was glad and rejoiced with those he led. Let us follow his example.

As a Christian leader, an essential component of doing everything on purpose and with a purpose is looking to hear from the Father, “Well done”. Until then, let us intentionally embrace this call and cost of leadership with gladness, knowing if no one else sees God does. And let us intentionally rejoice with those we lead as we see them grow more in the image of Jesus.

1/11/16

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

#MorningDevoinGenesis

From January until today I have been spending my morning devotion with God in Genesis. No commentaries. Just me, the Holy Spirit, and His Word. Each day I would read either a chapter or multiple chapters, and then I would journal my personal gleanings and takeaways from my reading that morning. Upon journaling I began posting some of them on my social media to share with others. I would bookmark each post with #morningdevoinGenesis (at least on Facebook, Twitter not so much). It appeared many were blessed by them in some way. So, I figured why not post them all as a blog and hopefully bless many more as well!

I almost covered every chapter in Genesis. So go grab a cup of coffee or tea. Sip and read away.

May the Holy Spirit speak to all who read them!

~~~~~~~~~~

Chapters 1-11 of Genesis makes 2 things clear:
1. God is unquestionably sovereign over all.
2. Mankind, post-fall, is inherently sinful.

Chapter 12
Many times God will call us to leave our comfort/what’s comfortable in order to do something great in us and through us to bless others. (Gen. 12:1-3)

Husbands, don’t be afraid of the beauty of your wife like Abraham was. She is your blessing from God. He will protect her. (Gen. 12:11-20)

Chapter 13
Everything that looks good isn't always good. Sometimes things that look good are the center of wickedness & destruction. (Gen 13:10-13) #learningfromLotslessons

Genesis 14
Melchizedek was identified as king of Salem and priest of God (Gen. 14:18). Abram was identified as simply "Abram of God Most High" (Gen. 14:19). Neither is wrong. However, Abram's identification is better. Desire to be identified not by our titles/positions but by our standing in God alone. #knowyouridentity

Genesis 15
"Don't be afraid (insert your name). For I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward." (Gen 15:1). Remind yourself of this truth daily!

Genesis 16
Sometimes our spouses are wrong, but God never is. (Gen. 16:1-2)

God sees all your afflictions and distresses. He’s not blind to it. (Gen. 16:11-13) #trustHim

Genesis 17
There is no longer a physical distinction between the people of God & unbelievers. But there is a spiritual one, circumcision (cf. Rom 2:28-29). Our regenerate heart (i.e. actions, attitudes, motivations, beliefs, obedience, etc) is what distinguishes God's people from unbelievers. #cutoffmyfleshLord

Genesis 18
We serve the LORD through serving others in joy and gladness (Gen. 18:1-5).

During difficulties in life we need to ask ourselves, "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" (Gen 18:14). The answer is always no. Trust God.

It's easy for us to question what God is doing, even wonder if it's the right thing. Yet Scripture says, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen 18:25)

#serveGod #trustGod

Genesis 19
Men, stand up for your wives & children. Don't punk out under pressure like Lot did (Gen. 19).

If God tells you to "escape without delay and don't look back lest you be destroyed" (Gen 19:17, 26). Heed His counsel or suffer the consequences!

Genesis 20
Don't put your family in harms way bcuz of your assumptions (Gen 20:1-11). Trust God and walk in wisdom and integrity. #samethemetrustGod #dontpunkoutmen

Genesis 21
God does not forget His promises. He’s already planned when they will be fulfilled. (Gen. 21:1-2)

Parents, trust God with your children so they will become whatever He has for them to become. (Gen. 21:20)

Genesis 22
God sees our obedience to Him as reverence of Him. (Gen 22:1-12)

Genesis 23
Live all the years of your life. Don’t let life pass by. (Gen. 23:1)

Genesis 24
Abraham remembered what God said, then he made his decision in faith trusting God to remain true to His word (Gen 24:1-9). As should we. Saints, remember what God says in His word, then make decisions in faith trusting God to stay true to His character. #morningdevoinGenesis #trustGod #moveinfaith

Genesis 25
Husbands, cover in prayer every barren area of your wife’s life. (Gen. 25:21)

Nothing escapes the sovereign plan of God, even in the womb. (Gen. 25:23)

Genesis 26
Sometimes God brings famine in our lives to get us to move (Gen 26:1-5). Complacency is a killer to mission and vision.

Be careful dads and moms, our children follow us and may even repeat our same mistakes (Gen 26:6-11). Guard them from this. Use wisdom in parenting and the power of prayer to not pass on bad generational patterns.

Don't assume the 1st place God leads us to will be 'the one'. Sometimes God test our obedience and humbles us first to prepare us before leading us to a place for a season to grow & bless us. (Gen 26:17-22, 32)

Sometimes your growth in Christ can intimidate others. Don't take it personal. Bless them instead. (Gen 26:26-31)
Never forget, our decisions can grieve others connected to us. (Gen 26:34-35)

#toomeatynottoshare #receiveandheed #theSpiritspeaksthroughtheWord

Genesis 27
The dysfunction in our families are not outside the sovereign plan of God for our life. He knows what He's doing, even when it may seem like He doesn't. (Gen. 27ff)

Genesis 28
"Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go...I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you" (Gen 28:15). The purposes of God in our life will prevail or God is a liar.

When you realize that you're in the presence of God, tremble in awe and marvel at Him! (Gen 28:16-17)

The place "Bethel" came into being as a memorial after Jacob's encounter in the presence of God (Gen 28:18-19). How often do we relish and remember our intimate encounters with Jesus so much so that we seek to return repeatedly?

#trustHim #seekHim

Genesis 29
Let us never think women cannot be shepherds (Gen. 29:9). The Spirit gifts those in the Body how He wills (1Cor. 12:11).

Husbands, do we love our wives enough that we weep for them and would do double labor for them? We should. (Gen. 29:11-28) #guilty #helpmelovemywifeLord

Genesis 30
Jacob said "my righteousness will answer for me in time to come" (Gen 30:33). How true is this? Either your righteousness will answer for you before God or Christ righteousness in you will answer for you before God.

Genesis 31
Jacob called God "the Fear of Isaac" (Gen 31:42, 53). Powerful! "The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread" (Isa 8:13). #feartheLORD

Genesis 32
We need to repeatedly proclaim to ourselves, "I will never let You go God. No matter how much I have to wrestle in my life, no matter how out of place my life gets, I will never let go bcuz of how You have blessed me with You." (Gen 32:24-29)

Genesis 33
It is the leader's responsibility to know the state of those who follow them and how fast or slow a pace they should lead for their people's benefit. (Gen 33:14)

Genesis 34
Inordinate affection can lead to obsession and destruction. Be careful. (Gen. 34)

Genesis 35
Repentance gets our heart and mind right for worship. (Gen 35:1-2)

Sometimes God will birth in us and through us something we may not see as beloved but others will, and yet it will be brought forth with great sacrifice. (Gen 35:16-19)

Genesis 37
Sometimes your God-given dream may lead you into some unfortunate events. But don't think God is not the One orchestrating the outcome for His glory and purposes. (Gen. 37) #trusttheSovereignOne

Genesis 38
2 lessons learned from Judah, the son of Jacob, in Genesis 38:1-26. Temptation can appear more appealing during the difficult times when we need to be comforted. And it's during those times that we need our community of faith around us, supporting us, bcuz in those weak moments it's easier to give into the sins we would otherwise say no to on a good day. #gottawatch #communityisnonnegotiable

Genesis 39
From the story of Jospeh, we see that the favor of God = the Lord is with you in what you do and what is done to you. (Gen 39:1-23)

An obedient believer can be an unbeknownst blessing in all their environments and a witness for God (Gen 39:3, 5). Don't shortchange your obedience or be resistant to being a blessing in your environments, see it as an opportunity for God to be made known.

Don't assume temptations are one and done. Some temptations are persistent and ongoing until you slip and give it an entrance to catch you up (Gen 39:7-18). But don't fret, our slips and falls and the schemes of the enemy to destroy us don't catch God by surprise. The grace of God keeps us in our slips/falls and in the enemy's plots and He sets us up for some greater purpose in His plan (Gen 39:19-23).

Prison doesn't have to be prison when God is with you. (Gen 39:21-23)

Genesis 40-41
Man, so much in a chapter and a half of Genesis. I probably could've noticed more. Heart check definitely this morning.
1. Serving others with the right heart can redeem a bad situation and create opportunities for God's glory in your life (Gen 40:4-8). Do we trust God enough to do this? Now, this doesn't mean it will be a quick turnaround, it may take a while for something to come of it (Gen 41:1ff). Nonetheless, we are to trust God and continue to serve others faithfully (in whatever way that may be).
2. When your spirit is troubled, who do you call upon? Pharaoh called upon his ghostbusters (Gen 41:8). What about you?
3. Joseph's gift made room for him and brought him before a mighty man (Gen 41:9-15, cf. Prov 18:16). Serve others (w/the right heart) faithfully, who knows whom God may lead you before.
4. Serve others (w/the right heart) in such a way that your reputation of service speaks highly of you. (Gen 41:15)
5. Always defer the praise of your gifts to the giver of the gifts --> God and His glory. (Gen 41:15-16)
6. When God shows you what He's gonna do, you heed. When God repeats Himself, take heart. (Gen 41:25-32)
7. Bcuz everything has a season. Have a plan for the seasons of famine. You don't know when it may happen or whom God may send to you for that wisdom. (Gen 41:33-37)

#serveGodthroughservingothers #servefromtherightheart #alwaysdefertoGodsglory

Genesis 42
1. Joseph tested his brothers' words to verify their truthfulness, even though he knew they were telling the truth (Gen 42:16, 20). How much more us with those who claim to be speaking truth?
2. When things start to go badly we're quick to blame God (Gen 42). What we don't see is that it is part of His set-up for our future.

#stopbeinggullible #testeveryword #trustGod #Godgotthis

Genesis 43
At times it may be difficult, but do what is right and trust God with the outcome. (Gen 43:8-14)

How great is it to know that in Christ we can sit at the same table with different ethnicities & social classes. Oh how the OT saints would've loved that privilege. (Gen 43:32) #allarewelcome #nomoreseparation

Genesis 44-45
1. Don't be so quick with your words. You may commit to something you will regret later. (Gen 44:8-10, cf. Eccl 5:2)
2. Honoring your commitments with the right heart can unknowingly impart grace in situations. (Gen 44:30-45:1)
3. In God's economy don't ever think your decisions are for your purposes alone. God's purposes will always prevail overall, even through our decisions. (Gen 45:4-8)
4. Reconciliation is beautifully intimate. (Gen 45:9-15)
5. Sometimes the greatest blessings from God can cause us to doubt momentarily (it's too unbelievable) but then revive us for the next season. (Gen 45:25-27)

Genesis 46
Let us not presume that God does not or cannot still speak to ppl through dreams. Who knows, maybe God knows some ppl need the shock value. (Gen 46:2)

Genesis 49
In Genesis 49:5-7, Jacob said Levi was an instrument of cruelty, angry, and self-willed, and that he wouldn't be part of Levi's council or union. Yet, the tribe of Levi is where the priests came from. Ponder that. The takeaway: Don't assume every pastor will come from a pristine past. All of us were once instruments of self and some of us were instruments of cruelty. Now we're redeemed as instruments of God's grace. #wontHedoit #thescandalofgrace

Be careful not to bear other people's burdens too much that you become enslaved (Gen 49:14-15). Use wisdom and moderation.

How's that for a legacy, being remembered and spoken of as someone who uses/d beautiful (edifying) words. (Gen 49:21)

How's that for a legacy, being remembered and spoken of as someone who remained strong and faithful by God through adversity. (Gen 49:22-24)

Genesis 50
Scripture demonstrates that we (believers) should not seek personal retribution upon those whom may have a valid reason for it; for we are not in the place of God, and what was meant by their evil against us in reality was permitted by God for our good (and possibly others) in some way. (Gen 50:15-21)


March 8, 2017