Dear Jess,

For seven years God has graciously given me the awesome privelege of being your husband.  He has given no greater earthly gift to me than our relationship.  On account of you, I give much thanks and praise with joy to God who has put us together and who continues to keep us together.  Each day with you comes as another wave of grace and demonstration of mercy toward me a sinner.  God did not just spare my life, but he found it pleasing to give me you!  What favor I have been shown!  To Him be my thanks!

I thank Him for shaping you into a helper fit for me.  I thank him for giving you the heart and mind of a servent.  I thank Him for speaking through your mouth the truth I need to hear.  I thank Him for filling your heart with his love, for I and our children reap the benefits of His love spilling over as you love us.  I thank Him for giving you the desire and willingness to invite others and their messy lives into our family even when it comes with risk and inconvenience.

I can imagine no more difficult task in the kingdom of God than the instruction to humbly submit and respect your husband.  Surely, with me as your husband, no more difficult instruction to obey has been encountered.  Yet, God has graciously strengthened you to walk in his design even while our culture grows increasingly hostile to God and his design for our marriage.

I thank Him for giving you the faith to submit to His wisdom when my discernment has proven untrustworthy.  I thank Him for causing you to rest in His steadfast love when my love has proven unsteady.  I thank Him for giving you eyes to look past my flawed and inconsistent character to see Him who does not change.

He has designed our relationship with its roles to make His glory known and enjoyed; by his grace I have had a front row seat the last seven years.  While others might not see it all the time,  God’s glory shines about you!  Be sure that I see it.  I see His humility.  I see His sacrificial love.  I see his patience and kindness.  I see His gentleness.  I see His mercy.  I see His grace.  As He lives through you, I encounter Him.  As I behold him, He fills me with a joy I cannot explain.

You are loved,

Daniel

 

 

 

Attention Feminist: Be not deceived by this partial truth

Recently, the refresh button in my Gmail account revealed an e-mail that contained this request:

Hey Daniel,

Hope you are well! I have a few questions relating to women’s rights, feminism, God’s view of women how to approach homosexuality without alienating the people you’re trying to reach. I have heard many ideas (many pretty derogatory) from pastors to women’s teachers and I want to know the TRUTH. I didn’t want to turn to the internet, I did and I found this article. (Link is at the bottom) I’d love to hear what you know/find out.

http://archives.relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/5-ways-bible-supports-feminism

Research and preparation to reply to this e-mail made clear that to do so in any real detail would require a series of blogs or even a book.  Many issues became evident and each could be and need to be discussed from a biblical perspective.

On these particular issues of women’s rights and feminism, many may find themselves internally conflicted.  In one way, they resonate with the desire to protect and fight for the right treatment of women, and in another way they disagree with many of the positions – such as the pro-choice view of abortion – that those in the women rights and feminist movement often promote.    This internal conflict can be traced back to a partial truth on which both the feminist and the Christian can agree.  However, the conflict arises when this partial truth is divorced from the more complete truth that includes rather than excludes the Creator.  For the sake of brevity, this piece only deals with the partial truth I found to be most foundationally crucial to answer biblically all the other issues that arise from the above e-mail.

The Partial Truth:  Women and Men are equal.

All Christians should affirm this truth.  One’s dignity, worth and value does not depend on if he or she circles the “M” or “F” when filling out a form.  Male and Female equally make up humanity made in the image of God.  This leads us also to condemn the mistreatment of others simply because they are female.  Equal opportunities in education, healthcare and the work force – among others – should be affirmed and worked towards.  Religions, societies and individuals that treat females as inferior to men do not reflect the equality of men and women taught in the Bible.

The Potential Error:  Women and men are equal; therefore, they are free to be their own authority.

While Christians can and should affirm the equality of men and women, we must be very careful not to be deceived by this partial truth as are many both in and out of the church.   As I listen to many on social media and mainstream news outlets discuss the issue of women’s rights and equality, I cannot help but notice that the belief that men and women are equal leads them to conclude that they should then be equally free to do as they see fit.  If we dig a little deeper, we will see that when many argue for the equality of women to men they are arguing that women should not have any authority restricting them from doing what she wants.  Equal rights means equally able and free to do or choose what she wants to do.

In an interview, Planned Parenthood’s Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens defended a woman’s right to abortion, “Women deserve [have the right] access to the full range of reproductive health care and that includes safe, legal abortion…  Women have their own views on whether or not they want to be pregnant… all that Planned Parenthood has ever said, is that every woman should make their own choice.”  When the interviewer asked her to define the tissue identified by her as the fetus she again appealed to the right of the woman to decide for herself, “I think that’s up to each individual to decide what they believe.”[1]  For this advocate of women’s rights, equality is synonymous with the equal freedom to choose for one’s self what is right and wrong.  In her mind, anything and anyone that seeks to limit the options of a woman or anyone for that matter should be fought against.  From this perspective authority does not exist to uphold right and wrong but to simply secure the freedom for all people to do as they please. For example, in the case of abortion, the government should not speak to its rightness or wrongness for that would be putting one’s opinion (i.e. the religious) over another (i.e. women).  Both those who favor pro-choice and those who favor pro-life should have equal opportunity to hold to views and live out their choices unhindered.  If they are hindered, the hindered party has been unfairly treated and oppressed.

The Completed Truth:  God created men and women; therefore, women and men are equally under the authority of God.

Glaringly, in this whole debate, one major factor has often been left out – God.  Many times the argument follows this logic:

  1. Women and Men are equal
  2. Equals cannot assert themselves in authority over each other
  3. Men nor anyone else should have authority over women

While the argument of equality might seem to free one from the authority of men or tradition or cultural norms, the same logic cannot be used before God.  While the woman may claim equality with man, she – nor the man – can claim equality with God.  My view and his views are not equal.  I nor anyone else has the freedom to look God in the eye and suggests, “Well God, we must agree to disagree!”

When it comes to women’s right and feminism, the church must not forget that men and women stand equally under the authority of the Creator who has the rights over his creation.  Yes, I have no basis in and of myself to hold another to my opinion, perspective and views.  However, this does not mean the Creator of the universe lacks that same authority.  As the church fights for the right treatment of women, it must not sacrifice the authority and goodness of God’s design on the altar of individualism and equality.  If God has spoken into the situation to give his design and instruction, disregarding his Word would move us beyond claiming the equality of humans in relationship to one another to claiming equality of humans with and in relationship to God.

For Christians, this may seem obvious in the discussion over abortion, but in other areas we may be more prone to be deceived by this partial truth.  Consider marriage and family.  What if God created women specifically to fulfill a role in the family and society?  What if that role includes a married woman humbly and willingly subjecting herself to the authority of her husband?  What if God commands the wife to submit to his authority?  What if God calls the woman – as he also does the man – to abandon her individualism to be united to her spouse or her church community?  What if God says to women as he does to men, “Your body is not your own, but God’s?”

As the church speaks into the issues of our day, we must not promote our own views but the view of the Creator.  When we enter the debate, we must speak not on our own authority but with the authority of God as he has revealed his Word in Scripture.  Our position must be so clearly established on God and not ourselves that our call to the world is not a call to adopt or reject our opinion but to reject or acknowledge the authority of the Creator and his design.

Three Actions the Church Must Take

Action #1:  Know and Teach God’s Design Publicly

God created all things and declared them to be very good.  He did not just create every individual thing in the world, but he also created them to function and relate to one another in such a way that his glory would fill the earth!  Women are created beings.  They have been created by God with a design to function in a role in relationship to the rest of creation so that God’s glory is known and enjoyed.  We as the church would be wise to know the role in which God has placed them and how he has uniquely created them to fill that role in a way no other created thing could.  Once we know what Scripture says, we must teach it and proclaim it.  Because of sin, men and women do not think correctly.  As a matter of fact, Scripture says that our minds are hostile toward God and his design.  We must work hard to carefully articulate God’s design and order of things including his design of women and their relationship to the rest of creation.

Action #2:  Walk in God’s Design Individually

The greatest proof that God’s design should be preferred over all others will be found in those who by faith walk in his ways.  The world should be able to see in the church how the female functions properly in the context of family and community and find something desirable.  Obedience to God’s design for women in the church should lead to such glory and flourishing that the world would be led to ask, “How does that work?”  To which the church could reply, “We simply follow the good and wise design of God!”  Unfortunately, God’s design has been altered in the church as well.  Men and women both have perverted his good design to serve their own glory rather than his.  This has led to devastation and brokenness that mirrors the brokenness and devastation found in the world.

Action #3:  Promote, Uphold and Defend God’s Design Socially

Our position in the conversation should not be to promote the female, her individuality and her freedom; instead, to promote and proclaim the good and wise design of God in creating her for his glory.  We must not sit quietly on the sidelines unwilling or afraid to engage in the social issues of today.  We should speak out against the degrading of women.  We should rebuke men – even if they hold high political offices as a member of our preferred political party – when their actions and words degrade and devalue women to anything less than the value God gave them when he created them in his image.  We should seek equal opportunities for women in areas such as education.  We should proactively defend and protect women from being harmed and oppressed from those with greater power and strength.   The church should join with anyone and everyone who will fight for these things while boldly advocating God’s design when allies in controversial issues oppose him.

[1] http://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/03/14/tucker-carlson-grills-planned-parenthood-executive-on-abortion-is-it-a-separate-human-being/

 

 

 

The Kingdom: Confident Citizens (By Matt Purvis)

confidence

We live in a world where so much is going on all the time. In this world, it is very easy to be overwhelmed with stress and worry. Worry can come from our schooling, our need for clothes and food or even a worrying about getting sick. I read a few weeks ago about a man whose parents and grandparents all suffered from severe mental illness. This man spent so much of his time and energy worrying about how he could prevent this illness that he ended up dying from a sudden heart attack. Worry is something that drains us of our energy and time, while getting us nowhere. SO, for example, last night my house on campus was loud and I had so much to do. I needed to make a food pyramid for a class I don’t really care about and needed to promote camp (side note… you guys sign up for camp) and I needed to write out this talk for Wednesday! And then… get this, Microsoft Word failed me. My entire paper was gone. It then hit me. I am teaching about worrying and this was something at which I was currently failing. The fact of the matter is that all of us will face worry in our lives, but the question is how we will respond to it. We would all agree that it was God who caused Microsoft to fail and God who orchestrated everything. The things we worry about He has in the palm of His hand.

 God takes care of His people

 In Matthew 6:24-34, Jesus gives us the cure for anxiety and worry with His proclamation of an amazing truth about God. Jesus explained that if you are a servant of God, there is no need for worrying because God will take care of your most basic needs. Jesus points out the birds of the sky that God feeds and the beautiful flowers of the field that God grows. He explained that if God provides for the birds and clothes the flowers of the fields, how much more will God do for His people.

Many believers often present a proclamation of faith to believe God will get them to heaven, but they don’t have faith to believe He will provide for them that day. God is powerful enough to save them, yet can’t handle drama with their best friend, the score of a Duke and USC basketball game, or even who they will room with at camp. When we, as believers, worry we display that we question the truths we claim to know about God. Our worry is a lack of trust and faith in God as our hope, protector, and provider. Ultimately we must recognize that God has provided for our greatest need. That need is reconciliation in our current state with God. By sending His son, God has provided for His people more than we could have ever imagined. He has given us a hope and a new life through Jesus, but are we actually living in that hope and new life?

 24 “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.

The Cure for Anxiety

25 “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. –Matthew 6:24-34

Don’t worry; rather, stay focused on the things of God and His kingdom

 As Jesus communicated this amazing truth about God taking care of His people He included a very important conditional sentence: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you [food, drink, clothes]” (Matt 6:33). As servants of God, we do not need to worry like the people of this world. While planning for the future is not bad, we have confidence that God is in control and will provide for us as He sees fit. When we recognize who Jesus is, our list of “all these things” is totally transformed. Our to-do lists, schedules, fears, and lists of purchases are so different and if not, they are viewed totally different.

Prior to these statements, Jesus proclaims that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt 6:21). As followers of Christ, our hearts shouldn’t be with our baseball team, our fancy clothes, or even our school work; rather, our hearts should be with Jesus! If our treasure is with Jesus and pursuing His kingdom, then our hearts will be with Him in His kingdom. We must pursue the things of God, His kingdom and His righteousness, and as a result God will provide for our temporary needs.

If each of us takes a moment to think about our day-to-day actions and desires, we are bound to find something that brings about worry or even a desire that is not a pursuit of God and His righteousness. I know that I struggle with this as I pursue the “fun” things of this world at times, seeking momentary pleasure in cool movies, video games, or nice shoes. God has convicted me and taught me that, as His people, we must recognize the cost of following Him. We are to forsake our fleshly desires and pursue to be imitators of Christ. When I think about that, I think of how Christ probably wouldn’t have wanted the newest coolest clothes or shoes. He wouldn’t have had the desire to be up to date with all the stats of every game in the March Madness tournament. He definitely wouldn’t have had the desire to waste away His time sitting in front of a television watching movies or playing games. Christ knew that His life had a purpose and as His followers, we must recognize ours. Stop being overwhelmed by the work you have to do. Stop worrying about getting sick during flu season. Stop worrying whether or not you will make the team. Instead, seek to be an imitator of Christ as you lay down your worries in a pursuit of His righteousness and to understand what it means to be a citizen of His kingdom.

The Kingdom is a four part series taught to the youth at Forestville Baptist Church on Wednesday nights from March 1st through March 22nd.

The Kingdom: Righteous Citizens (by Matt Purvis)

RIGHTEOUS CITIZENSIn our world today, it is likely that each one of us has seen someone practice giving in some way, shape or form. With social media there are tons of videos, tweets and pictures of people describing or portraying their act of generosity. Giving produces, within us, a feeling of moral goodness and rightly so. God commands us to be generous and give to both Himself and the needy (Matt. 25:35-45). A question we must ask regarding our giving is, “Am I seeking the praise of man, or the reward that God has for me?” Jesus emphasized the importance of our motivation behind giving, but he also included a couple other disciplines.

God cares about our motivation and intentions behind our righteous actions

In Matthew 6, Jesus began communicating the importance of our motivation behind three important Jewish disciplines. These three disciplines included: giving, praying and fasting. In this day in age, these disciplines were common practices among the Jews and more strictly among the Pharisees. Rather than praising the way many Pharisees consistently participated in these disciplines, Jesus condemned their motivation behind doing them. As the Pharisees practiced these disciplines they attempted to make a statement of their “righteousness” before those witnessing. In other words, they wanted everyone to know that they were doing good things. The Pharisees would go as far as sounding trumpets to display their giving, babbling long loud prayers in the midst of many, and dirtying themselves with mud so that people would know they were fasting. For example, let’s say the student ministry visits a nursing home or goes to rake leaves at a Shut-in’s home. There are always people who work hard and people who are more of, let’s say, spectators. They watch, and maybe even ask for stuff to do, but never actually do it. Give the service project an hour to be completed and to our surprise this student is the one who posts all about what a blessing this morning’s service projects were and they didn’t even speak to the elderly or rake two leaves. This is the idea. People want recognition.

It is easy to sit behind Jesus in His condemnation of the Pharisees, but we must recognize that often we too fall short in our pursuit of righteousness. The issue is we are often times the one who post on social media or hopes someone else posts a picture tagging us. We can be tempted to let others know when we perform a generous act. Sometimes we may think the longer we pray, the more God hears us and those who listen respect our Christian walk. It can be easy to complain when we are in the midst of fasting because it can be tough on our bodies. Instead of acting as the Pharisees, Jesus commanded that the practice of these things should be in secret. This doesn’t mean that we do not pray in small groups or in Bible study. Rather, Jesus is emphasizing the importance of seeking God in secret. Jesus proclaimed that if we seek the praise of men in these acts, then we will receive no reward from God (Matt. 6:2-4). It is so heartbreaking that our desires for man’s praise draw us away from the amazing satisfaction we can find in knowing and seeking God.

So often our focus can be just like that of the Pharisees. We want instant praise from those around us instead of patiently seeking to honor God and be filled with His joy. We must understand that the rewards God has for us are far greater than anything the people of this world have to offer.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.

“Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, so that you don’t show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  Matthew 6:1-8;16-18

Pursue God secretly in prayer, giving, and fasting

We should note that Jesus began each of his statements with an assumption that the people he was preaching to were practicing these disciplines. “So whenever you give to the poor,”” whenever you pray,” and “Whenever you fast” (Matt. 6:2;5;16). We should not question if we should practice these disciplines; rather, we should question why we practice these disciplines. Our reasoning for practicing these disciplines should ultimately be to draw closer to God in one way or another.

When we give, we are recognizing that all we have is God’s and was given to us by God. We give in order to follow God’s command, as well as imitating God in His generosity. When we pray, we should be seeking intimacy with God. We pray, not seeking for God to do our will; rather, we pray so that God will align our wills with His. When we fast, we are giving up what we need to survive in order to draw closer to God. Throughout the Bible fasting is an important form of seeking God’s direction, strength and will in our lives.

As we seek to pursue God through giving, praying and fasting we must remember the benefit of seeking God in secret. Do not wait until you feel far from God, start now. Go into your room and shut the door when you pray to God. As you give, do it with the thought of praising God rather then seeking your own praise. When you fast, clean yourself and keep your action private in order that the Lord may honor your pursuit of Himself.

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 5:20

The Kingdom is a four part series taught to the youth at Forestville Baptist Church on Wednesday nights from March 1st through March 22nd.

The Kingdom: Perfect Citizens

Most likely you have spoken the words, “I would love to __________ but I just can’t,” or maybe you have said, “I wish I could ________ but I just do not have the time!”  If we think carefully about these statements, we will see that often we admit that we sacrifice what we really want to do for things we feel we need to do.   I would love to be at church on Wednesday, but I have homework.  I would love to have more of a social life but I am consumed with dance practices and performances.  I wish I could play more golf, but I have a family to serve.  If we are honest, we might find that much of our day is spent doing not what is desired but needed.  In a sense, we are in conflict with ourselves much like a fourteen year sits in Life Group wishing he was in bed.

God requires perfection in his Kingdom

When Jesus showed up and announced his kingdom had come, he identified his citizens as those who do what they want.  In God’s kingdom, his people act in line with their desires.  They no longer are in conflict with themselves.

In the nation of Israel, the Pharisees were known as the most righteous people around.  The average people admired their commitment to obey every detail of the law.  They even carefully measured out their spices to make sure they tithed the right amount.  Those in Israel thought, if anyone is righteous before God, the Pharisees are.

To their surprise, Jesus showed up and declared “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Those listening must have felt doom and despair.  If the Pharisees cannot enter the kingdom how could they.

Following this announcement, Jesus used five examples from the Law in which he demonstrated what he meant by exceeds. (He actually gave six but the one on divorce will need a great deal of explanation and for the sake of brevity will not be discussed).


Example #1:  The absence of murder should be exceeded by the absence of anger (5:21-26)
Example #2:  The absence of adultery should be exceeded by the absence of lust (5:27-30)
Example #3:  Oaths should be exceeded by humility (5:33-37)
Example #4:  Retaliation should be exceeded by kindness (5:38-42)
Example #5:  Love for your neighbor should be exceeded by love for your enemy (5:43-47)

Do you notice the difference?  In each example, Jesus takes the focus off of the outward action and places the attention on the condition of the heart.  Jesus certainly condemns the murder, but he also condemns the individual who stands hostile toward another even if that anger does not cause him to act violently.  Yes, the young man who sleeps with his girlfriend stands guilty before God, but so does the young man who fantasizes about being intimate with the cute brunette in his algebra class.  According to the Law, one stands condemned if he gives his word but does not keep it, but Jesus also declares the prideful one who assumes that he can plan out his day and make it happen without acknowledging his dependency on the Lord who sovereignly rules.

With just a few examples, Jesus’ message to those around him became clear.  Not only did Jesus require the right actions but he also required the right heart to go along with them.  In case those in the audience missed his radical teaching, Jesus stated that the standard is not the Pharisees but God the Father who is perfect / complete.  Yes, the Pharisees did the right actions (at least that was the understanding of the public).  But their actions conflicted with their heart.  They fumed with anger even though they did not kill.  They did not cheat on their wives, but they lusted in their heart.  While their actions may have appeared to be righteous, their hearts proved them unrighteous.  God the Father always acts righteously and his actions are always consistent with his heart’s desires, feelings, and affections.  He demands the same of those in his kingdom.

 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…  48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:17-30, 48

Ask God for a heart change

For most of my life, I understood Christianity as following a bunch of rules.  I had to do certain things, things I certainly did not want to do, in order to please God and earn his favor.  I thought, “If I do not do ___________, God will be angry with me and I will face his punishment.”  Often times this fear would be enough to make me do the right thing, but often I did not want to.

Since then, God has changed my heart.  Those same things I used do out of fear, I now do because I want to do them.  I meet with God’s people in Life Group because I genuinely desire to be a part of their lives.  I show up each week at 10:45 am to worship with God’s people because my heart longs to be in the presence of Him and His church.  I serve and love my family, not because I need to in order to keep up a pastor’s reputation but because my heart genuinely finds joy in them.  Even when I sin, my heart longs for the opposite.  When I work unrighteousness, my desire for righteousness leads me to repentance.  This is true for me not because I am special but because God mercifully changed my heart.  He put His life in my soul so that I will love what He loves and desire what He desires.  Now that my heart hungers and thirst for what is right, I now do what is right as well.  My right actions and my right desires are now united rather than conflicted.

When Jesus announced that only those who were perfect like God good enter the kingdom, those listening were left asking, “then who can enter the kingdom.”  They new being perfect like God was an impossible requirement.  Yes, maybe you could perform some right actions, but we all know our hearts think and desire bad things.  If God is judging us by our hearts, none of us have a chance when we stand before him.

Do not miss the point.  Your commitment to do better will get you know where.  Another attempt to be a better Christian will fail just like the others.  What you need is a heart change.  Get alone with God and ask him.  He will bring you to life.  He will give you new desires, new loves, and new feeling.  These right desires and feelings will lead to right actions.  Are you struggling to be consistent in reading Scripture and talking to God?  Ask him to change your heart.  Are you trapped in an addiction to pornography?  Ask him to change your heart.  Are you struggling with anger, bitterness, jealousy and hostility?  Go to the God who transforms people by transforming their hearts.  Do not go out again to attempt to change yourself.  That has not worked so far, and it will fail again.  The problem lies within your heart.  Ask God to change it!

The Kingdom is a four part series taught to the youth at Forestville Baptist Church on Wednesday nights from March 1st through March 22nd.

 

The Kingdom: Happy Citizens

Each of us has expressed our lack of happiness and our hope for happiness with an expression such as “If I could just ___________!” or “If _____________ would just ____________!”  Maybe you think, “If I could just get an ‘A’ on my algebra exam, I will make a ‘B’ in the class… then my mom and dad would be proud of me… then, I would be happy!”  Or maybe you think, “If I could just get a job, I could afford car insurance and gas… then I would have freedom to do what I want to do… then I would be happy!”  The Jews thought, “If the Messiah would just come and set up his kingdom… our nation would rule again… then we would no longer be poor or oppressed… then we will be happy again!”

God’s makes his people happy

In the Jew’s mind, when the Messiah would come and set up God’s kingdom he would change their circumstances. For centuries, the Jews experienced poverty, oppression and in justice.  In the great Roman Empire, they possessed the significance of a hardly recognized minority.  This low standing in society, as outcast, fueled their longing for the coming of the kingdom of God.    They thought that with the promised king would come a return to Israel’s greatness.  Rather than being the outcast of society, they would become the greatest.  Rather than being ruled by Rome, they would conquer Rome.  In their understanding, the citizens of the kingdom would be the wealthy, prosperous, powerful, and healthy.  They thought the sign of being a citizen in God’s kingdom was the “good life.”  With this understanding, the unhappy Jew looked forward to the day God would make him happy by changing his earthly circumstance.

When Jesus showed up to announce himself as the promised King, he described all those who belonged to his kingdom as “blessed” or happy.  To emphasize this, Jesus used this description nine times while introducing his first sermon!   This announcement of God’s people becoming happy did not surprise anyone.  The promise of the Messiah gave them hope that one day their unhappy circumstances would be changed and they would again experience happiness.

However, Jesus did shock them all when he began to identify the citizens of his kingdom as the ones who are poor in spirit, mourn, meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted and reviled.  These descriptions shattered the Jews’ idea that the when the kingdom came they would rise up with the Messiah, overthrow the oppressors, and establish themselves as the ruling and reigning nation.  To the Jew’s surprise, the citizens of God’s kingdom would indeed be happy, but their happiness would be grounded in something other than the improvement of earthly circumstances.

According to Jesus, those of his kingdom will be happy because they will possess a kingdom not of this world.  An earthly kingdom only offers temporary wealth, power, status and safety.  Those in this kingdom will know the endless mercy of God.  They will see and experience the glory of God and have their deepest desires of their heart satisfied.  They will be the true children of God who know the Almighty as their Father.  Those who see, know and have citizenship in this kingdom will always have reason to rejoice and be glad.  Anyone can know joy when they move from oppression to freedom, from poverty to wealth, from hungry to full, from sick to healthy; however, only those who belong to the kingdom of heaven experience happiness in their undesirable circumstances.

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.  And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be
satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of
evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
– Matthew 5:1-13

Seek happiness in God rather than in changed circumstances

Often times, religion is no more than us turning to God so that he will change our circumstances.  We think, “If I serve God and do what he says, he will change my family and I will be happy.”  We think, “If I pray hard enough and show God how serious and committed I am, he will heal my cancer and then I will be happy.”  This seems logical, but God’s kingdom does not operate like the gods of this world do.  God does not make you happy by changing your earthly circumstances.  He makes you happy by giving you himself.  He shows up in your life and proves himself to be far more valuable and far more satisfying than anything you currently hope for in this life.

God offers to satisfy your heart so effectively that you can know happiness even when he does not change your circumstance.  Would it not be amazing for you to know happiness even though you remain the target of cruel jokes at school?  Do you not want a happiness that will remain even when your peers might label you an outcast?  What freedom would you have if your happiness did not depend on mom and dad’s, your friend’s or your coach’s approval?

God invites you to seek him.  He says to you and me, “Come and find rest!”  He promises that if we seek him we will find him.  True and lasting happiness will be known by those who know Jesus as the supreme treasure of their heart.  Those who seek him will find him.  Listen to Jesus.  Stop trying to find happiness by working tirelessly to change your circumstances.  Stop trying to pleas God with your service so he will change your circumstance.  Instead, pursue Jesus to enjoy and be made happy by Jesus.  When you see him and know him, you will find the happiness for which you hunt.

 Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives, and the one who
seeks finds, and to the one who
knocks it will be opened. – Matthew 7:7-8
The Kingdom is a four part series taught to the youth at Forestville Baptist Church on Wednesday nights from March 1st through March 22nd.

 

 

 

The Art of Submission: Motivated by Glory

The Gospel of Jesus Motivates Our Submission

When I think of “motivation,” I think of the man diligently waking up every morning to go to the gym before the dew evaporates off his windshield .  I think of the energized three-old cleaning up the living room full of toys while skipping around and singing the old tune, “Clean up! Clean up! Everybody! Everywhere!”  I think of the fifteen year old young man who talks himself into approaching the pretty young lady who has never really noticed him as anything more than a class mate even though she sits just two seats away from him in class .

In each of these instances, the individuals carry out the actions with hope that they will lead to something amazing, satisfying and worthwhile.  The man looks forward to the day he can add five more pounds to the dumbbell.  The three-year old anticipates the snack-size pack of Skittles promised to her by her mother.  And, the young man dreams of the day he walks through the hall of his high school with “the one” at his side holding his hand.  The action by itself has little or no appeal, but the hope of something great pushes them through the undesirable to experience the desirable.

God’s promise to glorify himself by glorifying Jesus, motivated Jesus to submit to his Father.

Like these three individuals, Jesus Christ also endured the undesirable to experience the desirable.  One night in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stood at the moment of decision.  He had to decide in that moment to submit to the Father by enduring the wrath of God and the crucifixion or to be obedient to His own will by walking away from the mission for which God had sent Him.  As He knew the hour had come for Him to be taken and executed, He desired that there would be another way.  In the moment, His flesh desired to walk away and forsake the plan.   Thankfully, Jesus laid down His own will and submitted to the Father’s.

As we look back on the life of Jesus, we might ask, “Why did He submit?  Why did He not call on God to send an army of angels to rescue Him?  What motivated His submission even when submission to the Father required doing and experiencing things He did not desire?”  We find the answer to these questions, not in His prayer in the garden but in His prayer at the end of His last dinner just a short time before.

After breaking the bread and drinking the wine with His disciples, Jesus looked up to His Father in heaved and acknowledged “the hour has come.”  His time to complete the mission for which the Father sent Him had arrived.  As He spoke the next few words, the disciples sitting around him received the awesome privilege of peeking into the heart of Jesus to see what drove him to the cross.  He prayed, “Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify You.”  Jesus knew that God the Father had a plan.  The plan’s purpose was to make God’s beauty and awesomeness known by making Jesus beautiful and awesome.

By going to the cross, the world would know that God loves.  At the cross, men would see the seriousness of God’s wrath against sin and sinners.  God’s plan did not just include the demonstration of God’s love and wrath at the cross, but the plan also included the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  After the cross, God would be faithful to bring Jesus out of the grave and place Him in authority over all things!  Jesus knew that God’s plan to glorify the Father included God’s glorifying or lifting up Jesus as well.  Jesus knew that what awaited Him on the other side of the cross was glory both for Him and the Father.  Jesus found the motivation to submit to the Father in the Father’s promise for glory.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,  since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. – John 17:1-3

Submit to others as you submit to the Father by trusting His promise to glorify Himself by glorifying you

Did you know that God’s plan to make Himself known as good and glorious includes Him making you good and glorious?    Think of a painter who creates the most beautiful picture.  She began with a simple unattractive plain white canvas.  But, as it lay there submissive to every brush stroke of the painter it became beautiful and amazing.  Think of the coach who earns the praise of the members of a small town by turning a pathetic football program into a region champion that competes for the title year in and year out.  Think of the respect and praise directed at the husband and father whose family flourishes rather than suffers under his leadership.

God has chosen to demonstrate his awesomeness and goodness by making a people who also become glorious. God’s desire to elevate Himself as the most valuable treasure does not come at your expense; instead, His desire to glorify Himself involves His glorifying you as well.  Go ahead, submit to His will and watch Him take your broken life and make it glorious.  Yes, it will involve you doing things you do not want to do, just as the three year old never wants to pick up her toys.  But, just has the anticipation of the sugary goodness of Skittles melting on the taste buds of her tongue motivates her through the undesirable, let God’s promise of glory motivate you in the moments submission requires the undesirable.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the
children of God. – Romans 8:18-21