from sofa to service

I love being a spectator. Some might consider me a professional spectator. In the fall there is nothing better than being a spectator in a football stadium cheering on your favorite team. Do you spectate? Maybe you’re a spectator of a good movie or concert, playing video games or surfing the Internet. Whether it is a bleacher or sofa, spectators are good sitters. Spectators feed off others doing the work and paying good money to have a seat with the best view.

Sad, but true, the Christian life can be a spectator sport. Instead of sofas or stadiums, the church pew can be your seat of choice. It is far too easy to sit comfortably cheering or booing on the 11-people serving on Sunday. All the while never engaging yourselves in the ministry or doing your part to serve the church. Where are you at today? Are you sitting in the grandstands cheering from a distance? Are you standing on the sideline benched and bored? Are you retired from the game because you are no longer motivated to workout your salvation with fear and trembling? Or are you on the field running the race, fighting the good fight, eager for encouragement to keep pressing on?

In Acts 9, Paul miraculous comes to Christ on the road to Damascus. After he gets his sight back he immediately enrolls to serve for the sake of Christ [cf. Acts 9:18-20]. According to Paul, serving Christ was the greatest thing since sliced kosher beef. He worked his entire life to gain merit badges from God, but Christ gave him an entirely different motivation to work. As a recipient of God’s grace, he made it his mission to be a conduit of God’s grace. You might call him a missionary—a man on a mission. I think Paul always kept his car packed ready to go to the next place eager to share the good news that radically broke into his life.  In fact, if you are believer you are an immediate missionary for Jesus Christ. Here are 3 truths that will move you from the sofa into His service or from the mundane to your mission:

1. NEVER DO MINISTRY ALONE [Acts 15:36-16:5]

On Paul’s first journey, he and Barnabus were sent out from Antioch [Acts 13]. Many Gentiles bowed their knee to Christ through their ministry. On the brink of the second missionary journey, Paul had a good plan, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” [Acts 15:36ff] Barnabus was cool with the plan, but he wanted to bring along John Mark too. Paul did not like the idea, since Mark bailed on them midway through their first journey [13:13]. Barnabus—the encourager—wanted to give his friend a second shot. It started a conflict so sharp the friends to parted ways.

So who was right? Most side with Paul since he’s the apostle, however, the Bible is silent not taking sides. It is interesting that you never hear about Barnabus again. On the other hand, later Paul would ask that Mark be brought to him because he was “useful to him for ministry” [2 Timothy 4:11]. And this Mark is the same Mark that eventually wrote the gospel of Mark. Bottom line is—we don’t know—who was right, but God did use their conflict for His purposes. They are both right and both wrong. I find it encouraging that even though Paul and Barnabus had their issues they were still willing to serve. They didn’t hang up their shoes—giving up. This shows you the attractiveness of message over the messengers. The church might be messy, but it is still the beautiful Bride of Christ.

If you serve in the church you are wise to remind yourself, first, work hard to fight for unity whenever possible. Paul says in a letter to a church, “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” [Ephesians 4:1-3, cf. Colossians 3:12-17] Do you think your pastors, deacons, sound techs, worship leader, nursery workers, AWANA helpers, and Sunday School teachers are aware of this need for unity? People problems can come up frequently when serving the Lord together, but whenever possible strive for unity.

The number one reason why people leave a church or the mission field is because of conflict with a person or personality. As Sarah and I go to North Africa, pray for our team. Pray for an ethos of grace that seeks to resolve conflict biblically and quickly. I could not imagine doing ministry alone. That was my favorite part of ministry at BGBC, serving along side deacons, youth leaders, and teams of people who sought unity in community.

Second, serving together is far better than serving solo. Do you notice that Paul usually serves on a team? Rarely do you see him going solo, even in prison. I have heard many of reasons why people do not like to minister with others, like, “Our personalities just don’t jive,” “I’ve had too many bail and leave me with the bag,” or “I really work better by myself.” It is exceedingly selfish to serve God alone. What might be more selfish is not even engaging in ministry. Doing ministry with others might cause friction or factions, but that is no reason not to do ministry with one another. You might think you are more effective by yourself, but the Christians faith was not meant for Lone Rangers it is to be lived in community. My church has a core value that states, “We are devoted to making every member a minister.”  It takes a church to raise a Christian.

Third, serving with others closely mimics Jesus’ model of discipleship. Jesus’ idea of discipleship trains people on the job. Most people learn best by doing, which runs contrary to our culture that says you learn best by hearing. Serving with others makes ministry transitions easier. Who will take over after Sunday School or small group when you leave? Are you grooming your replacement in the food pantry or youth group? Have you asked God to give you a Timothy [or Tabitha, 9:36-43] to train [2 Timothy 2:2]? Doing ministry alone can be dangerous. It can leave a vacuum after you’re gone. It is also dangerous because it is easy to cheat and lie about your service because no eyes are watching you. Serving with others keeps you honest. Follow the model of Jesus and His disciples: never serve alone.

Need an example? Look at how Paul picks out young Timothy [vs.1-5]. Paul needs help so he grabs Tim and gets him ready to serve.[1] Paul grows to love Timothy so much that he often refers to him as his, “true child in the faith.” [1 Timothy 1:2] and, “I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me.” [Philippians 2:19-23] These are the kinds of relationships that make doing ministry together worth it.

2. NEVER ARE YOU CALLED BY GOD TO DO WHAT YOU ARE NOT ALREADY DOING [Acts 16:6-10]

The time has now arrived for Paul’s second ministry road trip. With the car packed and ready to go Paul and Timothy ventured out towards Asia [Turkey], but the Holy Spirit did not permit them to go. In fact, God says “NO!” to four cities in Asia, but He does say, “YES!” giving them permission to go to Troas [Troy], which ultimately leads them to Philippi [Macedonia; Europe]. Paul’s plan was to go where he had already preached before [15:36], but God had plans to send him to preach to the unreached people West of Jerusalem.

While in Troas, God gives Paul a vision. In the vision, a man urges him to come to Macedonia to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. This is the passage of Scripture we dub, ‘The Macedonian Call.’ It is a well-known passage that missionaries often use to validate the country they believe God has called them to evangelize. You must be very careful to label a calling to a place or a project. You will hear people say, “I’m called to the poor. I’m call to Pakistan. I’m not called to kids! I am certainly not called to be an evangelist.” Nobody would dare to argue with the calling of God on your life. But there are two problems with this. First, it ignores the fact that missions is the primary purpose of the church; and if you’re called to be a part of the church, then you’re also called to missions. You can’t be an employee of Taco Bell without selling tacos, and you can’t be a part of the church without doing missions. It’s that simple.

Second, it often misunderstands the idea of God’s calling upon one’s life. The Bible describes vocational calling to ministry as a function of the local church, not as the autonomous decision of the individual. If you are serving a place or project before you are serving a Person you got to ask yourself, who’s mission are you on? Paul is sent out from his local church to preach the gospel of Christ as an ambassador of His church. Paul’s call is fairly general. Paul’s calling to go to Macedonia never interferes with his original and overarching calling, which was Paul was to serve Christ and suffer for His namesake [cf. Acts 9:15-16]. Paul is not so much called to a place as he is called to preach the gospel in that place. Macedonia is a really big place. So the first place they decide to go is the strategic port city, Philippi.

Paul isn’t called to something new, He is called to do what he’s been doing all along—preach the gospel. Now God is simply directing his servant to do just that in a new place. Like Paul, your primary calling is to serve Christ, which will also be followed by suffering. Suffering always precedes glory. And suffering paves the way for Christ and His church.[2]

There are thousands of unreached people groups around the world and there are thousands of spiritually profitable projects needing willing servants. If you are unsure what to do or where to go: Research an unreached people group [JoshuaProject.net]. Adopt one [globalroar.org]. Give or go. Pray for people of peace around you [Matthew 10; Luke 10]. If there are none, continue on to the next place. Some soils are not ready to receive the Word of God. The point is: the kingdom of God is near, so get off your sofa callused rear!

3. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE RADICAL REWARDS OF SACRIFICIAL SERVICE [Acts 16:11-15]

Again, Paul and Timothy [and Luke] hop into the station wagon and head over to Philippi. It must have been a long trip—too much pork rinds and licorice. Once they reached their destination they decide to rest a few days. I imagine they scoped the place out before going gangbusters on the good news. They could not find a local synagogue [usually the first place to meet God-fearers], which means there were less than 10 Jewish men [minimum needed to start a synagogue].  In non-Jewish places Jews would gather in obscure places because Macedonians saw them as a cult. So they went outside the gate to find worshipers. They found a women’s prayer gathering on the Sabbath Day down by the river. There they met Lydia.

Lydia, owned an upper-class clothing shop in an upper-class kind of town. Like Martha Stewart or Oprah, Lydia’s an ancient independent and businesswoman women. She sold of purple fabric, which is the color most royals would wear. Lydia reminds me of a woman I met while in South Africa. Gerda, a middle-aged single woman, sold tie-dyed fabric. I met her while buying a gift for my mother. She knew I was from out of town and asked, “Where are you from?” I said, “The United States.” With curiosity she asked, “What are you doing here?” “I am hear to share Christ with your community, see His church grow and find people interested in knowing more about Him and His Word.” To my surprise she opened her home and the next week I started a small group Bible study that later became the seed to a new church.

Lydia becomes the first European convert and opens her home the church for the first church in Philippi. She is an immediate missionary. And she is a single gal with a clothing shop. God uses single females [i.e. Mary Slessor, Amy Carmichael, Lottie Moon, Elizabeth Elliott, Rachel Saint]. Today 20-25% of the missionaries are single women, and this does not count the 40% that are mom’s or wives. Women married to Jesus and His mission are so needed. You never know when you might meet the next Lydia. You might be the next Lydia!

In the church, we value male spiritual leadership because the Bible empowers men to this position. This does not mean women do not have a purpose in the church and global ministry. The church and Bible have a favorable view of women.[3] In fact, true Christianity has the most favorable view of women among all the religions of the world [cf. Proverbs 31]. God clearly gives distinct roles to men and women, but they are equal in value because both men and women are created in His image [Genesis 1:27; Galatians 3:28]. Both sexes are marked by their Makers image.

What God is interested in most is what kind of woman you are—a woman of Christlike character. Young or old, God is looking for godly gals. Some of the greatest servants I know are older women who barely venture from their home, but pray earnestly and encourage rigorously the church.

Let’s look for a moment at her turning point. First, she comes to Christ because someone told her the gospel. Faith comes by hearing. Someone must speak the gospel. The point of speaking the gospel is to give something to see. Paul was not some irresistible orator, but his God is a relentless heart pursuer. Second, the Lord is the key actor in the story, not us. You have a significant role in speaking the gospel, but it is the Lord who does the decisive work. He “opens the heart” of Lydia. This is a beautiful picture of God’s salvation. This means He takes out the hard heart of stone, and puts in the heart of flesh [Ezekiel 36:26]; He says with sovereign authority, “Let there be light,” and “shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6]. Third, she pays attention to the truth. The effect of the Lord’s opening her heart is a true hearing of the gospel. She was “granted repentance” [2 Timothy 2:25] and faith [Philippians 1:29].

Without question or complaint Paul and Timothy follow Christ’s course direction to Philippi. God leads them to a businesswoman praying to God and He opens her heart. They continue to minister and meet another girl, but she’s quiet messed up. She’s a demonized slave girl who was being exploited for her fortune-telling skills [16:16-24]. Jesus shines light into her darkness. And now there was no hiding the fact that God is at work in Philippi. Her owners get ticked because their hope of making money left with her evil spirit. So they had Paul and Timothy beaten and thrown in jail. They took a dull or dreary situation chained up in the damp dark cell and had a worship service [25-33]. What follows next is as Jerry Lee Lewis sang, there was a “whole lotta shaking going on!” God orchestrates an earthquake and all the prisoners are set free. The jailor, now out of a job, comes to Christ amidst the rubble. Ironically, the jailor is freed from the bondage of his sin.

All this, in Acts 16, is here to show you that God rewards those who sacrificially serve for His namesake. The reward is the salvation of lost souls and the planting of the first church in Europe. In its inaugural membership: a businesswoman and her household; a messed up slave-girl; and a suicidal city employee—a jailer and his household. That’s the church in Philippi that God built. And He is still building churches today and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. In Christ, you are the beautiful Bride of Christ!

With that I encourage you to never do ministry alone, know you are never called by God to do what you are not already doing, and never underestimate the rewards of sacrificial service. Know that your ministry matters in eternity. Those kids in AWANA or Sunday School, the men and women in your Bible Study or small group, those neighbors in your neighborhood, those students in your class or bus, and those you work with at the office are looking to you to show them through your words and deeds the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is the reward of sacrificial service. The motivation of Paul’s service was not guilt, but the grace of God he was given on the Damascus road [cf. 1 Timothy 1:12ff]. The only lasting motivation you will have to get off the sofa and into the service of Christ is meditating on the glorious grace in Jesus Christ.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:12-14]


[1] He encourages Timothy to get circumcised, not because he would be a more fit to serve. The Jerusalem Council settles this debate [cf. Acts 15:1-35].Timothy’s mother was Jewish and he would be ministering to Jews. He was giving up his rights to reach the Jews [1 Corinthians 9:19-23].

[2] Cf. Romans 12:1-13; 2 Corinthians 4; Philippians 3:7-11; Hebrews 12:1-13

[3] Luke shares the stories of many women in the Book of Acts. Women like Lydia were particularly prominent in Paul’s missionary efforts in this portion of Acts—the women of Thessalonica (17:4) and of Berea (17:12), Damaris in Athens (17:34), and Priscilla in Corinth (18:2). Priscilla and Lydia took an active role in the ministry of their churches. For an excellent treatment of Lydia, see R. Ryan, “Lydia, a Dealer in Purple Goods,” TBT 22 (1984): 285–89.

secrets of success

I have only been married two-and-a-half years, but whenever Sarah and I have to spend a night apart it is a hard nights rest. I want to be with her. I do not like being alone. God has made people to need other people. People are designed for community, fellowship, and relationship with one another. I also have a God who desires to have communion, fellowship and relationship with His creation.

Joseph was the 11th of 12 brothers. He was his daddy’s favorite. A colorful coat was his award. He was hate by his brothers. They threw him into the pit until they could think of the cleaver idea of selling him into slavery like a cheap trinket. Jacob thought his son died by mauling. Instead, he was on his way to Egypt—a foreign country where he did not know the language, did not have any more clothes than the ones on his back, and at only 17 years old he had no idea how long he would be away from the family that disowned him. He was a stranger in a strange land with a strange new master that gave him commands and he has no choice but to obey. Joseph is alone. Have you ever felt alone?

YOU ARE NEVER ALONE [Genesis 39:1-6]

Joseph began working for Potiphar who was the right-hand man to Pharaoh of Egypt.[1] Once a country bumpkin is now has moved onto the block of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Joseph’s job is a servant. Not the greatest job, but he’s a faithful guy. He doesn’t complain to the other employees, he doesn’t waste time playing computer games, he doesn’t call in sick when he’s feeling fine, and he doesn’t steal from his boss. It doesn’t take long for him to get promoted as manager of Potiphar’s entire household. As the new executive assistant he has access to Potiphar’s keys and credit cards. The only item he was not delegated was deciding what’s for dinner. Potiphar kept that one! What is the secret to Joseph’s success? Good looks? No. Brilliance? No. Good work ethic? Nope. God? You got it!

Although God is silent and never speaks to Joseph like He did to his ancestors, He is making it clear that He rules over every event of Joseph’s life even the tough parts by being “with him” [vs.2].[2] It goes back to the covenant promises given to Abraham [cf. Genesis 12:1-3]. Those in Christ God also benefit from these covenantal promises.

First, God is always with you [vs.2-3a]. The promise of God’s presence is a precious promise from God. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you…” [James 4:8] “He will never leave you nor forsake you.” [Hebrews 13:5b] Joseph may never get married, be a father, make a good living, but God is still with him. Joseph realized it and Potiphar realized it. God’s presence is the key to his success and the theme to his life. Do you realize God is with you? Do others see that God is with you?

Second, God prospers all those who follow Him [vs.3b-6a]. What does it mean that Joseph prospered (or become successful)? How can a slave prosper? Joseph did not choose became a servant in Potiphar’s house, God choose it for Joseph. Whatever Joseph touch turned to gold. Potiphar’s bank account, business, and family flourished. The success was not Joseph, but it was Joseph’s God. In God’s eyes the greatest success story in not making millions of dollars, curing cancer, or being the most popular philanthropist. Success in God’s eyes is a man who faithfully follows Him and doesn’t worry about what others think.

Third, God is always using you. Even when you think know one is watching. Integrity leads to opportunity. Especially, when you “stand out’ rather than “fit in.” Joseph was a rose among thorns. When other servants might have been fighting for attention or the praise of man, Joseph was patiently plodding along and faithfully serving his master and Master. God was using him. Potiphar recognized it was God that was causing Joseph to succeed.

You will experience times of difficulty. Like Joseph, have you ever felt as though you’re living in a foreign country? That you don’t quite “fit in”? The question is not “Why the difficult is happening?” or “Why I don’t fit in?” but “How am I to respond to this divinely ordained difficulty?” Those who prosper in life don’t do so because they have it all together. They prosper because the Lord is with them and He who gives them strength to endure. God is preparing Joseph through difficulty because he is going to need strength to endure, which leads us his big test.

STAND STRONG THROUGH THE TESTS [Genesis 39:7-9]

Joseph was handsome hunk. Like his mother Rachel [cf. 29:17], he was easy on the eyes. Potiphar’s wife was infatuated with him. So much so that she sought to seduce him. She was an Egyptian desperate housewife who was hot for the lawn boy [cf. Proverbs 7]. But, unlike his brother Judah, father Jacob, or great grandfather Abraham, Joseph remained a pure one-woman-man like his grandfather Isaac. With no one around, no accountability, no friends, no parents, Joseph rejected the woman’s relentless advances. He was so bold as to say to her that he would never sin against his master or his God with such an evil and dirty act. He rebuked her, as to say, “How dare you?”

How would you respond if you were in similar situation? What if know one found out? Imagine for a moment. What would be the consequences of Joseph’s future if he gave into the onslaught of sexual temptation? She could have become pregnant that would have been hard to hide. To cover-up he might have been as wickedly creative as David when he had an affair with Bathsheba. They could have been caught in the act and lose his life. Joseph is in a pickle. He cannot call his boss and claim sexual harassment on the owner’s wife. He cannot quit his job, as slave. He has no choice but to stay and stand strong.

How do I stand strong under pressures, in the heat of the moment? First, determine to trust God. God does not tempt, but He does allow you to be tempted. Know that you do not face temptations alone. God is with you always. Second, determine to remain pure [v.8a “…he refused”]. He didn’t negotiate or flirt with the edge. Joseph decided what to do in the heat of the moment. He realized that to give in would not only be sin against his boss, but an offense to God. Joseph protects his boss’s wife [“You are his wife”] and protects his purity and loyalty to God [“How could I do this great evil and sin against God?”]. May the story of Joseph come to our mind and be heeded it in the heat of the moment.

I remember being in high school art class with a beautiful girl. There were times when she sat at my table over a class period. She would ask me tempting questions about my faith and sexuality. I stood strong through the tests. It became so much an issue that I asked to have my class switched so that I would not have to face the temptation.

You see, the pressure to compromise never occurs quickly; it takes its jolly time to sway you to lower your standard. It is wise to have a proactive plan before the opportunity to compromise arises or you are bound to fail and fall into sin sooner than later.

PROACTIVELY GUARD YOUR HEART [Genesis 39:10-12]

Keeping guard of your heart is especially difficult when you see more than 3000 images each day. Our society glamorizes sex, but the consequences are often ignored. We are over exposure to sexual and immoral content. Most of us have a virtual Potiphar’s wife in our living rooms, laptops, and smart phones hounding our attentions and affects each day.

How much do you pay attention to the Viewer Discretion is Advised blurb before TV shows? Today’s teenager’s watch over 28 hours of TV per week (4hrs/day), and the main TV set in the home is turned on over 50 hours per week (7 hrs/day). The TV gets more focus than the family pet. By the time you are 70 years old you will have watched 10 uninterrupted years of TV. AND THAT’S JUST TV, it does not include your movies, iPod, Internet, phone, magazines, and other forms of communication you pour yourself into each day.

Joseph’s temptations wouldn’t leave; Potiphar’s wife hunted him down “day after day.” One particular day when Joseph was alone in the house Potiphar’s wife again tried to seduce him. Joseph made a profound decision that would have implication on the rest of his life, he RAN LIKE CRAZY out of there. However, the woman had is tunic in her hands while he ran off butt-naked. Obviously offended he turned her down, out of revenge she set him up for ruin.

She crafts a detailed story, has the evidence in her hands, and convicts Joseph of a crime he did not commit. I can only imagine Potiphar’s blood pressure rising, looking for the gun to kill the man he entrusted everything. It doesn’t matter if he’s only heard one side of the story and coming from his wife it is enough. Proverbs says, “The first to present his case seems right until the other evidence is weighed.” That’s why some who are guilty talk first trying to get their story out first to define the case before the truth can be made known. Potiphar should have questioned his wife more diligently. Potiphar plan is reactive, but Joseph plan was proactive.

What does a proactive plan look life for Joseph? First, never be alone [v.11 “none of the men of the house was there inside”] Why is it never good to be alone with someone of the opposite sex? No one knows what’s really happening, and even if nothing is happening the appearance of evil is evident. When you are with someone with the opposite sex whether married or single it is wise to be visible to other people. Go out in groups. Be accountable to someone of the same sex like a parent, pastor, or friend. No matter how old, how strong, or how committed you are to your spouse it is wise to never be alone with another person of the opposite sex unless you have a good plan to protect yourself.

Second, run like hell [v.12 “he left his garments…FLED…and went outside”]. Maintaining integrity may require you to “run away naked”. Run like hell, means you boogie so fast out of there because you know the devil has his trap set and you don’t dare take the bait. It is a good battle plan to rehearse Scripture, pray, look away, seek accountability, think about glorifying God, and buy computer software. However, these can often happen in the moment and be reactive. Plan on being proactive.

WAIT ON THE LORD [Genesis 39:13-23]

Joseph is put into jail on false rape charges. This is the second time he is thrown into the pit unfairly. Where’s the justice? Where’s the idea that if I love God everything will go my way? At times, to be a Christian is to get treated like Christ—injustice, false accusation, betrayal, and hardship. Joseph’s faith doesn’t skip a beat. He remains pure, full of integrity, and waits upon God to prove his innocence. God is still with him.

As a follower of Christ, others will try to bring you down [vs.13-14]. Joseph’s brother hated him, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him but didn’t succeed. When you live unapologetically for God others will try to take revenge out on you, try to falsely accuse, try to get you to compromise your faith.

Also, what may seem like a curse can actually turn outs to be a blessing [vs.15-20]. God is merciful. Joseph could have been killed by Potiphar, but was spared. Although everyone had abused and abandoned Joseph, God remained with him, blessed him, and caused him to prosper according to His covenant promises. Joseph served the prison warden with humble godliness and was promoted to key-keeper. Don’t be weakened by your situation. Don’t be deceived by the false accusations. Don’t be persuaded by your fears. Believe that the God who is with you will use this for your good and His glory.

Wait for God to move, but keep active [vs.21-23]. Are you willing to endure the accusation to wait for Gods guidance in your life?  You’ll always have occasions for waiting.[3] Your attitude matters while waiting.[4] And your activities matter while waiting.[5] Waiting is confident expectation on God’s promises. It is not twiddling thumbs for time to pass and hope things will work out themselves.

This episode in the life of Joseph is an interesting turn of perspective in the book of Genesis. Until this point in the book each generation from Adam to the flood, from Noah to Babel, and from Abraham to Judah has seemingly become increasingly more godless. The faithfulness of God has triumphed, but man’s faithfulness has depleted. In Joseph we see the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob finally passed on to the fourth generation. God says, “You’re mine. I’m with you. I’m not ignoring or rejecting you. You will be better because of this accusation against you. I am at work within you. I am not through preparing you yet.” [Is.55:8-9] If God is with us, even when we lose, we win.

Joseph is a great pre-incarnate picture of Jesus Christ.

Like Joseph, Jesus was sold out by His brothers and unjustly afflicted for the sake of His people.

Like Joseph, Jesus was successful in His mission because God was with Him.

Like Joseph, Jesus’ good deeds called attention to God.

Like Joseph, Jesus was given authority over everything because of His character.

Like Joseph, Jesus’ mere presence brings blessing wherever He goes.

Like Joseph, Jesus was tempted repeatedly to sin, but passed the test every time.

Like Joseph, Jesus was falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned but because of the steadfast love of the Lord, He was ultimately vindicated.

And Just like God was with Joseph, Jesus promises to be with His followers until the end of time.[6] The whole paradox of your faith is that no one is really alive until you’ve mastered the art of dying. Die to all your ambitions. Die to all your selfish perversions. Die to all your provisions of the flesh. And just ask the question: What would honor Christ? Faithfulness. Faithfulness is rewarded with God’s favor. Jesus himself illustrated this in the parable of the talents [Matthew 25]. Those who are faithful in little things are blessed with greater responsibilities.

On this side of earth, He does not promise riches, happiness, success, but if you treasure God more than anything or anyone else, you will be satisfied because you have the one thing that you could not get on your own. And He will never leave you. And He will never forsake you. He is with you always.


[1] Pharaoh is ruler of Egypt. He is the most powerful man in the world at his time. He is a guy who thinks he is god. Ever worked for a boss like that?

[2] The news that God was with Joseph is repeated eight times in chapter 39 [2, 3, 21, 23].

[3] Cf. Psalm 25:5, 21; 33:20; 145:14-16

[4] Cf. Psalm 25:3; 37:7; 39:7; 52:9

[5] Cf. Psalm 37:34; 69:3; 130:5; Lamentations 3:25

[6] Matthew 28:20, cf. Numbers 6:24-26; Genesis 28:13-15; 26:3

thumb licks [10.5.11]

God: where are you? A good article when you feel as if God is distant.

Death Interrupted. What does the gospel say amidst the death penalty issue?

Signs you need to grow-up. Road signs towards adulthood.

The Clarion Call to Watered Down Evangelicalism.

The Sinful Tragedy of Boredom. Bored yet?

4 Kinds of people in the world. Which are you?

Marcel the shell with shoes on. A sure laugh from and insecure shell:

home

My grandmother had a cross-stitch in her kitchen that read, “Home is where the heart is.” There is a lot of truth this common cliche. For me, the truth is beyond what is easily suggested.

My idea of home is changing as I am on the road away from home without a home. The change has been a good change. Since saying “yes” to God’s call and going global for Christ’s mission, I have visited numerous homes in dozens of countries from urban Europe to rustic Africa. Living in homes all over the world will change you. As I have exchanged stories and photos with families in these homes I see how different my home and how foreign my home experiences are from theirs.

During a prison sentence the Apostle Paul had time to think about what mattered in his world. He sat in a cell far from home. Far from earthly comforts. Far from security. He encouraged the church saying, “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you…For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” [Philippians 1:23-24, 3:20].

Paul knew that Heaven is home. Heaven is an unfading, incorruptible, and infinite home [1 Timothy 6:6-7]. Jesus taught this too [Matthew 6:20-21]. And His closest followers understood it [James 4:13-15; 1 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 10:34] and longed to dwell there with Him.

Home is a place I long to be. There is a sense of comfort and security about being home. The danger is that I will begin to see my temporary home as comfortable or secure and not see my Heaven as incomparable and glorious. This world is not my home. God in heaven is my home. He has a better country. He is preparing a place that makes our home seem like a squared camp. To desire God is to desire a better country, that is a heavenly home.

This world is not my home I’m just passing through
my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

a brief guide to biblical manhood

Happy Father’s Day! Today’s message is a manly message. It’s for fathers, future fathers, and for men of all ages. Women, don’t tune out or take this Sunday off, this message is for you too. It’s for women [daughters, wife’s, future wives, singles, etc.] who love to support the men in their life. God takes pleasure in talking to men in the Bible. First He created Adam to be the leader and lover of his wife. When Eve took the temptation, God came to Adam. Later God established patriarchs to lead their homes, teach their children, and be responsible for peoples and nations. Also God’s Spirit spoke through inspired men who penned our Scripture. It is not that God has a low view of women or is sexist-ogre as some would like to believe. He desires men to be godly-leaders.

Two years ago my gramps passed away from cancer. Before he passed he said to me, “Justin, I am looking forward to being with my Savior!” then gave me two imperatives, “Take care of your beautiful wife. Keep following your God.” Those are two things I will never forget. Last words are important. Today we will look as some last word in the first letter to the church at Corinth.

Let’s do a short Corinthians Quiz: First, who wrote 1 Corinthians? Paul wrote with his own hand [16:21]. Second, what do you know about the church at Corinth? Most would say it was divided, had disunities, and was quite dysfunctional. All true. What church isn’t? Third, why did Paul write this church? Paul, like a father bending his boy over his knee sought to correct the congregation. The first 14 chapters of Paul’s letter to Corinth were a rebuke towards errant behaviors—even beloved chapter 13 was a rebuke towards lovelessness—and chapter 15 was a rebuke towards errant theology. Paul [a man] rebukes out of deep love for this church; just like Jesus’ [the God-Man] love for His church [cf. Hebrews 12:6].

Paul ends his letter with a list of five short, succinct, to-the-point imperatives. They are not simple suggestions; rather it’s as if he’s saying, “Do this, enough said!” Each imperative is a review of Paul’s entire letter to the Corinthians. As a pastor, like Paul, I will prod the men of our church to own these five imperatives of biblical manhood. My outline should be easy for the men in our audience, since each point is plagiarized from the two verses we will pick apart today, [start: 16:10] “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” [1 Corinthians 16:13-14]

If you haven’t noticed Paul likes to talk in military terms. It helps his men-hearers understand. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 is a charge to the troops! Like 1 Kings 1:2-3, “Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God.” [cf. Joshua 1:6-7] Women, I know us pastors give a lot of male illustrations from sports, hunting, or warfare. It’s because we are men. We do not intend to leave out the ladies, but we have a hard time relating to tea parties, dolling-up, or other things ladies like. It’s good to embrace and encourage the ruggedness of your men and their love for guns or getting dirty [that’s the reason why my wife loves my big beard!]. Okay, here are five imperatives you are best to encourage in your men…

1. “Be on the alert.”

Like a commander calling to his men he says, “Attention! Stay alert. Eyes open. Watch out. Keep awake.” You get the picture of a castle tower guard scanning the scene for enemies anticipating an ambush or attack. The Corinthian’s needed an awakening. They were Christians in a moral and spiritual stupor. They had fallen asleep on duty. They substituted God’s Word with their wisdom [1:18-2:16], they were divisive [1:10-17; 3:9], they were immoral [5:1-13], they confused and perverted marriage, divorce, and singleness [7], they were self-serving [10], they misused their spiritual gifts [12-14], and they were unloving [13]. They were not alert at all. Instead they were off duty and were teaming up with the enemy.

I am a man who loves sports. On Tuesday’s some of the men of our church play slow pitch softball. It’s a fun sport. This week I played centerfield. Usually it’s a position with a lot of running, however that night nothing was even hit near my domain. I said to some of the guys, “It sure is a lazy day in the outfield.” Sure enough with a 7-run lead I let my guard down and became the lazy outfielder smelling the clovers and swatting mosquitoes. When the final inning came around it was our game to lose. Would you know it, the other team started cranking balls my way. It wasn’t pretty, but we did pull away with a W!

The phrase “be alert” or “be watchful” appears 22 times in the NT. Jesus uses the phrase when to remind His followers to be on alert for His Second Coming, since He could come back any moment.[1] However, there are four more ways the phrase is used in the NT. What are we to watch out for?

First, be alert against Satan. “Be sober-minded, be on the alert, your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith.” [1 Peter 5:8-9] Satan is not all knowing, like God, he only knows your weakness by watching you. Like a sneaky lion he waits to pounce on an unsuspecting foe. His plan is to exploit and devour you, period [cf. 1 John 2:16]. See his fiery arrows coming before they see you!

Second, be alert against temptation. Jesus said, “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation.” [Mark 14:38]  Have you noticed the temptations ramp up when you are tired, exhausted, or coming off a rough week? When our spiritual eyes are sleepy or shut, it is easy to fall into temptation. You know where you are most vulnerable. It could be your pride, your purity, or your priorities. When you are tired it is easy to put down the guard, when you are traveling it is easy to justify giving in since you are outside your realm of accountability, and when you are under trial the pull is to find an easy way out.

I have 5 moral fences I put up to guard my heart: 1) never drive alone with another woman other than my wife, 2) never counsel a women alone or in a closed office, 3) when I travel I try to bring my wife or a friend with me, 4) I speak openly, often and affectionately of my wife, and 5) when with other women I seek to compliment their character not their appearance. I also seek to keep evenings open for my family and take my wife out for a date once a month. When single I committed not to be alone with a woman unless someone knew. What kind of moral fences have you built to protect your heart from falling into sin?

Third, be alert against apathy. To be apathetic means you chose to ignore what once fired you up. Jesus says to the church at Sardis, “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which are about to die…therefore, what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” [Revelation 3:2-3] An attitude of repentance and brokenness is the antidote for apathy.

Fourth, be alert against false teachers. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” [2 Timothy 4:3-5; cf. 2 Peter 2:1]

Men, be alert. Be aware of the condition of your heart, your life, your family, and your church. Everyday you are being hunted by your adversary and your temptations are nagging for absolute attention and affection. Men, be alert.

2. “Stand firm in the faith.”

When I hear this phrase I think of the movie, Braveheart or The Patriot. Men are holding the frontline and their leader yells out, “Hold! Don’t waver! Never retreat!” To be firm means you stand with confidence, heads up, fists ready, and body anticipating the blows. Paul is calling men to plant their feet firm in the faith.

Be firm in your spiritual and moral convictions. Be firm in what is true and theological [cf. 15:1 “Now I would remind you, brother, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand”].[2] No one can take your saving faith away from you, but they can trounce on the contents of your faith [1:18-21; 3:18-19; cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:15]. You can be influenced to believe that human wisdom and reasoning are more reasonable than the Word of God. Christians today are too easily swayed by the opinions of others rather than standing firm in their faith. Too many men wilt under pressure.

Before you got married you might had the conviction, “I’m going to be sexually pure, I’m going to wait until the day I get married, I will to treat my woman with dignity and respect, and I’m going keep my hands to myself. I will stand firm.” Then the world says, “Come on? Why wait? It’s okay trying things out to see if you compatible.” Foolish! Relationships are not like going to the used car lot. Honor Christ, get married, love that woman with your whole life and be faithful to her, serve her, and be like Jesus to her. People will make fun of you for that because faithfulness is not popular. What if I am not marriage yet? Finish your degree, pursue your career, pay your bills and taxes, love the Word of God, and be committed to His church. If you meet a nice gal who loves Jesus, go after her. Some of you guys are like, “I don’t know if she knows I exist or will like a guy like me.” There is only one way to find out!? Make the first move.

Many Christians have a hard time standing firm because they are weak in the Word, they are not secure in their understanding of the Word, and they ignore what training or studying they have done. God wrote a book, read it. Use the Word of God as your grid for truth and understanding. If you know the Bible, and you know what is true, and you know what is good, and you know what is right, and you know what the Father in Heaven expects of his sons, “stand firm in the faith.”

3. “Act like men.”

This is the phrase that smacks men right in the keester. It’s a bar mitzvah, coming-of-age statement. It’s like saying, “Grow up. Be mature. Take responsibility. Don’t be like a kid or coward. Stop the silliness.” Paul is not saying “Man up!” like our culture would say [Insert grunt noises here]. Nor is he saying, “You da’ man!” He is saying, “If you’re a Christian man, then act like it!”

Paul says, “When I was a child, I thought like a child, I act like a child, I spoke like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” [cf. 14:20; 3:1-2] Maybe today is it good day for you to go from childhood to adulthood. How does a man grow strong spiritual bones and muscles? He daily eating God’s Word, chews it, digesting it, and exercises it [1 Peter 2:2-3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17]. How do you exercise the Word? Live it! Speaks it! Own it!

Men we are called to act like men. Sure you might be a boy at heart, but sooner or later you got to grow up and be a man. I know some men who are 40-50-60 years old—even in the faith—who still act like spiritually immature boys. We need older men, like Paul, who will have the boyhood to manhood talk with younger men [likewise older women with younger women]. Paul encouraged Titus to cultivate this in his church, “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness…urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” [Titus 2:2-8]

I remember being asked to lunch by an older man who was very godly. I was in my early 20’s. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Justin, you have incredible potential for God. Yet you act like young man. You waste a lot of time playing games, chasing girls, and joking around. It is time you grow up and begin acting like a man. The time is now to follow Christ.” I never forgot that conversation. He still pours wisdom into my life. Like Paul training young Timothy we need men training men.

Fathers and future fathers, get your children ready to engage the forces of evil, temptations, and sinful struggles of adulthood before they thrown out to learn on their own without any theological framework to guide their practice. Give your children opportunities to fail under your roof so that they are ready to fight for truth under their own roof. Teach your boys about sexual temptations at a young age, and encourage your girls to be modest for the right motivations. Talk about what God is doing in your life. That’s what it means to “raise up your children in discipline and instruction of the LORD.” [cf. Ephesians 6:1-4]. Life is like the Roman Coliseum and it chews up Christians for breakfast. Men, act like men. Women, empower your men to be men.

4. “Be strong.”

We live in a culture that denigrates men and weakens masculinity. Watch a prime-time sitcom. The average sitcom husband is an idiot. He messes everything up. He’s the butt of every joke. He’s the big, fat, lazy idiot that everybody laughs at. You watch the average kid’s cartoon. The cartoon kid is a genius, his crazy-little-monkey-alien-friend can reason and teach the kid, but his dad is pictured as an incompetent imbecile. Our society sees men as everything but strong.

The verb strong (Grk. krataioo) means to “be strengthened.” Strength is not inherent to humans. The point is: strength only comes from God, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” [Isaiah 40:28-31]. When I read that my response is, “I need God because He is my strength.”[3]

From a young age men want to be strong. That’s why boys love superheroes, stuntmen, and sports stars. However, the strongest guys are often pictured as bullies, thugs, and jerks. And to that we say, “I don’t want to be strong. Those guys are mean.” Truth is we need men to be stronger than those dudes. Somebody’s got to stand up to them. You’ve got to be strong enough when you see a guy—even in this church—if he’s not being nice to his wife or his kids; he’s not working hard; he’s not being honorable; you need to have courage, you need to have strength, you need to have boldness. You need to be able to put your finger in that guy’s chest and say, “Listen. You’re a Christian. You go to Battle Ground Bible Church. You’re a man. You don’t treat your wife like that. You don’t treat your kids like that. You don’t work your job like that. That’s not how we do things. That’s not how God’s men are.”

At our church we believe that God made male and female, very good, equal in the image of God, distinct in roles, for the glory of God. We believe that both men and women are to be respected, and instructed, and exhorted toward holiness. I know some men did not grow up knowing Jesus. Some of you did not have a dad. Some have a dad that was not a godly or good man or a man you wouldn’t want to be like. In 1 Corinthians 11:7, Paul says something very important. He says men are the glory of what? God. Men are image and glory of God. Let’s lift up our men. Empower our men with God’s strength [i.e. Stephanas, 16:12-18]. God encourages godly leadership.

5. “Let all you do be done in love.”

You can do all the above without love [watch, firm, act, strong], but without love it is meaningless [cf. 16:22-24; love chapter 13; 1:9-10]. The absence of love would mean that these are just duties without delight. Love is not just the attitude of a follower of Christ it is the atmosphere of a followers life. The most attractive and effective element of your manliness is your love.

Men are to be gentlemen, not angry men; not violent men; not rude men; not crusty men; but bold men; courageous men; loving men like Jesus. Jesus—the conquering King—had a humble, gentle, loving strength that wove through the fabric of everything He did and said [John 13:34-35; Ephesians 5:1].

My daughter is only 7-months old. I love that little girl. But I tell you what, parenting is so sanctifying. I cannot imagine what it will be like 13 or 16 years from now!? Pray for me, all right. Children teach parents a lot about God. I remember holding my newborn girl who was crying unstoppably in the middle of the night. As frustrated as I was it reminded me of how utterly dependent she is on us, and how utterly dependent I am on God. Today my love for her and her mama is soaring.

In conclusion, in this brief guide to biblical manhood, I have a few applications for everyone to take home. First, to fathers when you struggle to live these five imperatives, look to Jesus because each are seen in His life and ministry, even on the cross. Second, to single men, God’s strategy is for men is to act rather than react. Plan now to put into practice these imperative before you have a woman or kiddos. This is part of biblical leadership. Third, to women married or single, encourage and empower your men to adhere to these imperatives. Pray for them, respect them; treat them as the glory of God. Fourth, to our church, what our church is looking for is a few good men who will walk with Christ, stand with Christ, and lead like Christ!

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” [1 Corinthians 16:13-14]

Father God, we thank you for being our Father. Lord Jesus, we thank you for being our Savior. Holy Spirit, we thank you for indwelling us, instructing us, convicting us, leading us, guiding us, empowering us and transforming us. I thank you for inspiring Paul’s last words about loving like Jesus. I pray that you would convict men to follow Jesus and lead others toward Him. I pray that our men would be like Jesus committing to His church, reading the Bible about Jesus, confessing sins to Jesus, imitating Jesus, worshiping Jesus until one day, we get to see you Lord Jesus!


[1] Cf. Matthew 24:42ff; 25:13; Mark 13:34ff; 2 Peter 3:10-12

[2] Cf. Jude 3; 1 Timothy 6:12; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 4:12

[3] cf. 2:3-5; 3:6-7, 18; 4:10; 10:12; 2 Corinthians 12:4, 7, 9; Ephesians 3:16; 6:10; Philippians 4:13; 1 Timothy 1:12; Psalm 27:14

journey of faith

Have you ever been on a road trip when you got lost taking a wrong turn? I remember back in college after finals I drive home for the holidays. Back then I did not have a GPS or cell phones. I had a few college buds with me along for the ride via Chicago. I drove while the 13-hour trek while the one sitting shotgun navigated with an old Randall McNally map. When we reach Indianapolis we got on the I-465 beltway. It was sometime after midnight, we were getting tired. With the windows cracked, Mountain Dew running through our veins, the music cranked to DC Talk, and sunflower seeds all over the car seats we made our way around the beltway. I do not think any of us were paying attention to the road signs and detours because of the construction on the beltway. We missed our exit. For the next 2-hours we drove around and around the Indy beltway before we realized that we were just going in circles.

I am sure you have been there, right? Sometimes life can be like that too. You seem to be going somewhere and then you find yourself lost, spinning in circles, and delaying the journey. Life is a journey, especially if you are living a life of faith. Abraham is on that journey of faith. His journey of faith might not be that much different than yours.

DIRECTION FROM GOD FOR THE JOURNEY: A Call to Faith [Genesis 12:1-9]

God calls Abram out of a sinful people and nation to go to a place he does not yet know. As Abram goes, God makes a promise to him that He will make him a great nation. At this moment Abram is 75 years old, without an heir because his wife is barren, and attached to his father’s possession. Abram does know how God is going to fulfill His promise, but in faith he goes. When he reaches Canaan [a dead end for a nomad] he sets up an altar of worship for God will give him this land. As Abram and his family settle in the land they face a series of obstacles that from the human perspective seem like major detours.

DETOUR #1: Making up your own story is not part of God’s story [Genesis 12:10-20]

As Abram settles in Canaan, another challenge arises for Abram and his family. There is no food. So Abram, being the man of his house, takes action and heads south to Egypt. Afraid that he will lose his beautiful wife he crafts a story, “Sarah, babe, those Egyptians are going to think you are a smokin’ hot! Surely they will kill me to get you. Let’s pretend you’re my sister.” Lying is never part of God’s plan; truth is always the best option. Truth is part of God’s plan.

Indeed, when Abram and Sarai roll through town, Pharaoh’s prince’s gawk at Sarai—like men whistling at a passing girl next to a construction sight. They ran back to the palace bragging about her beauty to Pharaoh. And what Pharaoh wants, Pharaoh gets. Lucky, for Abram, Pharaoh is feeling particularly nice and spares Abram’s head. Unlucky for Pharaoh, he and his house get stuck with a plague. Knowing something is wrong he calls for Abram, “You have some explaining to do? Everything was groovy around here until you can around. Is there something you want to tell me about this woman? Why did you lie to me?” God had his hand on Abram. He should have been executed for lying to the ruler of Egypt, but God had grace on him through Pharaoh. Abram must have learned a valuable lesson that day: speak the truth and let God deal with the possible obstacles.

DETOUR #2: Sometimes the most obvious choice is not the right choice [Genesis 13]

I am not sure Abram and Sarai did much talking on the way home from Egypt. So Abram worships at the altar [13:4, maybe seeking forgiveness; cf. 12:8] and then goes back to work with Lot among their herds. Both men have large herds. Their herds are so large that their workers were not getting along [over turf, pooper scooper duties, etc.]. As a peacemaker, Abram asks Lot to leave, but gives him first choice of the land. Lot chose the greener grass, eastward [towards Sodom].

I am sure this was a hard decision for Abram. God gives him a nephew—possible heir—but they are forced to separate. Could Lot be the seed God was promising? According to Abram, the choice was not working out as he planned. He sits and sulks about his conflicted family separation, but God is working out His plan. In fact God says to Abram, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth [i.e. countless], so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” [13:14-17; cf. 12:7] God has a different choice for Abram’s seed in mind, but He also reaffirms His promise to Abram it will happen,

DETOUR #3: Expect unexpected challenges with unexpected results [Genesis 14]

A great war breaks, Lot’s city is taken captive, and Lot becomes a prisoner of war. Word gets to Abram through an escapee, and he pulls together 318 of his own men who are trained warriors. This gives you an idea of the wealth of Abram that he had his own personal army and defeated those holding onto Lot. Abram was not alone in this battle. He ultimately won this battle by the blessing of God who promised to protect him and curse those who cursed him [cf. 12:3]. Abram then praised by kings [i.e. Melchizedek, more on him next week] who also recognized that it was God who won the day [14:20].

COURSE DIRECTION FROM GOD: The Seed will come from through Abram [Genesis 15]

Following these three divine detours God sheds some light onto the path for Abram. God tells Abram in a dream that the promised seed would come through his seed. There is just one major problem: Abram has no children and he’s really old. Notice For the first time Abram speaks up, and asks God a question, “What about Eliezer?” God responds and reaffirms His covenant with Abram, “I will not use Eliezer [a non-related heir], but one of your own children.”

Again, with radical faith, Abram believes God [15:6; cf.12:4], and God “counted it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6, becomes central to Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith [Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6]. Also, James quotes this verse to teach that true faith in God results in good works in life with God [2:23-24]. God’s covenant with Abram was confirmed with a sacrifice and the shedding of blood, which foreshadows the New Covenant confirmed with Jesus’ sacrifice of His own life on the cross and the shedding of His blood.

DETOUR #4: Ignoring the possibility of the impossible [Genesis 16]

Sarah is not mentiond in the promise [cf. 15:1-6]. Abram does not even consider Sarai. Sarah is old and barren, and too old for it to be humanly possible for her to carry a child. They had waited a long time on God to come through with His promises. What options did Abram have? Taking matters into his own hands, he logically concludes that Hagar—one of his servant girls—is a prime candidate to carry his seed. Of course, Sarai spearheaded the faithless idea. So Abram slept with Hagar and she bore him a son [Ishmael, the son of Islam].

Is Abram immoral? Is he doing what he thinks God wants him to do? Impatience on God is never right the option.[1] If you are unsure waiting on God is always the best option. Ironically, Sarai bitterly blamed Abram for the split in their family because he slept with Hagar, and Hagar flees from the Sarai’s fury. Again, God intervenes.

COURSE DIRECTION FROM GOD: God gives a sign and specifics to His covenant [Genesis 17:1-18:21]

God reaffirms who He is and how He will fulfill His promises through Abram. Abram immediately worships [17:3, maybe seeking forgiveness; cf. 12:8; 13:4]. First, God confirms his covenant by giving Abram a new name and give a symbol for the covenant between God and Abraham, circumcision.[2] Second, God confirms his covenant with Abraham through Sarai by giving her a new name and saying the promised seed will be born through her barren womb. In one moment, God’s promise becomes very specific to Abraham and Sarah. And with a miraculous divine intervention God will open Sarah dead womb at 90 years old and give her a son who will be the living Seed of Promise [cf. 21:1-7].

DETOUR #5: Failing to see trials that purify your faith [Genesis 19-21]

In short, God sends His wrath upon Sodom and Gomorrah for their perverse sexual sin, which leaves a salty crater where the cities once stood [Genesis 19]. Lot and his daughter are not much different than the community he lived and farmed [19:30-38]. Again, Abraham lies and gives Sarah away to another man, almost identical to the situation with Pharaoh [20:1-18; cf. 12:10-20]. God in His grace and sovereignty intervenes preventing Sarah from getting pregnant by another man. Then tensions stir between Hagar son, Ishmael, and Sarah’s son, Isaac. Ishmael is the one favored by everyone in the passage, except Sarah; however, God does not favor him in relationship to the covenant promise, but cares and provides for him. These detours are looking more like construction zones where God is at work growing your faith.

FINAL COURSE DIRECTION FROM GOD: God uses sacrifice as the proof of faith [Genesis 21-23]

25 years after the promise and nearly losing his wife twice, God gives Abraham and Sarah a son. He finally has his boy. They name him, Isaac, meaning laughter, which is fitting for a boy born from an old lady. Isaac is the promised seed. However, in a climatic twist God tests Abraham’s quarter century churned faith. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son.

Up to this point in the narrative, Abraham has seen God fulfill promise after unbelievable promise and made a womb that was dead-dead alive. Echoing his call [12:1-3], he immediately responded in faith. Was he really going to kill his son on the altar? I think so. I think he knew God would raise his son to life because He has already done it through Sarah’s dead womb.

God answers by providing a sacrifice caught in the thicket. In doing so He fulfills all His promises just as He said. What about the land? The last promise that we do not see fulfilled is the land promise. In an obscure way, Sarah’s small and insignificant burial plot was the only property Abraham own in the Promised Land [Genesis 23]. The land that was promised to his heirs would not arise as a nation until God would call another man, Moses, who would take God’s people to the Promised Land [cf. Exodus & Joshua].

In Hebrews 11:8-12, Abraham went where God asked, even though he did not know how God would work it out, but his faith believed God would work it out. God blessed his faith then and offers it to you now through His Promised Seed—His Son—Jesus Christ. The story that climaxes with Isaac, ultimately climax with Christ:

  • Isaac and Jesus were both sons promised many years before their birth.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both born to women who could not have conceived apart from a miracle.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both firstborn sons.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both loved by their father/Father.
  • Isaac and Jesus both carried wood to their sacrifice.
  • Isaac and Jesus both willingly laid down their lives to their father/Father.
  • Isaac and Jesus both laid down as a burnt offering for sin.
  • Isaac was resurrected figuratively and Jesus was resurrected literally.
  • Isaac was just a man, but Isaac was the God/Man who came to save mankind.

[1] Abram marries Hagar while married to Sarai. The result of this polygamy is truly tragic, as is the case with other instances of adultery and polygamy in Scripture. God’s intention is that each man would have one wife [Genesis 2:18; Matthew 19:4-6]. The first man to take more than one wife was the godless man Lamech [Genesis 4:19-24]. Two women is two too many. Polygamy is wrought with favoritism, fighting, jealousy, and mistreatment [i.e. Genesis 25:28, 27:1-45, 35:22, 38:18-28; 2 Samuel 3:2-5, 13:1-29, 15:1- 18:33; 1 Kings 11:1-4]. In the New Testament church elders serve as the pattern for Christian families are to be one-woman-men [1 Timothy 3:2,12].

[2] It is uncertain why God chose circumcision as the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. Possibly the seed comes from the male organ and/or Headship is an important concept to God. God used symbols to convey his covenant with mankind [i.e. a rainbow was a sign of covenant between God and Noah; Genesis 9:14]. Throughout the rest of Bible the concepts of covenant and circumcision are built upon to include Christian who are the descendants of Abraham by new birth. Circumcision points to the circumcision that God brings to our hearts through His covenant relationship with us [Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 44:7-9; Romans 2:25-29; 4:1-12; Colossians 2:11; Galatians 3:6-8].

don’t waste your sports

Most people love sports. Its ingrained within the fabric of our American culture. Sports are in the Bible. The Apostle Paul spoke about sports regularly in his letters to Christian churches.

If you enjoy playing sports, watching sports or have a child that plays sports you need to take an hour and sit down with your family and watch this video. See what God and the Bible has to say about sports. C.J Mahaney says, “I had the opportunity to glorify God in my sports and I fumbled it. I wasted my sports. You have the opportunity, by the grace of God, not to waste yours.”

For more information, including an MP3, visit DontWasteYourSports.com.

why Sunday Sermons are necessary but not sufficient

The statement is not: why the Word of God is necessary but not sufficient nor why Jesus Christ is necessary but not sufficient? That would be heretical and not in-line with the biblical text.  The Bible is clear; Jesus and the Bible are sufficient in themselves. Jesus is the sufficient Savior.[1] And the Bible is the sufficient revelation for knowledge of God’s saving plan for humanity and spiritual truth for living.[2]

The statement is: why Sunday sermons are necessary but not sufficient. This still might sound heretical or hazardously mischievous to some. It is not that Sunday sermons are not valuable or important. The preaching of the Word of God is extremely important. Jesus preached,[3] His followers preached,[4] and you are called to preach the gospel too.[5] God places a priority on preaching in His church. However, Sunday sermons standing alone are not sufficient for spiritual growth in the church.

Why are Sunday sermons necessary?

First, God commands the Word to be preached. How will anyone hear the Word of God unless it is preached? [Romans 10:14-16] Second, the faith of God’s people comes in conjunction with the preaching of His Word. [Romans 10:17] Third, hearing the Word encourages doing the Word [James 1:19-25]. An hour-long Sunday sermon that does not affect the other 167 hours in your week is wasted stewardship of the Word.

Why are Sunday sermons are not sufficient?

First, hearing the Word does not mean there is an application or reproduction of the Word [cf. Matthew 23:3]. Second, preaching the Word must be followed up with intensive and active discipleship. Third, the role of the sermon giver is also trainer and discipler, which involve more than preaching, but exemplifying the message and mentoring the hearers to live the message too. A pastor who simply preaches or teacher who just teaches is missing a key component with their message: multiplication of messengers and ultimately Christ worshipers [note: 3 types of pastors and churches].[6]

Pastor as Clergyman Pastor as CEO Pastor as Trainer
Pastor is… Preacher and service-provider Preacher and manager Preacher and trainer
Sunday is… Service of worship Attractional meeting Gathering of worshiping disciples with their Lord
Outside of Sunday… Occasional services Range of events and programs Disciples reaching out to make disciples
Pastoral care through… Counseling and visitation Small groups People ministering to people
Church is like… A small corner store with one employee A department store with numerous staff A team with an active captain-coach
Tends to result in… Consumers in maintenance mode Consumers in growth mode Disciples in mission mode

How can you maximize the Sunday sermons Monday through Saturday?

First, seek to apply the big idea of the sermon to your marriage, parenting, work, school or daily living. Prayerfully, practically and purposely apply the sermon. Second, gather together with your churches small group to discuss the sermon and minister to one another by applying the Sunday sermon [cf. Acts 2:42-47].  Stir up and serve one another through the preached Word.[7] Third, share what you learn from the sermon with someone who does not go to your church. When it comes to Sunday sermons: Listen up. Soak it up. Live it up. Step it up. Love the Word. Speak the Word. Live the Word. Spread the Word.


[1] Cf. Hebrews 1-10; Colossians 1:15-22; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-13; Philippians 2:6-11; 2 Timothy 1:8-10

[2] The New Testament writers constantly appealed to the scriptures as their base of authority in declaring what was and was not true biblical teaching:  Matthew 21:42; John 2:22; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2:2; 2 Peter 1:17-19, cf. Acts 17:11, Matthew 4 where Jesus uses the Scripture to defend the temptations from the devil.

[3] Cf. Matthew 4:17, 11:5; Mark 2:2; Ephesians 2:17

[4] Cf. Acts 5:42, 14:7; Romans 1:15, 15:20; 1 Corinthians 1:23, 9:16-17, 15:11-14; 2 Corinthians 10:16; Galatians 1:11-17; Ephesians 3:7-13; Philippians 1:15-18; Titus 1:3

[5] Cf. Romans 10:14-15; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 1:11-14,  4:2

[6] Chart is adapted from The Trellis and the Vine, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, Mathias Media, Kingsford, Australia, 2009. pg.101.

[7] Cf. Hebrews 10:23-25; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12

walking in wisdom

A few years ago my father picked up a new hobby—making walking sticks. Since starting Trail Tamer he has sold hundreds of sticks. Many of his sticks are a work of art in which he carves beautiful images and meaningful phrases. I own three sticks. Upon each of my sticks my father engraved verses from all over the Bible that talk about walking.

Ephesians talks a lot about walking: walking in new life [4:17-18], walking in forgiveness [4:32], walking in true love [5:2], walking in the light [5:8], and walking in wisdom [5:15]. Walking according to Paul is not about physical exercise, but about the spiritual life’s journey with Christ. Walking flexes your spiritual joints to become fit for the difficult road ahead. As you walk with Christ you become more and more like Him [cf. 4:1].

In Ephesians 5:15-21, the theme of walking continues with an encouragement to walk in wisdom. Walking in wisdom is more than knowledge of random facts about life or God. It is not about being able to win at spiritual Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit. Wisdom is learning to live in a way that pleases God by putting on the character of Christ from inside out.

What does it mean to walk in wisdom? [Ephesians 5:15-17]

First, wisdom looks carefully at how you walk [v.15]. A wise person does not ask, “How far can I go before I sin?” Instead they ask, “Is this helpful for me and my walk with God?” I have freedom to do as I please, but that does not mean it is profitable for me. Paul elsewhere encourages the Corinthian church, which struggled with relationships and unwise habits, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.” [1 Corinthians 6:12]

A wise person watches they way they walk because they are saved to new life. An unwise person is not careful how they walk, therefore, they are easily influenced by poor entertainment choices [i.e. TV, movies, games, internet], by addictive consumption [i.e. alcohol, media], and by corruptive people they mingling around. Although these things are not sinful in themselves they are things that can easily lead to sin.

Second, wisdom makes the best use of your time [v.16]. A wise person is disciplined and discerning with their time. As followers of Christ you are aware that time is limited and every opportunity matters because “you are buying time.” 

People waste a lot of time on things that do not matter. When you stand before God one day will your labor in Farmville matter? Will racing your kids to sports practices and club activities matter? Will your endless hours of texting and gossiping about silliness matter? Time is but a vapor; it is here one moment, and the next “poof” it is gone. Everything you do everyday has eternal significance. Unwise people do not consider their time as God’s time.  Wise people are a steward of the life God has given you. Do not be a slave to time; let time be a slave to you. Glorify God with the time you have remaining because that is what matters.

You can commit to making a wise use of your time at any age. Before the age of 20, Jonathan Edwards committed about 70 resolutions to God. It was his desire from a young age to walk with God. One of these resolutions was, “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.” You are never too busy, too young or too old not to give your time to God. Imagine if God said that to you?

Third, wisdom understands what the will of God is [v.17]. Only a fool does not think about God. A fool thinks, “How much can I get away with?” This is kindergarten Christianity. A wise follower of Christ moves beyond elementary foolishness and considers God’s purposes and plans, and seeks to follow after Him in them.

What is the will of God? I often have people ask me, “Pastor, what is the will of God?” Most are shocked that as you unpack a biblical view of God’s will it is much simpler and wide-ranging than you may realize. God’s will is less about whom you will marry, what job you will have, what your future will be like, and more about the kind of person you are to become. “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” [1 Thessalonians 4:3] In other words, it is God’s will that you are growing up to be more like Christ. It really is that simple. Therefore, it is easy to know if you are out of God’s will—if you are not living like Christ.

How am I supposed to walk in wisdom? [Ephesians 5:18-21]

If you are walking in wisdom you are filled with the Spirit [vs.18]. Paul contrasts be filled with the Spirit to being drunk. Why would Paul use drunkenness in contrast with being filled with the Spirit? Paul knows that alcohol is a common substance that can control you if you have too much to drink. It is all a matter of what you allow to control you.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not the same thing as: being saved, being more saved, or having a mystical experience. The Holy Spirit is not a force or influence, He is God. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit upon salvation and does not need more of Him after salvation [1 Corinthians 12:13]. Being filled with the Spirit is simply being under the control of the Holy Spirit. Being filled is allowing the Holy Spirit to head the command-center of your life and giving Him the ability to do with you as He pleases. You become the passenger and He becomes the pilot. If you do not submit yourself to the Holy Spirits control you are like a man wearing beer goggles driving a fully loaded box-truck down a Los Angeles interstate during rush hour.

Followers of Christ are commonly called the temple of God [cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 & 6:19-20]. In the OT the temple was the place where God dwells, and where His people offered sacrifices of worship God. However, since Christ’ death on the cross the structural temple is no longer needed because Jesus opened the access to God. Today His followers are the physical temple of God offering their lives as an offering and sacrifice to God [Romans 12:1-2].

Those who are filled with the Spirit use worshipful words [vs.19-20]. The result of being filled with the Holy Spirit is letting “the Word of God dwell within you richly.” [Colossians 3:16] In other words, the words and songs that flow from your lips match the Word of God. Words not of God can “grieve the Holy Spirit” [cf. 4:30].

What brings people together more than the words of the music? Arenas are packed with people singing the anthems of their favorite bands. Churches every Sunday gather together singing songs to their great God. Music has a powerful way of communicating and teaching truth in a unique way that speech or sermons cannot.

Worshipful words include, “giving thanks for everything.” [cf. 5:4] Does giving thanks for everything include evil done towards me, personal tragedy, problems related to sin and temptations, or periods of physical and spiritual suffering? Yes. Gratitude is an attitude that gives you a godly outlook on life and the greatness of God [Colossians 3:17]. God uses evil, tragedy, sin, and suffering for His glory. I have seen numerous times how God has used my moments of failure and struggle to teach me about His presence and provisions.

Those who are filled with the Spirit also submit to one another [v.21]. Everybody submits to someone or something. Employers submit to their companies, soldiers submit to their superiors, citizens submit to their authorities, and Christians submit to God and others over them. Followers of Christ are committed to each other like living stones of the temple of God encouraging and helping one another to worship God. We live in a society that bucks against authority therefore submission is look down upon. However, submission is for our good, the good of our community and for the glory of God.

In Ephesians 5:15-21, walking in wisdom is less about knowing facts, and more about living with God and one another. Walking in wisdom walks carefully, makes a good use of time, understands the will of God, is filled with the Holy Spirit, uses worshipful words, and is submissive to other followers of Christ. Walking in wisdom will take you down a beautiful road. When the paths of hardship come, as they will, godly wisdom will be like a loyal walking stick carrying you through the tight passes, rugged terrains, and steep slopes. Walking in wisdom is not easy, but it brings God glory.

priorities

This isn’t in any particular order but I was just wondering what your thoughts are on what order these Items should be in. I would appreciate your input. 
 
God
Family
Work
Ministry
 
Great question, EH? Thought provoking. The list is already in a good orderI am an idealist when it comes to priorities. God comes first, all else is for the glory of God. “Do all to the glory of God.” I wish this were the balance in my life, but I struggle to maintain the balance.
 
There is a delicate balance of what comes second after God. It is difficult to say what falls 2, 3, 4, etc. Should priorities share an equal load (Ex: GOD, family, work & ministry)? I think not. There are times when one needs more attention over the other or when one deserves our attention over the other.
 
The Scriptures mention that as a child, father and spouse your responsibility is to honor, lead and care for your family. While this is true you still need to work to put food on the table and minister within your spiritual giftedness so the church of Christ is growing.
 
Here’s my opinion. It’s for free. We live in a culture that categorizes and systematizes everything! Even our priorities seem to have to be categorized into a ranking system from first to last. Being organized and task oriented is not a bad practice (I am an organized nuthead), but Scripturally a priority list is not principalized.So what do I suggest?
 
Set a loose priority list.
1. God
2. Everything else God holds me responsible
 
When we live first for God and do everything (family, work, ministry, etc.) for His glory our priorities fall in line with Him. Living for His glory means at home I am seeking to have a family that is lead by God, at work I am a servant like Christ, and in the ministry I am driven by the Spirit to use my gifts for His glory. When we try to priorotize our lives we often miss the big picture, it is not about making my priorities fit, but its about God, my “Priority”.

Keeping Your Eye on the Goal

Launching Out Your Eternal Vision
 

In 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik, America was shocked and the space race was on. In 1961, America was jolted again when the Russians sent the first man into space. In response, President Kennedy set the goal to send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade. It was a clear and concise goal. Our aim was to get there before the Russians. It was the height of Cold War (full of rumors and fears) and it was a vision the entire nation could share in.
 
The rest of the story is history. On a July night in 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (Light-Year), climbed down from the lunar module and stepped on the moon! “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
 
A nation cheered and the world watched in amazement.  America fullfilled the vision to go to the moon and returned safely before the end of the decade.
 
A vision represents a purpose for being. A vision says what you want to achieve. It is glue that holds things together.
 
Since the 1960’s the NASA program has stalled. Visions fall short because we lack commitment. However, today there is a new Vision to send people back to the Moon by 2018, then to Mars. Their eye is on the goal.
 
Just like there was a vision to go to space, so must Christians have a vision of how we are to live our lives. If your vision is in YOURSELF, you think only about the NOW, but if your vision is in GOD, you think only about ETERNITY. In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul talks about a vision for life that is out of this world. 
 
The Vision: Keeping Eye on Goal
Seek what is out of this world – “straining forward to what lies ahead” 
Keep first things first – “Press on toward the goal” (x2)
Look toward the Judgment Seat – Start there and work backwards; “For the prize of he upward call of God in Christ Jesus”
 
How do I keep my eye on the goal?
1. Set time aside to talk to God.
2. Write a personal mission statement. (My personal mission has been Phil.2:5 “your attitude should be that of Jesus Christ”)
3. Make a list of what you want to accomplish before you die.
4. Assess the eternal value of my personal mission statement and list to accomplish.
5. Put the Big rocks first.
6. Launch out with your eye on the goal.
 
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