A thought from a boring Bible chapter...

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A thought from a boring Bible chapter...

I was reading this morning in Leviticus Chapter 1.  It is one of those chapters in a Bible reading plan that you just suffer through.  It is an incredibly detailed description of God's instructions for burnt offerings.  It is a bloody chapter. It is full of the names of body parts, and duties, and honestly just not a pleasant read, but as always the Holy Spirit speaks.  

I was picturing the gruesome scene; a bloody altar, a sharp knife, a frightened animal. The crowd and the smoke and the noise, and then I notice what it says. "When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord".  Any man of you, hmmm.  I don't know why, but the personal nature of the sacrifices of the Old Testament has never occurred to me.  My mind traveled backward in the story line of this "any man".  A man, a husband, a father, not unlike myself, wakes up in his bed one morning.  Perhaps a child wakes him, as they often do.

"Daddy we are going to the tabernacle today?" the little boy asks.  His father winces but tries to hide his face from the boy. 
"yes son today is the day we take an offering to the Lord" the man hopes his son will drop it there, but knows that he won't.  His son, like every little boy, has boundless curiosity.
"What is the offering Daddy?" As usual He goes directly the hardest question to answer.
"Well we are taking some flour, and some honey, and... the young lamb son" He says softly
"What does that mean Daddy?  What will we do with the lamb?" His son asks with a suspicious and frightened look in his brown eyes.  The farmer and his family have many livestock, but the young ones are always precious to the little boy.
"It means we will sacrifice him to the Lord as a burnt offering" It is exceedingly difficult to look into the boys eyes now.
"Daddy I don't WANT you to burn my lamb!" the boy is more shocked than indignant.
"I don't want to burn him either son, but with his life we honor the Lord and the Lord will forgive our sins".

I can see the discussion continuing all the way to the tabernacle.  I can see both the boy and the man distraught in what is about to happen.  The young boy will have to say goodbye to both his father and the lamb at the gate to the outer court because children are not permitted further.  I am sure it was a tearful moment.  A moment he will not forget.

In that moment two things would have been very obvious to that little boy.

1. The Cost of sin
2. His Father's devotion to God

Let me be clear.  I am NOT advocating for a return to the sacrificial system, but I am left wondering.  How often do my children  have a moment that demonstrates, with this level of tangibility, key understandings of who God is and what it means to be His.  

I can only think of one in my recent history when we had to tell our kids that we were moving from the only town they have ever known to a new town and a new school and a  new church, all because that is what God told us to do.  Apart from that one incident, which was VERY emotional, and VERY tangible, I don't know that there has been another.

I will be thinking about this... a lot in the days to come.  I think God built the sacrificial system, the tabernacle, the entirety of the Old Covenant in this way to give untouchable, invisible things some substance, and I don't think it was a bad idea.

What does it look like to do the same in the here and now?

 

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3 Things the World really Needs that only the Church can really give

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3 Things the World really Needs that only the Church can really give

I heard a statistic a few weeks ago that I cannot get out of my head.  A friend told me that 85% of the growth of any new church could be accounted for by people leaving one church and moving to another.  I do not know his source for this number, but it sounds about right doesn’t it?

Here is why it bothered me:

It doesn’t bother me that Christians move from one church to another - that is going to happen.  

It doesn’t bother me that churches would look at that kind of movement as “growth” - it is always hard for a pastor to know how to gage a win.  Numbers are the most obvious way to measure.

What bothers me is how few NEW BELIEVERS there are.  Where are the converts?  Where are those being drawn to Christ?  There has been much made of the whole “people love Jesus but hate the church” idea.  I think the real problem is that the Church and the world do not understand one another.  Much of the church is busy trying to look, sound, and act like the world.  Much of the World is trying to stay away from people that make them feel guilty about themselves.  As I think about who the church is supposed to be and what we are supposed to do I arrive at three realities that only the church can give, and that the world desperately desires.

  1. Acceptance - People want to feel like a part of a community.  All people want to belong.  Identity comes from acceptance.  I have seen teenagers completely change everything about themselves from the clothes they wear, the hairstyles, the music they listen to, you name it and all out of an (often unconscious) effort to belong to a group.  In most cases the acceptance comes first and the change comes later.  Once they feel a part they begin to conform.  It is the acceptance that gives them an inner identity that is then manifested in outward behaviors.  Those behaviors by the way are never REQUIRED by the group and most aren’t taught or talked about.  The behaviors that mark any particular group are CAUGHT, assumed, and acknowledged.  
    Is the church ready to operate this way?  To accept people BEFORE they change?  Isn’t that what Jesus did for us?  To put our arms around someone without that, “I love you but…” shoe about to drop?  

     
  2. Wisdom - We live in a generation that is tired of morality.  We have no use for “right and wrong”.  This is patently obvious in every manifestation of our culture.  Our super heroes are fighting each other, our super villains are, all of a sudden, the good guys.  This age is not interested in cut and dry black and white understandings of what a person should or should not do.  I know a lot of pastors mourn this fact but I don’t find that helpful whatsoever.  Every generation has its nuances this is just one of ours.  The question is HOW TO SPEAK TRUTH in a generation who “doesn’t believe in truth”.  
    I believe the answer is to talk about what WORKS.  This generation may not believe in “truth” per se, but they LOVE an article on “tips on how to do ____” they talk endlessly about efficiency and "life hacking". The Bible has a word for that stuff.  It’s called WISDOM.  People may not want to hear what you have to say about what is right or wrong, but the desire for wisdom is persistent and pervasive.  This generation desires a righteousness that is about doing things that work.  Thankfully God’s wisdom for the human life works REALLY well.  When we can talk to people about how to succeed at friendship, marriage, parenthood, and yes even WORK all directly out of God’s word they will listen even if they do not know the source.  

     
  3. Hope - This is the most crucial one.  When I talk to people who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ one of the first things I realize is how hopeless they are.  They have deep desires, unexplainable longings, and an unshakable sense that they are living a life without purpose and that there is nothing they can do about it.  They go long seasons where they are able to drown out, numb, or deny that feeling, but it never really goes away and they know it.  They go to incredible lengths and pay incredible costs just to feel OK.  Fear, anger, and anxiety are the real epidemics of this age.
    We have honest to goodness HOPE to offer.  Not the empty promises of a crooked politician or the slick enticements of the ubiquitous advertisers.  This is real hope.  Hope that life can be different than it is now.  Hope that human existence is not meaningless or coincidence.  Hope that someone is listening when we cry out.  Hope that we are NOT ALONE.  Hope that even death itself is not something to be afraid of.  This hope does not dismiss or downplay the real suffering and difficulty

As I write these paragraphs I am beginning to think that the church needs these three things as much as the world.  We need acceptance, we desire wisdom and we have to be a people of hope....

Here’s radical idea.  Why don’t we let the world, and our fellow Christ followers for that matter, know the truth.  We aren’t getting it right either.  We are hurting.  We feel alone.  We despair sometimes.  Jesus is the only thing that is helping us, and we think maybe He can help you too.  Maybe that’s what the lost are waiting to hear.  “Let’s go to Jesus and get better together."

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Why the Law is beautiful - Except when we're not

There is a gargantuan wrestle going on in the body of Christ over Grace and Law.  This struggle is not new by any stretch, but it has resurfaced again recently as one of the most significant points of discussion / contention in the church.

I want to take this moment and look at the law.  I want to bring some perspective from the Word of God on “Law”.

The Law was never meant to make us righteous - 

The law of God is a beautiful gift given by God for a specific purpose, well actually several specific purposes.  Let’s talk about three of them:

  1. To reveal the character and nature of God to His people:  One of the primary reasons God does ANYTHING that he does in regard to man is to show us what he is like.  The Bible says this was his motivation for creation itself and it is his motivation for giving us the law as well.  God wants His people to know Him.  We get a glimpse of this in the first two of the ten commandments.  The familiar "You shall have no other God’s before me” and “you shall not make yourself an idol" statements are followed immediately by His reason WHY we should not do these things “for I, the LORD your God am a jealous God”.  He wanted them to know exactly how he felt about their hearts belonging to anyone else but Him.  The rest of the ten commandments do not have such obvious revelations following them but they still reveal God for who He is. A God who cannot be controlled, and deserves the utmost respect therefore his name cannot be taken in vain. A God who cares about the health of His people and commands them to rest one day out of seven.  etc.  Through every law something else about God is revealed.
  2. To teach us wisdom in our dealings with one another:  God wants a people who love and care for one another.  So in his law He sets boundaries, He defines human relationships, He lays out rules for sex, money, government, etc. Every dimension of human life is explored and ordered by the law of God.  What a caring and thoughtful Father he is.  People often say that we aren’t given a handbook for marriage, or parenthood etc, but in many ways we are.  In the law of God are the guiding principles that, when followed, lead to human flourishing.
  3. To demonstrate our need for a Savior: This purpose of the law is the most applicable to our discussion today.  In Galatians 3:24 the Apostle Paul calls the law the “schoolmaster which leads us to Christ” (KJV).  It was the yardstick of God’s perfection put up in front of a broken mankind to show us that we could not do life to the fullest without God’s help.  When God originally gave the law he gave it alongside the sacrificial system.  He new all along that humanity could not, by its own power, live up to the standard he set.  That is why he gave us a way to “make up the difference” and it was the blood of bulls and goats.  The law beautifully illustrates the brokenness of humanity.  We were meant to look into the perfection of God’s law and understand immediately that we were not able to stand up next to it and survive, and then to turn to HIM in FAITH and ask for the help we so obviously required.

One purpose that is not found anywhere in scripture is that the law is a path to follow to make us acceptable to God.  Scripture teaches that blessings come from obedience to the law and curses come from disobedience, but that is not the same thing.  It was only ever faith in God’s merciful nature manifested through the SACRIFICES that made men acceptable to God, or gave them access to Him. Many of the problems the church has had in understanding our relationship to the law have arisen from a fundamental misunderstanding of the reason He gave us the law in the first place.  God’s law was NEVER MEANT to make us more like Him.  It was meant to show us that we WERE NOT like Him.  It was meant to show us how much we NEEDED Him.  That is what Paul is talking about in Romans 3:20 - "no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” (emphasis mine).

 

It’s not You its ME: The law quite simply does not have the power to make us righteous.  It never has. It was never meant to.  When we turn to obedience to the law in an attempt to become more like Jesus it is like asking a ruler to make us taller. It will never work!  The closer we get to the ruler the more obvious it becomes that we are have not grown an inch.  The law does not make us better in regards to righteousness.  It make us WORSE.  Paul talks about this in Romans 7.  He says that he was not a person who coveted until He was told NOT to covet and then he became the most covetous person imaginable.  Why?  If the law is a gift from God then why does it make us worse and not better?  It’s easy its because we are messed up!  The problem is not the perfection of the law but the imperfection of man!  The Law is the revelation of the perfection of God!  It shines forth the glory and beauty of our infinitely glorious creator! The problem is in US.  In the sin filled human heart.  Paul says the sin inside him took the opportunity of the law to create even more sin in him.  Brokenness is all we have.  It’s all we know before the cross.  When broken human nature comes up against the revelation of God we get worse not better.  We have no ability to respond correctly to the revelation of God outside of Christ. 

 

Broken human hearts always respond in one of two ways to the glory of God in the Law.

  1. Rebellion - The first response of the human heart to the revelation of God’s perfect law is to see it and hate it and run as far from it as possible.  How many times have you heard words like this, “you can’t judge me” or “you don’t get to tell me how to live my life”?  That is a broken human heart knee jerking to the light.  It is a fist shaking in the face of God.  It is a human declaring that they will not be ruled.  “I will be my OWN God!”  
  2. Religion - The second response is more subtle and twice as dangerous because it sneaks up on us.  I will call it religion though there are possibly better words for it.  They treat the law as a ladder to lift themselves up to God’s level.  They work so hard as to believe that they are now OWED something by God and not just God but everyone else as well.  The spirit of religion is so sneaky, and their sinful hearts are so broken, that it convinces them that they are moving closer to God when in actuality they are doing the exact same thing as the out-right rebellious person.  They too are saying, “I will be my own God”.

 

The Law is a beautiful thing when we see it from the other side of the Cross:  It is only when we respond to the law the way God intended us to, in humility, repentance and faith that the law is able to act as the gift He always meant it to be.  We see our sin.  We see our inability.  We see His glory.  We see His mercy.  We come to Christ and he washes us in His blood.  He meets all the unreachable requirements of the law.  He pays our debt to the law.  By the law we die to the law and our endless struggle is finally put to rest.  We stand via Grace through faith justified before God accepted, adopted, and glorified!  The law becomes the beautiful friend who showed us Jesus and now teaches us His wisdom, and shows us His beauty.

 

Thank you Jesus for the Law.

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What is the Meaning of Life?

What a cliche question right?  

Who even asks this question any more?  Who has the guts, the temerity, the utter gaul to even pretend that they can ask this question and get some kind of answer that makes sense.  Our culture has slid off into a "wonderful" post modern way of thinking.  We have resigned ourselves to a mindset that there may not be any meaning out there at all and if there is then we cannot know it.  We have done that because, in our minds, to claim that we know the meaning of life is somehow arrogant, or makes us seem like we believe ourselves better than other people.  Thank you Nietzsche (Nietzsche was a philosopher who had the idea that ALL truth claims were power plays.  That whenever someone says they know the truth it is because they are seeking to exercise some kind of power over you via that claim.  I can talk more about that at another time) but it is due to this kind of thinking that any claim to larger knowledge beyond the measurable facts of the human existence are looked at as suspect and Subjective.  "Well that's true for YOU". This causes a problem.  Human beings are not content to simply know or experience without sharing.  It is just a fact of human existence.  If we know we must share.  If we experience we must retell and relate.  Our understanding of each moment comes from reflection and discussion.  When we fall in love we proclaim it from a mountain top!  When we see a good film or eat at a great restaurant we have to let someone know.  This quintessential human need is why social media is full of pictures of entrees, pets and children.  It is in the sharing that we gain perspective and validation for what we have known and or experienced.

When it is arrogant and possibly offensive for us to share a point of view on something then we will cease to seek knowledge of that thing.  That is because, in the human heart, having knowledge of a thing is not as pleasurable as having AND SHARING the knowledge of a thing.  The knowing is valuable but the SHARING is the true payoff.

So we have created the communal waters in which we all swim.  We all desire meaning.  There is no one on the planet that would not be offended if you told them they exist for no purpose.  (Yes there are people who would SAY they agree but demonstrate to them that you honestly have no regard for their existence and they will change their tune immediately.)  Every human being believes in their inner most being that their existence is important, if only to themselves.  That knowledge will inexorably lead to the question - "WHY is my existence important?"  In these "communal waters" we are allowed to seek an answer but we are NOT allowed to FIND one.  We are encouraged to seek and find one for ourselves, but not to expect that this truth goes outside of ourselves.  I remember Jack Palance in "City Slickers" the 90s cowboy film with Billy Crystal, holding up his one finger, "one thing", he said when asked what the meaning of life was.  The implication was that we need to find out what that "one thing" was for ourselves.  It could be anything.  It would be different for everybody.  That kind of thinking leads to dark and foolish places.  When my existence creates and defines its own worth, and that definition can only be known and experienced by me, then there is no reason for me to value anyone else unless they add value to me.  

Either life has a meaning and purpose that lies outside of life itself OR it doesn't.  If life has meaning and purpose outside of itself then I can seek and find that meaning and I can share with others what that meaning IS.  If life does not have meaning and purpose outside of itself then no one should be offended when I do not value their life, because it is not mine.

I want to call for a return to the question - "what is the meaning of life?"  Not "what is the meaning of life for you", but what IS it? Objectively.

I believe I am beginning to understand the answer to that question, and I will begin to share it. In future posts.

hint: It might have something to do with God... and Romans 11:36...

Romans 11:36 - For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen NLT

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IMC Bible Study Col 3

Click here for the audio IMC Bible Study Col 3:1-2
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Living life for another age.  We have been raised for Christ now everything must change.  Our hearts and our minds must be set on Heavenly things.  What does that look like? - 

Here are the notes:

  1. If then you have been raised with Christ  - Paul often set up his letters with the theological at the front and the practical near the end - this is the turning point of this letter.
    • We have gone over this - we died with Him - we ARE RAISED - it says this in the PAST tense - resurrection at work in the human soul - there is NEW LIFE flowing into your being RIGHT NOW - 
    • He says, if that is the case, and it is, then it should change things - resurrection life HAS an effect - if there is no effect is there really life??
    • 1b Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God
      • Your desires will shift - Jesus said it like this Luke 12:34 - where your treasure is there your heart will be also
      • Christ is our treasure - if he is the death of our sin and the life of our soul then he is our treasure.  Our attention and our passion ought to be focussed there.
      • Is Christ your treasure??? - is he the highest longing and desire of you soul?
      • "The things above” - WHAT ARE THEY? - Listed throughout the next chapter in both positive and negative forms - lets list the positive
        • vs10 - the new self,
        • vs10 - the knowledge of God,
        • vs12 - compassionate hearts,
        • kindness,
        • humility,
        • meekness,
        • and patience
        • vs13 - long suffering,
        • a forgiving spirit,
        • vs14 - ABOVE ALL - - LOVE
        • vs15 the peace of Christ,
        • gratitude
        • vs16 the indwelling of the Word of God
      • Living for another age - Col 3:17 - WHATEVER YOU DO - in Word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord giving thanks
        • Hear THIS - Your life should not be about HERE and NOW - your life should be about the age to come.
          • Leonard Ravenhill “This is just the dressing room for eternity"
        • Rom 8 says we are destined to be conformed to the image of Jesus
    • How would YOUR LIFE change if you honestly pursued the character and nature of Christ?
    • It sounds pretty to say - “All I want is more of YOU!”  It is not pretty getting from here to there.  It looks like the cross.  No matter what we say to ourselves, and to the Lord, there are idols firmly in place in our hearts and the process of seeing them removed is painful and difficult
      • and in the process do NOT FORGET that it comes by GRACE (an undeserved gift) through FAITH
  2. Set your minds on things that are above NOT on things that are on earth -
    • SET YOUR MINDS - the fight is in our SOULS our Mind, will, and emotions
    • Where is your treasure??? - Luke 12:34!!!


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IMC Bible Study Podcast - Col 2:15-20

Click here for the audio - Col 2:15-20
OR subscribe on iTunes - Subscribe

Here are the notes from today's study:

Vs 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities
    • Satan is the accuser of the brethren - we see him in this role at the beginning of Job - where he accuses Job
      • He had reason to accuse us.
      • He had a case against us that was correct and appropriate and now it has been answered!
    • 15b and put them to open shame by triumphing over them in HIM
      • All of the ones who stood against us have been defeated and shamed by the cross!
    • Do BATTLE with this reality in your soul when the accuser speaks - they have no right to accuse you - they have no right to control you - they are disarmed!!!
    • Remember Romans 8!!  There is now NO CONDEMNATION!!!
Vs 16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in question of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath
    • These are specific to the Jewish ceremonial law and were probably specific examples of the ways Judaizers were speaking to people in the new gentile churches
    • notice that other things are not listed here like murder or sexual misconduct etc which are contrary to love - we are held to a higher reality - the law of the spirit of life
Vs 17 things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ
    • In the Old covenant we got two things - 
      • The Law -
        • the perfect unbendable standard before which all things must be measured
        • before which all of us are found lacking
        • the law cannot save - that is not its job
        • the law can instruct but only by showing us our error and our need - it often would make things worse rather than better.
        • the law cannot make you better - it cannot help you - only condemn you
      • The Sacrificial System
        • the answer to the unbendable law
        • you cannot measure up so here is the stop gap
        • all the ceremony and sacrifice which would never truly be enough
        • paying a price every year over and over and only through a mediator
    • In the New Covenant we received the substance to which all before was a shadow
      • The fulfilled Law -
        • not written on tablets of stone but on human hearts
        • the Holy Spirit forming us into the image of Christ
        • Holy Empowerment to be perfectly loving to God and man
        • the renewing of our mind by the washing of the water of the word
        • we learn and we grow and the end of this process is assured 
        • resurrection set loose in the human heart
        • HE is our sabbath - the rest from our work!!!
        • He is our new moon - our fresh start
        • He is all our feasts - 
          • passover - the lambs blood makes the angel of death pass over us
          • unleavened bread - his sinless life (leaven is a picture of sin) and he is the bread that comes down from heaven
          • First Fruits - he is the first fruit of the resurrection - and the promise of a future harvest of the resurrected to offer to God
          • Pentecost - the coming of the Holy Spirit and the bringing in of the gentiles
          • trumpets - this happens after the end of the harvest and points to the wrapping up of history before the second coming of Christ
          • Day of Atonement - the second coming and the salvation of the Jewish remnant
          • tabernacles - behold the dwelling of God shall be with man 
      • The Finished work of the Cross
        • The law once and for all satisfied by the perfect life and undeserved death of Christ
        • the ritual and the every year price forever paid
        • Jesus met and exceeded the standard - he GIFTS US that righteous standard through faith
Vs 18 There are gonna be lots of cooky people out there with visions and ideas etc - don’t let them steal from you - if it isn’t about Jesus its worthless!

Vs 19 He is the head and all life flows through Him!

Vs 20 all the way through 23
    • we have died in Christ
    • vs 23 - the appearance of wisdom - "in self-made religion and self abasement” they look like they should help but they are, “of no value against fleshly indulgence"
    • you CANNOT EARN RIGHTEOUSNESS in this way!  
    • stick to the book
    • stick to the Spirit
    • don’t try and make yourself better than other by self imposed behavior modification
    • unless it flows from the influence of the Spirit upon the human heart it is not helpful

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Us V Them - Think Differently sermon from Sunday Morning

Here is a link to the video - 

Here are my notes from Sunday

John 17:14
14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.a 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify themb in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

Eph 6:12 - we do not wrestle against flesh and blood

Welcome to Super Bowl Sunday ladies and Gentlemen!
I have noticed a trend - around this time of year a whole bunch of people who are not fans of any specific team start rooting for a team they never cared about before.
I have to make a confession…. I am not a sports fan…. at all…. I had to ask my wife who was playing in the Super Bowl this weekend - I simply don’t have room in my head along side all those Star Wars facts for stuff like this!

But I have noticed a trend!  The culture begins to align themselves on one side or another. 
People who have never before cared about a team all of a sudden take up a side.

Think Differently about sides. Not sports teams but ideas themselves 

The Culture all around us has taken a side and that side is against the church.
judgemental - holier than thou - irrelevant - close minded - self righteous - small - old fashioned - DANGEROUS

The Church has taken a side and it is against the world...
we rant and gossip about the evil of those who do not know or love Jesus - WHAT DO WE EXPECT?
we fume at politicians who do not agree with us or who pass unjust laws - we should hate the laws but weep for those who passed them


So. what do we do? When the World takes its side against us? - John 17:14-18

  1. They are not of the world just as I am not of the world (he says it twice in 3 verses)
    • realize that we have been called to think differently! - we cannot respond to the world the way the world responds
    • Christ is our example
      • in the face of anger, accusation, and persecution - joy, humility, and self sacrifice
      • in the face of sin - mercy and grace 
      • in the face of self-righteousness and the spirit of religion - anger and violence
      • in the face of need - compassion and rescue - there is no place in Christ that says “they made their bed now they can lie in it” is that what Jesus did for you?
  2. I do not ask that you take them out of the world
    • He said this on purpose!!! - Jesus had no desire that we be taken out of the world
    • the church has always wanted to build a wall around itself and retreat from the world we must understand that Jesus has no desire for that kind of behavior in his people - Matt 5:14-15 - a city on a hill - the lamp belongs on the lamp stand 
      • recognize fear and renounce it - 2 Tim 1:7
      • recognize self-righteousness and renounce it
        • if you EVER at ANY TIME feel like you are BETTER than another human being - you have been convinced of a lie.
        • Pastor Ron said it right last week - “Humility and repentance are the keys to change” both in ourselves and in the world.
  3. "But keep them from the evil one"
    • we do have an enemy - but the WORLD is not the enemy Eph 6:12 we do not wrestle against flesh and blood
    • there is a danger that we will be influenced by the world and not the other way around.  We need to be aware and careful of that.
    • Sanctify them in truth - YOUR WORD IS TRUTH
  4. "As you sent me into the world so I have sent them into the world" - the "iplan"
    1. Intercede, Invest, Invite, Include
    2. This week is the star of Intercede - get your cards they are in the bulletin and the ushers have them.
      1. Start praying FOR them not ABOUT THEM
        1. ask to love them
        2. ask to be given opportunities to display Jesus love to them and the courage to do it!
        3. ask that the blinders would be removed from their eyes 2 Cor 4:4 the god of the age has blinded them

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IMC Bible Study Podcast Col 2:11-14

Here is the link to the Audio Podcast - IMC Bible Study Col 2:11-14
or subscribe on iTunes - Subscribe

We are buried and raised with Christ and resurrection has been released in us and we have been called to cooperate with it.  Releasing resurrection in and through us sometimes even through the simple but costly act of forgiveness.

Here are my notes for this portion of our study:
  • 11 in him you were circumcised…
    • every requirement of the law was fulfilled in Christ.  
    • we have no need to adhere to things that are old covenant realities (sacrifices, feasts, etc) they were the shadow of the real thing
    • 11b "by putting off the body of the flesh"
    • circumcision was a sign that the flesh would be mortified (killed) as was sacrifice
    • Death and sin are still at work in our physical bodies, but our flesh died in Christ that it may be resurrected.  
  • 12 having been buried with him in baptism
    • buried in baptism - baptism is not a necessary thing for salvation but it is an EXPECTED act of obedience to the example of Jesus both in his water baptism AND in his death and burial
    • 12b in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead
    • through faith in the powerful working of God our resurrection has already begun!  It is IN PROCESS!!
    • Faith is the way we enter into and cooperate with the resurrection process - LEAN IN!!!
    • that is why our problem is NOT what GOD needs to do but what WE need to do - learn, and believe.  Our enemies are ignorance and unbelief.
  • 13 And you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh

    • you were dead - "A corpse is insensible. It sees not, and hears not, and feels not. The sound of music, and the voice of friendship and of alarm, do not arouse it. The rose and the lily breathe forth their fragrance around it, but the corpse perceives it not. The world is busy and active around it, but it is unconscious of it all. It sees no beauty in the landscape; hears not the voice of a friend; looks not upon the glorious sun and stars; and is unaffected by the running stream and the rolling ocean. So with the sinner in regard to the spiritual and eternal world. He sees no beauty in religion; he hears not the call of God; he is unaffected by the dying love of the Saviour; and he has no interest in eternal realities. In all these he feels no more concern, and sees no more beauty, than a dead man does in the world around him. Such is, in "fact," the condition of a sinful world. There is, indeed, life, and energy, and motion. There are vast plans and projects, and the world is intensely active. But in regard to religion, all is dead. The sinner sees no beauty there; and no human power can arouse him to act for God, anymore than human power can rouse the sleeping dead, or open the sightless eyeballs on the light of day. The same power is needed in the conversion of a sinner which is needed in raising the dead; and one and the other alike demonstrate the omnipotence of him who can do it.” Barnes

    • in your trespasses - "may signify the slightest deviation from the line and rule of moral equity, as well as any flagrant offense” Clarke
    • and the uncircumcision of your flesh - the flesh had not been broken off of them.  They were still controlled by and in marriage with the flesh.
    • 13b God made alive together with Him
      • Resurrected as we talked about above…  ONLY the power of God can raise the dead - only the power of God can save a soul and make it ALIVE again after it is gone
    • 13c Having forgiven us all our trespasses
      • forgiven - given grace for - the only word here is “charizomai” grace - he has “graced” us those trespasses - it makes more sense once we start in on the next verse.
      • trespass (transgression) - a false step - a mistake
  • 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us
    • by canceling - wiped out, erased and obliterated
    • we have a record!  you and I have a real record - real things we “owe” for.  They are not just offenses that can be forgiven without cost.  They must be PAID
    • 14b with its legal demands - there are decrees made against us - honest, correct, accurate legal demands set against us - we have transgressed against the worth and the glory of God - it is the ONLY eternally worthy thing - therefore transgressions against it are the ONLY eternally punishable offenses!
    • If God had just forgotten we committed these crimes he would devalue his own worth - he cannot do that!  He WILL NOT SO...
    • 14c this he set aside, nailing it to the cross - he paid the price.  He could not just forget it but we could not pay it so he paid it himself.  He meted out the punishment that was DESERVED just not to us.  To His own son.  In this way he preserved the worth of His own glory AND undid all the work of Sin in creation - he began the resurrection explosion that we call the kingdom and is manifest first and most powerfully in the human race!

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My new website and Podcast

As a pastor I am constantly creating content.  In this age of the internet it is probably a good idea to bring all that content together in one place online.

I have changed the address of this blog to

www.pastorjoshhawkins.com

you might call me egotistical or narcissistic (I would MOST DEFINITELY call myself that) but I still think its a good idea.

I do have a podcast that has been going out into the world now for a couple years.

It's here if you'd like to listen and or download it.

Also I often preach in the First Assembly Sunday Morning Service and we are blessed to video record all of our services you can find that link here

I will be posting links to each individual thing as they happen.

Thanks so much!
Josh

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I want to return to blogging... Pretty sure I've said that before

I am once again ensconced in thought.  My thought today is that I miss thinking lol.  I spend a lot of time thinking about sermons or thinking before the Lord (I should probably post about that sometime.  It is one of my most favorite ways to pray thinking out-loud or in type with the Holy Spirit as a sounding board).  I used to think and then blog as a crystallization of the thought I have begun to skip that last step.  Think I'll start again...

SO.... yeah there will be things posted on this blog again.  I hope they help somebody somewhere.  They will be helping me.  Just by getting out of my head and into cyberspace.


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The Unsearchable Riches of Christ

Eph 3:8 - "To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ".  What a statement!  
The context of this verse is a discussion Paul is having with the church at Ephesus about what he has been called to do, and why they should not lose heart at his sufferings.  There is a whole list here in Eph 3.  He is to reveal the secret of God that the Gentiles are to take part in the promise given to the Jewish people through Christ (vs 6 - this is the preaching of the Gospel fyi).  He is to bring to light the eternal cosmic role of the church, to make known the manifest wisdom of God in the Heavenly realms (vs 9), but in the middle there is this incredible statement.  He is to preach to the gentiles the "unfathomable riches of Christ".  I read this and I am stirred my friends.  I want to have this calling.  I want to walk in this grace;  to preach to everyone the beauty, the glory, the unimaginable worth of Jesus of Nazareth.  

As a pastor I fear I have neglected this calling.  I must return to the preaching of His Riches.  To uncover to all who will listen, the glory of Jesus.

I heard someone say the other day, "I am not just a follower of Jesus, I am a WORSHIPPER of Jesus!"  My heart said "YES!" when I heard this.  We are more than the followers of a set of teachings.  We are more than adherents to the words of a wise guru.  We are worshippers of the uncreated Son of the Living God!  We bow before the majesty and sovereignty of the one through whom all things were made.  We can never forget this!

Lift Jesus High in your thoughts today friends!  Exalt Him in your hearts!  Set Jesus as the center of your joy and sin will fall from you!
Amen

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What the Heaven????

I have been thinking about purpose. I have been thinking about the end for which we have been saved. The church doesn't talk about this much and I've been wondering why. I can think of 2 reasons:
#1 we don't fully believe it - It is true! The church as a whole (Josh Hawkins definitely included) walks at such a shallow level of emotional reality when it comes to the hope of our calling! If we had the tiniest taste of the joys we have been included in, the eternal ever expanding experience of love, beauty, and satisfaction that is NOW and will forever be our inheritance in Christ Jesus we would walk around emotionally overwhelmed every minute of every day, and the WHOLE EARTH would know!
#2 we don't understand it - If you asked the run of the mill Christian what Christianity is all about they would say something like this: "Jesus died for my sins so I don't have to go to Hell but I can go to Heaven." This answer is correct, and glorious, but it is only a tiny piece of the answer to the question asked. Most Christians are more excited about missing Hell than they are about gaining Heaven, and even WORSE, more excited about gaining Heaven than they are about gaining JESUS!! This isn't about missing hell-fire my friends and the tragedy of Hell is not the fire. The sorest pain of Hell is separation from God and the HIGHEST GLORY of Heaven is His unveiled presence and our ever expanding capacity to see, hear, feel, smell, taste and rejoice in His beauty forever and ever and ever and ever, and our calling as His Holy Bride to cooperate with Him in His purposes as He makes His glory manifest in and through us forever and ever!
We are not just saved sinners! We are more than conquerers! We are those who, by His grace, manifest His glory, His divine nature and power in the universe. We are called to be the first fruits of the resurrection and recreation of all of the universe. (All of this can be found in the book of Ephesians chapters 1, 2, and 3, Romans chapter 8 and elsewhere but it IS BIBLE)
We must get a grip on these eternal realities and let them change our hearts from boredom to fascination. We must learn to live our lives out of joy and glory because we understand the unbelievable truths of what Jesus did on the cross and in His resurrection!
Yes the Christian life can be hard sometimes, bad things happen, the devil is a powerful enemy, people get sick, get hurt, and die, but when we understand the TRUTH of what we have been given in this covenant of glory written in the very blood of the Son of God we must stand with the Apostle and declare, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Rom 8:18 Amen


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A people of the gospel

A People of the Gospel

I have been thinking a lot lately about the church. We are The body of Christ, His representatives on the planet and the ones that are supposed to be shining His glory to world every day. I want to know what that looks like. I want a taste of it.

As with everything that is real, being THE CHURCH has many layers, levels, and dimensions, but there are places to begin and some foundations are better than others. The one I am the most interested in at the moment is the Gospel. The good news is more than just our entry point into Christianity it IS Christianity. We should be a people profoundly shaped and molded by the realities of the Good News.
Jesus is the one who makes this clear. Remember the parable of the man who owed the king a massive sum of money, and was then forgiven? He walked right out of the presence of the forgiver and persecuted his neighbor for a debt of a very small sum. This is a classic case of NOT being profoundly shaped by the Gospel! The news that without him having to do ANYTHING himself he was now set free from his impossible debt, did nothing to the way he treated another man with in the same situation.
How often do we as Christians do the exact same thing! Let us make no mistake my friends we have been forgiven a debt that we never could have paid ourselves. How do we treat others around us who have accrued a similar load on their backs? Maybe even a debt that they personally owe to us? Do we free them? Do we let them go?

This illustration is only one small dimension of what it looks like to be deeply shaped and changed by the Gospel. There are so many more! He came looking for us, are we looking for them? He chased us down when we ran away, are we doing the same? He bore the price of our failures when we could not, when is the last time you did that for someone? There is still more....
I am not saying that I am doing better than anyone else in this category only that I desperately desire to do better than I have.

Lord help me to see what it means to be a man of the Gospel and our church to be a people of the Gospel. Shape me. Mold me. I am yours amen.

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First and Foremost

I want to get a grip on what is really important. I have heard so many arguments I have HAD so many arguments, about this or that, about some obscure point of theology, about some sin or non-sin.

Lately I’ve been shaken. Out of my stupor. I feel like been asleep. I feel like I just woke up. I just don’t want to do this anymore! I want to give my life to what is TRULY IMPORTANT! I just want to yell at all of the arguers and say “GROW UP! WAKE UP!” We waste so much time on what is not important.

I spent the week sitting with 35 or 40 pastors praying for each-other and for this city. I’ve been processing everything since then.

For me the second night was the most powerful. We put the communion elements in the middle of the room and everyone sat around them. We lit two candles on the table with the elements and turned the other lights off. One by one each of these men of God walked to the table and thanked the one who broke his body and shed his blood to save them. They shared their stories in brief. They were stories of grace, stories of salvation stories of love. As more and more of my brothers shared I became more and more aware of the presence of the Holy One in our midst. He was there in such a special way.

This is what’s important. This is what I want to be about. I want to be a man who in one way or another is a part of making stories like this happen. I want to be a door to grace. I want to be a window of mercy. I want to be a herald of love.

Jesus shine through me.

Amen

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The answer to the cry for Holiness

The answer to the cry for Holiness

I have been inundated lately by a cry from the people of God for a means to holiness. “How do we teach people how to be holy?” they say. “yeah but what way can we make them be holy?” they ask. In my role as youth pastor I am confronted with this question on a daily basis. How do I, as a minister to young people, convince them to leave sin alone or leave sin behind and live out a life of purity and holiness?

The reality is that I know the answer to that question. There is only one, but any time I start talking to people about that one answer, people give me looks of bewilderment and ask me the same question again in another way as if I didn’t hear them the first time! “well, yeah, but how do we make them holy?”. I have to say that when this question has come up lately I have pretended to not know. I start rubbing my chin and shaking my head, because I know my answer is not going to satisfy their question. I know that it won’t satisfy them because it is deeply simple and uncomplicated and it looks NOTHING like religion!

I am tired of being ashamed of the only biblical answer to that question. The answer to the question of holiness is an SIMPLE answer but not an EASY answer! The answer to the cry for holiness is love.

This is the truth. What did Jesus say? Mat 22:37-40 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (38) This is the great and first commandment. (39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (40) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

Why don’t we understand this? When we love God when the First Commandment is ALIVE IN OUR HEARTS for REAL the holiness question will be no more.

I want this to be a reality alive in me. A reality that marks me, brands me. I don’t want to live by a set of rules, I will never remember them all! I want to live out of my passion for Jesus. I want to allow my love for Him to guide and guard my way.

Church we must return to our First Love. We must burn with the First Commandment in the First Place of our hearts, only then will holiness be our way of life.

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Jesus holder of all my dreams

Psa 37:4-5 (4) Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (5) Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.

1Pe 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

These are two verses that I have held onto for a long long time. They have been the secret whispers of my heart to my heart, my silent recitation; They are the truth.

If you have not yet heard I am now the youth pastor of First Assembly of God in Fort Wayne IN. This is a dream I have had for over ten years. A dream I believed had died. I was wrong. Jesus had it in His heart for me all along. Just not yet.

Some have said things to me like, "it's about time" or "something like this should have happened years ago". I understand what they are saying and I am grateful for the kindness but they are incorrect. I wasn't ready and Jesus knew I wasn't. A transformation had to take place in me before I could come to this place and walk it out with integrity. The idol of my dreams had to be torn down, the Lord made central in my affections, and my desires uprooted from empty ideas and planted deep in the glory of the fountain that never runs dry.

The point of this post is simple. I want to thank Jesus for leading me. He knows my heart and He loves me. He truly is the lover of my soul. The good shepherd. Jesus is the holder of all my dreams. He is my dreams. He is my great reward.

I want to write a note to all of my friends languishing in the place of waiting. Those currently "humbled under the mighty hand of the Lord". STAY THERE!!!! Do not leave that place of the wilderness until you hold every treasure of the desert in you hands. Give yourself to this time with passion and understanding. Do not push into "what's next" and miss the glory of where you are. I know it hurts. I know it is hard. I know you HATE it, but hang on. Wait. Be Still! When He is ready to raise you up there will be NO STOPPING HIM!

He is more jealous for your destiny than you are - believe it


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Chew on the Word

Pro 4:20-21 - (20) My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. (21) Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. (22) For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. (23) Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

I ran across this scripture this morning and I have to say it convicted me! Verse 21 in particular tweaked my conscience. This is my regular pattern. Get up in the morning, maybe spend time in the Word maybe not, and get about the business of my day. I will usually at least glance into the Word at one point during the day even if I "don't have time" to do any real study, but then it is back to normal life and what I read is, more often than not, quickly forgotten.

In this Proverb Solomon is warning against precisely this practice. He commends His Son to make an effort to receive the Word and then watch over that Word to make sure it remains in his head. I love the picture: "let them not escape from your sight" . I picture myself; feet spread wide, hands outstretched, head up and eyes alert dancing back and forth in front of the door of my mind. The goalie of my soul. "OK Word of God you're not getting out of here". You know I've always read vs 24 as a warning to keep bad things OUT of my heart, but in light of the two previous verses I think it is also a command to keep the good things IN!

This is not the ONLY place in scripture where this admonition can me found - In the parable of the Sower (Luke 8) Jesus spoke of the soil that was shallow and could not hold the seed that was planted. I guess this verse is Jesus guard against shallow soil. HOLD ON TO THE WORD and make SURE it bears fruit.

Another echo of this is in the parable of the vine and the branches. Jesus says in John 15:7 that if we remain in Him and HIS WORDS remain in us we will bear much fruit AND anything we ask He will do for us. That's a pretty amazing promise, especially when combined with the promises from Proverbs vs 22 of life and healing!

So Lord I respond to your command. Help me to know the best ways to guard over your word in my heart to keep it in place. To not let it escape from my sight. To remain in you and let your word remain in me that I might bear much fruit. That I might have power in prayer, that I might be filled with life, and be healed of all my afflictions!
AMEN!

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