Putting on the Armor, Chuck Lawless

 

puttingonthearmorBefore reading Putting on the Armor, I must confess that I often viewed the “armor of God” passage in Ephesians 6 as somewhat irrelevant. In a way, I knew it was probably important, but it seemed to be no more than a descriptive metaphor for walking with God, something I could easily skim over and get the point. I remember hearing a small handful of sermons or talks on the subject that seemed to trivialize the description of the armor. These talks of “praying on the armor” or “which piece of the armor are you missing?” trivialized the concepts of the passage so much that it had a negative effect on how I viewed the relevance of the verses. Dr. Lawless’ book has changed my view on the concept of the “armor” by providing me with an accurate view of the passage as a whole, helping me understand each individual piece of armor, and walking me through how to “wear” the armor in everyday life.

Continue reading “Putting on the Armor, Chuck Lawless”

God’s Sovereignty In the Book of Acts: Ordaining the Cross

God’s-Sovereignty

“His Sovereignty rules over all.” – Ps. 103:19

I have often heard the phrase, “God is sovereign” in a way that has been spoken to me to give me encouragement in a tough time or situation. But I never really took the time to meditate on what it meant for Him to be sovereign. The term is defined by having supreme power and authority, a free ability to do as one pleases. In other words, God is in absolute control over every situation, and works out everything according to His will. Think on it for a while, and it will drive your brain into massive confusion. However, we are called to submit ourselves to and believe what scripture tells us, and trust in his sovereignty.

These past few days, I have read through the book of Acts, and I was struck with how much it reveals about God’s sovereignty-with regards to salvation! I simply would like to share them with you in a 3 part series, so that you too can see how God has worked out salvation for his people, and how you, too, if in Christ, were brought into salvation by his amazing grace.

In this first post, Lets look at the major theme of sovereignty in how God ordained the cross:

  • Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” Acts 2:23

I had a very interesting conversation with a Muslim man the other day, who asked me if Christians hated Jews, because they were the ones who “killed Jesus.” This was the first time that I had really come across this misconception. Before I could reply, my friend with me answered, “No,no,no, we don’t hate them at all. We believe it was God’s plan all along, that he used the Jews and the Romans to accomplish his purpose of sacrificing Jesus!” This can be a tough pill to swallow, but Acts 2:23 clearly states for us that Jesus was crucified because it was the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. Let’s look at another verse:

  • What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” Acts 3:18

In this verse we are told that not only did God plan it from the beginning, but you can see his plan through reading the prophets in the Old Testament. Lets look at one of the most well-known passages. Isaiah 53:5 reads, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” Isn’t is incredible that these words were written 600-700 years before Jesus birth? There are over 300 in the Old Testament like it! God surely had a plan, and was voicing it to his people all throughout history.

If you haven’t been convinced yet, lets look at one last verse,

  • For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus…Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your hand had predestined to take place.” Acts 4:27-28

In the most heinous crime committed in the history of mankind, God was behind the scenes, sovereignly ruling. His hand predestined for Jesus to go to the cross, and to bear the weight of our filthy sin. He planned it all, so that whosoever would repent and believe in Him, would have eternal life. This was the depth of his love for us, that he would send his own Son, who would be despised and rejected, so that we might have life with Him. “But God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. Recognizing this plan helps us understand the cornerstone of the gospel, seen in Isaiah 53:10,” Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him.” Him- meaning Jesus.

People everywhere are commanded to repent and believe in this incredible gospel (Acts 17:30). How could we not accept so great a Savior? How could we not devote our lives to a God, who in his sovereignty planted the very tree that he would be crucified on-all to give us life and relationship with Him?

Truly, He is sovereign.

John 1: The Word Became Flesh

This year, my family, some friends and I are reading through the book of John counting down to Christmas. Each day we are reading a chapter and I am writing an analysis. Please join us! Today is John Chapter 1.

John 1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, He was in the beginning with God.” (verses 1-2).

In the very beginning of the book of John, we are given a clear representation of who Jesus is. From these first two verses, what are we told? That in the beginning, the Word was there, with God, and was God. So who or what is this “Word?” None other than Jesus himself! Skim down to verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Aha! Now we can read these “Word” verses with this knowledge in mind. Lets summarize what this section tells us about Jesus:

  • In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. (v.1)
  • He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God. (v.2)
  • All things were made through him (Jesus), and nothing was made without him. (v.3)
  • In him (Jesus) is life, and he is the light of men. (v.4)
  • Jesus put on flesh and dwelt among us (v.14)

Is this odd that John starts with these deep truths about Jesus right at the beginning? Why would he do that? I believe he was intentional about it, because he believed it was absolutely crucial to understand that Jesus was God in the form of a man, to understand the gospel at all!

So what else is unique here? (besides John the Baptist, I will write of him in a later post). Look at this verse, “No one has ever seen God, the only God, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (verse 18). What does this tell us? The 2nd time the verse says “God,” it is referring to Jesus! Some older manuscripts read “The only Son…..has made him known.” We could also read this verse now thinking of Jesus: “No one has ever seen God, but Jesus, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

So Jesus has come to make God known, and so that we can know Him! As we read on in John, we will see that because of our sinful condition, this was the only possible way that we could be made right with God. The Bible calls this “knowing God” eternal life; “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

We will see as we continue reading that Jesus came to accomplish this very purpose, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). But first he must live a life of perfect obedience, offer up his life by being nailed to a cross, and rise from the grave to do so. I hope you will join my family and me as we continue to read the gospel of John this Christmas season, as we strive to know God through the amazing gift he has given us: Jesus!

The Heart, Words, and a Love For Jesus

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Convicted. Sometimes I approach God’s divine Word, I walk away thinking, “Man, scripture calls me to do this, act this way, treat people this way, and I just can’t do it!” However, I believe there are two ways to respond to this: 1.) Give Up- When I’m convicted, I could easily say, “Man! This bible stuff is so hard, there’s so much I can’t do! Jesus can’t possibly expect me to actually do these things, and if I show a tiny bit of effort, that will be enough. Or, 2.) I could say, “Lord, even as I read your Word I realize more and more how much I don’t even come close measuring up to your standards. I am so depraved and sinful, and would be utterly lost without you. Thank you so much from saving me from this body of sin. Please, by the help of your Holy Spirit, help me to not only hear and understand your words, but to DO them.”

I was confronted with another passage of scripture this morning that brought me this “decision point” of how to respond. The passage is in Matthew 12 (verse 34) where Jesus says, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Wow. I was taken back a bit. As I read this scripture I remembered the conversations I had the day before about NBA Playoff predictions, golf, braves, fishing, hunting, work, etc. Jesus tells us that out of the abundance of our heart, our mouth speaks. Basically, whatever we prize or cherish the most, is what we talk about the most! I was convicted, but also encouraged to engage in more conversations with my peers (and even strangers) about Jesus!

I was talking with my girlfriend earlier this week, and our conversation was about the reason that we were created. In scripture, we are told that we were created for two related reasons:

  1. To glorify God.
  2. To have a personal relationship with him.

If we honestly believed this, how much more time would we doing things that accomplishes both of these? Wouldn’t we have more conversations with our friends about the one who made a personal relationship with God possible for us!?

Jesus HAS made it possible!  This IS the purpose that YOU were created! If this concept is foreign to you, or your have never really understood all this “Jesus” stuff, let me give you a brief attempt at revealing this amazingly good news: We are sinful. You know we are. We all do “wrong” things and rebel against God. This happens because God created man and woman to live in perfect harmony with him, and they sinned against him by breaking one rule he gave them. Mankind has been slaves to sin ever since. David says in Psalm 51, “In sin did my mother conceive me.” Romans 6:23 tells us that the “wages of sin are death.” By being sinful, we deserve an eternity in Hell, suffering never ending torment and separation from God. But God chose to manifest himself through his only Son, Jesus, stepping down from a place in glory, to a place where he would be beaten, mocked, abused, and spit on, just for you and me. He lived a perfect, sinless life, and was subject to torture and to death upon a cross, all for us. He did this so that by believing in him, his blood would cover all of our sins and make us in right standing with God. God no longer sees us as sinners, he sees us as saints. When he looks on us, he sees Christ and his righteousness. We are given access to eternity with Him because Christ’s obedience and perfect life is attributed to us if we believe. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” The relationship that God intended to have with Adam and Eve has been restored, and he will keep us into his hand until the end of our lives, where we CONTINUE this relationship with Him in heaven!

A quote by one of my favorite pastors, Timothy Keller, demonstrates Christ’s great love for me and YOU:

Well, when Jesus looked down from the cross, he didn’t think “I am giving myself to you because you are so attractive to me.” No, he was in agony, and he looked down at us – denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him – and in the greatest act of love in history, he STAYED.

My friends, he did this for YOU! When he was being beaten, spit on, mocked, and crucified, he could’ve easy had an army of angels at his side at once, but he STAYED and endured, so that you and I could be restored to our Father!

I encourage you to spend some time this week focusing on these truths. No one has or will ever love you this much. He saved you from so much. I encourage you to come along side me and help make Christ the center of some of our conversations (yes, outside of church) this week, showing others how thankful we are for Him and how much we truly love Him! Here are a couple questions I can think of to get the ball rolling!

  1. What is your view of Jesus? How would you describe him?
  2. How did you come to know Jesus, or how long have you been walking with Him?
  3. What changes have you experienced in your life as a result of following Jesus?
  4. How would you describe your relationship with Jesus?
  5. How is He working in your life right now?

Prove that Jesus is the abundance of your heart this week!

 

Anxiety: Responding Biblically

As I have experience plenty of anxiety with regards with what to do about future opportunities, jobs, ministry, I’ve decided to look back at God’s Word to see how He tells me to deal with anxiety.

Do you ever lie awake at night, worrying about a situation, or ever feel paralyzed by anxiety? Although we all (including myself) experience moments of anxiety, we don’t have to let fear control our lives. The scriptures actually teach us that we can acquire peace in the middle of these stressful circumstances.

1.) We must carefully watch our thought lives.

Philippians 4:8 says, ” Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  In the last part of the next verse ends with the tagline “-and the God of peace will be with you.”

Dr. Charles Stanley says that, “anxiety is an emotion caused by fearful thoughts.” Changing our pattern of thinking generally causes anxiety to go away. When your thought life becomes negative or counterproductive, deliberately choose to set your mind on something else; something true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable. For instance, you can praise the Lord and thank Him, think about your beautiful children, family, or even the opportunity to know where your next meal is coming from!But perhaps the best way is to meet God in prayer and focus on biblical truths- and the one truth we get from Philippians 4:8 promises that if we focus on our mind on the things listed, the God of peace will be with us!

2.) Set your mind on scripture

It will benefit you to remember certain promises that our Lord makes through his Word. A couple of my favorites are:

“Our heavenly Father is sovereign and in control over all situations.” (Ps. 91) and, “He lovingly provides for the needs of His children” (Matt. 6:25-34).

I had a conversation with a coworker yesterday at my place of employment about anxiety and God’s provision. He was telling me how he was wondering what God was even doing with him in his job, but he reminded himself of a promise in scripture and told me, “ I just stopped thinking about it. He promises me that I don’t have to worry about it. He’s got it!” I was able to also encourage him of the passage in Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?It is so true that we are much more valuable than birds, he created US to have a relationship with him, so why would he not care for us more than the birds!
Also, for a cool little side note, birds are chosen because they pretty much inhabit all areas of the earth. So Jesus uses them with the idea of, every time we see a bird, we could be reminded of his sovereign provision and promise to take care of us! I encourage you to think of this every time you see a bird this week!

3.) Turn your anxieties into prayers.

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us to let all of our requests be made known to God with an attitude of thanksgiving. Take some time at first to thank him for the things that you do have, (because you might even need to be thankful for the ability to even have the issue your dealing with!) Then place your worry on him. What works best for me is to get down on my knees and try to tell my Father everything that’s weighing heavy on me. Or, write him a letter containing your present worries. Let him know that your giving him control and transferring your anxieties to him! Again, he makes another promise in the same verse –and the peace of God, which surpasses all  understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)

4.) Fulfill our responsibilities

When we fail to perform our duties, we sometimes end up with anxiety-causing situations. For example, a person who fails to maintain his car will typically end up with a vehicle that doesn’t work properly.

Those who neglect their responsibilities will face many unnecessary hardships in life. Let’s look at this biblical principle as it relates to money. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus promises that the Father will provide for our basic needs. But Scripture also teaches that in most cases, believers have a role to play in meeting financial commitments (2 Thess. 3:10).

  • Proverbs 10:4 tells us that “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hands of the diligent makes rich.”
  • The Apostle Paul also had an outside job for a living so that he would not be a burden on anyone, and he encourages us to do our work quietly and earn our own living.  (2 Thess. 3:7-9)

Taking responsibility doesn’t guarantee a resolution to the problem. If the situation doesn’t resolve, you can still find supernatural peace by applying the concepts in the rest of this study.

Worry can cripple us emotionally and hinder our productivity. OR it can drive us to prayer and prompt our spiritual growth. Choose to respond to worry in a way that aligns with scripture. Not only will the Lord be glorified, but you will be set free from anxiety’s paralyzing grip!