You don’t find monkeys base jumping, or gorillas scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, or chimps parachuting from planes at 20,000 feet.
Only human beings have a desire to transcend their natural limitations, to take risks in order to make a mark and be remembered.
What’s more, only human beings long to make a difference in the world. Whether it’s through making some breakthrough for science, or defining a new point of excellence in our profession, or giving our time and money for charity, or even raising great kids, we long to leave a legacy.
We are wired for significance through achievement.
The Judeo/Christian faith teaches that humankind is made in the image of a wise, benevolent, just and, above all, loving Father. We were made to inhabit a special place of favour under God, overseeing his natural creation and developing its awesome potential.
In this, we are like God himself. Throughout the Bible, God revealed himself as someone who thinks in epic, heroic terms.
The God of the Bible aligns himself with the underdog; he exalts the lowly and brings success to the little guy, in defiance of the odds; think David and Goliath.
God takes risks.
The birth of Jesus labelled the incarnation was the greatest risk of all. According to the Bible, God the Son took on human form to rescue us from ourselves, to redeem our lives to bring us into the Kingdom of heaven. As St. John put it, ‘he came unto his own, but his own received him not.’
This was a massive risk. Human beings are creatures of free will, with the capacity to accept or refuse any gift, no matter how lovingly it is given. The sinful, fallen tendencies in our nature makes us more likely to walk away from God than to accept him, even when He comes to teach us profound things about love and to perform amazing acts of mercy.
From a human standpoint – and we must remember that Jesus who was fully God was also fully man and so as a human – the cross was a heroic act. The four gospels amplify the fact that Jesus had every chance to avoid it.
On many occasions, he foretold how he would die – and why. His disciples couldn’t understand what he was saying. ‘What’s all this talk about dying?’ they thought, ‘He’s so full of life!’
In the last week of his life, Jesus’ every word and action seems to have been designed to bring on a confrontation with the authorities and eventually hasten his demise. All along, he was pursuing the cross.
‘No man takes my life from me,’ he said. ‘I lay it down willingly.’ He was no victim of circumstance: taking this path was his choice.
Jesus may have thought: ‘What if nobody ever remembers this moment? What if my death is forgotten, my life and all that I’ve done simply buried in history? What if people don’t accept this salvation which, for me, comes at such a high price?’
Today, the life and death of Christ form a standard against which other human achievements are measured.
They show us that achievement often comes on the other side of adversity; that heroism is usually born in the fires of trial; that the world is changed not by celebrity-seekers but by people who take self-denying risks to improve the lot of others.
In a culture that is so smitten with the self-importance of celebrity, so taken with the idea of fame for fame’s sake, it’s healthy for us to remember that celebrity itself does little to change the world for good.
If any modern day celebrity were to remind us that self-sacrifice and service, combined with a voice of hope, are the way to real and lasting influence, then perhaps their recognition could be the used as an achievement. Until then celebrity is empty. We need to celebrate the heroism of selfless accomplishments not selfish accolades.
Photo credit: Guardian UK
Sometimes I really don’t recall the specific details of how God has led my life or how the many aspects of my life came about to bring me to where I am today. Some of it is a blur and some of it is still a bit of a surprise to me, but what I do know is that God has gone and continues to go before me and I know that He is present with me.
I recently finished studying the names of God and the last name I looked at was Jehovah-Shammah ‘The Lord is Present’. I spent time looking at some verses throughout the Old Testament mostly to try to understand what God is communicating to us about Himself through this name.
In Exodus 13:20-22 the Israelites (God’s people) are wandering around the desert. During the day the Lord was before them in a pillar of cloud and at night He was a pillar of fire. God went beforeHis people. It was Him who was leading them. And He never left them.
Later on in Exodus 23:20-22 we see that God again goes before His people. As the Israelites fight their enemies it is God who actually defeats them. God fights for His people.
When Joshua fought against the city of Jericho God sent the captain of His host to fight with Joshua. God does not leave His people to fend for themselves. No, He fights with and for His people. (Joshua 5:13-15)
Again with Gideon we see that God fights forGideon and joins in battle with him.
As you follow the path God sets before you, He has already walked there. It may seem unknown to you, but God has already been there.
When you feel helpless or overwhelmed, remember that God is fighting for you. He wants to see you succeed and His name glorified. He is the God with you, engaged in battle and bringing you forward.
Part of this blog-post originally appeared on March 22, 2013 at ‘Be Strong and Take Heart’
Maybe you’re tired. Maybe you’re weary. Maybe you’re sad. Maybe you’re weak. Maybe you’re heartbroken. Maybe you’re lonely. Maybe you’ve lost hope. Maybe – maybe not. But you need to hear this anyway.
Here are two verses for you to consider. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
This article was originally written and posted by Jim Perdue
OUR GOD IS ABLE
Maybe – just maybe – you need to hear that. I’m guessing you’re just like every other person in the entire world. From time to time you need to be encouraged. From time to time you need to be reminded. Remember a few things about Almighty God.
1. Able to do. Only Christ can provide you the power that you need to live for Him. You can’t do it on your own. You don’t have the strength. We tend to think of the Christian life as only imitation – trying to be like Jesus. But the Bible says the Christian life is first incarnation – Christ in you. Think about it. The infinite power of God Almighty resides within you. Now that’s power!
2. Above all we ask. Look at that verse again. Do you see those words? “Exceedingly abundantly above all…” Do you get the point? God can do so much more than we ever imagine. What would you do for God if you knew you couldn’t fail? What vision has God placed on your heart? What is your greatest passion? God can do more than we ask or think. The problem is, we don’t ask or think.
3. According to the power. Look at the words “according to.” This means “in proportion to.” We are blessed in direct proportion to God’s ability. God’s ability is limitless. Therefore His blessings are limitless. This power works within us to accomplish His purpose for His glory. It’s the power that dwells in us through the Holy Spirit.
4. All for His glory. Now this is incredible. All that God does in us, through us, and for us brings Him glory. It is for our good. But more importantly, it is for His glory. “To all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Lastly – you need to hear this. God is able. He really is. You may think that you’re situation is too big for Him – it’s not. You may think you’re problem is too difficult for Him – it’s not. You may think you’re situation is different – it’s not. You may think it’s over – it’s not. God is able. Hear it, believe it, live it!
This article was originally written and posted by Jim Perdue
Please comment below. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Who do you think you are?
God says that you’re created and you’re an image bearer. You’re made to mirror Jesus. Therefore, your true identity is not yours to create. It’s given to you by God. The real question you need to know the answer to is, “Who does God say that I am?”
There are only two categories of human beings: those who are in Adam, and those who are in Christ. Are you in Adam or in Christ? In Ephesians 1, Paul says that if you are in Christ, you can be faithful, you are blessed, you were chosen and made blameless, you are forgiven, you can know the will of God, you are reconciled, you have an inheritance, you have hope, and you have the Holy Spirit.
In Adam or in Christ
The Bible speaks of identity as being in Adam or in Christ, so much so that the Bible speaks of believers being in Christ no less than 216 times. Just the Apostle Paul himself, in the thirteen letters of the New Testament that he writes, he talks about us being in Christ. He’ll use language like, “in him, in the Beloved, in Christ,” 216 times. Let me say this: anyone who tells you something 216 times, number one, it’s important, number two, they’re afraid you’re going to forget it.
Do you know how many times the New Testament says that a Christian is a Christian and uses the language of “Christian”? Three times. The Bible says that your identity is ‘a Christian’ three times, and that your identity is ‘in Christ’ 216 times. It’s one of the primary ways, if not the most common way, that God refers to a Christian.
Here’s the difference between being in Adam and being in Christ: at the cross of Jesus Christ, he traded places with us. He literally traded places with me. All of the death, all of the shame, all of the condemnation that I deserve went to Jesus. All of the forgiveness, all of the love, all of the grace that Jesus rightly has as the sinless Son of God comes to me. What that does is that changes our identity.
I want you to see this
If you are in Christ, you are in Christ’s position and Christ is in your position. He suffers and dies so that you might be blessed and live. Do you believe that God the Father loves the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you believe that he is kind toward him, and gracious toward him, that his ear is attuned toward him, that his affection is devoted to him? I have great news for you. If you are in Christ, you stand in the position of Christ. You are loved as Christ is loved, you are blessed as Christ is blessed, you are embraced and adored as Christ is embraced and adored. I want you to see this so that you’ll live from your identity in Christ, that you’ll realize that you’re free from religion and trying to perform for God. You’ll be free from shame and condemnation, because all of that is taken care of for you by Christ and is available to you in Christ.
WHO WROTE THE BOOK?
For a brief time at the end of his second missionary journey, and then for more than two years on his third missionary journey, Paul ministered to the church at Ephesus (Acts 18:18–21; 19:1–41). During his time in this city that housed the famous temple to the Greek goddess Artemis, Paul saw many converted to faith in Jesus Christ and many others who opposed his preaching in the synagogues and homes. One prominent silversmith, Demetrius, who made implements for the worship of Artemis, found his business suffering greatly because people were converting to Christianity. The ensuing near-riot led Paul to leave the city, but only after the apostle had done much to stabilize and grow the Christian community there.
Where are we?
Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians sometime in AD 60–61, around the same time he wrote Colossians and Philemon, as he sent all three letters by the hand of Tychicus, accompanied by Onesimus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7–9; Philemon 1:10–12). It was during this time that Paul sat in Rome undergoing his first Roman imprisonment (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1), making Ephesians one of the four epistles commonly known as the Prison Epistles. The others are Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
Why is Ephesians so important?
Second Corinthians and Galatians abound with personal touches from Paul, either about his own life or that of the recipients. Ephesians, on the other hand, stands at the opposite end of the spectrum as one of Paul’s most formal letters. While Galatians offers instructions particularly important for those churches overrun with legalism, Ephesians deals with topics at the very core of what it means to be a Christian—both in faith and in practice—regardless of any particular problem in the community.
What’s the big idea?
Paul divided his letter to the Ephesians into two clear segments; applying the truths of the first makes possible the actions and lifestyle of the second. Paul spent the first three chapters of the letter discussing God’s creation of a holy community by His gift of grace in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The members of this community have been chosen by God through the work of Christ, adopted as sons and daughters of God, and brought near to the Father through faith in His Son. All people with this faith—Jews and Gentiles alike—were dead in their transgressions and sins but have been made alive because of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
While Paul was not responding to a particular theological or moral problem, he wanted to protect against future problems by encouraging the Ephesians to mature in their faith. So after laying out profound theological truths in the first half of the book, Paul made his purpose clear: he expected that this community of faith would walk in accordance with its heavenly calling (Ephesians 4:1). As a result of the theological realities Christians accept by their faith in God, several practices should follow in their relationships within the church, in the home, and in the world.
How do I apply this?
The book of Ephesians hits on a wide range of moral and ethical behaviours, designed to ensure believers are living up to our heavenly calling. As we continue in our faith from day to day, month to month, and year to year, the temptation to get comfortable will always exist. However, Paul presented the gift of God in Christ and the benefits we receive so clearly that we cannot help but ask ourselves if our lives reflect that reality as they should.
How have you grown in your Christian life since you came to faith in Jesus Christ? The latter half of Ephesians makes clear that spiritual growth occurs primarily in community with others, iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). Your Christian “walk” (in other words, your daily life) is to be characterized by unity, holiness, love, wisdom, and perseverance in spiritual warfare.
Maturity yields benefits in believers’ moral lives, but it extends far beyond that as well. Increased maturity benefits the community at large, leading us as Christians to present a more consistent witness to the working of God in our lives as well as protecting us from the harmful divisions and quarrels that have plagued so many communities throughout history.
Join us at Bethel Church in Lindsay ON. and follow along on our biblical voyage to and through Ephesus.
A few weeks ago, I heard a pastor finally confess something I’d been waiting for a pastor to say my entire life. During the middle of his sermon, he declared, “This sermon is going to have four endings.” I was so happy I wanted to give him the world’s most awesome side hug. Finally, a pastor was admitting the difficulty of ending a sermon.
“WHEN THE END IS NEAR”
Seven Signs a Sermon Is (Almost) Over
This blog post is from Jon Acuff and he has heard quite a few sermons in his day. Here’s his handy guide for discerning when the end is near.
Some pastors just preach until the clock runs out and then tie the whole thing off unexpectedly with a prayer. With little or no warning, right after they’ve read a Bible verse, they’ll say, “Dear God, we just thank you for this Sunday.” If you’re in the audience taking notes you don’t even know you’re supposed to have your eyes closed. “Are we in a prayer right now? Was that the end?”
To prevent End of Sermon Whiplash or “ESW,” I’ve collected seven signs that will indicate to you that the ride is about to come to an end. Get your Bibles and your coat. Break yourself, fool, it’s time to go to lunch!
1. “In closing…”
This is an old school sermon ender. When you hear this phrase, you’ve got about seven minutes left.
2. “If I could leave you with one thing today…”
When I hear this, I kick everything else out of my head and laser focus. The “one thing” approach is like a grenade of knowledge that is about to be dropped.
3. “As we’re wrapping up…”
Technically not accurate, since only the pastor should be wrapping up. Hopefully the crowd isn’t zipping up Bibles or gathering stuff while he’s trying to close the sermon. That’s distracting.
4. The band starts to materialize like musical mist.
Wait a second, is that a guitar player slowly creeping onto the stage all quiet like? Did the drummer just rise out of the floor to sit behind his kit?
5. The pastor closes his Bible.
Class is over. We took a good look at the good book and now we’re done.
6. The pastor sneaks a peek at the clock and gets nervous.
I’m not a pastor, but occasionally you’ll see me do this when I’m speaking. A lot of churches have clocks on the back walls indicating how much time you have to speak. And they count backward. When you go over your time they start flashing red. If you ever see a pastor look up, as if to the heavens, and get “insta-sweaty” it’s because he’s way behind.
7. They start talking faster.
I have two talking speeds – fast and wicked fast. If I realize I’m out of time but still have two main points to share, I speed up. Like a ninja. Or a cheetah. Or a ninja cheetah, the fastest of all martial arts jungle cats.
Those are the signs a sermon is about to end. If on the other hand a pastor takes his coat off, removes his watch or says, “Today I want to talk about …” forget it, that sermon is nowhere near over.
Me, personally? I don’t worry about the length of a sermon. I let the Holy Spirit take all the time necessary, but I’m probably holier than you are.
Question: What does your pastor say at the end of sermons? Are there any other signs that a sermon is about to end?
Let’s Build Bridges to Reach Today’s Generation
It’s a real challenge to reach our culture today. In my 25 plus years of ministry, I have never seen greater Bible illiteracy.
There was a time when you could assume most people had a general idea of the Bible. If you were talking with someone and made a reference to Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, Noah and his ark, or even Jesus Christ, they would have a sense of what or who you were referring to.
Not anymore. People are largely oblivious to the Bible, not only as God’s Word but even as great literature. The obsession of some to implement the “separation of church and state” has contributed to this illiteracy concerning God’s Word.
When I present the gospel today—especially to younger people—I can no longer assume that they understand what I mean when I say something along the lines of, “You need to repent of your sin and put your faith in Jesus and become His disciple!” They might wonder what it means to repent, or even what sin is.
Our challenge as believers in reaching this post-modern generation is to make sense without compromising our message.
By the way, I think way too much is made of the whole modern/post-modern generational issue. There are some valid things to know about each group, but let’s not forget that the essential gospel message does not change. The gospel that the apostles delivered in the first century still resonates with the twenty-first century.
But we still need to adapt and become, as Paul said, “all things to all men.” Paul said: “I have become a servant of everyone so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Jews, I became one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. Yes , I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
Note that Paul says, “I fit in with them as much as I can.” There is a place to draw the line when you are around people who have differing or contrary beliefs to your own. We want to be careful to try to influence them more than they are influencing us.
Sometimes, in an attempt to “relate” to people who do not believe in Christ, Christians will make unnecessary compromises. Listen, if you become too much like them, they will never want to become like you. Let’s reach people, but let’s also stand our ground and hold to our principles as followers of Jesus.
Some may want to rationalize compromise in their life as a Christian by protesting, “Well, Jesus hung around sinners!” That is not really true. Jesus did not “hang around sinners,” for the most part. Actually, He “hung around” his disciples when He was not teaching.
When Jesus was with sinners who were separated from God, they did not stay that way for long.
He confronted the woman at the well about her sin. Sure, He loved her, but he pointed out she was living in sin with a man at present. She also came to faith after that.
Yes, Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, but it was only after she called Him “Lord.” Even then, He said to her, “Go, and sin no more. . . ”
When he went into the home of the notorious and despised tax collector named Zacchaeus, the little guy emerged transformed.
So, let’s work on building bridges to our lost world, not burning bridges.
At the same time, let’s not lower our standards in order to extend our reach.
Rust never sleeps and sometimes I don’t either. We have a fairly new leased (or as Dave Ramsay says ‘fleeced’) car and it is showing signs of age already. Of all the things that could wear out on a vehicle our window frames are rusting. Now this article isn’t about the pros and cons of a new car or leasing per-say it is about how new things lose their ‘gleam’ so quickly and how easy it is to become discontent with things.
“For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”—Philippians 4:11
If we can learn how to be content in these very uncertain times we will know something very important.
Contentment, quite simply, means satisfaction, being at ease and at peace with one’s situation. We also might define it as “being comfortable in one’s own skin.”
We might think we know where contentment comes from. We may think it comes from affluence – from having plenty of money. John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest men of his day, and who had a net worth of $100 million, was once asked, “How much wealth does it take to be happy?” He answered, “Another million dollars.”
A person with six kids is more content than a person with $6 million. Why? Because the person with $6 million wants more! (That was a poor attempt at humour)
Anyways, the thing about money is, no matter how much we have, we think we need more.
We may think contentment comes from achievement. If we earn one more degree, get one more promotion, then we’ll be content.
Or we may think contentment can be found in acquisitions – from getting things on our “wish list.” A new house, a new car, a new boat, a vacation home – that will make us feel content.
But contentment seldom comes from affluence, achievement, or acquisitions. Paul learned that lesson.
Paul was one of the most ambitious men in the Bible. He was driven to succeed, to excel. And he had accomplished quite a lot in his life before he met the risen Christ. He lists some of his accomplishments in the third chapter of Philippians. (Check it out)
But he had also suffered a lot as an apostle and as a follower of Jesus Christ. He had suffered vicious beatings, shipwrecks, and being thrown in prison. But he could still write these words:
“I have learned to be content.”
Paul had discovered the secret of contentment. The secret was not found in external experience. He learned that contentment is an inside job.
Paul made this discovery: Contentment is not a matter of affluence, achievement, or acquisitions. Contentment is a matter of attitude.
The translator of The Message Bible explains it this way.
Philippians 4:10-13 “I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”
I have also learned to be content. It sucks that my Jetta is rusting in weird places but really it’s just a car. When I was younger there was a band called ‘Elim Hall’ I liked their music a lot and once I met the band members I really liked them personally as well. They came out with a recording called “Things Break”. It made an impression on me that has lasted all these years. Bottom line: Stuff is temporal. When I wrap my heart and attitude around that and put my thoughts towards people and the things unseen. I find contentment, I find calm, I find the Kingdom.
I think that is why Jesus said so clearly to put treasures in the heavenly realm where moth and rust have no affect.
On earth rust may not sleep but in heaven rust is deceased.
Historian Stephen Ambrose says that during World War II, “The Allied bombers bristled with machine guns, in the nose, under the belly, on top, in the rear.”
He reports the workhorse of the air war was the B-17 bomber, known as the “Flying Fortress” because it carried thirteen .50 caliber machine guns.
Surprisingly, scientific testing suggested the B-17 would be safer without the guns. Without the weight of the guns and the crew members required to shoot them, the planes could fly faster and higher, increasing the chance of survival during daylight missions.
But the pilots said there was no way they were going on a mission without guns mounted on the plane. They wanted to be able to shoot back.
We make the same choice when it comes to our own battles. God tells us we don’t need the guns; we can soar higher and faster with him. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does” (2 Corinthians 10:3 NIV).
God says the weapons he will give us “have divine power to demolish strongholds,” and we no longer need to use the “weapons of the world” (2 Corinthians 10:4 NIV).
But we say, “No thanks. We have to shoot back!” and defend ourselves with an arsenal of angry words, demanding attitudes, manipulative maneuvers, excessive excuses, and bombs of blame.
It takes faith to stop using these weapons of the flesh and instead “take up the shield of faith” and arm ourselves with the weapons of God, starting with the bomb of love (Ephesians 6:16 NIV).
It’s the kind of faith David showed when he approached Goliath, saying, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV).
Could God’s spiritual arsenal defend you as well? “He is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Proverbs 30:5 NIV).
Proverbs 18:10 (NASB) “The name of the LORD is a strong tower;The righteous runs into it and is safe.”