The word ‘Gospel’ is not a magic charm

The word ‘Gospel’ is not a magic charm that need only be repeated constantly. Understand what this good news is and how it makes a difference for both eternity and today.

Proclaim salvation from the penalty of sin and everlasting afterlife in God’s presence; proclaim salvation from the power of sin and restoration of broken lives in this world. Jesus died so those who trust him will not perish in the hereafter; he came to destroy the devil’s work and give them abundant life here and now.

The spirit of the Lord is upon you to comfort the brokenhearted. Announce release to captives and freedom to prisoners. Through you, the Lord gives them joy instead of mourning, and praise instead of despair.

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This is not who you are … you don’t have to live this way

Some folks talk a lot about sin, but hardly anyone understands what it is anymore.

Sin is one part brokenness and one part rebellion.

Brokenness is hardwired into the world. You have to look hard to find something that isn’t messed up.

It’s been this way so long, we think the nightmare is reality. The dream of how things should be is just a wisp of fog that vanishes in the oppressive heat.

It’s just how things are.

In the lecture hall, they debate “the problem of evil.” Out here, we’re living with hell on earth — and everyone tells us to just make the best of it.

Many of us suffered trauma at an early age — rejection by a mother who didn’t want us; a father who was never there; emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; simple neglect … a host of other possibilities.

We were so young, we may not remember it. We think we were “born this way.”

The brokenness creates strong feelings. We struggle with compulsions we don’t understand and can’t control.

We begin to think our brokenness is who we are. Our broken world tells us to just accept it as a fact — to celebrate it even.

We plunge headlong into a way of living filled with pain and regret. Our feelings of shame are buried deep.

We keep telling ourselves, “This is just who I am. I have no choice but to live this way.”

But God did not create you to live a broken life. He intended better for you. He still does.

God sent Jesus to show us the better way. Jesus suffered and died so you could be set free from your pain. God raised Jesus from the dead to prove he has the power to give you a new life.

Accepting the captivity of your brokenness is rejecting God’s good plan for you. When you celebrate brokenness as your identity, you alienate yourself from your creator.

At some point, your rejection becomes rebellion against his ways.

God warns, “Don’t open that door!” But you do.  And evil comes storming in to wreak havoc in your life.

God wants to give you a life that is full, free, and forever. You choose the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

And you pay an awful price.

You can reject your brokenness. You can put down your own rebellion. Open your heart to the goodness God created you to enjoy. Look to Jesus for freedom from captivity. Pursue healing instead of brokenness.

This is not who you are. You don’t have to live this way.

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Coptic martyrs and ISIS murderers

Unfathomable, the spiritual deception and hardheartedness, that a man is willing to put his knife to the neck of another. Even more that a child of God kneels to be slaughtered.

coptic martyrs 150215

Praise God for his grace toward those murdered because they claim the name of Christ. Plead with God for grace toward those blinded by hatred and false teaching, that they would come to know his saving love.

يسوع المسيح هو الرب

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‘Even in famine they will have more than enough’

How easy it is to worry about paying the bills, when we should instead be focused on multiplying God’s kingdom. We envy the wealth and power of worldly people, when our hearts should be filled with gratitude that the Lord gave us another sunrise.

It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and possess much. For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the LORD takes care of the godly. Day by day the LORD takes care of the innocent, and they will receive a reward that lasts forever. They will survive through hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough. (Psalm 37:16-19 NLT)

Often the short chain in our captivity is discontent. In Philippians 4, Paul said the secret to freedom is learning to be content “in any and every circumstance … being filled and going hungry, … having abundance and suffering need.”

God knows your circumstances. He cares. He is able to provide out of resources you don’t even know exist. Don’t let the enemy bind you with the chain of discontent. The Lord designed a world where birds and flowers have their needs met; you are included in that plan too! Adjust your expectations and stay focused on your mission.

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‘Man who dances with wolves …’

In relating to our unbelieving society, followers of Jesus are supposed to be not just harmless, but also wary.

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be as wary as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and beaten in the synagogues. And you must stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. This will be your opportunity to tell them about me — yes, to witness to the world.” (Matthew 10:16-18 NLT)

Too many sheep are being consumed by the wolves because they are unwary about worldview and values. For one generation it was about “choice,” for another it is same-sex “marriage.”

No one wants to be hated, but how else do you stand for God’s ways in a wicked world, except to be counter-cultural? Jesus warned, “Everyone will hate you because of your allegiance to me, but those who endure to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)

Do you understand what he meant when he said, “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword.” (v.34)

The sword is the one on your neck.

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Two helpful ‘don’ts’ for understanding the Bible

Two helpful “don’ts” for understanding the Bible: (1) Don’t be all binary about what you read and (2) Don’t stop reading too soon.

In Romans 8, for example, reading verses 5-9 with an “either/or” frame of mind will lead someone to a very logical — and very wrong — interpretation.

The passage says:

5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. 9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.) (NLT)

What have we just read?

[A] A person who does not have the Spirit of Christ living in him is not a Christian at all. (v.9c)

[B]  A person who has the Spirit of God living in him is controlled by the Spirit. (v.9b)

[C] A person who is controlled by the Holy Spirit thinks about things that please the Spirit. (v.5b)

[D] A person who is controlled by the sinful nature thinks about sinful things. (v.5a)

Conclusion: That sinful thought you had last night proves you aren’t really a Christian. You probably weren’t sincere enough when you accepted Christ before. You need to get saved for real (this time). <Cue pianist. Open invitation.>

The problem, of course, is that even the best Christian is going to be afflicted by a sinful thought from time to time. If having that thought is proof you aren’t a true Christian, then no one will ever be a true Christian.

If you had kept reading in chapter 8, however, you would have found vv.12-13:

So, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you keep on following it, you will perish. But if through the power of the Holy Spirit you turn from it and its evil deeds, you will live.

Turns out, Paul isn’t writing about a problem; he’s warning of a danger.

The problem isn’t that all you people who think you are Christians really aren’t.

Paul is warning Christians — his “dear brothers and sisters” — that they face a life-or-death danger. While the power of Christ’s resurrection has set you free from the power of sin, your sinful nature still lurks in the shadows, urging you to come back to the dark side. Paul’s warning: “If you keep on following it, you will perish.” If, on the other hand, you allow the powerful Holy Spirit to help you turn away, you will live!

If you teach the Bible like Spock, you will lead trusting souls into deception. Stop reading too soon, and you could lead them into death. Read the text carefully — all of it. And listen to the brilliantly smart Spirit, not the puny binary computer in your head, as you seek to understand.

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Injustice and the desolation of a pleasant land

Who is responsible for the desolation of a pleasant land? Unbelievers incapable of understanding God’s ways? Or the people of God who refuse to pursue justice?

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’ But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.'” (Zechariah 7:9-14 NLT)

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