420 - Faith Always Has a Cost

October 30, 2017

Faith is not free.  In fact, faith costs everyone associated with it something.  No, I'm not talking about saving faith or salvation.  But even then, salvation has a cost.  It costs Christ His life and the Father His only Son.  And it costs each of us who embrace saving faith the one thing we hold most dear.  Us.  Salvation costs each of us who we are.

But the faith we are talking about is the Hebrews 11 kind of faith.  It's the faith defined as the "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).  It's the faith that made the notable men of the Scripture, notable. And it's the faith that helps us answer the why questions in life.

The Why Questions

Why does God allow bad things to happen to people who love Him?
Why does God allow innocent babies to die?
Why does God allow drug addiction and abortion and rape and child abuse and starvation and disease?
Why, oh why, oh why?

Get the point?  But having the faith to trust God's answer to these questions will cost you something.  Why?  Because it costs Abraham and Noah and Jacob and Moses and many, many others what it will cost you to know the truth.  Are you willing to understand the cost of faith?  Do you want to know the answer to the most troubling questions in the Christian life?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on the cost of faith.

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415 - The Curse of God’s Abandonment

August 24, 2017

There's a time when the Lord gives us what we want: freedom, autonomy, independence, and to have no authority over our lives but ourselves.  That's right.  God gives us over to our selfish, carnal attitudes and allows us to experience the consequences of our sins.  It's like He says, "Ok, you want to go your own way?  Have at it.  I'll be here when you come to your senses."  It's the story of the prodigal son played out in our lives in real time.

This is called the curse of God's abandonment.  It's when He removes His protecting grace from our lives and our nation and let's us see how we like life without Him.  And the results are catastrophic.

Samson, after having his hair cut by Delilah, woke up to confront his enemies still believing he had the same strength as before because his God was with him.  But that was not the case.  He said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!”  But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him (Judges 16:20).  Samson was experiencing the abandonment of God.

God Gave Them Up

In Romans 1 we see three examples of this very act of God's abandonment:

Therefore God also gave them up – Romans 1:24.

For this reason God gave them up – Romans 1:26.

God gave them over – Romans 1:28.

But who are the "them" in these verses?  The lost?  The unregenerate?  Those nations that reject truth and justice?  Yes.  But if you will study these verses closely you will find the object of God's curse of abandonment is also the church.  It includes His wayward believers.  It includes you and me.

Does this seem strange to you?  Maybe hard to believe?  Then I suggest you keep listening and find out the truth for yourself.  And remember, "judgment begins at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:17).  Are you ready?

The following is a study on the Curse of the Abandonment of God.

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414 - The Blessings of Persecution

August 20, 2017

Sometimes there are passages in the Scripture that confound even the most mature Believer.  These are the ones that seem to defy logic, ones that fly in the face of our cherished sensibilities.  For example, in Luke 6:30 the Lord tells us to "Give to everyone who asks of you.  And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back."  But Jesus gives no qualifier in this verse.  The person who asks for your stuff may be a bum, a greedy businessman, or the government.  How are we supposed to follow that command?

Another example deals with how we respond to a personal attack.  Jesus said, "But I tell you not to resist an evil person.  But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also" (Matt. 5:39-40).  How does this play out in real life in real time?  If the church followed this command the future of the legal profession would be in great peril.

But one of the hardest teachings in Scripture, especially to an opulent, narcissistic church like we have today, is the idea that suffering or persecution could be a good thing.  That sentiment is hard to swallow, let alone believe.  How could persecution be a good thing?  Ever?  To anybody?

The Church at Smyrna

In the second of our Lord's seven personal epistles to His church, found in Revelation 2 and 3, He has nothing but kind words to say about the church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11).   And the primary characteristic of this church was their faithful perseverance under extreme persecution that lasted centuries.  We would be well advised as a church, and as individuals, to emulate in our life what brought this church such praise from our Lord.

To find out more about the Lord's letter to the church at Smyrna, and what we can learn about our own view of suffering, then keep listening.

The following is a study on Jesus’ letter to the church at Smyrna, Revelation 2:8-11.

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403 - God Never Waste an Experience, Good or Bad

May 27, 2017

God never wastes an experience in our life, good or bad.  When we sin, for example, God uses our failure as a ministry to help others struggling with the same sin.  He allows us to share the times we fell flat on our face to encourage others who are doing the same.  It seems that's what Jesus was teaching Peter.

In the upper room, during the last supper, Jesus told Peter He was praying for him.  But His prayer was not to remove the temptation and inevitable fall from Peter.  No, His prayer was that when Peter fell and suffered the consequences of that fall, that once he repented and returned to Jesus, he was to strengthen his brothers by that experience.  Consider the following:

Luke 22:31-32 - And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."

Jesus didn't tell Peter he would deliver him from the temptation, the sifting.  He promised Peter that after he fell and recovered and returned to his faith, Jesus would use that experience to encourage and strengthen others who were struggling in the same way.  That's why, in John 21, we see Jesus restoring Peter by saying, "Feed My lambs" (John 21:15).  Even after Peter's epic denial of Jesus, his ministry was not finished.  In fact, it was just beginning.  And so it is with us.

Does this thought encourage you?  It does me.  If you want to learn more about your usefulness after your failure, then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 21:15-23.

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398 - When Our Blessings Become Curses

April 23, 2017

One of the greatest blessings the church has experienced has become its greatest curse.  And that is wealth.  Opulence.  The ability to run ahead of God rather than waiting on Him to provide what His church needs and when it needs it.  Then there’s the great blessing that comes with persecution that a wealthy church always views as a curse.  How did it become so upside down?

The early church understood the blessings that come with persecution.  Because they remembered the promise of Jesus when He preached His sermon on the mount where He said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

And later, Paul would tell his son Timothy that “Yes, and all who (condition) desire to live godly in Christ Jesus (result) will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).  Do you see the condition and the result?  If you desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, which most Christians would say they do, then you will suffer persecution because of your godly life in Christ.  It’s a given.  A promise.

And the opposite of this promise is also true.  If you are not suffering persecution, then it stands to reason you do not desire to live godly in Christ Jesus.  Sobering, isn’t it?  This is not how the early church lived.  They embraced every opportunity to live godly in Christ, regardless of how they suffered.  Do you want to know more about people who love Jesus that way?  Good.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Acts 4:1-35.

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379 - The Cost of Christmas

December 25, 2016

When we think of the cost of Christmas, most of us think about how much it is going to cost us and how long before we pay our credit cards off.  But that’s the horizontal cost.  The cost of presents that feel good for the moment but have very little lasting value.

There’s also a vertical cost to Christmas.  And that cost was paid by the Son of God who “emptied Himself and took on the form of a slave” (Phi.2:7), the lowest of men.

What did Christmas cost Jesus?  You’d be shocked, surprised and humbled to know.  He exchanged the praise and adoration of angels for the spittle of men.

Want to find out more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Philippians 2:5-8.

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366 - The Downside of Revival

October 3, 2016
Often we preach about the need for revival in the church and in our own lives.  We hold the virtues and blessings of revival up high, for all to see, yet fail to talk about the dark side of revival, the downside of totally surrendering to Him.

And that downside is satanic attack.

For the novice, this attack can be devastating because they are often ill-prepared to stand against it.  For the more mature believer, the attack is just another affirmation they are living as light and walking where the enemy dwells.

Do you know how to prepare for a spiritual attack?  Do you know how to stand when the day of evil comes (Eph. 6:13)?  If not, then keep listening.

The following is a study on Spiritual Warfare.

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358 - Will You Face Persecution?

August 7, 2016
Consider these if / then passages:

"(then) Blessed are those (if) who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for (then) theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (then) Blessed are you (if) when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  (then) Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for (then) great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:10-12).

Yes, and all who (if) desire to live godly in Christ Jesus (then) will suffer persecution.  (2 Tim. 3:12).

Which leads us to ask a few questions:

Question:  Will you face persecution?
Answer:  That depends.
Question:  Depends on what?
Answer:  On how committed you are to live Godly in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:12).

To find out more about persecution and the if / then passages, keep listening.

The following is a study on Matthew 5:10-12.

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349 - Blessed are Those who Grieve and Wail and Lament

May 29, 2016
In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus presents the Beatitudes that introduce His teaching about living in the Kingdom of Heaven.  But there are some truths about living in His Kingdom that we sometimes forget.  For example:

External things cannot satisfy internal needs.  Got it.
And things are not always what they seem to be.  Got that too.
True happiness and true blessedness cannot be found in a fallen, cursed world.  Uh, if you say so.
Everything we see and touch in this world is temporary at best.  I know, but let's get all we can while we are here.

And if that wasn't enough, in Matthew 5:4 Jesus said, 

"Blessed are (who) those who mourn, (why) for they (those who mourn) shall be comforted." 

But that raises a few questions:  

What does it mean to Biblically mourn?  
What are we supposed to be mourning about?  
And why is mourning a good thing?  

To find out about the blessing that comes from Godly sorrow, keep listening.

The following is a study on Matthew 5:4.

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337 - What is the Prayer of Faith?

February 21, 2016
Some of the most wonderful yet confusing verses in the entire New Testament are found in the last chapter of the book of James.  Do you know what these verses mean:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much - James 5:13-16

Are you suffering?  Do you know those who are sick?  Do you know what the prayer of faith is and what is involved in calling for the elders and having them anoint you with oil?  Are these verses somewhat confusing to you?

If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on James 5:13-16.

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