Stand Firm In Your Faith

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umbrella in stormEphesians 6:10-11 & 16 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  …in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 

Faith can be a confusing cliché. Many people claim to have faith but what exactly do we mean by that? Faith is more than a wish or a hope that somehow the universe will work it all out for us. Some claim faith in Christ yet we don’t own it with life changing conviction. It caves when trouble, pressure or challenge comes.

How do you know if the faith we claim is any good? ANSWER: it must be tested. Now no one signs up for that on purpose, but there is no need to worry God’s enemy is happy to accommodate that need. Just like He did with Job in the Old Testament and Peter in the new, Satan continues to poke and press those who claim to follow Jesus to test the reality of our faith.

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Where Will We Stand?

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umbrella in stormHebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

I am taking a break from the blog while traveling for both mission work and a family vacation through the rest of July. Our church family recently began to wrestle with the reality of sin and the power of the Gospel in a way that jarred many of our hearts. I want to share my first raw thoughts as I sought to settle my heart in Christ the next morning after this part of our journey began.

This is our Gettysburg address. It is time to acknowledge the reality of our condition with unified hearts & voices. It is time for the captives to come free from sin. It is time for us to shake our complacency about sin & holiness & purity. It is time to recognize we live on a spiritual battlefield with a real enemy who with full knowledge of what our Creator offers, promises much out of pure hate for our Creator, knowing if we turn away from God’s truth to his deceitful offers that we will be further wounded & enslaved by darkness.

We must decide whether we believe the gospel or not.

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Buying In to Jesus

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coins in handLuke 14:33 “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

If you stop to hear it Luke 14:33 is among Jesus’ most shocking statements. On face value it should rattle most American believers. This weekend we are going to wrestle with what this means. I invite you to read the whole chapter before Sunday and come ready to work it out.

Here are some of my early personal thoughts while preparing the lesson.

  • God wants His people to so trust Him that they do not misplace their faith in possessions OR misuse their possessions. He wants them to honor Him with their possessions by using them for His purpose and glory. He wants them to be willing to give them away or walk away at any moment without hesitation.
  • God wants Jesus to have first place in our lives. He wants us to trust Him with every aspect of life. He wants us to trust Him with all we have. We do this be acknowledging that we only have things by His hand. We do this by trusting His provision, care & purpose for our lives.
  • Through Jesus, God will give us better than what we can gain for ourselves. We can trust Him to provide without clinging fiercely to what He has provided so far.

While prayerfully reflecting on the passage I sensed God’s Spirit say, “Trust Me. You do not need wealth. You need Me. I am your wealth. I am your way. I am your life. Just follow me with your heart at peace. Do not let it get worked up with thoughts of what you have, what you used to have or what you wish you had.”

What thoughts come to mind for you?

Starting Well

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Image resultStarting well can be more critical in some situations that others. It is more critical in a 100 meter dash than an 8K race. Still if you don’t start well, it can cause real struggles and often must be overcome. Try starting out badly in a marriage, parenting or a new job and you will have some real make up work to get back on track.

This week we looked at Jesus’ invitation to learn what it looks like to start out well in following Him. The highlights are below. For the full lesson go to www.parkviewfamily.com.

Here is the invitation: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. The key is understanding what coming to Jesus means in this invitation. There are four key facets we discover about how to begin.

FIRST: Decide You Want to Stick with Jesus.

Coming to Jesus means attaching yourself to Him. One certain thing about a yoke in Jesus’ world- unless it is over easy- is that it attaches one ox to another. The invitation to come to Him is really an invitation to become attached to Him.

SECOND: Decide you are Ready to Learn from Jesus.

Luke 6:40 40 A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.

Coming to Jesus means committing to His training. Jesus makes it clear that the invitation is an invitation to become a devoted student. Students would often move in with master teachers to fully embrace their way of life not just a limited knowledge base.

THIRD: Decide You are Ready to let Jesus Lead.

Coming to Jesus means letting Him set the pace & direction. By implication, when you are attached whatever you do is done together. In those days it was practice to yoke an inexperienced ox with an experienced one. The younger one would learn by following the lead of the older one. This is what Jesus has in mind. He later mentions that His yoke is easy. Sometimes Christians complain that it isn’t. Usually that happens when we aren’t letting Him lead. Instead we strain against his leadership, direction or pace and make it harder on ourselves than it needs to be.

FOURTH: Decide You are Willing to Embrace Jesus’ Work.

Mark 1:17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

Coming to Jesus means becoming part of His work. If you are an ox, the only reason to be in a yoke is because it’s time for work. You are either going to pull a plow or a cart. Work is implied in the metaphor of being in a yoke, but our work as followers of Jesus is different. We get involved in His work when we are really attached to Him. The good news is that He trains us. He also carries the heavy lifting. But he gets us into his work of seeking and saving the lost.

I hopes this gives you a sense of what it means to get started following Jesus. What other insights do you see in Jesus invitation in Matthew 11:28-30?

 

The Big Reason

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follow-me-graphic-seriesJohn 10:27-28 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

“It’s not how you start but how you finish that matters.” How many times have you heard that? How about this twist? “It’s not WHY you start but WHY you finish that matters.” As we grow in life our insight & motivations change, hopefully for the better.

This happens for believers in our walk with Jesus. For example I first trusted Jesus when I was only 5 years old. I believe it was a genuine and true faith, but 45 years later my faith relationship with Him is much richer and deeper.

Last Sunday we discovered that there were many reasons people began to follow Jesus when he first came. However as time went on there was only one reason they continued. They began out of curiosity, need & invitation. However, before his crucifixion more people left him than stayed with Him. Understanding why is key to knowing what it means to really follow Jesus. We find that answer in John 6.

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Where is Your Hope?

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kingdom decision graphicPsalm 113: 4 The Lord is high above all nations; 
His glory is above the heavens.

Daniel 4:3 “…His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom
 and His dominion is from generation to generation.

Last weekend we kicked off a critical teaching series about Following Jesus in an Election Year. If you missed it the outline is below and you can catch the full lesson at www.parkviewfamily.com. We began by covering what I believe is the single most important thing every believer needs to settle in times like this.

CHALLENGE: Don’t Let Election Politics Distract You from Living Out Core Faith in Jesus.

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MANAGING MONEY

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        Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”  Luke 12:5 coins in hand

Stewarding Life: The premise of this month’s teaching series is that Life is a gift from God for which we are ultimately accountable. So far we wrestled with how to make the most of our time and talents from an eternal perspective. This week’s topic is how to make the most of our money. Try not to groan just yet. My purpose is to help you make sure money is your servant and NOT your master and to leave your heart more blessed than stressed.

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Matt 6:25

Of course we need money to make life work in this age, but our lives are much more than our money or lack of money. Yet for most of us money is often the source of our greatest fear, worry, frustrations and disappointments. When this happens our concern about finances can begin to cloud every decision and steal joy from other moments. Then all the other voices that tell us what we should have done or should be doing with this part of our lives complicate it. This tends to add regret and even hopelessness to the worries we already carry.

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