What Are My Excuses?

I have plenty of dynamite.

“The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle. The man declares, I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out. Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know! Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Proverbs 30:1-5 ESV.

The writer of this passage may have been looking back at an unsatisfying day, and asked, “Why did I do what I did, and why didn’t I do the right things?”

Excuse 1: “I was tired. Under the situation, anybody could have done what I did.” Been there, done that, ruined a hat.

Excuse 2: “I was stupid. It was foolish of me to do that. I knew better.” Been there, too.

Excuse 3: “I didn’t know any better. I didn’t understand and hadn’t learned that was wrong.” This is sounding like my diary.

Yet look at the answer to these excuses. Jesus Christ.

We now know who ascended to heaven and will come again for us. We know who created the winds and can stop them with His voice. We know who separated the land from the waters, destroyed the world with water and called it back to its place. We know the Father and we know His Son. Surely we know!

All that power lives with us if we are saved. We think of that power is given to us for us to do great things. But that power must be used first to raise us above our circumstances (when we are tired), deception (when we are stupid), and ignorance (when we don’t know). But we must depend upon Him.

“Now to him who is able (dunamai, as in dynamite) to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless (excuseless) before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24, ESV, emphasis mine).




Difficulty forgiving? Think on this…

In Matthew 5: 44-45, “Love your enemy” is a horizontal effort: the act of kindness a compassion that is man-ward. “Pray for those that persecute you” is a vertical affair, the act of petitioning heaven-ward for those who mistreat you. This makes the act of the Christian forgiving completed, “in earth as it is in heaven”.

That God makes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust, and rain to fall on the good and evil, shows us that His goodness is not confined to the righteous and withheld from those who hate Him. This is the example of how we are supposed to love those who offend us in our worst possible moment. Mad? Angry? Hurting? Frustrated? Disgusted? It doesn’t affect how we treat people.

God, the judge of all, wants us to remember four things about when we are offended: There is a time for retribution, and it is not now. There is a place for revenge, and this is not place. There is someone to handle our revenge, and it is not us. But mostly, there is no excuse for us treating ANYONE, regardless of what they do to us, with less than love, kindness and compassion. Not for Christians, anyway.

We are bound by our forgiveness, which we are instructed to not withhold, not from anybody. We trust God completely with our offenses. Vengeance is His, and when and how to hand it out is His completely (Romans 12:19).

Imagine if someone owed you $100 and you owed someone $100,000,000. What if the one you owed said He would forgive you of your debt if you forgave the one that owed you? Only a fool would not jump at that deal. God has told us He is forgiving us a lifetime of offenses, disrespect, lack of surrender, selfishness, idolatry, adultery, etc. and asks us to forgive single deeds of others.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

 From Wednesday Night’s Bible Study, November 28, 2012.

 For audio sermons from Pastor Tim: sermon.net/desdemonatx.

“Conformed” and “Transformed” (Romans 12:2)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

As Paul moved from the theological and philosophical aspects of the Christian walk to the practical aspects, he simply says our response is to die to the world’s pleasures and values (a living sacrifice Romans 12:1).

He then states the difference to be expected when we get it right. We are no longer conformed to the world but transformed to heaven-fitness. There are several interesting things from his choice in words. They both are passive in form, meaning dependent upon an outside force.

“Conformed” (mē sunschēmatizesthe in the Greek) implies strictly outside pressures that shape. This is much like a piece of clay, yielding to the effects of time and gravity, to fill in the gaps of its environment. As Barnes says, it mean “to put on the form, fashion, or appearance of another. It may refer to anything pertaining to the habit, manner, dress, style of living, etc., of others.”

“Transformed” (metamorphousthe) is where we get our word “metamorphous”, and implies a change that is empowered by the inside: the nature of internal truth or DNA, so to speak. This is the pressure or force that changes a tadpole to a frog and the caterpillar to a butterfly. This is the same word used to described Jesus’ tranfiguration, when the disciples saw Him in His due glory.

As believers, we are directed to “Do not be…but be…”, indicating that there is some resistance and submission we allow to the external and internal forces in our lives. This effort on our part to allow the internal force of Christ in us to do the work of maturity and disallow the pressures of this world system to shape us is described in verse one. “Present yourselves as living sacrifices.”

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:11-14.

It is a mental ascent to the inner reality that allows successful living in Christ. The remaining problem is not the world, family, friends, possessions, etc. It is the gray matter set just behind the eyeballs. We need “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” instead of surrendering to what happens around us.

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2.

(Scriptures from ESV).

For audio sermons from Pastor Tim, go to http://sermon.net/desdemonatx.

I Wish I Had Known When I Started Pastoring…

I am borrowing two list, but in the end, add my own. Thanks to Joseph Mattera and Rob Pochek for their insightful lists. Please comment….

From Joseph Mattera (12 common mistakes made by young pastors).
1. Not receiving counsel from older, more experienced leaders.
2. Being too dogmatic in doctrine and worldview.
3. Having zeal without knowledge and operating in presumption.
4. Being driven by ambition and a need to succeed more than serving for the glory of God.
5. Using people as objects to get to the next level.
6. Rarely living in the present.
7. Preaching what has not yet been personally experienced or encountered with God.
8. Neglecting emotional health and maturity.
9. Gifting that exceeds character development.
10. Driving the church instead of leading the flock.
11. Sacrificing children and family for the work of the ministry.
12. Not honoring spiritual fathers and mothers.

Rob Pochek (What he wished he had known).
1. You are pastoring a parade.
2. The people who demand the most serve the least.
3. You will see ugly behavior.
4. You are irreplaceable (but not at church).
5. Preach the Word.

Mine (What I wished I had known).
1. Learn how to love when you are hurt, angry or frustrated, especially those who offend you.
2. People would prefer a good pastor to a great preacher.
3. You have nothing to feed the flock if you are unfed.
4. Church is where some people seek to feed their flesh; their need for importance, their drama, their prejudices, etc… Such is the nature of sheep.
5. Time invested in those who will receive help and discipleship from a closer relationship is never wasted.
6. Don’t preach from a book except the Bible. There is found the power of preaching. (Thus, never preach what you find in a book until it has settled in your mind and theology a while).
7. Be bold behind the pulpit (but not about opinions) and meek away from it.
8. There is value in every trouble, every problem, every trouble maker and every criticism. But seek God’s voice in them and never take them at face value.
9. Never be surprised where trouble will come from. Never be caught off guard by not expecting trouble or criticism. (This sounds really negative, but I have made my worst blunders when I was blind-sided by a problem I didn’t expect.)
10. Jesus never addressed a false accusation. False accusations are allowed by God to test our trust in Him.

(To hear sermons from Pastor Tim, please go to http://sermon.net/desdemonatx).

The Best Way to Cheat New Year’s Resolutions Begins Now.

As we approach December, now is the time to make the final surge in 2012. Like a runner rounding the final turn around the track, it is a great time to push for the finish. On January 1, you will never regret any progress you made during December in important areas of your life. It is kind of a way to cheat on New Year’s Resolutions; fixing some of them before the new year, kind of like jumping the gun in a footrace.

  1. Strengthen your passion for God. Spend extra time with Him, instead of less, which is typical of the busiest season of the year.
  2. Strengthen your relationship with your family members. Repair broken or damaged relationships. Life is short, and the reasons for the disagreements are usually nowhere near worth the heart ache and heaviness they cause. Embrace forgiveness.
  3. Strengthen your commitment to your Church. Remember, Christ only has one bride. Paul Lamey said, “The gathered Church is the embodiment of the grace of Christ in the world. Our praise, fellowship, and various efforts for outreach are tangible expressions of thanksgiving to God.”
  4. Reduce the number of people who dislike you by supernatural (Holy Spirit directed) love, reaching into their lives. Begin with prayer for those who misunderstand you. Insure you don’t have any resentment towards them, and plan a gift to them expressing your love that naturally flows through you from Christ in you.
  5. Recommit to be fit for service. Make a commitment to your health in order to honor God, your Creator. Remember, a farmer will hop on a tractor that is working and not the one which is faulty.
  6. Plan your finances so Christmas is a joy and not a financial disaster waiting for another month. Find ways of giving yourself like Christ gave Himself, not focusing on expensive gifts that distract from the season.
  7. Thank God for your pains, troubles and trials; that He has loved you enough to do the hard work in your life to prepare you for the greatest victories. It matters not that we cannot see the purpose in our struggles, but we trust Him and His decisions, directions and plans.

I hope these suggestions help you end a good year strong, or turn a bad year around. Please comment and add your suggestions for others. Thank you and God bless.

(To hear sermons from Pastor Tim, please go to http://sermon.net/desdemonatx).

Do you hear the sermon of the slime and weeds? (short devotional thought)

On my walk today, I noticed the weeds in the ditch and string algae, green and slimy, growing in the remaining puddles in the bottom. I had to ask, to what end?

There they were, striving for life, straining against competitors, reaching as far as they can to live for a short while. Soon the moisture will be gone and the weeds and algae will be dead, living and dying with no purpose, so it seems.

To what purpose do they grow, straining, reaching, only to be dried and dead in a short while? Contributing nothing, the examples of futility and worthlessness. As I said, so it seems.

It occurred to me that there is only one purpose that these forms of life find a place, wrestle with the elements and then die. They do so at the command of their Creator. He said, “Grow, strive, reach.” They care not for any other purpose, no other goal, no fruitfulness or satisfaction. They heed the Master’s command, and that is enough.

They praise God, not by the fruits they lay on His table or by any beauty that speaks to all about His creativity. They praise God by simple obedience. They worship by honoring God’s command.

In that, ditch weeds and puddle slime are nobler than me. I long to see purpose, results and fruit. I must be validated in my own eyes, and often that validation comes by means of those I seek to impress.

I repented, hearing the sermon of the slime and dandelions. They seem to preach much better than I do.

Father, teach me to reach, grow and strain in this life simply at your command. May that be enough. Amen.

“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,  for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” Psalms 24:1-2

(To hear sermons from Pastor Tim, please go to http://sermon.net/desdemonatx).

The Sin of Sexual Immorality

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” 1 Corinthians 6:18.

Many misunderstands are represented from this passage. Most of them can be clarified by focusing on the nature and substance of the word “sin”. It also helps to understand the spiritual nature of sexual expression and satisfaction.

Paul is telling the Corinthians that there is something different from other sins in the improper use of sexual expression (sexual immorality). The difference is that it effects the body in a different way.

The Greek word used for sin in this passage is the common word for sin, hamartēma. Literally, missing the mark, it applies to that which fails to reach the mark of God’s holiness (Romans 3:23).

The popular view of sin is that it harms mankind. Our rating of sins places those sins which hurt people the most as the worse (genocide, murder, rape, etc…). The very nature of hamartēma is that it speaks of that which offends God the most.

All sin (falsehood, theft, malice, dishonesty, pride, immorality, ambition, etc.) offends God, and that is the most serious aspect of sin. Sin is measured in Heaven (the throne room) by how far it separates men from and/or dishonors God.

Sexual immorality also is a sin against the body. That is not to say that other sins do not harm or offend the body (smoking, drinking, drugs, etc…). Immorality does, however, have a spiritual consequence towards the body that is unseen. This passage reveals this.

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’” 1 Corinthians 6:15-16.

There is a spiritual connection that sex makes with two bodies that is not fully understood on earth. It is what spiritually enjoins a man and wife, but also enjoins one with a prostitute. It constitutes one third of the depth of marriage. Marriage is to unite the spirits (lives), minds (souls) and bodies (flesh) of two people of opposite gender for their remaining lives on earth. This unity, designed and held by God in Heaven, is sacred. Violations of this unity are far reaching. The full ramifications of this are not communicated to man, but the warning is very clear. “Flee from sexual immorality”.

Sex not only emotionally  enjoins participants, it changes the individuals involved. God warns us that this change and surrender is good only in marriage. Outside of marriage it is destructive and affects our ability to fellowship with God. Since the enjoinment of marriage and its acts are to be life-long, so are the violations in some way. So deep is the damage that Paul says it is a sin against the body to have sexual expression outside of marriage.

He was not talking about damage in the natural, physical way we understand, but a deep violation that warps the life and greatly hurts the relationship with God. It goes beyond merely the permanent physical damage of drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse. He is speaking of bringing into our private relationship with God and our spouse others who detract from our intimacy with God and ability to draw near Him.

He is not addressing the injury to mankind. He is speaking of the offense this unity with others brings in the relationship one is to have with God. It is a physical barrier to the complete surrendered to which God calls us. It is the only sin that does that for a lifetime.

(To hear sermons from Pastor Tim, please go to http://sermon.net/desdemonatx).