Tag Cloud
: Sorrow : Mothers 1 Peter Abandonment Abomination of Desolation Abortion Abuse Accounting Activism Adultery Affection Affliction Afterlife America Angels Anger Apologetics Apostasy Armor of God Ascension Ashamed Atonement Authority Babylon Bad Baptism Betrayal Bible Blasphemy Blessing Blessings Blindness Boasting Body of Christ Bondage Borders Born Again Bridegroom Calling Capital Punishment Celebration Character Children Children of God Chosen Christ Christian Life Christians Christmas Church Civil Disobedience Clay Cleansing Comfort Commands Communion Community Comparison Compassion Complacency Complaining Conception Condemnation Conduct Conflict Conformity Confrontation Confusion Connection Conscience Consequences Contentment Conviction Cornerstone Correction Cost Counsel Courage Covenant Creation Creator Cross Crowns Crucifixion Culture Curse Darkness David Day of the Lord Death Deception Defense Delegation Demon Possession Demons Denial Dependency Design Desolation Destruction Devil Direction Disaster Discernment Disciple Disciples Discipleship Discipline Discontentment Discouragement Disease Disgrace Disputes Distraction Diversity Divine Division Doctrine Double Fulfillment Doubt Drought Drugs Duties Duty Earth Earthly Earthquakes Easter Edom Education Elders Elect Emmaus Emotions Employment Encouragement End Times Enemies Enemy Environmentalism Equality Equipped Eternal Evangelism Evil Evolution Exaltation Exalted Exclusion Excuses Exorcism Expectations Eyes Failure Fairness Faith Faithful Faithful Servant Faithfulness False Christs False Doctrine False Religion False Religions Family Famine Fasting Father Fathers Favoritism Fear Fear of the Lord Feasts Fellowship Finances Fire First Coming Flesh Flock Folly Foolishness Foreigner Foreknown Forgiveness Fornication Forsaken Foundation Freedom Friends Friendship Fruit Fruitfulness Future Gentiles George Wood Giving Glory God God’s Word Godliness Godly Good Good Shepherd Good Works Gospel Gospels Government Grace Gratitude Great Commission Greatness Grief Growth Guilt Hardship Harvest Healing Heart Heaven Heavenly Hedonism Hell Herod Hidden Holy Holy Spirit Homosexuality Honor Hope Hopelessness Humility Husband Hypocrisy Ignorance Image Immanuel Immigration Impossibility Incarnation Individuals Indulgences Inheritance Injustice Inner Battle Instructions Insults Integrity Intercession Israel Jerusalem Jesus Jewish Temple John the Baptist Joy Judas Judgment Judgments Justice Justification Justify Key Keys Kindness King Kingdom Kingdom of God Kingdom of Heaven Knowledge Lamp Law Lawlessness Leader Leaders Leadership Leftism Legalism Leprosy Lies Life Light Like-minded Lord Lost Love Loyalty Lust Lusts Luxury Malachi Manipulation Marriage Martyrdom Martyrs Mary Materialism Maturity Meditation Men Mentoring Mercy Messiah Millennium Mind Mind of Christ Ministry Miracle Miracles Mission Mocking Money Mothers Mystery Nations Natural Gifts Naturalism Nature Near-Far Fulfillment Necessities New Covenant New Man Obedience Obstacles Obstructions Offense Old Man Old Nature Old Testament One Mind Outcast Pagan Pain Palm Sunday Parable Parables Paranormal Parenting Passion Passover Patience Patriotism Peace Pentecost People of God Perfect Persecution Perseverance Persistence Personal Testimonies Perspective Perversion Pestilence Peter Pharisees Piety Pilate Politics Poor Position Possession Possessions Posture Power Praise Prayer Preaching Preparation Pride Priority Privilege Prodigal Promise Proof Prophecy Prophet Prophets Protection Protestant Reformation Proverbs Provision Punishment Purgatory Purpose Questions Racism Reason Rebellion Rebuke Reconciliation Redeemer Redemption Refuge Regeneration Rejection Rejoicing Relationship Relationships Reliability Religion Remember Remnant Renewal Repentance Reputation Resolve Rest Restoration Resurrection Revelation Revenge Revival Reward Rich Riches Righteous Righteousness Rights Riot Rivalry Robbery Roman Catholic Church Rule Sabbath Sacred Sacrifice Saint Salvation Sanctification Satan Savior Schemes Science Scripture Seasons Second Coming Secret Seed Seek Self Self Control Self-centered Self-Control Selfish Ambition Self-Righteous Servant Servant-Leadership Serve Service Serving Sexual Immorality Sexual Sin Sexuality Shame Share Sharing Shepherd Sickness Signs Signs and Wonders Simplicity Sin Sincerity Singing Singleness Sinners Slavery Sober Society Sojourner Sojourners Son Son of God Sons of God Soul Source Sovereignty Speech Spirit Spirit Realm Spirits Spiritual Spiritual Battle Spiritual Birth Spiritual Gifts Spiritual Growth Spiritual Rulers Spiritual Warfare Stewardship Stress Strife Stumbling Block Submission Suffering Supernatural Supper Surrender Syncretism Tags: Patience Taxes Teaching Tears Technology Temple Temptation Temptations Terminal Illness Test Testimony Testing Tests Thankfulness Thanksgiving The Curse The Day of The Lord The End The Fall The Holy Spirit The Law The Way The Word The World Theology Time of Visitation Times of the Gentiles Tithing Tongues Tradition Transfiguration Transformation Traps Treachery Treasure Tree Trial Trials Tribulation Trifles Trinity Triumphal Trouble Trust Truth Uncertainty Unity Unpardonable Sin Utopia Value Vigilance Vindication Virtue Virtues Volunteer Warning Warnings Wars Watching Water Baptism Wicked Wickedness Widows Wife Wineskins Wisdom Witness Women Word of God Word of the Lord Works World World View Worry Worship Worth Wrath Yahweh Yeast Zion

Weekly Word

Entries in Encouragement (2)

Monday
May152017

A Woman Who Follows Jesus

Philippians 2:1-4.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Mother’s Day Sunday, 5/14/2017.

There are many voices today that promise women a better life by offering some philosophy or way of approaching life.  However, most of them are various ideas that come from the same source, the spirit of this age.  So women have a choice they can listen to the spirit of this age and go after the things that it promises by the ways it promotes (self fulfillment, self love, self adulation), or they can listen to the Spirit of God calling to them, “Save yourselves from this wicked and perverse generation!”

It is important to recognize that women have had a tough road throughout history.  Too often, men are guilty of not recognizing this and not loving women as we should.  So women need encouragement.  Yet, like any of us, they also need challenged.  Women are not inherently drawn to do things right.  They have the same battles with the sin nature as men do.  I believe our passage today has a good balance of encouragement and yet also challenge for God’s people, including women.  In fact, this is a hallmark of the Bible.  On one hand it recognizes our weakness and does much to give us encouragement and comfort.  Yet, on the other hand, it also recognizes our spiritual lethargy and does much to wake us up and get up headed on the right path.  Let’s look at our passage today.

She has much in Christ

In this passage Paul is trying to encourage Christians to have unity.  But he starts with a series of things that we all have in Jesus.  He uses a grammatical device of a series of conditionals.  These are intended to remind them of the fact that each of these conditionals is understood to be rhetorical.  Of course we who are Christians have all of these things.  There is no “if” about it.  This is going to be critical later.  But just understand that Paul is highlighting our relationship with Jesus.  We have everything that we need in this world without having to clamor and strive against others to get it because of our relationship with Jesus.  Christians are called to quit looking to the world for fulfillment and start receiving from Jesus all he has for us.  So what do we have in him?

The first “if” is consolation in Christ.  This word may give you the idea of a consolation prize.  Who wants that?  The word has the idea of calling someone to your side in order to speak to them.  Thus it is generally connected to some kind of help, encouragement, comfort, or even advice.  In Jesus we have this relationship in which the God of heaven calls us to His side and He speaks into our life those things that we need to hear.  You could say that the “if” statement does more than remind.  It can also be a testing question operating in such a way as to question.  Are you receiving this from Jesus or are you blocking his words into your life?  There is no question that it is available and at work in the life of a Christian, but sometimes we are not so cooperative with the Spirit of God.

The next “if” is comfort of love.  It is still understood to be “in Christ.”  The comfort of God’s love for us, especially through the person and work of Jesus, is immense.  When one thinks about how Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, it leaves one with a powerful sense of God’s love for them.  However, the love of Christ also comes to us through other Christians who are also cooperating with God’s design to love others.  In fact, everything that we see around us becomes a testimony of the love of God intended to help us.  We are swimming in His provision and grace.  What a comfort that gives to our hearts, “if” we are seeing it and resting in it.

Next we are reminded of the fellowship of the Spirit.  “Fellowship” refers to the emotional bond that we have with other Christians by the Holy Spirit.  It starts with an inner relationship with the Holy Spirit.  He speaks to us and teaches us to follow Jesus.  When we connect with other believers who are doing the same thing, we have a powerful, shared experience of listening to the Holy Spirit.  This shared experience of learning to trust the Lord gives us a bond that is more than emotional; it is even spiritual.  When we connect with others of “like Spirit,” we have fellowship with them.  This also refers to the common lot, and common place that we have in this group we call Christians.  We have dropped away from the spirit of this world and taken our place among those who are following Jesus through the Holy Spirit. 

Lastly we are reminded of the affection and mercy of Christ.  Affection is a reference to the knowledge that God deeply cares about us, which leads to his compassionate mercy towards us.  His emotions have and do lead to actions of mercy in our life.

In all of these things there is a direct reception of them from Christ spiritually.  However, there is also an indirect reception of them through those who belong to Christ.  Granted, this is received imperfectly because it is flowing through imperfect people to a person who imperfectly receives.  That is why Paul is writing this letter.   Think about how often we wonder why God is “holding out on us,” (insert thing you want here).  Yet, at the same time He is daily pouring out such wonderful treasures upon us, directly and indirectly.  The real question is this.  Are you taking time to open yourself up to Jesus and when you do are you receiving it or are you pushing it away?  It is when we are filled with what Jesus has for us that we are enabled to get along with others, and this is directly where Paul wants to go with this.

She can have much with others also

If we have all this stuff from Jesus then it should be possible for us to be unified with other believers.  Our relationships become better because we no longer seek to satisfy ourselves by them.  Instead we are fulfilled by the vast and amazing grace that Jesus pours out upon us daily.  Before we talk about our relationship with other believers, it is important to recognize that this applies to our relationship with unbelievers, too.  Instead of needing something from them, we can love them fully and without selfish ambition because we have all that we need from Jesus.  Yet, having all that we need in Christ can never mean that we disconnect from others and become apathetic towards them.  It is Jesus himself who whispers in our ear, “Love them with my love.  Regardless of how difficult it may be, show them who I am.”

In our passage Paul points, in verse 2, to the need for believers to get along and to have a unity of heart, mind and soul.  Think of it.  We can have unity because we are no longer looking at each other as some kind of payday.  Jesus is our source.  Yes, he may use others.  But it is not dependent upon them.  His list in verse 2 goes through three aspects of our inner being that need to be unified with other believers.  He mentions the mind twice.  Love is generally connected to the heart.  And the word translated “one accord” in the NKJV literally means “same-souled (inner life).”  Now, the world recognizes the power of unity.  It has its own attempt at unity which usually employs a kind of dog-eat-dog system in order to see whose mind, heart, and soul gets to dominate the group.  But this is not the way of Christ.  You see, Paul wants us to have unity around the mind, heart, and soul of Jesus Christ.  It is his mind that should instruct us and lead us.  As we each surrender to Jesus, we are enabled to have unity with one another and Christ’s love can flow through us to each other.

So, what are the things that typically get in the way of Christians having unity?  Verse 3 tells us to put away selfish ambition and conceit.  When we adopt such attitudes and vices, they destroy our unity.  The word translated “selfish ambition” is actually one word.  It was used by the Greeks for those whose political electioneering was underhanded and marked by unfair means.  Such a person was willing to do anything in order to get ahead, to get what they wanted.  Now the word for “conceit” is a compound word that has the idea of vain glory, or empty pride.  Such pride is empty because it has nothing to offer others.  It is always selfish and sucks the life out of everyone that it touches.  A good metaphor would be a dark, rain cloud.  A farmer who is longing for rain is excited when they see a rain cloud.  Imagine that the cloud works very hard at looking like a good rain cloud, but in the end it sails on past and only sucks up more moisture.  Such are those who are conceited.  They work hard at looking good, but they are only good for themselves.  In fact, they are not even that.  One day they will approach their death bed and how empty they will be on that day.  They will look back with sorrow on all the relationships that they sucked the life out of, like some kind of vampiric beast.  They will be left empty in the end.  And, standing before God one day, they will be empty of anything to avoid their fate.  If we want true unity of the Holy Spirit, then we have to reject the voices and the spirit of this age, which incessantly stir up angst within us, calling us to selfish ambition and conceit.  So if these should be avoided, then what should we embrace?

The second half of verse 3 and all of verse 4 point us to the need for a humble opinion of ourselves and the need to esteem others above ourselves.  When we walk into a room our sinful nature seeks to find those ways in which we are better than others.  We tend towards an inflated view of self that affects our relationships.  So what does it mean to esteem others above self?  I don’t think it means to put yourself down in the sense of hating yourself and thinking that you have nothing to offer.  Rather, it is when we see all the ways that others are better than us.  In the world this is a threat.  But in Christ it is part of His grace to us.  Yes, we want Him to put all wisdom within us.  But in the end He scatters His gifts of wisdom, and yet for each of our benefit.  Even then we need to get to such a lowly place precisely because that is the place we need to get to if we are going to actually help others.  You cannot help others full of yourself.  God will bless you through others.  But that is not to be your focus.  Your focus is to be on Jesus and receiving from Him what you can then turn and give to others.

So ladies, and guys too, who are you following?  The next time you find yourself annoyed with someone and fighting with them over something, take time to stop and think.  What do I think I lack, and why do I think this person can give it to me?  Lord, forgive us for making others our source, for looking to others in the way that we should only look to you.  Lord, help us to walk in unity with other believers so that the world might see and know that you are a glorious savior.

A Woman who follows Jesus audio

Tuesday
Aug202013

Complaining Vs. Encouraging

Today we will look at Malachi 3:13-18 and in this section we see two very different kinds of people.  We could call the first group complainers and the second group encouragers, but it goes deeper than that. 

Have you ever recognized how God doesn’t work on our time schedule?  It is easy for us to become discouraged by what we see or don’t see happening around us.  When you add to that a sense that God should be doing something on your behalf, well, it is exponentially worse.  So what do we do with these discouragements?  First we should recognize that these times are testing us to reveal what really is in our hearts and what we will do with it.  Will I allow God to reveal the junk in my heart and then will I ask Him to scrape off the scum that rises to the surface in these “melting pot” times?  That is the question.

Complaining Harshly Against God

Complaining and murmuring were common descriptions of Israel when they were in the desert.  Perhaps you may think that this is a good thing that helps make things better.  But, God said that it is destructive and its source is unbelief, or lack of trust.  Of course, most of the Israelites perished in the desert because of their unbelief.  It is interesting that the very thing they were complaining about happened because of their complaints and those who didn’t complain made it through the desert.  All of Israel went through the same difficult circumstances, but most let unbelief rule in their hearts and complained harshly or strongly against God.  In these moments it is made clear that no amount of evidence to the contrary would make these people trust.  They had a trust issue and instead of seeing that and letting themselves be taught to trust by a loving God, they chose to fight against Him and brought upon themselves the very thing they accused Moses and God of doing: killing them in the desert.

Malachi first points out that they had come to believe that serving God was useless.  It is not clear how public these complaints were voiced.  Perhaps they were mostly thought within the heart, and perhaps voiced in small rooms with few people.  However, this belief was infecting their service to God.  Now we can see how they would continue to obey the command to offer a sacrifice for sin, but then ignore the command that it be without blemish.  They felt it was useless anyways.  However, they continued the “religious sham” because of what it would gain them in the eyes of others.  In their minds, there was no hope in continued service to God.  They no longer looked to God and His Way as an answer, but rather to their own devices and schemes.  Then it gets more specific in the passage.  They believed there was no profit in serving God.  They were not as materially prosperous as they wanted to be.  Meanwhile they could see others who were not obeying God’s command seemingly prospering.  They also believed that it was useless to serve God despite their “mourning before the Lord.”  Apparently they were impressed with their own cries for God to prosper them.  They felt that their fasting and weeping before God to give them material prosperity should have been acceptable to God.  But this wasn’t fixing their “situation” either.  They had made the mistake of thinking that God would accept mere, external duty without inner faith.  They also had made the mistake of thinking God should always materially prosper those who serve Him.  This childish mentality fails to see how times of weakness physically or financially can actually help our character to become more like God and develop spiritual understanding.  It can only see that God is not giving them what they want or think they deserve.

When we let a complaining spirit become the dominant character of our inner life it will blind us to all the blessings we already have and it will spoil any blessings that God desires to give to us.  In verse 15 God reveals some wrong-headed conclusions that they were making.  They are wrong-headed because even though they appeared to be true in the short term, God had clearly stated in His word they were not true.  Unbelief always leads us to live by conclusions that are contradictions to what God has said.  But if we fear God we will not give into such conclusions that are made by our flesh in times of trial.  Instead we will recognize the trap of these “feelings” and cast ourselves on God.  They had come to believe that the proud are blessed.  From God’s Word it is clear that the proud are actually on God’s “Take Down” list.  Pride here is that sense of arrogance and inflated ego.  They saw that the arrogant, inflated people were “getting all the pie.”  They confused this with God’s blessing.  Listen, I see the Christian church in all of this.  Many teachers have risen in the land that promote a gospel that says when God blesses you, you will have money, wealth, and fame.  This is a terrible understanding of God’s blessing.  It is terrible because it messes with the minds and faith of those who are going through difficult times.  It helps them to embrace ideas that are contradictory of God’s Word.  The proud are not blessed.  God will put them down and He will raise the humble.  So where might you want to be?  Next, they believed that the wicked are raised up.  Raised up is the picture of promotion to positions of stature.  Those who sin were being promoted to positions of power politically, economically, and eventually religiously.  But those who try to serve God were being “passed over” and weren’t getting ahead.  Now, again it is all about time.  We want it yesterday and if it isn’t here we are on the phone, sending emails to the complaint department, trying to force our way.  Listen, God can handle your questions, but He won’t put up with unbelief and a heart that embraces contradictions to His Word.  If God has raised up the wicked it is so that they will stick out for judgment.  It is the tall grass that get cut in the day of mowing.  Now what do you want to be?  When a society is under the judgment of God it is practically a curse to be raised up.  Although in the example of Daniel we are shown that God is able, for His purposes, to raise up a righteous man and protect him through times of judgment.  In the end we become envious of the wicked over things that leverage our trust away from God.  Next, their conclusion was that those who tempt God, do so with no consequences.  This phrase “tempt God” refers to intentional blatant disregard for God’s Law.  It tempts God to do something about it.  But when it looks like nothing has happened others looking on quickly think, “why am I still obeying the law?  I’m falling farther behind and they are getting ahead without consequences.”  The next step is to join them in their wickedness, casting off restraint.  These people have come to believe that nothing bad will happen by breaking God’s Word, and quite the contrary, now believe that something good will come from breaking God’s Word.

In all of this we see our own country.  In America many will give lip service to God in politics, economics, and religion.  But, where the rubber meets the road, God is not an answer.  And the person who tries to point to God will be laughed out of the room and have no votes on Election Day.  Wake-up!  We are killing ourselves by giving into such wrong-headed conclusions.  Such conclusions are destroying our country and bringing the judgment of God upon us.

Those Who Fear The Lord

Now verse 16-18 transitions to a different type of person.  The descriptor of this group is “the fear of the Lord.”  They feel the same tensions and difficulties.  They too wonder why the wicked get ahead and the righteous are ran over.  But they have a bedrock belief in God that won’t budge.  With Job they say, “though God slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  Even if God let’s me die, I will still trust Him.  They are afraid of the idea of following anything but God.  Like the disciples of Jesus they feel the tug to walk away, but then where else would they go and who would they turn to?  “No one else has the words of life.”  This fear of the Lord enables a person to remain restrained when all the world around them plunges into the insanity of conclusions that are contradictions to the Maker of our Reality.  Like Israel in the desert, these know that God is bringing them to good, and that even the desert is a place of intimacy.  It is the place where God supplies in ways we could not see nor imagined.  They are the times that deepen our soul and strengthen godly character within us.  It is the refiner’s fire that gives opportunity to say to the Lord, “please scrape off this scum that keeps rising to the surface of my heart.”

Notice that those who fear the Lord talked with each other.  Though it isn’t explicitly stated it is hard to imagine they are doing much other than encouraging each other to keep the faith; encouraging each other to keep walking the Way of the Lord.  We have to find times to encourage each other in God’s Ways and in His Promises.  Our times of Church gatherings should be exactly this.  However, they can be taken over by the unbelieving and spoiled by arrogant and inflated egos.  From such a place run.  Those who fear the Lord will encourage each other.

However, God see this and listens in on these conversations.  It impresses Him to have a Book of Remembrance written to record and give evidence to such conversations of encouragement.  Now, nobody ever feels like God is paying such close attention to their difficulties that He is writing a book about them.  This happens silently in heaven, unnoticed by us on earth.  He is listening and He is intimately concerned with our “working it out.”  Our actions of faith are not always Red-Sea-Parting moments.  Sometimes they are the simple, normal, talking with a friend hashing out why we feel things in our heart and yet why we can’t walk away from the Lord.  Strengthen the hands that hang down!

God says that these people are jewels to Him, and that they are like a son who serves his father.  When the Day of Judgment comes, He will not only just spare these.  But He will take them up as His possession, while the rest are taken away in destruction.  He will spare them the judgment that the wicked are plunging towards.  Now, at the cross and resurrection, Jesus took up those jewels out of the land of Israel.  He called that believing remnant to follow Him into the wilderness as God poured out His judgments on the Egypt that the nation had become.  Later in 70 AD when the nation of Israel was being destroyed, God’s remnant had been pulled to himself and entered into His blessing.  Lest we become arrogant and inflated ourselves, let us recognize that we are in a similar situation today.  Beware lest your life “rhyme” with the life of the wicked 2,000 years ago.  There is a Day of Judgment coming for America and a day of judgment coming for this whole world.  They question is, will God see me as a jewel in that day or is His wrath coming for me?  Do not surrender to unbelief.  Rather, flee into the Word of God and trust His Ways completely, because God will eventually make it clear who are the righteous and who are the wicked.

Scoffers have increased outside the Church and within.  Those who do not fear God within are manipulating the Scriptures to their own desires.  But we must fear God, encourage each other, and warn the perishing.  However, let me warn you.  Warning the perishing will only become more dangerous in this country.  It will take a higher and higher personal cost to warn those who have cast off restraint.  It will seem like it is useless to do so and that those who do are ran over.  However, it is what God has told us to do.  I know this post is long and hopefully you have made it to this point.  If you have then let me plead with you to guard your heart against the unbelief that this society causes to come to the surface.  You don’t know how precious you really are to God.  I don’t say that to inflate your ego.  But to build up your faith in Jesus.  Let’s go forward for Jesus and lay our lives down that other might live.

Complaining vs encouraging audio