Friday, December 18, 2015

Anxious for Nothing (Recommended Reading)

The Christmas season is busy for everyone. There are all kinds of deadlines to meet: End of year deadlines at work, presents to buy before the BIG DAY, parties to prepare, programs to attend, family gatherings, house cleaning, and the list goes on and on. Some of this is necessary and some of it is self-imposed. At times this hectic schedule can be overwhelming. If the truth be told society has all but made heroes out of those who overload themselves and never rest.

It is always admirable to see someone who is ambitious and driven toward excellence, but is another thing when that ambition counters the health of relationships with family and friends or even personal health. People are busy...people are anxious. We are either worried we'll miss out on some great opportunity, or worried we won't get recognition (or that someone else will get it before us), or worried we might lose a promotion, or... We are an anxious people.

I have an anxious personality, but I didn't really know that until my mother passed away unexpectedly at age 53. Her death mixed with the knowledge that her mother passed away the same way at the same age caused me great anxiety. That was when I began to experience anxiety attacks. Logically I knew that I didn't need to worry. Spiritually and biblically I knew that I didn't need to worry.

Anxiety is not logical, so it is difficult to reason through it. However, anxiety does have spiritual ramifications. This was best illuminated to me when my wife discovered a book by Pastor John MacArthur called Anxious for Nothing. I have found Anxious for Nothing most helpful in offering a proper perspective regarding anxiety. In it there is no "magic" formula to perform in order to make anxiety disappear. John MacArthur offers plain, biblical passages and perspectives from which to view anxiety. I have read the book several times and each time, it refreshes my mind on why I do not need to be anxious.

I recommend this book to you if you struggle with the feeling of being overwhelmed by life, or if you have a family member or friend who battles these feelings. I keep a supply of them in my office because there is always someone who needs to be encouraged through anxiety.

Don't let this busy Christmas season, or any time of year cause you to be fearful or overwhelmed. Seek the Lord. He cares for you and watches over you. Check out Anxious for Nothing and see if it helps you like it did me.
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:6
For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

Friday, November 13, 2015

Fair Expectations: Why So Red Faced about Red Cups?

I know this topic has been over-talked by way too many people; many who are more qualified than I. However, as I reflected on the whole Starbucks® red cup controversy, I thought perhaps I could offer a little perspective to my circle of influence. In case you are unaware, Starbucks® recently unveiled their holiday cup design which has become a tradition since 1997. In the past, the cups have had various designs with symbols of the Christmas holiday season, which have included snowflakes, Christmas tree ornaments, starbursts, etc. This year, however, Starbucks® has decided to use a blank cup with two tones of red.

The controversy is that Starbucks® is being accused by many of trying to remove the word Christmas or the Christian meaning of the holiday from the public arena. A few questions need to be asked by each individual weighing in on the conversation:

  1. Have the designs of the past related at all to the Christian understanding of the meaning of Christmas?
  2. Is Starbucks® a Christian-owned company or was it founded with Christian ideals as its philosophy?
  3. If the answer to the previous questions is "no", then should Starbucks® be expected to employ Christian expressions of the holiday?
I want to give my answers to these questions and give a biblical point of view to the last question which really sums up the necessary Christian response to the general principle at stake in this controversy.
  1. As best as I can surmise by looking into the history of Starbucks'® Christmas (or holiday) cups, none have had any design that relates directly to the advent and birth of Jesus Christ which represent the Christian understanding of the meaning of Christmas. Christians observe Christmas as the celebration the birth of our Savior.  However, Starbucks® has always used traditional, secular symbols of the holiday. 
  2. Starbucks®, as best as I can surmise from their written history is not, nor ever was a Christian-owned company. Neither was it founded with Christian ideals as its philosophy. The following is the Starbucks® Mission statement: "To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time."
  3. The remaining question then is: "Should Starbucks® be expected to employ Christian expressions of the holiday?" Since Starbucks® has never displayed any propensity toward the Christian holiday in anyway, why would we Christians be upset with the absence of symbols or icons that have nothing to do with our celebration? We cannot expect people who do not believe in Christ to live by Christian values. As a matter of fact, we Christians are so prone to falling short of Christian values and principles, that we need to spend much more time focused on making sure we get it right so we don't mar the image of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Please make sure you are not hearing what you think I am saying. Christians have a tremendous responsibility to influence the world for the sake of leading others to Christ so they will be saved. This doesn't mean we lead non-Christians to live like WE think they should. Life transformation does not come from a person making a decision to change. Life transformation comes from an encounter with the resurrected Christ. Only the Holy Spirit will change a heart. When a heart is changed by God, then the actions will follow (Matthew 12:33-37Matthew 15:18-19). 

Christians must remember that if it wasn't for Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, we would be headed toward the same torment of hell as everyone else (John 3:18). We are all dependent on the mercy of Christ to be saved. We didn't earn His forgiveness, He paid for it and then offered it as a gift. Christians are simply those who have accepted/received His offer.

Keep the following passage in mind as you encounter people who have not accepted the gift of salvation and are living contrary to biblical principles: 
18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, "I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE." 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no * man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)
What do you need to change in your way of thinking so you can more effectively communicate the gospel to people who need it? Do you need to remember where you came from and Who rescued you from there? Do you need to remember that you are daily dependent on the grace of Christ?

If you're like me, you'll need to regularly be reminded of what D.T. Niles was quoted as saying in the New York Times on May 11, 1986:
"Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread."
You pray for me and I'll pray for you!

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What's Rediscovering Discipleship All About? (Guest post by Dr. Robby Gallaty and Replicate Ministries)

I have become a big fan of Dr. Robby Gallaty. I found his website at the time of my ministry which I began looking into how to disciple others and how to begin a discipling ministry. Dr. Gallaty doesn't just write and teach ABOUT discipleship. He gives practical steps how to get started and then continue carrying through to the point of multiplication. I highly recommend his new book Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus' Final Words Our First Work. I am honored that he has given me permission to post his introduction here on For God's Glory.
This is the Introduction to Rediscovering Discipleship. Click here for information on great giveaways and purchase links.

Anything old is old fashioned to much of the western world. However, two movements that altered the course of human history were the Renaissance (1300-1700) and the Reformation (1500-1600), both of which recovered or rediscovered that which was lost. By looking into the past, they were able to take giant strides forward. 
A return to discipleship will enact the reformation of the twenty-first century. The strategy is not new. The method has been time tested and is culturally relevant in any context. Discipleship works as well in a small, rural church as it does in a major city megachurch. A seasoned pastor can experience the same results as an inexperienced minister. Laymen without seminary education or years of ministerial experience are able to reach the nations by implementing these core discipleship principles.
Yet my driving motive for writing this book is not to raise the banner of discipleship; it’s a clarion call for cultivating a deeper walk with Christ. I am passionate about disciple-making because my desire is to obey Jesus. When a person grows closer to him, the yield will be discipleship.
Discipleship is effective because it empowers believers to shoulder the work of ministry. Every individual in a discipleship ministry has another person they are working with. Disciples, many for the first time, are equipped to take responsibility for their faith and ownershipfor their God-given ministries. We are here because the first disciples took Jesus at his word. They made Jesus’ last words their first work. What would happen if we did the same? I believe we would rediscover what it means to be a New Testament church.
The Greatness of the Great Commission
What makes the Great Commission so “great”? It is that small two-letter prefix “co-.” Jesus could have told us about the Great Mission, something he would do alone. Instead, he enlisted us to join him in what we call the Great Co-Mission. As believers, we cooperate with him in a synergistic manner—working together.
In his book WikiChurch, Steve Murrell tells the story of a ten-year-old judo student who was seriously injured in a car accident. The student’s arm was so badly injured that the doctors were left with no choice but to amputate it. Everyone thought his judo career was over, yet despite his handicap, he persevered and continued his training. His teacher, aware of a plan the boy didn’t yet understand, taught him one move and one move only. The boy petitioned his teacher every day to teach him more than one technique, but the teacher would not change his mind. Every day of every week of every month was spent perfecting this one move.
The boy entered his first tournament after the injury and, against all odds, advanced to the finals. His opponent in the finals was more seasoned, faster, stronger, and, as was immediately apparent, in possession of all of his limbs. The match was a stalemate until the seasoned competitor lost focus for a moment. The one-armed boy performed the only major move he knew, and his opponent could do nothing to counter it. To everyone’s surprise, the one-armed boy was crowned the champion.
According to Murrell, the one-armed student won the match for two simple reasons: “First of all, he has mastered one of the most difficult moves in all of judo. Second, the only defense against that move is to grab your opponent’s left arm.”
 Although I cannot confirm if this story is true, it still communicates a principle we must all learn: simplify. Learn to keep the main thing the main thing. When we do this and stop majoring on the minors, we become far more effective in our ministry efforts. Until disciple-making becomes the ministry of the church and not a ministry in the church, we will never see our discipleship efforts impact the world the way that Jesus envisioned.
This generation, as with every generation, has a fresh opportunity to reclaim this ancient pattern of ministry. Today’s church leaders are not like the generations immediately preceding them. Church in a box is outdated like Cavaricci jeans (you only know about these if you’re older than thirty), canned sermons are frowned upon, and more leaders understand their need for a comprehensive disciple-making strategy—the crux of the Great Commission. What is missing from the equation, unfortunately, is a measurable method for tracking effectiveness.
BirthMARCS of a D-Group
“Create incarnational principles, not duplicatable processes for people to implement,” was the advice of Will Mancini, author and visionary, in an hour-long phone conversation I had with him about disciple-making.
 Mancini is talking here about a common phenomenon among ministry leaders. Many churches will experience success in a particular area of ministry and then attempt to repackage a step-by-step process for duplication in other churches. In the 1990s, many churches adopted the “Purpose Driven” model for ministry, which was very effective at the time.
But after years of implementing it as a nicely packaged, sure-fire disciple-making strategy, it began to fade. And some of this is due to the need to contextualize each strategy to our local culture. What works in Chattanooga, Tennessee, may not work in San Francisco or in Quito, Ecuador. The Word of God and the principles it teaches are timeless and transcendent, but man-made curriculums developed in a particular cultural context are not.
When God determines the maturity of a church, he doesn’t count the Christians—he weighs them, and the weight is measured by how deeply his teaching has penetrated into a person’s life.
 Depth is more important than width; the transformation of a single person can have a greater impact than hundreds of shallow commitments. And as we will discover later, Jesus instituted this principle in his own disciple-making ministry. His plan for reaching the world was not through massive evangelism conferences, though they have their place, but by investing in people who would then invest themselves in discipling others.
Depth is a hard thing to measure, is it not? How do you measure the maturity of an individual? Are there certain elements that are essential for determining whether or not a discipleship group (D-Group) is healthy? I believe that there are. We will unpack these elements in later chapters, but here I want to introduce you to the M.A.R.C.S of a healthy discipleship group. The M.A.R.C.S are as follows:
  • Missional
  • Accountable
  • Reproducible
  • Communal
  • Scriptural
In chapter 13 we will examine each of these five categories more closely. And by the end of this book you will not only have a fresh appreciation for the ancient practice of discipleship, but also will have learned how to develop a comprehensive discipleship system that will serve as the guiderails for implementing a new discipleship ministry … or for fine-tuning your existing one.
Redefining Success
Imagine that you are asked to keep score of a football game for a local high school. You arrive early at the field, make your way to the press box, and prepare to document touchdowns and turnovers. But you immediately notice a problem: you forgot to bring a scorecard. You search your pockets and find that all hope is not lost. You still have an unused scoring card from a round of golf you played earlier. What luck!
Shortly into the first quarter, the home team scores the opening points. You ask the official in the booth next to you, “What did they shoot?” 
“What did they shoot?” he replies to you, somewhat quizzically. “The team scored a touchdown and made the extra point for a total of seven points.” 
You write down a seven, which is three strokes above the allotted par of four for the first hole. As you can imagine, you’ll quickly find out that you cannot record football stats on a golf scorecard. In the same way, we cannot judge church success by the standards of another model.
Many church leaders today easily fall into the trap of gauging success in the church by the ABCs of growth: Attendance, Buildings, and Cash. However, there is a serious problem with this scorecard, namely, that Jesus never gauged effectiveness by these criteria.
Read the Gospels. Jesus didn’t draw large crowds for the sake of counting heads or logging attendance. Although he did speak to the masses, he consistently left them to be in the close company of the twelve in his inner circle. Acts 1 records that after Jesus ascended into heaven, only 120 disciples gathered together to pray for God to empower them through his Spirit. This approach stands in stark contrast to most modern church growth standards of success. Jesus spoke with unprecedented authority. He raised the dead. He gave sight to the blind. He healed the sick. These miracles constantly drew increasingly large crowds, yet after his departure, only 120 people met to continue his work.
By referring to them as “only 120” I do not wish to discount the miraculous work of our Lord, but rather to point out that Jesus was not interested in expanding out at the expense of growing miles deep. Rather, he focused on developing mature, faithful disciples who carried a revolutionary directive: go make more of you. This does not mean that you should try and kill your church, only that numbers often give a false sense of accomplishment. So whether your church draws 50 or 50,000, depth is the goal.
We should also keep in mind that during his earthly ministry, Jesus never owned anything. The Bible tells us that he didn’t even have a place to lay his head, much less a regular meeting place for his “congregation” (see Luke 9:58). The acquisition of buildings for meeting together was not a priority on his to-do list. Buildings are not evil, but they shouldn’t be our primary model for trying to make disciples. Anyone can fill a building with people, but not everyone can make them into disciples.
Finally, it is good for us to remember that Jesus was not impressed with cash or finances. Yes, he taught on money more than on heaven and hell combined, but he never put much stock in the size of the traveling treasury. Again, this is not to say that a large or small ministry budget is good or bad—money allows most ministries to exist; rather, we must remember that it was not an ultimate focus of Jesus and should not be an ultimate focus of ours. Consider whom Jesus appointed to head up his ministry funds: Judas, who betrayed him for a meager thirty pieces of silver.
Jesus implemented a strategy of multiplication with the men he hand-selected, by leveraging the talents and abilities of each one. In the book Multipliers, authors Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown describe the mentality of a multiplier: 
Instead of achieving linear growth by adding new resources, you can more efficiently extract the capability of your people and watch growth skyrocket. Leaders rooted in the logic of multiplication believe: 1. Most people in organizations are underutilized. 2. All capability can be leveraged with the right kind of leadership. 3. Therefore, intelligence and capability can be multiplied without requiring a bigger investment.
Sound familiar? Jesus’ discipleship ministry solidified this strategy. The authors go on to say, 
Multipliers don’t necessarily get more with less. They get more by using more— more of people’s intelligence and capability. As one CEO put it, “Eighty people can either operate with the productivity of fifty or they can operate as though they were five hundred.”
Jesus used eleven men to change the world. You are reading this book today as a result of their ministries.
Closing the Revolving Back Door
If I am going to be completely transparent with you, I will admit to falling into this trap myself. Early in my ministry I would regularly challenge my members to invite their friends to church. Although I wouldn’t have admitted this at the time, our invitation was more about us than about them. We weren’t all that concerned about their personal needs, and as soon as they began attending we would encourage them to repeat this process with their friends. When those friends arrived, we extended to them the same charge to get their friends to church. 
People would stick around for a few months, but many would eventually leave. Our church became a revolving door, with new people exiting the back faster than guests were walking through the entrance. Having talked with other pastors about this, I now know that I wasn’t the only pastor stuck in that rut of measuring growth through church attendance. Every pastor fights the urge to count nickels and noses.
What if we shifted the focus from running out and grabbing as many people from outside of the community to bringing them in and spending more time discipling the people whom God has already entrusted to us? What if we decided to invest in those already attending week after week? 
Immanuel Baptist Church in Morgan City, Louisiana—the first church I pastored—had a small congregation, about sixty-five people. These faithful few were passionate about the things of God and desired to grow in their faith. I chose a handful of men to invest in while my wife, Kandi, selected a few women with whom to do the same. It didn’t take long for a discipleship initiative to spread through the congregation. Before leaving that church to pastor Brainerd Baptist Church three years later, God had grown the church numerically, but even more importantly, he had driven the roots of those relatively few members deep below the surface of a superficial Christianity. The seeds that were planted almost a decade ago are still being harvested today.
Believers who were at one time uncomfortable sharing their faith with lost friends before entering a discipling relationship were transformed into people living, breathing, and sharing the gospel. Their workplaces turned into a mission field for reaching the lost. Marriages were restored. Lives were changed. During the first year of ministry, we saw more people make decisions for Christ than were attending when I arrived. People regularly commented, “I feel like we are living the book of Acts.” I felt the same way. By adopting a new scorecard for effectiveness in our church, the members followed suit.
Was it that we implemented something new? No. We rediscovered something old, as old as the church itself: discipleship. This rediscovery of discipleship has changed my own life as well. I often wonder how different my life would have been if certain men hadn’t taken time to disciple me. But why stop with me? Let’s take it a step further: How different would your life be today if you had an opportunity to be engaged in a Christlike, biblical discipleship relationship? How different would the lives around you be if you were the one to take seriously Jesus’ command to make disciples?
K.I.S.S. Your Program Goodbye
A few years ago, our staff implemented a painful (though necessary) revision of our current programs. We applied something called the K.I.S.S. paradigm. Everyone on staff was encouraged to examine their ministries through the lens of our mission statement—Deliver, Disciple, Deploy—and to determine what things they needed to Keep, Increase, Start, or Stop (K.I.S.S.). Every ministry in our church was brought to the table. Nothing was off limits.
As Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry once said, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
 This kind of evaluation is very difficult because it removes what you want and reveals what God wants. Far too often we allow our egos to hinder spiritual growth in ourselves and those around us, when God wants us to toss aside our preconceptions, lay down what mankind sees as important, and embrace the mission to which he has called us.
In the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, British prisoners of war in Burma during World War II are building a bridge for their Japanese captors. They devote enormous amounts of time constructing a bridge that serves as more than a channel for passage; it becomes something beautiful and wonderful for them. At the end of the film, there is a challenging moment when another group of Allied commandos force the captives to consider blowing up the bridge to keep Japanese trains from using it. It’s a very difficult decision for the men because of the extraordinary effort they have expended in building the bridge. The men have become so focused on the intricacies of their effort that they have forgotten the larger mission of winning the war.
I share this because as you read this book, some of you may need to think seriously about eliminating some good programs in your church if you want to do what is best. Train yourself and your people not to be impressed with success in the church that does not accomplish the goal set forth by Christ: making disciples. Don’t be impressed with momentary feats. Look for the fruit that lasts forever.
How many marriages were restored last year?
How many people are striving for holiness?
How many men and women are holding each other accountable?
How many addicts are experiencing victories over drugs, pornography, or alcohol?
How many groups are reproducing themselves exponentially?
How many fellow men and women are you investing in now?
In my first book, Growing Up, I wrote to those who wanted to be a disciple, those who longed to share in the heart of God. In it I introduced a system for spiritual growth that has been used in our own discipleship groups with great success. But in that book I was only able to scratch the surface of the what, why, and how of a discipleship group. In this book we will focus on the principal components of an effective D-Group, and I will show you how to implement that in your church.
So let’s get started. The first step we must take is to repent. We must repent for being disobedient in the mission of the church—making disciples.
Learn more about the book on our website
Copyright © 2015 Replicate Ministries Inc, All rights reserved. Reposted with permission October 22, 2015. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Weary, Weak and Wired? There's a Solution for That

Humans have limits. We don't like it, but it is reality. Sometimes we need rest. Sometimes we can't complete a task because it is too much for us. Sometimes we feel like giving up because a circumstance feels unbearable. What are we to do in these circumstances? This is why the organism of the church is so vital for a believer. Notice that I said organism, not organization. The church is a living body and each of us is dependent on the rest (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). When one part of the body struggles, the rest can help. I have found that there is never a time when the whole body is weak. There is usually someone there to help us, remind us and/or encourage us.

Of course, the best place for the follower of Christ to receive encouragement is from the Word of God. We know that God's Word is always true based primarily on the evidence of the vast number of prophecies which have been fulfilled from it. The best prophecies fulfilled in Scripture are the ones that point to our Savior, Jesus Christ. The prophecies of Christ's coming began at the time of the Fall in the Garden of Eden. The last Old Testament prophecies of Christ were heard 400 years before His birth. John the Baptist broke that silence with his arrival on the scene. Isaiah prophesied about Christ about 700 years before His birth. Look at this one from Isaiah 35:3-10:
3 Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. 4 Say to those with anxious heart, "Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you." 5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy... 8 A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it. 9 No lion will be there, Nor will any vicious beast go up on it; These will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there, 10 And the ransomed of the LORD will return And come with joyful shouting to Zion, With everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Christ accurately fulfilled this prophecy either directly or through His followers. The proof of this is found in the following passages:

Matthew 11:5: "...the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM."

Luke 7:22: "And He answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM."

Acts 3:8: "With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God."

Because Christ accurately fulfilled this and many other prophecies, He proved that God's Word is once again and always true. Therefore, as is said in the Isaiah passage above, the exhausted, the feeble and the anxious can "take courage" and "fear not" because God has provided the salvation which will ultimately redeem the faithful from the troubles and terrors of this life.

We are in an interlude between the beginning of salvation and the completion of it. Our purpose during this interlude is to display our confidence in the promises of God so that others will understand their need for His salvation and hopefully surrender to His kingship and receive the hope and salvation available to them.

If we followers of Christ will keep our eyes on the prize which waits at the end of the race (Philippians 3:12-14) and recognize its immense value, then we will be able to endure the temporary troubles (2 Corintians 4:17).

So...hang on tight and know that God is hanging on to you and cannot lose His grip (1 Corinthians 15:58). If you are feeling exhausted, weak or anxious then spend time praying and reading Scripture. Remember that prayer includes listening for the voice of God. Scripture helps you remember the character of God and His faithfulness.

What's bothering you today? Where do you feel hopeless? With what weaknesses are you struggling? What is making you anxious? Have you spent time in prayer? Have you shared your burdens with a confidant who will pray with and for you? Don't struggle alone. Message me if you need to. I will pray for you.

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Refugees, Immigrants and Aliens

I grew up in South Florida during the height of the Cuban and Haitian refugee crises. I now live in Texas which is one of several states facing an immigration crisis from Mexico. In the news we see images of a massive exodus of Syrian refugees. It seems that at any given point of time, many in our world are transient. While growing up, and into a good part of my adulthood, my family moved an average of every 3-4 years.  There was a period of two years in which my wife, my daughter and I moved six times! We have lived where we are now for eight years: the longest any of the four of us (including our son now) have lived one place.

God commanded Abram (later Abraham) to get up and go without knowing where he was going. God told him that He'd let him know when he got there. Abram ended up in the Promised Land, the land of Canaan after he allowed his nephew Lot to have the land of his choice. However, if you know the story, then you know that Abram's descendants would not stay there. Abram would have Isaac and Isaac would have Jacob and Esau and then Jacob had twelve sons, one of which was Joseph. Joseph, ended up in Egypt by way of a plot of his brothers. Joseph's presence in Egypt was God's providence for the Israelites (Abraham's descendants) in the midst of a famine.  The Israelites ended up in Egypt for 400 years before they would have to be delivered by God and then they ended up wandering as a nomadic people for another 40 years due to their disobedience. Israel was transient.

Even when Israel entered the Promised Land, they had difficulty following through with taking possession. One reason for this was that they became comfortable with what they had. They did not press on toward obtaining the full promise that God had made. Another reason was that they forgot what God (the only true God) had done for them and they began to serve the false gods of the other nations in the land: the people they were supposed to destroy (not because they were a different nationality, but because they were pagan and refused to follow God).

When God called Abraham, He made a promise:  "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice" (Genesis 22:18).  This promise and the story summarized above was the beginning of God's plan to offer salvation to the world. If you follow the bloodline of Abraham, you will eventually arrive at the birth of Jesus Christ. This was the advent of God coming to earth in human form in order to die on the cross to pay for all sins of all people for all time. This is the offer God makes to mankind, but it is a gift that has been offered. It must be received by each individual in order to enjoy the benefits.

However, once the gift is received, it displaces the one who receives it. You see, the one who comes to God, must come as one who needs refuge (a refugee).  Why refuge? Because we have offended God by sinning against Him. Because He is a perfect and righteous Judge, His wrath is pointed at us while we remain in our sinful state. So we run to Him for refuge from Him. It's an unusual relationship because the One who was offended (God) by our sin, is the very One who provides the refuge through forgiveness provided by Jesus' death on the cross (Romans 5:9).

Once we run to God, then we become citizens of His kingdom and instantaneously become aliens of this world (Ephesians 2:19, 1 Peter 1:1, 1 Peter 2:11). A "separation" forms between a follower of Christ and those who do not follow Him. Pay attention closely though: this separation is not an elevation. Christians are not better than non-Christians, just different. Christians are called to be holy, which means to be set apart, different (1 Peter 1:14-16).  That is why many non-Christians are uncomfortable with Christians: because we are attempting to display God's holiness and when we are successful, we remind them of their sin and that is an uncomfortable feeling. I know I don't like it when I am doing something wrong and it is obvious to those around me.

However, believers must be careful that in attempting to live a holy life, we do not project the idea that we can or have accomplished this by our own ability. We must constantly stay close to God in His Word (the Bible) and in prayer so that we can accurately reflect His holiness. He puts it in us, we don't achieve it. The moment we start looking away from God, then we become prideful and self-righteous.

While believers are to strive for holiness, we must be sure to remember that we cannot expect someone who is not a follower of Christ to live like we live. We can only expect that person to live like we did before we surrendered to Christ, according to our own desires.

Think of it this way: When you visit a foreign country, you cannot go into their country and demand that they speak your language or conform to your cultural norms. You go in understanding that you will have to adapt to their cultural norms. In some cases you may even prepare beforehand so you can communicate effectively with the people of that country. However, you usually don't stay long enough for their norms to become comfortable to you.

On the other hand, if while you are in that foreign country you meet a new friend that is native to that land and you see that they have a need that could be met if they would return with you to your country, then you can invite them. You would work to prepare them for what they will need to do in order to adapt to the cultural norms of your country. However, you still cannot expect them to accept those changes if they have not first accepted your invitation.

With this imagery in mind try to develop this mindset: If you are a Christian, you are an alien in a foreign land and while you may not be able to, nor should you, adapt to all the cultural norms of the land, you can see the particular needs of the people around you and show them (through Scripture) what those needs are and invite them to come home with you. Your home has unlimited resources as well as a perfect, benevolent King who desires to lavish His love upon all who will come.

So, don't get comfortable here. Keep striving toward the full promises of God and invite as many as you can to return with you so they can benefit as well.  There are blessings far beyond what we can see or even imagine (Ephesians 3:201-21).

If you are not a Christian, what keeps you from accepting the offer of God's unlimited grace and the inheritance of His kingdom? If you are a believer, what have you become too comfortable with during your stay here? What do you need to do to prepare for your trip home to the Father's kingdom?

Feel free to leave comments or contact me via email:

For God's Glory,

Chris S. Sweet

Friday, September 11, 2015

God Is Better Than Tupperware®

I have been unable to write the past couple of weeks. We took a family vacation to celebrate my wife's and my 20th anniversary, we lost a couple of good friends in our church which required time to help their families grieve, we have had technological difficulties in the office, and sometimes life is just plain busy for everyone. I'm not sharing this with you to complain or make excuses. I share it to help make my point.

When I was school-aged, my mom would host Tupperware® parties in our home. In case you are unfamiliar with this product, it was the ground breaking system of storage containers. Many women took advantage of its opportunity to earn extra income. Tupperware's® claim to fame was it's ability to seal airtight, keeping the contents of the container fresh.

In a much better fashion, God preserves the lives of His followers. He loves us and no matter what our circumstances may be, whether good or bad, God is the one the believer can and must depend on. God is the one who sustains us day by day. Contemplate these verses from Psalm 121:
1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. 8 The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever. (emphasis mine)
This psalm emphatically states that God is taking care of us. He is helping, keeping, shading, protecting and guarding, and He will do so forever. I think that it is notable that the word "keep" is the most frequently used word in this passage. Let me explain why it is significant to me:
The one spiritual struggle that I faced the most through my Christian life was that because I failed often after having surrendered my life to Christ, I wondered if I had ever really become a Christian. I thought my failures were evidence of my lack of salvation. Don't misunderstand me: I have always believed that once a person is saved by Christ, Christ is the one who keeps that person saved (John 10:27-29). However, I operated my life as if once I was saved, it was up to me to maintain my salvation through righteous living.

I fell prey to a fallacy. Though being a Christian comes with the call to live a holy life, the fact that I still dwell in flesh means that I will still fail until Christ comes back to perfect me and take me to heaven. This fact does not give me permission to sin (Romans 6:1-2), but it secures me when I do (Romans 7:15-25). Ultimately, it is ALL God's work and none of our own. He saves us and He keeps us saved!

So, don't fret when hard times come, don't become overly comfortable when things are going well, and don't beat yourself up when you fail. In all circumstances, turn to God and cling to Him because He will keep you.

Of what do you need to relinquish your hold, so that God can take it so He can "keep" you: keep you safe, provided for, encouraged, confident, at peace, etc.? Spend time right now to focus on Him and His goodness and love for you. Thank Him for His faithfulness, mercy, grace and love...He's on His throne and He's waiting to hear from you (Matthew 6:9,  Psalm 46:10)

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

Monday, August 24, 2015

I'm Depressed: Suicide (Part 2 of 2)

Last Monday I reposted a piece I wrote a little over a year ago about depression. It includes a testimony of my personal brief glimpse into depression. My experience gave me a new perspective of the hopelessness felt by someone who chronically battles depression.

This week I want to delve even further by addressing the topic of suicide. I have not personally had a suicidal thought. I have, however, ministered to a family that faced this tragedy. The thoughts I will share today seemed to be helpful to them, so I thought they may be helpful to others who have battled with depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts or for those who have lost a loved one due to suicide.

I would like to address three truths about suicide in this post:
1.     Suicide is Unusual

By that, I mean that it is not God's desire. God is the giver of life. He created all life and then he redeemed humanity by sending Jesus to die in our place. He did this to pay for our sins so that we could live forever with Him if we accept His gift. Just to prove that He has power over sin and death, God raised Jesus from the dead (again, giving life).

Here’s what God had to say about the value He places on life:

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

John 10:10 says: “"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

God is the giver of life and so, yes, suicide is a sin because it is contrary to the nature and purposes of God. However,

2.     Suicide is NOT Unforgiveable

Some people say that because you are unable to confess the sin of suicide, then you cannot be forgiven and therefore will go to hell. Here is the truth: Our salvation is not dependent on any action we initiate. It is God’s work one hundred percent. When we accept God’s salvation as offered through Christ, it covers our sins: past, present and future. Though we need to confess our sins to God, it is not required to maintain our salvation. It is an act that is designed for us to learn from. It is an act to conform us to God’s will. God already knows about our sins before we do (He went to Adam and Eve in the garden while they were hiding out. They though maybe He wouldn’t notice).

Read about the assurance you can have:

Romans 8:37-39: “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (emphasis mine)

We are created beings, therefore, we do not have power to reverse what God has done. Salvation is His work alone. He loves us. This doesn't give us license to sin, but it gives us assurance when we fail.

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

3.    Suicide is Unexplainable

Some have an extremely hard time understanding what happens when someone commits suicide. People who do not struggle with depression cannot understand why people become so despairing. Only that person and God know what the thought process is that leads to this point. We run a danger of being very wrong and hurting others when we try to rationalize and explain the thought processes of the suicide victim.

I believe that the brief glimpse of depression that I mentioned in last week's post was God-given. I believe He allowed it so that I would never again diminish someone who battles constantly with depression.  There was no logical explanation for what was happening. It just did. Fortunately for me, I was able to discern the connection with my diet and correct the imbalance, but for others it is not that easy. However, if you have never had a struggle like this, depression makes no sense and you might be tempted to think the person just needs to get over it or have more faith in God. Please be sensitive to know that it’s not that easy. Someone struggling does need help but sometimes they need a family member or friend to lead them where they need to go.

God understands the person who struggles with depression. He knows their hurt. He hurts with those who suffer:

Romans 8:26-27: “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (emphasis mine)

I have recently adopted a phrase that speaks to the truth of mankind’s condition: We are ALL broken peopleThe difference is in how our brokenness is manifested.  The good news is that Jesus is the one who puts the broken pieces back together. If you accept His gift of salvation, then you will be perfected when you arrive in heaven. Will you let Him put you back together so you can have confidence in your eternal destination?
Revelation 21:3-4: “…and He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

Please feel free to message me if you need to talk further about this. I am not a counselor, but I can offer spiritual wisdom or help you find the help you need.

For God's Glory,

Chris S. Sweet

Monday, August 17, 2015

I'm Depressed: Depression (Re-post as part 1 of 2)

I posted this blog almost exactly a year ago. It apparently struck a personal note with many because it is among my most-read posts. I am re-posting because of its impact, but also because I have a sequel to it that discusses suicide. I hope you will read this one this week and watch for the sequel next Monday.

I embark on this post with great caution. Caution because I don't like bandwagons.  With this being the week that the news and comments about Robin Williams' suicide plastered everywhere it may appear that way. Caution because this is a sensitive subject to many. Caution because this is an uncomfortable subject for so many. And, caution because I am going to take a little risk in being transparent.

Honestly, I have not ever had a problem with depression. I have not understood what people are speaking of when they tell of their struggles. I have been flippant at times when I have heard others talk of their struggles, or I have offered cheap platitudes when people have shared with me personally.

That is until the past year. I have grown to understand a little more and been slower to assume or to attempt to resolve others' difficulty with this troubling condition.  As a disclaimer, I don't have anything figured out, nor have I experienced all that someone who struggles with depression has felt. However, I now have a little better feel for it.

About a year ago, I was having my quiet time with the Lord. I was being very contemplative, or so I thought, when all of a sudden I began to weep and could not control myself. This went on for at least a day. I could sense something was wrong, something was out of the ordinary. It scared me because I didn't understand it.

For ME, it was a fairly simple fix. I was able to make some dietary changes that corrected my troubles. However, I am grateful to have had the experience for the sake of others that I will encounter in my ministry. I can no longer respond,  whether in my own mind or out loud, the way I had previously. I now find that I am more attentive to people who share their struggles with depression. I was even recently able to listen more attentively to and pray with a church member who shared the struggles they were experiencing on a very severe level.

Does this mean I understand depression? No. Does this mean I have answers I can give to those who come to me? Not easy ones. Each person is different. Each one struggles differently with different thoughts and different symptoms. I would not even begin to risk to give advice. There is no cookie cutter approach.

However, I can give thoughtful encouragement to them on a personal level and encourage them to seek professional help without being condescending or simplistic. I can be armed with a list professional resources to guide someone who needs to know where to go. I can stop and immediately pray with them. I can call and check on them regularly. I can listen for any warning signs that may result in them being a danger to themselves or others.

What I cannot do is treat them differently or avoid them or toss scripture at them or tell them their faith should be stronger or shrug them off as if they "just need to get over it".I can tell you first hand: I know now that you can't "just get over it". Just knowing or speaking or reading scripture doesn't fix it. I can tell you, I know what the scriptures say about joy, faith, trials and anxieties, etc. I have repeated them over and over. When I had the episode I described above I could logically think of what was right, but I could not make the feelings of despair go away. I could not make sense of WHY I felt the way I did.

Often, what we don't understand is what scares us the most. I hope and pray that you will not allow your fear or disregard for the unknown effect the way you respond to those who are suffering with depression. I hope you don't have to experience what I have and certainly not what others have experienced far worse than my own. I do hope you will be slow to respond so you can pray and inquire from God as to the best response you can give. When part of the body is injured and hurting, the rest of the body feels it and is part of the process of seeking and receiving proper attention. May we do our part in helping our depressed brothers and sisters in their time of need that it may result in the furthering of the gospel to the glory of God!

1 Corinthians 12:20-26
20 But now there are many members, but one body21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22On the contraryit is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorableon these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the bodygiving more abundant honor to that member which lacked25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another26 And if one member suffersall the members suffer with it; if one member is honoredall the members rejoice with it. (NASB)
For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

Monday, August 10, 2015

Escaping Death

Wouldn't you like life to be easier than it is? I think most people do. That's why most TV commercials attempt to convince us that their product will make our life easier...better...more fun...more attractive.

How about an easy life and the ability to cheat death? After all, in 2014 alone Americans spent $3.8 Trillion on health care. Americans are living much longer because of all the medical advances as well. However, the truth is that the two certain things in life are still death and taxes. Taxes are the only category of the two that mankind can control.

As long as we are on this planet and in this flesh-wrapped body, there will be no easy life and death is certain. However, the Bible tells us that there is an offer of eternal life which will be spent in never-ending joy and without suffering or sorrow. The only unfortunate part of it is that we have to endure the hardships of this life before we can get to eternal life. However, the Bible says that this life will seem only momentary and the troubles will seem light once we reach eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17).

God is our hope for eternal life. He is the one who offers it, but He is not asking for you to pay for it. He paid for it and offers it as a gift. He paid for it with blood of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8, Romans 6:23).

For those who already believe, I want to encourage you a little. Often we struggle with living as we know we should and that sometimes leads to us doubting whether or not we are saved. Here are a couple of verses for you:
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. Selah. God is to us a God of deliverances; And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death. (Psalm 68:19-20)
 If you read the entirety of Psalm 68, you will find that it highlights many of the wonderful attributes and actions of God which demonstrate His greatness as well as the magnitude of His love toward His people.  The two above verses stand out particularly because they tell us three things about God's work in our lives:

1.  He daily bears our burden. God is our constant source of strength and confidence.

2.  He daily bears our burden. He carries all of it (Matthew 11:28-30).

3.  He daily bears our burden. Notice that it doesn't say burdens, but burden (singular).
     Our greatest burden is the guilt from our own sin. This is self-inflicted guilt. Yet God
     is faithful to bear it all for us on the cross of Christ.

Verse 20 reveals the result of God daily bearing our burden. It says that He is a God of deliverances and escapes from death. He delivers time and again because we keep failing. His grace is sufficient for all our failures. God's mercies are new every morning! (Lamentations 3:22-23) The reason His mercies are new every morning because we fail on a daily basis and because we fail, we do not have the good in us that it would take to undo the bad in us. However, when you accept Christ as your Savior and Lord, the Bible says that He credits His righteousness to your account (Romans 4:1-5). Isn't that great news?!

So what should be the end result for those who believe?

1.  Unending rejoicing. Gratitude should flow from with in you and overflow to those around you.

2.  Undying devotion. Strive to live for Christ at all times and share His offer of salvation
     with all. The Bible tells us how to do both.

3.  Unshakable confidence. Don't worry about your salvation. Once you accept His forgiveness,
     He secures you for eternity. Don't take it for granted, but don't worry. Repent and get back
     on track as soon as you realize you have done wrong (John 10:27-30).

How do you need to respond today? Do you still need to accept His gift of salvation? Don't wait. Accept Him and then find a Bible-believing church to connect to so you can grow in your knowledge of Him. Do you need to repent because you have walked away from living a life of gratitude for His salvation? The repent and walk in His light (1 John 1:5-10).

Whatever you need to do, please don't wait. Do it now. What's preventing you?

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sold Out! (Guest Post by Bruce Martin)

Bruce Martin is a friend and a lay-leader/co-laborer and prayer ministry coordinator at First Baptist Church of Mabank, Texas.  He works for Edward Jones Investments. He loves the Lord with all his heart and serves people with a generous heart. I felt challenged by the words he had to share with the prayer team this month and he agreed to allow me share them with you all.

This Fall my twin brother and I will attend the 46th High School Reunion of West Monroe High School in West Monroe, Louisiana (Yes, there are other states than Texas! Ha Ha!) Naturally, I'd like to look my best when I go, so four days each week I have a coach push me through a workout. After my first week I told her I was "SOLD OUT" to her instruction and the nutrition changes I would have to make to look my best.  As I drove home from the gym, it dawned on me: Am I as "SOLD OUT" for the Lord?!

Melody Green and David Hazard wrote the book No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green. In it, Keith is described as an example of "SOLD OUT" for Christians. He helped the poor, took people off the street into his home and desired to do everything he could to serve God with all his heart. The book describes "SOLD OUT", fanatical people as:
1. They love Jesus
2. They love to pray and worship
3. They love to share the gospel
4. They love God's Word
Matthew 22:37 is a scripture verse on "SOLD OUT" for Jesus:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."(NIV)

The question is: Are you "SOLD OUT"? Am I "SOLD OUT" for Jesus?!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Child-like or Child-ish?: Five Traits of Each

"Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)

If you have ever taken time to observe a child at play then you know that it is possible in a span of two minutes' time to see the sweetest of the sweet behavior as well as the most terrible of the terrors. Unfortunately, these behaviors can be observed in the lives of believers and in the church as well. The Bible clearly outlines the difference between being child-like as mentioned in the passage above and being childish which is never prescribed. What are the traits of each and is there an area of your life that needs to be brought into maturity?

Five Traits of Being Child-like

1.  Imitates Dad (Ephesians 5:1)
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children..." 
The greatest way to show your dad that you love him is to act like him. The child-like person will show that he or she loves God by acting like Him (like He shows/tells us in the Bible)

2.  Anchored in Truth (Ephesians 4:14-15)
"As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ..." Jesus is The Truth. Therefore, the child-like person will trust what He tells us and can live in that confidence. The child-like person will also be truthful and will tell the truth in the spirit of love and understanding and not self-righteously.

3.  Always Learning (Ephesians 5:8-10)
"...walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth ), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord."
The knowledge of God is inexhaustible, therefore we ought to seek His Word, the Bible, to know Him more and more each day. Why? Because we love Him. I have been married for 20 years and I still don't know everything about my wife. I have been a Christian for 35 years and am still learning about God. My oldest child is 14 years old and she still is learning about me and my wife. My son is 9 years old and has much more he doesn't know about us. But we are interested in each other because we love each other and want to know everything we can learn. The child-like person will hunger and thirst to know more of God.

4.  Innocent (Philippians 2:14-15)
"Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world..."
Just as Adam and Eve did not know good from evil when they were first created, children come into the world without knowledge of good and evil. However, as we are taught right an wrong, we are then faced with choices to do right or wrong. The believer is called to choose right. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, the child-like believer will abandon wrong and choose the right. Innocence and blamelessness is not the same as perfection because none of us can attain perfection this side of heaven. Innocence and blamelessness is our mindset while understanding that God's grace is sufficient to provide for the times we fail.

5. Obedient (1 Peter 1:14-16)
"As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.'"
Obedience is not necessary for salvation. Rather, it is the outflow or response to salvation. The child-like person will obey as an act of gratitude to God for His gift of eternal life. Obedience reflects God's nature and then the world gets a glimpse of why it is important and necessary to surrender our lives to Christ. Lack of obedience displays a misrepresentation of who God is.

Five Traits of Being Childish

1.  Fickle (Matthew 11:16-19)
"But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."
Childish people are very whimsical in their thinking, actions and the way they treat others. Whatever comes into their minds is usually what they will do or say. This can be very hurtful to others and is a display of self-absorption.

2.  Defiant (2 Peter 2:14-15)
"...having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray..."
When a childish person gets in their mind that they want something, then they will use whatever means to get what they want. That may mean stealing something, hurting someone, lying or throwing a temper-tantrum. A childish person will ignore clear instruction in order to have or keep the object of their desire or demand.

3.  Disobedient (Ephesians 2:1-2)
"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."
Disobedience is not necessarily performed with the spirit of defiance, but with the spirit of thinking it is a justifiable behavior or childish person may simply think they know better. It is still willful disobedience, but it demonstrates a lack of trust in the Father. It also demonstrates reliance on our limited and fallible resources.

4. Indulging (Ephesians 2:3)
"Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."
Childish people live according to the pleasure of the moment without forethought of the possible and/or probable consequences.

5.  Deceived/Deceitful (Ephesians 4:14)
"As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming..."
Children can be easily duped. In some cases the childish person desires to believe the lie in order to avoid the truth. Also, a childish person will often lie to get something they want. A childish person may also lie to get out of something they don't want or don't want to do.

When Christ enters the life of a believer, He transforms their life (2 Corinthians 5:17). It's at that point that it is time to put away the childish tendencies (1 Corinthians 13:11) and begin to learn and grow to become child-like. When we make wrong choices, as God's children, He loves us enough to discipline us (Hebrews 12:7-11). If you have not been disciplined for doing wrong or feel no guilt for your wrong behavior, as determined by the Bible, then it is likely that you still need to invite Christ in your life to forgive you of your sins and transform your life (1 John 1:9).

My prayer is that you and I will both be child-like and trust the Lord in all things, following Him obediently knowing that He loves us and will provide for everything concerning this life and the life to come (2 Peter 1:3).

For God's Glory,

Chris S. Sweet

Friday, July 10, 2015

Is Striving for Holiness Legalistic?

I am reposting this from just over a year ago. Please forgive me as we have had many summer activities at our church and I have taken some time of vacation for my family and to catch up with some household items.

Recently on Facebook I posted: “God’s grace is not a reduction of His holiness, it is a fulfillment of it. We fell short and couldn’t afford the cost so Jesus paid our fine. Our gratitude for this ought to be reflected in holy living. Doesn’t mean we can be perfect, but God is worth the try rather than submitting to our own nature.”

I wanted to take a  few moments to expound upon this thought. 1 Peter 1:13-16 says, 
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior ; 16 because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."

If you notice in verse 13, the focus in on grace. As a matter of fact, we are told to “fix our hope  completely on the grace…” (emphasis mine). Our hope for salvation is found ONLY in the grace that has been provided through the blood of Jesus Christ which He shed on the cross. We often cling to this grace (as we should, rather, all the time). But we often cling to grace to the exclusion of obedience.

 Notice verse 14, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts…” (emphasis mine). So first we have grace as our focus for hope, but we have obedience as the action that is the result of the gratitude for the grace we receive.  This gift of grace is a HUGE gift with immeasurable value. If we are not careful, we can be guilty of treating God’s grace with contempt and little value: 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace ?  (Hebrews 10:28-29)

 You see, it is already a big offense to God that we broke His law when we sinned against Him before we knew better. It is an even bigger offense when we sin willingly and claim that it’s okay because it is covered by the blood of Christ.

The reason this is important to God is because He has not changed. He has always been and always will be holy. He sent Christ because we were not holy and He wanted to make us holy and acceptable (Romans 12:1-2).  So, striving to live a holy life is not being legalistic. It is an attempt to be pleasing to God. Not because it benefits us, but because it declares His worth.

So let’s make our lives a living declaration of the worth and glory of God. Let’s reflect His holiness by striving daily to be holy as He is holy so the world might be drawn to Him.

For God’s Glory,
Chris S. Sweet