Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Love Challenge

Peninsula Community Church

June 24, 2012

Displaying the Life of Christ: The Love Challenge

John in the passage before us today makes some important notes about this subject of love. First and foremost he intimates that love has always been the focus of God’s plan for redemption. The message of love has been subscribed to from the beginning.

1 John 3:11-18 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

John reminds us of this fact by relating the story of Cain and Abel who exemplifies what happens when one is motivated by an evil heart rather than a heart motivated by God’s love. If you remember the story of Cain and Abel, Abel offered his best offering to God while Cain offered some of his crops. In the end, God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s offering. Because Cain allowed evil to enter his heart, he sought to kill his brother which he did even after being warned by God. It is this story that John describes the work of love in our lives. From this story we can note a couple of lessons that bear discussion.

The first lesson learned is that love unites but hatred divides. The fact is that when one who is motivated by love they will seek to bring unity rather than division. You can measure one’s passion for God by looking at their actions when issues arise in one’s relationship. When trouble comes do they respond by looking for ways to bring healing and change or do they seek to put a wedge in the relationship by their words and their actions. You see love is best measured by what one does rather than by what they say.

We are reminded in 1 Peter 3:8 and 1 Peter 4:8 how important love and unity is. Peter says “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” And he states that we should “above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

The second lesson learned is that anger is love disappointed. Someone has said that love disappointed becomes anger and anger left to its own course causes us to do things that we would not do under normal circumstances. When we have been disappointed the mind can be used to conjure up things that are not based on truth but rather on presumption and conjecture. Disappointment can so easily lead to anger which can cause us to be out of control in our actions and our words. How many times have you been angry because someone has disappointed you?

I spoke to you last week about some of the issues in my life where I thought my story was over. I have to be honest with you that a part of the reaction I had was because of disappointment in people I trusted and believed in. I trusted my son to do the right thing. I trusted the Senior pastor of the church in Virginia to do the right thing. I trusted the church to do the right thing. I trusted Michelle’s body to not become sick. As I dealt with another lesson that I learned was that when all was said and done the reality is that I was disappointed with God and was therefore angry with Him. I thought God had let me down and that hurt because I had been called to trust God in this adventure and He was not keeping His end of the bargain.

The third lesson learned from this passage is that true love never settles for mediocrity. When we are motivated by God’s love we never settle for mediocrity but we always give our best. Excellence is the hallmark of our actions and everything we set our hands to do. When we are angry we can tend to do just what it takes to get by.

The fourth lesson learned is that love is a decision and not an emotion. The truth is we must make a choice to walk in love because there will always be people in our lives that will hurt or wound us. There will always be times that we will face disappointment.

The fifth and not necessarily last lesson is that Christ is the ultimate example of love. If we want to know what love is we must go to the ultimate example of love. Christ is the greatest example of His love for us. He gave His all for us. Rather than being disappointed at His disciples, the people of Israel, the religious leaders and the roman government he set his face toward the cross and went willing. Not in anger or defiance but as a lamb led to the slaughter whereby mankind would be forever freed from their sin and from death itself.

As I was preparing for this message I came across a great illustration called “the Watch War”: Johann and Hans’ dad possessed a beautiful gold pocket watch. This watch had been handed down to their dad through three generations. While the watch in itself was not valuable it was a mark of their heritage. You see their grandfather used to tell stories about how he had come to the United States with nothing more than this gold watch in his pocket.

The day came that the father died and the battle over the watch began. Hans the older brother by rights should have taken possession of the watch but Johann entered the dad’s house the night before the funeral and took the watch and placed it on his mantle in his home. The watch instead of being in Han’s possession now mocked him from the mantle of Johann. After the funeral, the brothers argued over the watch, they shouted, they swore at each other and they said things that brought hurt and pain to each of them. That night Hans went to Johann’s house and took the watch. Johann immediately called the police and had him arrested. Hans reluctantly returned the watch with the agreement that Johann would not prosecute him for stealing the watch. That was the last time the brothers spoke for twenty years.

But Fred, Han’s son and Annemarie, Johann’s daughter, met in college and struck up a friendship. You see they had never met before that time even though they only lived about 2 miles apart from each other. Through their youth Fred had heard the stories of the stealth raid on the watch even before the body of their father had been buried. Annemarie had heard the stories from her dad about the raid on his mantle. Fred and Annemarie were not as emotionally vested in the argument so they developed a very close friendship. At Christmas, Annemarie finally told her dad about her new friend. Her dad, upon hearing this, demanded that she break this friendship off immediately.

Annemarie being a bit rebellious refused to do what her dad demanded and continued to build a relationship with her cousin. At the end of the semester, she admitted to her dad that she had continued her relationship. At first, Johann was angry but as she talked about the positive characteristics of Fred he had to admit that he was exhibiting some of the many positive qualities of his brother. Shortly after this, Hans and Johann met in line at the DMV and as you know about the DMV (at least in the old days) there was a long line. They were cordial with one another but the conversation ended with harsh words once again as they neared the end of the line.

When Johann got home he related the activities of the day and spoke to his family about the harsh criticism that his brother had levied at him. Annemarie asked him if he thought any of the accusations were true. After some contemplation he had to realize that yes some of them were indeed true. At that moment, he agreed to stop criticizing Hans and to speak only positive about him. On a whim Johann invited Hans out to lunch and they began to cordially meet on several occasions. Finally, Hans invited Johann to dinner at his house and even with a moment of harsh words they continued to be cordial and began to build their relationship.

Three years later upon Fred’s graduation, Johann and Annemarie gave Fred the watch as a gift as they agreed that he was the next rightful heir to the watch. However, she removed from her neck a beautiful necklace that had been made from the chain that once held the watch. Now both would have a piece of the heritage of their family and in the moment the war was over.

Can you imagine how the wasted years might have been different if they had allowed love to be the basis of their actions rather than disappointment and hatred at their brother? What are the issues in your life that need to be revisited? What areas of your life need to molded and shaped by love and not anger? Will you allow God to bring healing today so that you are freed from past failures and past hurts?

The Love Challenge: The question at hand here is how different would this relationship have been if there life had been motivated by love rather than hate and decision.

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God Is Writing Your Story

Peninsula Community Church

June 17, 2012

“God is Writing Your Story”

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

I want to begin this message by looking back at a period of time in my life that I thought my story was over and a period of time that I thought that I had missed what God wanted me to do. Prior to this period of time I had always told people that I did not believe in mid-life crisis’ but the events of late 2005 and early 2006 would change my mind about this.

As I have shared with you many times we moved to VA in 2003 after pasturing a church onLong Islandfor 10 plus years. We definitely felt God leading us to resign and felt His call for us to trust him which we attempted to do to the best of our ability. During this transition I was asked to come on staff at Radford Baptist church in May of 2004.

The following summer the youth pastor resigned and then in late November I had the senior pastor come to me office where he told me that he would be resigning as the senior pastor that Sunday. Now what you must know is that I was not a Southern Baptist and any new pastor coming into the position could let me go or he could bring in his own staff and replace the current staff. So, I became worried that my position was tentative and was not guaranteed. I must be honest with you that I thought my ministry was done. I was not aware of any openings in churches that would be available and I thought that my life was to forever change. My emotions nonetheless were running high. I felt that I was not accepted.

Two weeks later we received a phone call from our son who informed us that he was living with girl, the girl was now pregnant and when I pursued the question of whether or not he would marry her he informed me that he could not marry her because he had to get a divorce. In 45 minutes he had in fact explained how he was living an antithetical life to everything we had raised him to live and to be. Needless to say that conversation did a number on my emotions. I thought I can I stand in the pulpit again when my son has blown it so big. I felt that I was not good enough.

By April of the following year the church selected a new senior pastor. He was the youth pastor who had been hired in August to replace the prior youth pastor who had resigned in August. While I had been considered for the role the youth pastor the church felt that the youth pastor was more of what they were looking for and so they chose him over me. He was 17 years younger than I and had only a couple of years of senior pastor experience. The selection committee and the boards said that I could train and help mentor him in the position. The fact is during this time I felt rejected.

In May, Michelle and I were getting ready to go out and I heard her scream in the other room where she had passed out. We went to the doctor and they did a cat scan but there was nothing conclusive. On July 15 Michelle was in the kitchen making breakfast when I heard her scream again and found that she was on the verge of passing out. This time we rushed to the hospital where she was admitted for a five day stay. During this visit is when they began to suspect that she had MS. When the conclusive diagnosis came in he following March we were devastated. All of the thoughts of might be were running through my head. You see Michelle as always been a critical part of my ministry. She has been a true help meet and now what if she could not help me anymore? Once again I felt that my life was about to take a turn and I did not know what to do.

In all of this, I began to believe that my ministry and my life could no longer ne effective for God. I believed that God could no longer use me in the ways that I thought he would use me. The bottom line for me is that I thought my story was over. I thought about going out and getting a regular job and giving up on the ministry. But, God was not through with me.

In our final moments here I want to share a few things that helped shape me and mold me in that moment of time:

What I realized was that our story is in reality God’s story. Too often the problem we have in life is that we attempt to write our own story. We in essence take the pen from God’s hands and write our own story line. But what I have found is that we are not very good authors. In Genesis the Bible says that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” David stated that we were formed or created in my mother’s womb.” The idea here that our life is not a mistake but it was purposed by God.

Secondly I realized that we must discern the difference between the end of a chapter and the end of a story. While God may finish a chapter in our life it does not mean that the story is over. You see I thought that the story of my life was over when in reality I was coming to the close of a chapter. Have you ever noticed on TV series that when they come to the end of a season that they leave you hanging so that you will tune in next season. I remember not too long ago the big question was “Who shot JR?” For those who watch NCIS the question is which stars will be back next year as Ducky was left on the beach dying of a heart attack and the rest of the team was caught up in an explosion at NCIS headquarters.

 

Fourth, no matter what circumstances of life may seem to be controlling you, God is and will continue to be in control of your life.

Fifth, rather than looking at the obstacles in life, we must look to the author and finisher of our faith. The past does not have to be a measure of the future for us. We look to the author and finisher of our story because He is the only one that knows how it will end. He knows the beginning from the end. Who is writing our story? Are you allowing God to write your story or have you submitted that to Him in order for Him to fulfill that in you?

 

And finally, while the past may shape us it does not have to define us. You see I came from an environment that was shaped by divorce and the abuse of a step-father that later committed suicide but I have not allowed that environment to dictate the kind of life of I am to live. In fact I am a better dad, husband and a man because of my past because I have refused to allow the past to dictate my future.

What about your story? Is your story a drama, a comedy, a thriller, or an action movie?

 

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What Do You Practice?

Peninsula community Church

June 10, 2012

Displaying the Life of Christ – What Do You Practice?

2 John 2:2:28-3:9

1 John 2:28 – 3:9
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

As we read this passage one of the key words that stand out is the word practice. I always have a little chuckle at the idea of doctors and lawyers practices. We have always heard the joke about doctors and lawyers that practice and ask the question of when will they ever get it and stop practicing. The fact is, however is that we are all in essence on the practice field because the life we live here is only preparation for our future life with Christ.

The idea of practicing something is that we will continue to get better at what we do. In this regard a couple of illustrations come to mind. First of all, while living on Long Island I had the opportunity to go to the US Golf Open at Shinnecock and then a few years later at Bethpage. We had a great day watching the pros make some amazing shots. I one the players we were following at Bethpage was Phil Mickelson. Phil had played the 18 holes of practice and we thought that he was on his way to the club house when he turned and when to the practice range where he hit another 1000 golf balls. Why? His goal was to improve the areas of his game where he was weak so that he would be ready for the match over the weekend. While these guys were pros and they could hit the ball with such great precision and power, they realized they could always improve their game and needed to have ongoing practice to improve their skills.

A second illustration is the upcoming summer Olympics in London. I don’t know about you but I look forward to watching the various events represented through the Olympics. But again one of the things that have amazed me is the amount of time each athlete practices to maximize their skills so they will be in the position to win their events. I read of one gymnast that will spend 4 hours in practice in the morning before school and then another 5 to 6 hours after school. And they do this up to 6 to 7 days a week.

How does this apply to us? John says here that we will either practice righteousness or we will practice lawlessness. It is our choice. But what we practice we will become good at. In essence, this passage is about working on our game; it is the game of life. If we want to live righteously we will practice doing righteous things.

Once again time will only allow us to skim the surface of the depth of the passage but allow me to make a couple of observations.

As we are living life we must first understand that this passage deals with the conflict we experience between the reality of the new life found in Christ and the sin we often experience. The fact is Christ has come to forgive us of sin and by accepting Christ into our hearts we ask that all sin past and present be forgiven and removed. Once the blood of Christ has been applied we are made whole and we are set free from the power of sin. There is no sin not impacted by the power of Christ’s forgiveness.

The problem that exists is that while we have been forgiven of all sin past and present and we have become a new creation we continue to be impacted by the power of sin that exists in this world. This can be difficult because we often battle the failure of sin in our lives. As we experience life, we understand that we will sin and fall short of God’s desire for us. The result can be that we feel guilty and saddened about our failures. But we all sin and come short of God’s glory. Like the game of golf we can aim for the target and miss it. And when we do we reset and aim for the next target.

The second observation to be made here is that we are known as believers not by what we confess but by how we live and as passionate followers of Christ we will not willingly allow habitual sin to exist in our lives. The question at hand here is the concept or idea of habitual sin.

It is here that it behooves us to understand that when we speak of sin we understand that there are two extreme views. For one there are those that believe that once we become a believer in Christ that we will never sin again. This extreme view has been called sinless perfection but there is only one who deserves or merits that honor and that is Christ. While it might be an admirable goal to never sin, the fact is it is not possible. The second extreme view is that because of grace we do not have to worry about our sin because God will show us grace but one who does not recognize their sin and seek forgiveness for their sin cheapens the idea and concept of grace.

We should also note that habitual sin is not defined by the magnitude of the horror and repulsiveness the sin elicits from the self-righteous Christian. It can be any sin that we are unwilling to give to Christ. Do you lie to cover up your failures or weaknesses because of pride? Do you live in a state of self-deception because of pride or false humility? Do you say you tithe when you don’t? Do you say “I will pray for you” when you don’t? Do you cheat on your taxes? Do you cheat others? Do scam the system?

Sometimes habitual sins are not easily dealt with because they provide for us a sense of security and self-protection. For example people may go to pornography hen their self-esteem is low or they have a lack of self assurance. Thus we see the willful accumulation of patterns and practices of sin.

Habitual sin can also be a result of learned ways to deal with issues in our lives. For example, a child that learns that lying is ok from their parents can struggle with lying when they are adults.

Too often we want to rid ourselves of habitual sins so that we will feel better about ourselves rather than from an understanding that health and wholeness comes from walking in liberty and freedom.

The third observation is in reality a solution for habitual sin and a lifestyle that is contradictory to the life Christ desires for us. As we abide in Him, His Word and as we allow the Holy Spirit to direct our lives we will be better equipped to resist the temptation to habitually sin.

We must understand that there is a cacophony of voices and mindsets that pull on us. At times there seems to be an endless sound of ideas and standards that create confusion and failure in our lives. It is for this reason that we need to have the Word of God active in our lives. It is the standard that we live by. It becomes the new compass by which we direct our lives.

The truth of the matter is that we can in reality do very little to change peoples minds. However, the Word of God combined with the Spirit of God can do more in five seconds than we can do in five years. So to bring change into one’s life we bring them into contact with God’s word and with His principles of life and that will bring change.

To be honest the brain or the mind must be rewired for a new set of commands or actions. For example, if I have a plane that is on auto pilot and it is headed north, if I try and turn the plane around manually I am going to have great resistance because the auto pilot is going to try and take over. OS it is with our minds. We have been ingrained with certain mindsets and ideas that must be changed in order to be guided in the right direction.

Just as much as a golfer goes to the practice range to unlearn and improve their swing we must go the word to improve our game.


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Don’t Be Deceived

Peninsula Community Church

June 3, 2012

Christ’s Life Displayed: Don’t Be Deceived*

From our message last week we saw that there is an internal battle at play for who we will follow and what will guide our walk with God. This week we will look at the external effects of an antichrist mindset.

1 John 2:18-27 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us–eternal life. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie–just as it has taught you, abide in him.

People as a whole are easily deceived. People are gullible and there is no greater place for deception than in an understanding of who Christ is and what He claims. One of the problems found today is that we have attempted to make God in our image so that He is more easily received by those that do not know Him or understand Him. When we do not have a proper mooring in theology and biblical knowledge and guidance of the Holy Spirit we will be easily deceived and effected by untruths and deception.

We are in the last hour of deception. Throughout the New Testament one of the themes that is evident is the one that we are living in the final hour. It is interesting to note that Greg Laurie in a message on the antichrist stated that annually a group of renowned and well respected scientists who meet to discuss when they believe the end of the world will occur. These are not extremist or weird people but they are some of the best minds in the world. They met last year and they have set the atomic clock ahead by two minutes. They now have the clock set at 5 minutes to twelve. Now their view is not a biblical one but one that comes from the increase of the availability of nuclear weapons by such countries as North Korea and Iran.

One of the things John is saying here in this passage is that there will be one who will rise as the Antichrist but in the world today there is already an attitude or mindset of antichrist. The mindset of antichrist is to deny that Jesus was the Christ and that He was Christ was fully the incarnate one. The antichrist spirit does everything in its power to diminish Christ and substitute other views or people for the true incarnate one.

I have never seen a time in our lives where there is an all out attack against Christianity. As I was preparing for this message I did a search on evidence of the antichrist and I was amazed at what people were saying. Some believe that President Obama is the antichrist; others believed that the pope is the antichrist and others believe that Herman Cain is the forerunner of the antichrist. We must be careful at identifying who might be the antichrist and look at the mindsets that lead to an antichrist belief system

I will never forget as a kid that we had a formula to determine who would be the antichrist. If you take the alphabet and apply a numerical value to each letter in order and then multiply those numbers all by six then add those numbers up and the number equals 666 then that person must be the antichrist. In those days everyone thought that Henry Kissinger was the antichrist because using this formula his name equates to 666.

The Word of God and the Spirit of God protect us from deception and lead us into eternal life. We need to understand that our greatest protection against deception is truth. And Biblical truth comes only from the word of God and the Spirit of God. When we are seeking out the truth of the Word and are walking in the power of the spirit we are more likely to live in truth.

The truth is a gift from the Holy Spirit. John says that we have been anointed by the Holy Spirit to understand the truth and to walk in the truth. This truth is not a new teaching as some would purport but rather it is the truth that we have received from the beginning. It is the word of truth. We do not add to or take away from the word.

I am sure that you have heard the story related to bankers who learn to find counterfeit money by handling nothing but real money. After several weeks of handling real money, they are given counterfeit money into the stream and when they touch the money that is counterfeit they are able to know that it is fact immediately.

We should let the Word abide in us and we should abide in the Spirit. We must allow the word of God and the Spirit of God to be our guide and compass of our lives.

Colossians 3:16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Paul is agreeing with John as he states Let the word of Christ dwell in you which is the same as Let the word abide in you.

Ephesians 5:18-21And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Once again Paul agrees with John once again when he states that we should be
filled with the spirit as John states that we are to abide in the Spirit.

As we abide in the word and in the Spirit the word and the Spirit will abide in us. Guard yourself against the antichrist by loving the word, living in the word, praying the word and memorizing the word. John got it right when he says: If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.

*Please note that the skeleton of this message is from a message presented by John Piper. The meat of the message is my words and thoughts.

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