Train to Live on Mission- Week 18

Battle Drill #18:

Protect Your Priorities!

Proverbs 11:1-5 (NAS95)

 

Today, we are going to walk through the four action steps of a soldier’s training routine to learn the next battle drill – ProtectYour Priorities!

 

As a good soldier, you need to know the mission of your commander, but you also need to know the commander’s priorities for the mission. When I was an AT (anti-tank) platoon leader in the Army, we would have high value targets that we were to engage first with our TOW missile systems. Every round mattered and we trained hard to not only get a solid hit with every missile, but to also be able to identify targets and make critical decisions, under stress, on which target to engage first based on mission priorities, to accomplish the commander’s intent. In the same way, I believe there are mission priorities that every good soldier of Jesus Christ must know and train themselves to identify and engage successfully, first, regardless of the stressful conditions.

 

Action Step #1) Know the Field Manual. The battle drill we are going to learn and apply this week is from Proverbs11:1-5:

 

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight. When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way, but the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.

 

To better understand how I am applying this Scripture, you need to hear the rest of Proverbs 11, so let’s continue with verses 6-31. Read from the Bible. This is what the Field Manual says, let’s now take the second action step to learn how to apply today’s battle drill to our everyday lives as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

 

Action Step #2) Train together as one unit. Priorities reveal our hearts! What we devote our lives to is ultimately what we serve and what we serve is where we put our time, money, and energy. Where you put your time, money, and energy focuses your loyalty and grips your heart.

 

As a friend recently reminded me, “This is also true of our conversations. If we are into politics, that’s where our conversations will frequently focus on. If we are into New Castle HS Baseball and their recent run to Semi-State, our conversations will be peppered with baseball, or New Castle sports. This is what Jesus was teaching us in Luke 6:45, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”

 

You are defined by that which you prioritize so be wise and discerning in what you put first in your heart. As you meditate upon it, it molds you into its image! This happens because God designed you this way, on purpose – we are designed by God to worship and that which we worship, we become like because we become enmeshed, or entangled, with it, for life or death.

 

A biblical illustration of this is found in Jesus’ confrontation of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-26:

 

And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

 

The rich young ruler was enmeshed with his possessions. He couldn’t imagine his life and well-being without them, no matter what Jesus promised him. He, like each of us, is called to open his hands and pray the ancient prayer of Job, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). The point isn’t that we need to sell everything to follow Jesus, but that nothing we have should grip us so tightly that we can’t surrender it to follow the Lord. In other words, you must be very careful what you consider precious because it will take hold of your heart. We are all unique and can become uniquely enmeshed with different priorities that are not inherently sinful, but become sinful because of our devotion to them. Who or what is “your precious”? Who or what is on the throne of your heart?

 

To further emphasize the point of Jesus’ encounter with the young ruler, and encourage us to train this into our lives, listen to Jesus’ parable from Luke 14:16-24:

 

But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ “Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ “Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ “And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ “And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ “And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. ‘For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’ ”

 

Jesus was intense in His teaching – don’t miss the eternal wedding feast because you have become distracted by the things of this life! He was making it clear that when we don’t protect our priorities, we become derailed from God’s purposes for our lives. This is why Paul said to his protégé in 2 Timothy 2:3-4, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” As good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we are commanded to protect our priorities – to not become entangled in the affairs of everyday life. Why? Because there is an eternal feast waiting us and we never know when He is going to call us to it.

 

Bob Sheffer to share his testimony.

 

Action Step #3) Seek the Commander’s approval. It is easy to be distracted in today’s world. There is a constant feed of information and entertainment available at your fingertips. Beyond those distractions, there are also a multitude of good causes and charity organizations to focus your time, money, and energy. These are good things, but are they God things? Jesus modeled for us how we are to protect our priorities in Mark 1:32-38:

 

When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was. In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Simon and his companions searched for Him; they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.”

 

The amazing testimony of Jesus Christ is from John 17:4, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.” Jesus was focused on the Commander’s intent for His life and prioritized high value targets with His words and deeds. Jesus did this by first taking time to be with His Father. Jesus knew God’s Word and Jesus spent time with His Father in prayer. He sought the pleasure of His Father above all; this is how He protected His priorities – He accomplished the work which God gave Him to do! Mission first!

 

There are so many things you can be a champion for in today’s world, but are you doing the work that God gave you to do? Paul stated in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” You can only walk in these good works when you are first prioritizing time with God, in His Word and in prayer, like Jesus modeled for us. Jesus emphasized today’s battle drill of protect your priorities with this command from Matthew 16:24-27:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. 
 
Never put down your cross to carry a cause! The mission is not a cause, rather it is the Cross being carried into every cause – to transform it and those involved in it for the glory of God. Very interestingly, it’s the context of this passage which takes us to our fourth action step.

Action Step #4) Live on mission. Jesus lived on mission and did not allow anything to distract him from setting His face like flint to Jerusalem and the fulfillment of His mission. Even when people had the best of intent in their desires for him, Jesus protected His priorities – the mission of God. We see this in the context to the passage I just read, from Matthew 16:21-23:

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

Jesus said to Peter, one of his closest friends, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me!” Wow, those are strong words that must have hit Peter like a ton of bricks, but when we think about what was at stake, we can see that Jesus was actively fighting to live his priorities by resisting the temptation to compromise the mission for His own comfort. Jesus did not let good things or good people distract Him from protecting His missional priority – the Cross! Paul modeled this missional focus when, he, like Jesus, set his face like flint to Jerusalem in Acts 21:10-14:

As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ” When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, “The will of the Lord be done!”

This is your mission: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10)! We fulfill the Lord’s Prayer when we remain focused on the mission of God and live according to the priorities modeled for us by Jesus. Paul understood this and followed Jesus’ example, no matter the cost. We must remember that not every distraction will present itself as a distraction on the face of things. Some things, many things, will present as “opportunities.” This is why discernment is so important – pray and seek His will.


Jesus asks you today, “For what will it profit [you] if [you] gain the whole world and forfeit [your] soul?” Live your priorities and may your priorities be to the glory of God as you do His will on Earth as it is in Heaven. Make this battle drill a reflexive, instinctive, and habitual part of your Christian life so that you can CM – Continue the Mission! Therefore, live on mission today and train the battle drill of the week for the glory of God. Let us pray.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Train to Live on Mission – Week 17

Establish a Strong Defense!

Proverbs 10:9-12 (NAS95)

 

Today, we are going to walk through the four action steps of a soldier’s training routine to learn the next battle drill – “Establish a Strong Defense!”

 

Action Step #1) Know the Field Manual.

The battle drill we are going to learn and apply this week is from Proverbs 10:9-12:

 

He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out. He who winks the eye causes trouble, and a babbling fool will be ruined. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.

 

To better understand how I am applying this Scripture, you need to hear these verses in their context, as a part of the whole of Proverbs 10. Read from the Bible. This is what the Field Manual says, let’s now take the second action step to learn how to apply today’s battle drill to our everyday lives as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

 

Action Step #2) Train together as one unit.

While Proverbs was written by King Solomon, I’m not sure if Solomon did a great job of personally living out the wisdom that he was given by God to rule Israel and to pass on to others through his wisdom literature.
 
As I’ve been studying his life through my writing of daily devotions in the book of 1 Kings, and then sharing those with you through the daily phone calls, I am reminded that it was Solomon’s bad decisions in his personal life that led to his ultimate fall, as explained in 1 Kings 11:1-6:

 

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon held fast to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully, as David his father had done.

 

Ironically, the very words of Solomon in Proverbs 10:9 are illustrated through Solomon’s life, “He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out.” God was angry with Solomon because “his heart was turned away from the Lord” (1 Kings 11:9) and God judged Solomon accordingly in 1 Kings 11:11-13:

 

So the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”

 

Solomon had taken steps to ensure a strong national defense through the vanquishing of enemies, successful treaties, successful administration of his kingdom, and a strong conscription program for the temple project. But Solomon did not set up a strong personal defense against his own flesh! As my friend recently said to me, “It is so easy to busy ourselves with perfecting what is visible, to the detriment of that which is invisible.” Solomon missed that his true enemy’s strategy was subtle, and that evil had a foothold in his heart! We must learn from Solomon’s positive words, and, also, from his negative example. Paul explains about the enemy within in Romans 7:14-25, from whom we all need to establish a strong defense:

 

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

 

A significant reality of establishing a strong defense is to forsake the three major forces of the fall that must be brought into submission to God’s will – the devil, the structures and systems of this present age that are in rebellion against God (i.e., the world), and the flesh (our self-will that seeks to make life work out on its own terms). We have spent time, and will continue to spend time, learning how the battle drills of a good soldier must be trained into our lives so that we live a victorious life and not be distracted or derailed by either of these three forces.

 

From today’s chapter, Proverbs 10:29 states, “The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the upright, but ruin to the workers of iniquity.” To keep God first and foremost in our lives is to make Him our stronghold, and that is the greatest defense against the devil, the world, and the flesh. To do so we must learn to live for the approval of God alone and not be so easily seduced by lesser things. That takes us to the third action step of being a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

 

Action Step #3) Seek the Commander’s approval.

According to 1 Corinthians 10:12-14, Paul teaches us that we have a way of victory in every situation, which means there is nothing that can prevail against us, no enemy, external and internal, that can defeat us in God’s stronghold:

 

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

 

What is essential about this truth is that the victory is not from us, but from God – He is our stronghold. God provides the way of escape so that we can persevere to the end. But we must choose His way and the key to that is that we must have our eyes and ears, hearts, and minds, open to seeing God’s way of victory. Often, the way of escape is well before the potential threat even appears, and we must faithfully walk in the way of Jesus, daily, so that we don’t walk down the wrong street through bad decision making. As I’ve taught you before, sometimes it’s too late to ask, “WWJD” because Jesus never would have allowed Himself in that dangerous situation in the first place. The way of victory was in not taking the exit ramp of the flesh – stay in the easy yoke of Jesus! Paul makes this clear in Galatians 5:16-26, as he teaches us the training regimen of a soldier for Jesus to set up God as our strong defense against the enemy within, our flesh:

 

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

 

Do you remember what God said about Solomon at the conclusion of his life? It was the exact opposite of God’s verdict of his father, David’s life! David was a man after God’s own heart; whereas, in 1 Kings 11:9, “the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord.” Once again, it is ironic that it was Solomon who wrote in Proverbs 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

 

It was not for lack of wisdom that Solomon fell, it was from his disobedience to God’s ways in the most intimate places of his life – he didn’t watch over his heart with all diligence! Maturity as a Christian is not in how much Bible information you have in your head, but how much of what you know gets in your heart and establishes God as the stronghold of your life! Because Solomon did not guard his heart, the enemy got a foothold through his lust, ultimately making his heart a place of idol worship. It is only when our hearts are the throne room of God, His stronghold, that we can establish a rescue mission for God in this world. That takes us to the last action step.

 

Action Step #4) Live on mission.

It’s only by God’s strength that we can CM – continue the mission that Jesus Christ came for. As Zechariah 4:6 declares, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” We must pray for the Father’s purposes (God’s will) to be done in us through the Holy Spirit so that God’s will can be done through us in Jesus’ name!

 

This cannot be done by our own power! In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus commanded his disciples to pray in Matthew 26:36-41 because He knew the flesh was weak:

 

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 

If Jesus couldn’t fulfill His mission on Earth apart from prayer and the Spirit’s consolation of His spirit, then how much more do we need to pray and seek the power of the Holy Spirit to empower us to preserve in the mission? Paul confirmed Jesus’ words in Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

 

The best defense you can establish for this life and the life to come is to put your faith in Jesus Christ. It is only by believing that you can do anything to further the Kingdom of God on Earth; to do the Lord’s will on Earth as it is in Heaven. Jesus explained this to us in 1 John 5:4-5, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

 

Jesus promised the way of victory will come with tribulations, but don’t fear, find rest in the easy yoke of Jesus, and walk in the Spirit – His way of victory is belief. This is how you establish a strong defense. Make this battle drill a reflexive, instinctive, and habitual part of your Christian life so that you can CM – Continue the Mission! Therefore, live on mission today and train the battle drill of the week for the glory of God. Let us pray.

 
 
 

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Pentecost Sunday

Fishers of Men and the Feast of Weeks

 

Eight weeks ago, we talked about the Battle Drill for Jewish Pilgrimage Festivals. There are three of them: Passover, Pentecost, and Sukkot. I believe these ancient times of celebration foreshadowed the three greatest days in the life of the church AND that they are the greatest evidence the Bible is the Word of God, and Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

 

On Palm Sunday we talked about Jesus and his parents going to Jerusalem for Passover, Mary and Joseph losing Jesus, and then finding him in the temple. We said the battle drill for Pilgrimage Festivals is to “Listen and Ask Questions.”

 

Today we’re looking at the next feast – Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot – and the question for this festival is, “Why did the disciples, eventually including Paul, get so excited about the events that occurred on the Pentecost following the Resurrection?” What did they understand about Pentecost that a modern-day Christian is clueless about? And how does that understanding shape who you are as a Christian?

 

Much of what we’re going to talk about today may be new information and that’s okay. I’m still learning new things, and I’ll share something that I never saw before in Scripture until about three weeks ago. I’m listening, and learning, and asking questions and I want to encourage you to do the same.

 

The church should be the safest place to ask hard questions. Never stop asking questions! I want to encourage you to think about what you find in Scripture, to ask questions, and be comfortable when the answers don’t come quickly. I want to encourage you to read Scripture, and to read large chunks of Scripture at a time. Don’t read just one or two verses. Read whole chapters or whole books in the Bible. Many people gave their lives to provide the versions and translations we often take for granted. Today we’re going to look at several Scriptures including two large chunks of Scripture.

 

If you think you don’t have time to read, most of the Bible apps on smartphones will read the Bible to you. I’m pretty sure Alexa will read Scripture to you! Listen to the Bible instead of the news, or the talking heads, or the same four songs you’ve heard 20,000 times. If you have the YouVersion Bible, go the Events section and look for First Baptist Church in New Castle. You can follow along there today with the Scripture references, and you can take notes if you want to.

 

Today we need to do a quick 30,000 ft. review of Scripture so that we can get into the heads of Jesus, the disciples, Paul, and nearly everyone else you read about in this 66-book collection we call the Bible. I want us to live inside the head of an ancient Israelite and think his or her thoughts; to see the world through the eyes of a God-fearing Jew around 30 A.D.

 

We are going to spend most of this morning in Exodus chapter 32 and Acts chapter 2, but before we get there let’s pray and then get an overview of the stories they knew inside and out. As we go along today, I want you to pay special attention to key words I will emphasize. Hopefully, by the end of the next few minutes you will see the hyperlinks between these two large chunks of Scripture.

 

PRAY

 

Let’s hop on our Scripture plane and go all the way back to the first chapter of the Bible – Genesis 1 – and look at verses 26-28. This is the very first commission that God gave to humanity, and I believe it is the underlying commission for every other commission we find in Scripture.

 

Genesis 1:26-28 (ESV)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

 

That was the first commission – the prime directive for every human being – be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and rule.  In the first eleven chapters of Genesis, we see several stories about men and women who failed at accomplishing that mission. In Genesis 3, we see what we call the Fall of Mankind; it’s the story a rebellion of a spiritual being, and the failure of humans to obey God’s word. In Genesis 6, we see the depravity of man and another spiritual and human rebellion that precipitates (literally) the Flood and the story of Noah. And in Genesis chapter 11, we see another human rebellion in the story we call the tower of Babel and I want to camp here for just a moment.

 

Gen 11:1-9 (NET)

The whole earth had a common language and a common vocabulary. 11:2 When the people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 11:3 Then they said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” (They had brick instead of stone and tar instead of mortar.) 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower (a ziggurat) with its top in the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves. Otherwise we will be scattered across the face of the entire earth.”

 

(Now, when you think of a tower, don’t think skyscraper. Almost every ancient culture built ziggurats (stair stepped, pyramid-like structures) and at the top of the ziggurat they would usually build a temple to their favorite deity. In 2008, I was in Indonesia and climbed an ancient ziggurat called Borobudur with a temple built to honor Buddha. Pictures The temple they were going to build in Genesis 11 was for their own name. They were preparing to put themselves in God’s place.)

 

11:6 And the LORD said, “If as one people all sharing a common language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be beyond them. 11:7 Come, let’s go down and confuse their language so they won’t be able to understand each other.”

11:8 So the LORD scattered them from there across the face of the entire earth, and they stopped building the city. 11:9 That is why its name was called Babel—because there the LORD confused the language of the entire world, and from there the LORD scattered them across the face of the entire earth.

 

Eventually Babel was called Babylon, but for now all the humans in the world are divided into “the Nations.” Deuteronomy 32:8-9 tells us that God disowned the Nations and gave them over to other gods. But he didn’t abandon them without a plan for restoration. Immediately after separating the Nations, in Genesis 12, God selects an infertile couple, Abram and Sarai, out from the Nations and supernaturally creates a family that will eventually become the nation of Israel. God is going to bless and redeem the Nations through Israel and reclaim them as his own. This is, and has always been, God’s Plan A – God’s Rescue Plan.

 

The descendants of Abraham and Sarah become slaves in Egypt. God says, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God. (Ex 6:7a ESV) He delivers them through an event called the Passover (what we celebrated eight weeks ago) and then God brings this enlarged family to the foot of Mt. Sanai.

 

There’s a lot of text in Exodus that leads up to chapter 32. In chapter 19 (vs. 16-20) we see that at the top of Mt. Sanai there was thunder, and lightning, and a sound of a loud trumpet, and thick clouds, and earthquakes, and the trumpet grew louder and louder! And then in Exodus 24 (vs. 15-18) Moses goes halfway up the mountain. The cloud covered the mountain. The glory of God (the Presence of God) was on the mountain covered by the cloud for six days. Then Moses was called into the cloud on the seventh day. He walked into what looked like a devouring fire in view of the people and was there 40 days and 40 nights.

 

 

The Presence of Yahweh God was resting on Mt. Sanai, in fire, and smoke, and lightning, and the loud sound of a trumpet, earthquakes, and thunder. It was the original sound and light show! And you remember that the presence of God was represented earlier in Scripture as a consuming fire in the burning bush, and also in the pillar of fire and smoke as God was leading them out of Egypt and through the Sea. Fire and loud sounds accompanied God wherever he revealed himself. And this image, this motif, is repeated again and again in Scripture.

 

We’re about ready to descend from our 30,000 ft. view and land our Scripture plane.

 

After walking into the devouring fire, while Moses is on the mountaintop for 40 days, God gives instructions to construct a lot of the furniture in the Tabernacle, and to build the Tabernacle itself.

 

Now we land our Scripture plane on the last verse in Exodus 31, verse 18.

 

Let’s walk through Exodus 31:18-32:35 (ESV) and get these details in our minds because these events are what Jews remember and celebrate during The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost, Shavuot) every year as one of the three pilgrimage feasts.

 

31:18 And [God] gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him (for forty days on the mountain) on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, (what we call the Law) written with the finger of God.

 

(In chapter 32 we come to the story of the Golden Calf scene at the foot of the mountain. And after that, the scene changes back to the top of the mountain, where God knows what’s going on down below. God says that he wants to wipe out all of the people of Israel and start over again with Moses. Moses pleads with God to change his mind and God agrees. Then it’s Moses’ turn to see what is really going on in the camp)

 

15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony (the Law) in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

 

(Covenants in the Ancient Near East were usually written on two identical documents. Each party to the covenant, would take one copy with them and place it in their “holy place,” next to their god who was charged with witnessing the covenant and executing justice when a covenant was broken. In this case, each of these two tablets contained all ten commandments (Law) (written on the front and back), and because God was going to dwell with his people, BOTH copies were to be stored inside the Ark of the Covenant (the Ark containing the Covenant). And that was the place on which the presence of God would rest inside the Tabernacle.

 

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But [Moses] said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” 19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets (of the Law) out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.

 

(Then Moses starts to execute judgement, because the covenant (the LAW) between God and Israel had been broken, almost before it ever became effective. He confronts Aaron and says that he’s the reason the Israelites are sinning. Aaron should have kept his mouth shut but he didn’t.)

 

Verse 24: “So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

 

(A pretty lame excuse if you ask me. Aaron must have lacked experience in lying because this is a poor example of a lie. Anyway, the people were being very hedonistic in their worship of the Golden Calf.)

 

25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side, each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell.”

 

This is passage is shocking to our minds, but it is a natural response in the Israelite mind. When you “cut a covenant”, you usually cut several sacrificial animals in half, lay the two halves opposite each other (making a path of blood in between), and each party would walk that path symbolizing, “If I or any of my people break this covenant, this is what is to be done to the ones violating the covenant.” And that’s the only way to stay in a covenant. Someone must die to restore the broken relationship.

 

Then Moses does something that a priest would do, what all priests are called to do, what Aaron should have done but did not do – he interceded for the people in front of God.

 

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.”

 

Moses offers himself as a sacrifice to God. This is an Old Testament image of what the Messiah would do; what the Passover Lamb would do.

 

The people are punished, and God sends them away from Mt. Sanai to the Promised Land. And by giving them the Law, Israel became a Nation – and not simply an enlarged family.

 

This is what Jews remember on Pentecost. God was present on the Mountain, he sent his Law down from his presence, 3000 people died as a result of their sin, and the Nation of Israel was born. Remember that they celebrate this every year at Pentecost; one of the three Pilgrimage Feasts where they gather in Jerusalem. In this annual feast they remembered the Presence of God, the Giving of the Law, the Birth of the Nation, and the death of 3000 who were disobedient. They did this every year on the same day (fifty days after Passover) for at least 1200 years (maybe as many as 1400 years!).

 

So now it’s time to travel to our next big chunk of Scripture. Let’s get on Scripture plane and do another long-range scan along the way. What happens over time is that God promises to establish a Kingdom that would last forever and would be ruled by David’s descendants, and David’s Kingdom IS established. But his grandsons split the kingdom in two, the northern ten tribes are sent into exile by the Assyrians (2 Kings 18:11-12), the southern two tribes are sent into exile by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 52:10-30).

 

We know that the Assyrians were ruthless in their conquering of the northern kingdom. The ten tribes are removed from the Promised Land and sent into the various Nations (the Gentiles). They were forced to intermarry with other conquered nations. And the northern kingdom was dissolved, never to return to the Promised Land.

 

Even though there was a remnant who still tried worshiping Yahweh, their ethnic identity had been mixed with the Nations (the Gentiles). Their ethnic identity as the ten tribes of the northern kingdom was erased.

 

The southern two tribes after being exiled to Babylon, eventually returned to the Promised Land, but things were never really the same as before.

 

However, even in the dark times of exile, God was still speaking through his prophets. Throughout Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Daniel, and others, God gave promises. One is found in Joel 2:28-29 (NET) Promise:

 

“… I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your elderly will have revelatory dreams; your young men will see prophetic visions. Even on male and female servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”

 

God also promised that he would gather his people out of the Nations where they were scattered and restore the kingdom. Jeremiah 16:14-16 reads this way:

 

By the way, do you remember when Pastor Jerry talked two weeks ago about being fishers of men? When God called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be disciples, and told them that he would make them fishers of men? We think that Jesus was just saying, “I know you guys all fish for a living. Well, I’m going to modify your occupation. You’ll still fish, but this time you’ll fish for men.”

 

A few days before Jerry included that reminder in his message, God had led me to this passage in Jeremiah 16:14-16 (ESV) and I realized that Jesus was signaling something incredible when he called the four fishermen! I believe Jesus was referring to what God says through this passage in Jeremiah:

 

14 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries (Nations) where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers.

16 “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the LORD, and they shall catch them. And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks.”

 

God is saying, “One day you’re not going to be talking about how I brought you out of Egypt. Soon you will be talking about how I brought you out of all the countries (Nations) where I’ve driven you! I’m going to send fishers to cast nets and drag you home. And then I’m going to send hunters to hunt you down and bring you home!”

 

When Jesus said, “I’m going to make you fishers of men.” Peter, Andrew, James, and John knew what he meant. This was probably one of their favorite verses of Scripture!

 

You know how, when you buy a new white Ford pickup truck, then you start seeing all of these other white Ford pickup trucks on the road? You’ve been sensitized because now you identify with the white Ford pickup trucks.

 

I’m convinced that every time one of these four guys (four guys who eventually became the leaders of the disciples), I’m sure every time they heard Jeremiah read in synagogue or Temple and these verses were read their ears perked up. They knew that fishers and hunters were going to be sent to reclaim the lost tribes of Israel. They knew that the kingdom would be restored when that happened. “Fishers of men” was like a dog whistle to these four disciples signaling that the kingdom is at hand and God is going to reclaim what was lost.

 

When God prompted Pastor Jerry to use that image two weeks ago, it became clear to me. God is speaking urgently to his church in these days. Are we listening?

 

Well, let’s land the plane in Acts and get a close look at what happened on that first Pentecost after Passover. You are about to hear many of the words and phrases that we talked about at Mt. Sinai. Listen for those.

 

By the way, the word Pentecost means “fiftieth.” In the Jewish calendar they would count 50 days (or seven weeks – seven sevens, plus one) from Passover and that is the day they would celebrate Pentecost. The Feast of Weeks (seven sevens, plus one) or Pentecost (fifty) was fifty days after Passover. And we see at the beginning of Acts chapter one that Jesus appeared to the disciples for forty days after the Resurrection, talking to them about the Kingdom of God, and he then ascended into heaven, into a cloud – a moment that many Christians celebrate as the Ascension. Ten days later it was going to be Pentecost.

 

Before his ascension into the cloud, Jesus tells them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father (remember what the prophecies promised).

 

Acts 1:5-6 (NET) – “[And Jesus said,] For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had gathered together, [the disciples] began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?””

 

Do you see what happened there? The disciples were tracking on the restoration of the Kingdom of God.

 

He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth (Nations).” (Acts 1:7-8 NET)

 

The rest of the chapter talks about the ascension of Jesus and the disciples’ time waiting in Jerusalem in the “upper room.” About 120 of them were waiting, so this was a big room. And this brings us to Acts 2.

 

Acts 2 (NET)

Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2:2 Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. 2:3 And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.

2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven residing in Jerusalem. 2:6 When this sound occurred, a crowd gathered and was in confusion, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 2:7 Completely baffled, they said, “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 2:8 And how is it that each one of us hears them in our own native language?

And then Luke gives us a list of all the Nations that are represented in Jerusalem on Pentecost. Interestingly, it also describes geographically where all of the nations were scattered after Babel. You can find THAT list in Genesis 10. Here’s the list from Acts 2:

 

2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and the province of Asia, 2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 2:11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great deeds God has done!” 2:12 All were astounded and greatly confused, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 2:13 But others jeered at the speakers, saying, “They are drunk on new wine!”

2:14 But Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice, and addressed them: “You men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, know this and listen carefully to what I say. 2:15 In spite of what you think, these men are not drunk, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 2:16 But this is what was spoken about through the prophet Joel (Promise):

    2:17 ‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

    2:19 And I will perform wonders in the sky above and miraculous signs on the earth below, blood and fire and clouds of smoke. (Jump down to verse 25) 2:25 For David says about him, ‘I saw the Lord always in front of me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken. 2:26 Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced; my body also will live in hope, 2:27 because you will not leave my soul in Hades, nor permit your Holy One to experience decay. 2:28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of joy with your presence.’ (Quoting Ps 16:8-11)

 

(Now jump to verse 34) 2:34 For David did not ascend into heaven, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my lord, “Sit at my right hand 2:35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’

 

2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” (Both Lord [or King], and Christ which means Anointed One or Messiah)

 

Peter finishes his sermon, calling everyone to repent and then we read in verse 41:

 

“So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.”

 

On that Pentecost after the Resurrection, on the same day that they’ve been celebrating for 1200 to 1400 years, the Presence of God was tangible, the Holy Spirit was sent down from Heaven, 3000 people were saved, and the Church was born. During the feast when they were remembering the Presence of God on the mountain, the Law coming down from the Mountain, the Birth of the Nation of Israel, and the death of 3000 who were disobedient – God brought about a reversal.

 

But not only that. On this Pentecost after the Resurrection, God also reversed the scattering of the northern ten tribes – remember?  “Devout Jews from every nation under heaven” were in Jerusalem. The remnant of the northern kingdom that God had scattered to the surrounding nations through the Assyrians; The ten tribes of Israel were being restored! The kingdom was being restored!

 

AND not only that, but God also reversed what had happened at the tower of Babel, when languages were confused, and the Nations were scattered. This meant the Nations (the Gentiles) could be reconciled with God and restored back into his family! What happened at Pentecost made it possible for you and me (Gentiles – a people without God and without hope in the world [Eph 2:12]) to become children of God and “heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:29)

 

When Paul learned about the events of Pentecost, it drove him on his three missionary journeys. Paul went where he went precisely because those places are where the ten northern tribes had been scattered, AND it’s where he could find Gentiles (representatives of the Nations) that he could rescue!

 

And finally, the Presence of God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, in the lives of every believer, makes it possible for us to live out the original commission given to us before we were created in Genesis 1. To “be fruitful and multiply! To fill the earth and subdue it! To the Glory of God our creator.”

 

And not only THAT commission but ALL the other commissions God has issued in Scripture including the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20 ESV). We have been commissioned by the One who has ALL authority – In heaven AND on earth. And through this commission he grants us the authority and responsibility to accomplish that commission.

 

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always (Presence), to the end of the age.”

 

As we close, let me read what Paul wrote to the church in Corinth in 2 Corinthians 3:1-8 (NET). I am convinced he was thinking about the great reversal that happened on Pentecost.

“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? We don’t need letters of recommendation to you or from you as some other people do, do we? 3:2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, 3:3 revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets (Law) but on tablets of human hearts.

3:4 Now we have such confidence in God through Christ. 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as if it were coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 3:6 who made us adequate to be servants of a new covenant not based on the letter (Law) but on the Spirit, for the letter (Law) kills, but the Spirit gives life.

3:7 But if the ministry that produced death (3000)—carved in letters on stone tablets (Law)—came with glory, so that the Israelites could not keep their eyes fixed on the face of Moses because of the glory of his face (a glory which was made ineffective), 3:8 how much more glorious will the ministry of the Spirit be?”

 

What happened on that first Pentecost after the Resurrection changed everything! The tangible Presence of God is living among us! The Holy Spirit was sent from heaven to empower us and to live within us. 3000 people were saved from certain spiritual death, and the Lord continues to add to that number every day, including today! And the Church was born, the bride and body of Christ, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it! The Kingdom of God is advancing and WILL be victorious!

 

The Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that God has reconciled us to himself through the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. That is, IF you accept his free gift. No one is excluded! If you are without God and without hope in the world; If you feel lost and erased, and that no one can bring you back; If you are weighed down by the burden of a legalistic law that is carved in stone. The Good News today is that God has sent fishers and hunters to search you out, and find you, and bring you home!

 

And if any of that describes you, you can accept that free gift today – before you leave. Feel free to talk to me or others you’ll find down front here in just a minute.

 

Jesus Christ has done what we are powerless to do, so that we can do what he has commissioned us to do. The question for every one of us today is, will you receive and embrace his commission on your life? And if you do, “how much more glorious will the ministry of the Spirit be” in your life than the events that happened in Moses’ life?

 

Church, you and I have work to do. We’ve got a Rescue Plan to continue. We’ve been commissioned by the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The Kingdom of God is at hand! What do you say? Let’s Charlie Mike! Let’s Continue the Mission! Let’s get to work!
 
 
 

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Train to Live on Mission – Week 16

Battle Drill #16:

Accept the Commander’s Correction!

Proverbs 9:7-10 (NAS95)

 

Today, we are going to walk through the four action steps of a soldier’s training routine to learn the next battle drill – “Accept the Commander’s Correction!”

 

Action Step #1) Know the Field Manual.

The battle drill we are going to learn and apply this week is from Proverbs 9:7-10:

 

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

 

To better understand how I am applying this Scripture, you need to hear these verses in their context, as a part of the whole of Proverbs 9:1-18… (Read Proverbs 9).
 

This is what the Field Manual says, let’s now take the second action step to learn how to apply today’s battle drill to our everyday lives as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

 

Action Step #2) Train together as one unit.

Wisdom cries out to us today in Proverbs 9:4-6, “Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks understanding she says, “Come, eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.”

 

Wisdom is crying out for you to walk in a habitual lifestyle of covenant faithfulness with God. The Hebrew word translated, “Come,” in verse 5, is הלך (hālakh), used in an imperative form, meaning it is a command. God’s people must “walk” in a habitual lifestyle of covenant faithfulness to God and His commandments, as explicitly used in Deuteronomy 10:12-13:

 

Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? [italics added]

 

The key to walking in covenant faithfulness is to obey the greatest commandment, as given to us by Jesus Christ in Matthew 22:37, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Because the essential ingredient to a life that submits to the Commander’s correction is love! Jesus Christ made this connection very clearly in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

 

Jesus commands people to a lifestyle of covenant faithfulness when He invites them, “follow Me,” as in Mark 1:17, or to “Come to Me,” as in Matthew 11:28-30. The Hebrew word of hālakh, and all of it implications of walking in the habitual lifestyle of covenant faithfulness, is the foundation of Jesus’ invitations. Check out the connection between the use of this word in wisdom’s calling in Proverbs 9:4-6 and the prophet’s calling in Isaiah 55:1-3:

 

Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David.

 

It is not just the wisdom of God and the prophet of God who is calling, Jesus is calling! There is a further connection between these Old Testament passages and Jesus’ words in John 7:37, “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” Furthermore, listen to Jesus’ words from the throne of Heaven in Revelation 21:6-7, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”

 

We are to accept the Commander’s correction in the same way, and for the same purpose, that a child heed’s his parent’s discipline. Listen to Hebrews 12:7-11:

 

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

 

Did you hear those final words, “those who have been trained by it”? What are we to be trained by? You’ve got it – the Commander’s corrections (i.e., discipline). We must train into our minds and hearts the importance of accepting the Commander’s correction, as a posture of our hearts and minds, because He loves us and we love Him. That takes us to the third action step.

 

Action Step #3) Seek the Commander’s approval.

Today’s battle drill is rooted in the overarching motive of a good soldier – the fear of God! As Proverbs 9:10 reminds us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” In fact, today’s battle drill is a reminder of the first, and overarching, battle drill we learned in January, from Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

 

Apart from the respect, reverence, and awe of God as the Sovereign King, the Ruler of all creation, the Supreme Commander of Heaven’s armies, then there can be no training of wisdom, or instruction in righteousness, for us as the good soldiers of Christ Jesus. We must know who it is we are seeking to please with our lives; therefore, we must train into our minds and hearts a complete submission to the one who saved us, called us to be His, and chose us to be a part of His plans – His search and rescue mission to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).

 

This is what Paul teaches his protégé in 2 Timothy 2:3-4, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” Your salvation is your enlistment as a soldier of Jesus Christ. If you are going to live on mission as an active-duty soldier, then you must learn to accept the Commander’s correction because He is trying to help you stay focused on the mission at hand and be effective and fruitful in the mission.

 

Action Step #4) Live on mission.

The author of Proverbs has taught us that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. John, the beloved of Jesus Christ, further teaches us that wisdom finds its completion in the One who is love, as stated in 1 John 4:16-21:

 

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

 

Our mission is to love as God first loved us. When we don’t do this well, we should expect to be corrected by the Commander. I don’t know about you, but I don’t love as well as God. Unlike God, my love is impacted by selfishness, defensiveness, insecurity, and fear. Therefore, if I am ever going to live on mission for God in a way that is fruitful and effective for the Kingdom of God, I better expect His discipline and accept His corrections whenever I fall short. How I respond to Him is really the point of this whole battle drill. Listen again to Proverbs 9:7-9:

 

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.

 

How do you respond to correction? Are you quick to get defensive and rationalize your actions, protect your ego, and blame others? If so, then welcome to the party of fools and scoffers. Today is the day to humble ourselves before God to become wise and righteous through the way we listen to feedback and accept correction. Are you already good at listening and learning from the correction, knowing that you can get better because of it? If so, you are wise and righteous. Continue to yoke with Jesus and become like Him – gentle and humble in heart.

 

Make this battle drill a reflexive, instinctive, and habitual part of your Christian life so that you can CM – Continue the Mission! Therefore, live on mission today and train the battle drill of the week for the glory of God. Let us pray.
 
 

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Train to Live on Mission – Week 15

Battle Drill #15:

Search and Rescue!

Proverbs 8:1-36 (NAS95)

 

Today, we are going to walk through the four action steps of a soldier’s training routine to learn the next battle drill – “Search and Rescue!” I wrote a fictional story called, “The Rescue Mission,” a modern-day parable, about a rescue mission on Lake Michigan.

 

The Founders came to Christ while serving together in the US Navy in the Pacific Theatre of WWII. After experiencing tragedies, like the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, when these sailors came back to the states, they decided to build a light house and rescue people from a watery grave in Lake Michigan. The Founders worked regular jobs while setting up the rescue mission, bought land, built houses to live close to the rescue mission, married women who had a kindred spirit for the mission, and raised their children together. The second generation was raised on the mission, and they kept it going, making improvements in honor of their parents’ commitments to the vision. They believed in the mission, but they also saw the sacrifices of their parents and remembered not having a normal childhood, so they wanted to give their kids more of a “normal” life. For the grandkids of the Founders, the ever-expanding compound started to be upgraded. A pool was installed, recreational boats were put in next to the rescue boats. These kids played every day, went to school in the local community telling their friends all about how much fun their rescue mission was, invited them over for birthday parties, so as the third generation grew up, they knew there was a rescue mission, but now they just called the place they lived “The Rescue Mission.” Now the fourth generation was being raised on a place that looks more like a resort area than a rescue mission. You should see the renovated Light House. You can even walk up it and look out over the Lake and witness the expansion of the Rescue Mission with the RV park, water play area, miniature golf course, and more. It truly is beautiful. A great place to bring your kids for a family vacation.

 

Remember the original vision of the rescue mission on Lake Michigan. Did I tell you that after the Korean War, in the 50s, the Founders mortgaged their homes to buy a helicopter to help them with their rescue efforts? And then after Vietnam, as they got older and their kids were coming back from their war, they did the same thing with their homes to buy a Vietnam-era Huey. The crazy thing is by the time the third generation was taking over the rescue mission, they stopped using those helicopters for rescue efforts and started selling rides to families on vacation to the Lake. You should have seen how much money came in during the 90s and the improvements that were made around the place. Wow! What a sight They even built a museum to honor their grandparents’ mission and to remember all the rescued people, saved from certain death. The mayor, the Chamber of Commerce, and even the governor came by for the grand re-opening. The sad thing is, on that very day, six people died less than a mile out from “The Rescue Mission”; no one was on duty when the distress call came in.[1]

 

I pray the Holy Spirit will use this story to show us our need and help us learn how we need to train today’s battle drill so we, God’s Rescue Mission on earth, can live on mission today.

 

Action Step #1) Know the Field Manual.

The battle drill we are going to learn and apply this week is from Proverbs 8:17, 32-36:

 

I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me. … Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are they who keep my ways. Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; all those who hate me love death.

 

To better understand how I am applying this Scripture, you need to hear these verses in their context, as a part of the whole of Proverbs 8:1-36. Read from the Bible.

 

This is what the Field Manual says, let’s now take the second action step to learn how to apply today’s battle drill to our everyday lives as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

 

Action Step #2) Train together as one unit.

As we look at Proverbs 8:32-36, we see the emphasis is upon daily watching, daily waiting, listening, walking in the ways of God’s wisdom:

 

Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are they who keep my ways. Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; all those who hate me love death.

 

Responding to people and situations according to the heart of God requires a life of discipleship with Jesus Christ, the study of God’s Word, and the learning to listen to the Holy Spirit. The Church of Jesus Christ exists for the Mission of God on earth, but we cannot lose the heart of the mission because we have gone into maintenance mode on the upkeep of the infrastructure of the Rescue Mission itself.[2] That is why our greatest priority is to know God and to become like Him.

 

We must emphasize as our primary imperative, the building of a personal relationship with the mission’s Founder and His vision! If we emphasize who God is and His vision for His creation, then we cannot avoid becoming a missional people, for the mission is the heart of God and the very reason Jesus invites us to follow Him. Listen to Jesus’ invitation in Mark 1:17, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” In our commitment to follow Jesus faithfully, the Spirit of God transforms us into His likeness, with His heart, which is the life of search and rescue! This is the purpose of Christian discipleship – to transform us through the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). It is not the end game in and of itself – there is a vision!

 

Action Step #3) Seek the Commander’s approval.

Search and Rescue missions are at the heart of God.  It is for this reason that He sent Jesus from Heaven to Earth, as explained by John 3:16-17:
 
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

 

Jesus’ parables, found in Luke 15, reinforce this purpose for God’s people:

 

  • The Lost Sheep (1-7).
  • The Lost Coin (8-10).
  • The Lost Sons (11-32).

 

All three parables end with celebration because that which was being searched for – the sheep, the coin, and the younger son – were found and returned safely. Success! Now, with that said, there is a necessary nuance to the last parable that we, as God’s people, need to hear, once again: The older son was also lost though he never left home. He didn’t share the heart of his father in the joy of his younger brother’s rescue. He lived on the “Rescue Mission,” but he wasn’t a part of the rescue effort; he made it all about him. We, as sons and daughters of God, need to hear this part of the story as it was intended – as a rebuke and as a warning; watch the exchange between the older son and his father in Luke 15:25-32:

 

Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.” But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.” And he said to him, “Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.”

 

While most of us do rejoice in being the younger son who was rescued, we must heed Jesus’ scathing rebuke of the Pharisees of His day and the Spirit’s warning to the Church today to not become like them in our spiritual pride and lack of concern for those who are lost, separated from God by their sin. We are to follow the example of Jesus Christ and go into the world, not to judge people, but to conduct search and rescue missions – to show them Jesus. And, furthermore, we are not to view the church community as one that keeps us “safe” from the world. In other words, we should not expect the church to be devoid of “messy” people who need Jesus. We must not only be willing to receive these people into our community, but we should be actively pursuing those whose lives indicate their own need for Jesus.[3]

 

This is the Great Commission of the Church of Jesus Christ, to join with Him in His great search and rescue mission, as commanded by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” We are to train ourselves to live on mission today! That brings us to our closing point and response time.

 

Action Step #4) Live on mission.

I am going to end with an invitation that simultaneously calls sinners to repentance and the saints to obedience. In other words, I am ending with a response that impacts all of us, since we are sinners saved by grace, saints through Christ’s imputed righteousness alone. Pay careful attention to Jesus’ encounter and exchange with Zaccheus from Luke 19:1-10:

 

[Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

 

Are there areas of your life where you need to respond to Jesus’ invitation upon your life? Jesus sees you and He is calling out to you personally – to save you and to bring you into His Rescue Mission, simultaneously. He calls us to be saved so that we can be part of the rescue mission for others. Today is the day to respond to Him and to live on mission with Him. He rescued you and now He is calling you to be a member of His search and rescue mission team. There are people drowning out there, are you hearing their distress call?

 

Make this battle drill a reflexive, instinctive, and habitual part of your Christian life so that you can CM – Continue the Mission! Therefore, live on mission today and train the battle drill of the week for the glory of God. Let us pray.
 
 
 
 
 
 

You can watch the message by clicking HERE.

 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] I cannot remember where the idea first came for my story, The Rescue Mission © 2022. If it shares elements of other stories or grabs at bits of history from my tours of light houses and visits to Lake Michigan, then I am happy to give credit where credit is due, whether for the idea and for any specific details that overlap.

 

[2] Curt Ferrell responded to this thought, “The more I study, the more convinced I am that ‘maintenance mode’ is the natural default if our soteriology is that Jesus came to provide a way for us to escape our bodies, and escape the earth so that we can live in heaven with Jesus. But if we can switch that paradigm to Gen:1-26-28, Matt 28:18-20, 2 Cor 5:17-21. We’ve been saved for mission here, not a cushy retirement plan in heaven.”
 
[3] Thank you to Emily Hurst for helping me expand this thought for those of us already inside the church community, and for those who will be coming in as members of the rescue mission, which is inherently a part of their salvation.
 
 

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Train to Live on Mission – Week 14

Battle Drill #14:

Plan Your Route!

Proverbs 7:1-27 (NAS95)

 

Today, we are going to walk through the four action steps of a soldier’s training routine to learn the next battle drill – “Plan Your Route!” I have some stories to help illustrate today’s lesson:

 

1) Learning land navigation in the military is a significant investment of time, energy, and resources for infantry soldiers. We spent a lot of time working on the skills necessary to do this during the day and in the night. My body has the marks to show how hard it can be, especially at night, just like our souls bear the scars of how hard it can be to plan our routes properly in life, especially in the valleys of the shadow.

2) Ranger school taught me the need to know my location when on mission. At any time, you may need to pivot in place due to attack or unexpected changes. You need to learn to know where you are on the map by looking at the terrain around you (providence).

3) On a road trip you can’t blindly trust your GPS, or you may end up a dead end or in a place you never intended. You need to know how to use a map to double check your route.

 

Let’s learn how we can train this battle drill so that you can live on mission today.

 

Action Step #1) Know the Field Manual.

The battle drill we are going to learn and apply this week is from Proverbs 7:1-3:

 

My son, keep my words and treasure my commandments within you. Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

 

To better understand how I am applying this Scripture to learning how to plan your route, you need to hear the rest of this passage so I will continue reading from Proverbs 7 with verses 4-27:

 

Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call understanding your intimate friend; that they may keep you from an adulteress, from the foreigner who flatters with her words. For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice, and I saw among the naive, and discerned among the youths A young man lacking sense, passing through the street near her corner; and he takes the way to her house, in the twilight, in the evening, in the middle of the night and in the darkness. And behold, a woman comes to meet him, dressed as a harlot and cunning of heart. She is boisterous and rebellious, her feet do not remain at home; she is now in the streets, now in the squares, and lurks by every corner. So she seizes him and kisses him and with a brazen face she says to him: “I was due to offer peace offerings; today I have paid my vows. Therefore I have come out to meet you, to seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, with colored linens of Egypt. I have sprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with caresses. For my husband is not at home, he has gone on a long journey; he has taken a bag of money with him, at the full moon he will come home.” With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver; as a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life. Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, and pay attention to the words of my mouth. Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths. For many are the victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain. Her house is the way to Sheol, Descending to the chambers of death.

 

We know what the Field Manual says, let’s now take the second action step to learn how to apply today’s battle drill to our everyday lives as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

 

Action Step #2) Train together as one unit.

A significant part of learning how to plan your route in life is comparable to learning the following land navigation skills:

 

1) Reading a map, to include plotting points and use terrain association skills along the route.

2) Using a compass to include setting an azimuth (the direction of travel between two points).

3) Learning your pace count (the ability to track distance traveled in a specific direction).

 

Here is how the two connect so that we can see how we are training them together as the church:

 

  • The Bible provides us a map of where we were, where we are, and where we are going. Just like we read in today’s scripture from Proverbs 7:1-3, Psalm 119:105-106 also teaches, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn and I will confirm it, that I will keep Your righteous ordinances.” If we are going to find ourselves on the map, then we need to know it.
  • Jesus is our compass and helps us set our direction. Paul teaches us Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” If we are going to know the way we are to live our lives, then we must set every direction according to Jesus Christ, our true north.
  • The Spirit is our guide as we learn to walk in the way of Jesus. Jesus taught many things about the Holy Spirit, to include this in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” If we are going to remain in the way, then we need to listen to the Spirit at work in our lives.

 

Action Step #3) Seek the Commander’s approval.

Do you know where you are going in your life? Who or what is determining your route in life? Are you sure that you are truly seeking God’s approval and are on course? Is it possible you are a few or many degrees off in your life?

 

There is an expression that I used earlier and that I now want to explain to you so that you can learn how to seek God’s approval in your life before all else and in doing so plan your route: “Jesus is our true north.” Allow me to explain this to you by sharing from a research article:

 

The expression true north is based on a fact that navigators and surveyors must deal with every day: a magnetic compass is not a terribly reliable instrument. A magnetic compass points toward the magnetic north pole, which is not the same as true north, or the geographic (or geodetic) north pole. The difference between magnetic north and true north is currently a matter of several hundred miles—but it changes, due to the fact that the magnetic north pole drifts several miles a year. The earth produces a magnetic field. The places where the lines of magnetic induction converge are called the magnetic poles. The location of the magnetic north pole changes over time. In contrast, true north is a fixed spot on the globe: the true north pole is found at the conjunction of the lines of longitude, the point at which the earth’s axis exits the globe. Magnetic north varies position from year to year; true north is unchanging. Because the needle of a magnetic compass points toward the magnetic north pole, not the geographic north pole, it is not entirely accurate. It may give a general idea of where north is, especially in the middle latitudes, but it can be wildly unreliable in the regions closer to the poles, varying by 20 to 60 degrees. The difference between magnetic north and true north is called declination, and it varies according to where one is located on the globe. To compensate for declination and find true north, we must perform some mathematical calculations using an up-to-date chart or calibrate our compasses. Adding to the confusion is magnetic deviation, caused when nearby metallic objects or electrical equipment influence the compass needle. Deviation is especially a problem inside ships and airplanes and in areas containing a lot of metal ore. Like declination, deviation must be overcome, usually by means of auxiliary magnets, in order to find true north.[1]

 

Therefore, when you hear it said that “Jesus is our truth north” you know now that means that Jesus is the constant, unchanging source of truth and life. As Hebrews 13:8-9a states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings…” Jesus concludes His sermon on the mount with these critical words of how we are to apply His teachings to our lives and in how we are to plan our routes, from Matthew 7:24-27:

 

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.

 

Action Step #4) Live on mission by keeping Jesus Christ as the true north of your life.

Just as true north is a precise direction that transcends geography, locality, and lesser pulls on the compass, Jesus Christ provides direction and purpose for your life that transcends your geographical location, your local customs, and the lesser pulls on your heart and mind.

 

Is your life off course? Do you feel lost? Do you need a course correction or an altogether new route for your life? “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life… “ (John 14:6)!

 

Today I am offering you a map that can be trusted, a compass that will never deviate from true north, and a traveling companion who will help you stay on course along the way. I invite you to today to ask Jesus Christ to be your true north for the rest of your life. Make this battle drill a reflexive, instinctive, and habitual part of your Christian life so that you can CM – Continue the Mission! Therefore, live on mission today and train the battle drill of the week for the glory of God. Let us pray.
 
 
 
 

You can watch the message by clicking HERE.

 
 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-true-north.html (accessed May 13, 2022).


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Train to Live on Mission – Week 13

Battle Drill #13:

Iron Sharpens Iron: Biblical Friendship

 

Today is a cool day for a lot of reasons- it was 20 years ago, in May 2002, that I accepted the job as the youth pastor here at FBC, moved to NC, and started out as a young person in her first full-time ministry role. Also it was 18 years ago today, May 8 2004 that I married Daniel who I met at this church. I’m really thankful for the way FBC has been supporting Daniel and me in ministry for years, and I’m so grateful to be able to live out God’s calling on my life in ministry while still being firmly rooted here in our local church- that’s a blessing! Thank you for supporting and encouraging us to keep following God’s leading.

 

Even though my full-time ministry is outside these four walls, it’s an honor for me to have the opportunity to use my gifts and serve in different ways here at FBC, and I love when Jerry asks me if I’d like to teach so thanks for that, thanks for allowing me to still serve and lead here.

 

Today I am not going to talk about motherhood or Mother’s Day, but I do want to say a couple things about Mother’s Day before I get started. First off, I will say that being a mom is incredibly rewarding even when it’s also really hard. To the moms in the room, I know what you had to do to get your people and all their stuff together just to arrive here today, and you younger moms who are pretty tired from this week, but you still got your kids up and going today and probably took care of the gifts for your own mom and mother-in-laws, way to go, you are absolute champs. To all of you in the room that are moms, I want to say thank you for all the work you do and have done to keep the humans in your house alive- you’ve done a great job. To the moms, stepmoms and grandmothers, spiritual moms, single moms, all of you in this room who are helping to raise or who have raised kids, thank you for what you do- you are amazing and you make the world keep running. I also want to acknowledge that Mother’s Day is a painful day for some of us in this room, and if that’s true for you, I want you to know that you are seen and you belong today just as much as those who are celebrating. Mother’s Day can be hard for

those of us who miss our moms, or whose moms hurt us. It also might be a hard day for those of us who have lost a child, or whose kids have caused us heartache and motherhood has not been like we wish it was. And I know some of us have desperately wanted to be moms and it just hasn’t happened. You are seen and you belong in this room and we honor you as well.  Scripture says that we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  And so if you’re celebrating today, then happy Mother’s Day- your mom life is something to be proud of! And if you’re hurting today, we love you and we care about you. However you showed up today, you belong here and we are in this together. So I’d like to pray in that spirit.

 

PRAY.

 

I want to invite you to get out your bible and expect to open it and actually read it today. If you don’t have one, use your phone and I would suggest you look it up in the New Living Translation because that’s what I read and then my words will match what you’re looking at.

 

Today we are going to talk about friendship, biblical friendship. We have been going through the book of Proverbs, and today I picked Proverbs 27:17 as our key verse. And since it is only 10 words long, we’re going to look at several other passages and see what the Bible has to say about being a good friend and having good friends, the way Jesus intended for those who follow him. So let’s look at Proverbs 27:17 as our jumping off point today- it’s so short it’ll take way longer for you to find it than to read it but I still think it’s a good practice to actually read the words for yourself so please turn there with me.

 

PROVERBS 27:17  

 

TURN to a person near you and share, what do you think that means? in your own words, what does this proverb talking about?

 

When I was a senior in college, just a few months before I graduated and moved here actually, that spring my grandpa died. It was my first grandparent to pass away, and really the first person close to me at all to die. I went to school in Anderson, and I drove home from school to be here for a few days. The hardest part for sure was seeing my own dad grieve- and it just rocked my world a little, like it does when you lose a grandparent. I missed a couple days of classes, and was here in town for a few days, and I remember very distinctly something that happened the day of the calling. My senior year, I lived in a house with 6 other girls that had been close friends all through college. And I hadn’t been there all week of course, and I was really looking forward to seeing my friends because it had been a hard week. And that night, at the calling for my grandpa, not a single one of my roommates showed up. Thankfully, my closest friend from childhood and high school actually came, and I remember how thankful I was when Tiffany walked in the door. It meant even more to me because others hadn’t come. That same friend was the first person to arrive at the hospital the day my son Caleb’s heart stopped and she was the first person to come to the hospital the day he finally got word that he was going to receive a new heart. When a friend shows up for you and loves you like that, you never forget. But not only do you not forget it, it impacts you deeply. Being loved by a true friend shapes who we are as people. Being loved like that increases our own capacity to love and care for others- love produces more love. A good friend produces more good friends.

 

Having true friends and being a true friend is possibly the most important part of our human lives and yet it’s something that so many of us struggle with. We want to have great friendships and we want to be terrific friends but so often that’s not how it goes. And the thing is, God actually cares a whole lot about the quality of our friendships. In fact, our relationships with each other are so incredibly important that the Bible is full of instruction on how we are to treat each other- In John 17, Jesus went so far as to say that for Christians, the way we love and treat each other will show the world what God is like. So friendship is a big deal and its an area of our lives that we need to be intentional about.

 

I want to do 3 things in this sermon time today.
  1. I want to look back at the early church and see how the first Christians did friendship and community.
  2. I want to address how different friendship and community are in our own current culture. and
  3. I want to see how we can actually obey God’s design for us and have the kind of friendships He intended for his people to have.

 

So let’s turn to the book of Acts and see how early Christians did friendship.

 

Let’s talk about the story of the early church.

 

The believers stuck together after Jesus ascended. They spent their time together, met together and prayed together. Once they were given the Holy Spirit and the Church was birthed, they oriented their whole lives around the faith community.(Acts 2) They went to

Temple together, then ate meals in each others’ homes. They shared their needs and helped each other. They prayed and worshiped together. They experienced amazing fellowship with each other and had sincere unity.

 

Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32-36, Acts 5:12-16

The Church grew and grew and grew until there were thousands of Christians. But their mountaintop experience didn’t last forever. In Acts 8, we see that persecution began, and Christians were being arrested and even killed, so they fled Jerusalem and were scattered all throughout the region. But God was at work in this! Acts 8:4 says “the believers who were scattered preached the Good news about Jesus wherever they went”. Christianity spread and new, smaller Churches were popping up. We read letters Paul wrote to these believers, and the Churches that were eventually formed because of their scattering, and one of the most common themes was Paul urging the Christians to stick together and continue to help and love each other well.  You can’t read the NT without seeing the overwhelming message that Christians are supposed to function as one unit, just as Jerry preaches each week! We train together, we learn together, we obey Jesus TOGETHER. This is a team sport, guys!

 

When we read the first few chapters of Acts, it’s not hard to see how the church has changed. And I’m not talking about the logistics of how worship services were conducted- I’m talking about how the early Christians oriented their life around the life of their community, their church. They didn’t have church buildings, that’s not what they were about- they were about each other. They were together and they went through life together as a family.

 

Let’s talk about how much has changed and what it’s like to be a Christian or to be part of a church in America in 2022…
  • we treat church as a once a week activity that is mostly about what happens on the stage, while we sit and view the program.
  • people like to be anonymous, or now more than ever “watch” church online. That’s like going to the fieldhouse and watching a basketball game and saying you played basketball! Let’s be honest- we want church to be like this because it costs us so little. It’s low-energy, low-time, low-investment of ourselves.
  • we are individualistic to our core. Life is about me and what’s best for me and what I prefer and what makes me happy.
  • we are proud and independent- I don’t want to need people. I depend on myself and that way I won’t be let down. And heaven forbid I let people see what needs I really have in my life, that would be humiliating.
  • we are BUSY and disconnected
 

So how can we obey Jesus and have the kind of friendships he intended his people to have?

  • HEBREWS 10:24-25   — Be here and make it a priority: we have to be present, in the life of the church and in each other’s personal lives. Be there! Be here!
  • MARK 5:24-34 Ñ> Take a risk and allow yourself to be known: we have to be vulnerable
  • Make an effort to connect with people: we have to initiate
  • Evaluate yourself and your life and see your stumbling blocks: we have to be honest with ourselves.  Are you afraid and trying to be self-protective?  Are you too busy and really need to re-think your commitments and how you spend your time?  Are you spending time with the wrong people?  Are you convinced that you’re introverted or a homebody and you just don’t need much from other people?
 
 
 

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A Special Message

The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me

 
Speaker:  Mark Thompson
 
We cannot dictate to Jesus the terms of our salvation.
 
The more expectations we have of Jesus, the more He blows up those expectations.
 
In Luke 8 Jesus falls asleep in the boat.  They were headed across the lake to the other side – where Jesus never went.  Then a storm hit.
 
We assume God doesn’t want us to do something when bad things happen, but it’s just the opposite!
 
OPPOSITION let’s us know we are following God’s will!
 
Jesus changed the demon-possessed man’s life.  The he tells the man to stay.  The people told Jesus to leave.  The next time Jesus came to this area, the people brought the sick to be healed.  What do you think the man was doing at home all this time?
 
We need to give each other permission to “go to the other side of the lake.”  Expect storms and show compassion.
 

 

 
 

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Train to Live on Mission – Week 12

Battle Drill #12:

Trust your Training!

Proverbs 6:20-35 (NAS95)

 

Today, we are going to walk through the four action steps of a soldier’s training routine to learn the twelfth battle drill – Trust your Training! I have three military stories to help illustrate this battle drill of “trust your training.”

 

1) Night operations and the 200’ cliff rappel.

2) Air Assault operations and stepping out on the skid to rappel out of a Huey.

3) Airborne operations and jumping out of a perfectly good airplane (day or night).

 

Regardless of your level of training, if you don’t trust your training at the moment that it matters then you will not live on mission. You will allow the circumstances, your feelings, or your nervous system to determine your response instead of trusting your training. Let’s learn how we can train this battle drill so that you can live on mission today.

 

Action Step #1) Know the Field Manual.

A significant part of every battle drill is to trust the Field Manual.
 
If a soldier is going to trust his/her training, the soldier must start by trusting that the Field Manual is what it claims to be – God’s Word! As Paul taught his protégé in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The battle drill we are going to learn and apply this week is from Proverbs 6:20-23:

 

My son, observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life …

 

The verse ended in mid-sentence. To better understand how I am applying this text to learning how to trust your training as your battle drill for this week, you need to hear the rest of this passage from the Field Manual so I will continue reading from Proverbs 6 with verses 24-35:

 

… to keep you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, nor let her capture you with her eyelids. For on account of a harlot one is reduced to a loaf of bread, and an adulteress hunts for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; Whoever touches her will not go unpunished. Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry; but when he is found, he must repay sevenfold; he must give all the substance of his house. The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; he who would destroy himself does it. Wounds and disgrace he will find, and his reproach will not be blotted out. For jealousy enrages a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not accept any ransom, nor will he be satisfied though you give many gifts.

 

We know what the Field Manual says, let’s now take the second action step to learn how to apply today’s battle drill to our everyday lives as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

 

Action Step #2) Train together as one unit.

A significant part of every battle drill is to learn to trust your follow soldiers.
 
No one can, nor should, fight alone! Today’s passage from Proverbs 6 is a visceral passage; it is intentionally evocative and persuasive on purpose. I think that is important and relevant because it is often our own flesh (humanity) – this body of ours, to include our emotions, our hormones, our nervous system, each of which can easily betray us so that we don’t do what we know we should do. The Apostle Paul empathized with us on this point, testifying in Romans 7:14-25 with great transparency from his personal experiences:

 

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

 

If anyone tells you that at any point in your Christian life you won’t struggle with your humanity and the effects of living in this tent (2 Corinthians 5:1), then they are placing a burden on you that Christ has not. Holiness is Christ in you, not your ability to live a perfect life based on a list of vices and virtues. The righteousness you have is imputed upon you through Christ’s victory, not one earned by a life of perfect thought life, perfect emotional stability, and perfect mastery of your body. The life we live is a life surrendered to the finished work of Jesus Christ, just as Paul commented about himself in Galatians 2:19-21:

 

For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.

 

Apart from Christ you can do nothing, as Jesus taught us in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Additionally, as fellow members of His body, we need one another to walk in God’s will. Paul emphasized this in the body imagery of the church in Romans 12:4-5, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

 

We need one another, more than we know! We need to walk in the way of Jesus Christ with one another and carry one another’s burdens. Just as Paul teaches in Galatians 6:1-2, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

A significant reality of learning to trust your training is to train as part of the body of Christ, and not alone, because if we are to do what Jesus, the head of the church, commands us, and please Him, then we must do it in concert with His will for our lives, collectively as the individual members of the one body of Christ. As Paul said in Ephesians 1:22-23, “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” That takes us to the third action item.

 

Action Step #3) Seek the Commander’s approval.

It’s time to turn to Proverbs 6:20-23:

 

My son, observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life …

 

Some of my favorite imagery in the Bible about our relationship with God is the familial language – we are sons and daughters of the King! I’ve already utilized the agricultural imagery of the Vine and branches, and the anatomical imagery of Jesus being the head and us being the members of His body, but now I want to emphasize, based on Proverbs 6:20-23, the familial imagery of God being our parent. Family relationships are commanded in Ephesians 6:1-4:

 

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

 

Parents, before you apply this to your children, you must first apply it to your relationship with God as your Father, where you are the child and He is the Father. His will for your life is that you mature in the discipline and the instruction of His Word for His glory! Therefore, you must learn to observe all His commandments, just as you expect your kids to know your expectations of them, not forsaking the Word, but memorize them and meditate upon them and apply them to your everyday life. As Psalm 119:105-106 teaches us as the children of God, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn and I will confirm it, that I will keep Your righteous ordinances.” Are you reaping at home what you are sowing with your heavenly father?

 

This is the tried-and-true way of God’s people, generation to generation, generation after generation, as instructed through the Shema and its instruction, as found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

 

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 

Why does the author of Proverbs 6 command his children to trust their training in the faith?  Because their only chance at life and blessing is to live according to it! And their faithfulness to God will be tested in the hardest of life’s circumstances, in the most challenging of human emotions, in the greatest allure of spiritual idolatry, and in the seductions of human adultery.

 

That is why today’s passage was intentionally evocative and persuasive on purpose, because the battle is not won on islands of serenity with peace-time conditions, but on the beaches of Normandy where the distress and tribulation of spiritual warfare manifests at every level of human experience! We live in a war-torn creation; therefore, we must train to live on mission today! You must train yourself according to this battle drill to trust your training in righteousness just as Paul taught his protégé in 2 Timothy 2:1-5:

 

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.

 

Building upon this imagery, Paul said to his protégé in 1 Timothy 4:7-8:

 

But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

 

Action Step #4) Live on mission.

God commands His children to be faithful to Him because He is our heavenly father.
 
Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s prayer to address God as our Father. This prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13, is our marching orders to live on mission:

 

Pray, then, in this way: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

 

Again, why does the author of Proverbs 6 command his children to trust their training? Because children represent their parents – you are image bearers of God! We are commanded to train ourselves to live on mission for God and the only way to do that is to put ourselves willingly and wholeheartedly under the instruction and discipline of the Lord, just as children are commanded to put themselves under the authority of their parents. We are to bind ourselves to Jesus and His commandments if we hope to live on mission. We are to “bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck” as Proverbs 6:21 commands. Jesus invited us to take on His yoke and live for Him, becoming like Him, and we will find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30). This is the way!

 

Allow me to finish by praying over you a powerful passage from 1 Peter 2:1-12:

 

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone,” and, “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

 

This is who you are, and this is the way of your life in Christ! As you learn to trust your training in God’s Word, you bring glory to God and you will lead others to know Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and they, too, will bring glory to God until the Day of His return. This is the promise of the Father, the provision of the Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through you.

 

Make this battle drill a reflexive, instinctive, and habitual part of your Christian life so that you can CM – Continue the Mission! Therefore, live on mission today and train the battle drill of the week for the glory of God. Let us pray.
 

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Train to Live on Mission – Week 11

Battle Drill for Easter:

Walk with the Living Hope!

Romans 8:18-25 (NAS95)

 

Today, we are going to walk through the four action steps of a soldier’s training routine to learn the battle drill for Easter – “Walk with the Living Hope!” As one of my friends said to me on Thursday as we were sharing about our walks with Jesus, “Put your hope in the Living Hope – the Hope above all hopes; the Hope over all other hopes.” Today, we are going to learn that Jesus Christ is the Living Hope! We are going to train ourselves to walk with Jesus as our Hope above all, before all, and over all other hopes so that we are not hijacked by lesser things.

 

The following are some real-life examples of lesser things to guide us along this journey, remembering that “lesser things” doesn’t mean unimportant or not urgent things, just not things that we can’t reliably put our hope in if we want to live out the Easter miracle in our daily lives:

 

  • The promotion at work or a new job or the goal of retirement.
  • The college acceptance letter.
  • The dating relationship or marriage or even children.
  • The medical treatment plans.
  • The athletic victory or the completion of your bucket list.
  • The diet or fitness plans.

 

None of these things can guarantee you that which you hope they are promising you. It is easy to put our hope in any of these things to complete us, to help us feel better about ourselves, to make life worth living, but none of these can be our first and foremost priorities for which we live or build upon as our hope for the future. Because hope is not wishful thinking! Hope is the certainty of our faith in God for the future He promised. We must realize that there is only One who can keep and fulfill His promises. That is what the promise of Easter is all about, as Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

 

Do you believe this and are you learning to take Jesus at His word in your everyday life? That is the question for today and the thrust of your ability to live out this battle drill – to live with Hope is to believe that Jesus is who He said He is and can do that which He promises – “the resurrection and the life.” In what or in whom are you putting your hope? This is an important question because you will devote yourself and be shaped by that which you put your hope in!

 

Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” It is because of Jesus’ atonement of sin on the Cross of Calvary and His victory over death through His resurrection that Jesus is the Living Hope. This is why we remember to open up the Field Manual and tell the story of Easter. This is why we celebrate!

 

Action Step #1) Know the Field Manual.

Paul gives us practical wisdom on how to apply the battle drill of Easter in Romans 8:18-25:

 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

 

Because Jesus Christ is the first fruits of the resurrection, we who put our faith in Him, can walk in the power of His resurrection through the “first fruits of the Spirit.” John taught us in 1 John 4:4 to Spirit-walk in a creation that groans with pain and suffering: “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” On that first Easter, Jesus defeated sin, Satan, and death, so that, as Jesus proclaimed in John 16:33, we may walk in His victory: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

 

Persevere in this hope – the Living Hope! Don’t let the score at half-time prevent you from experiencing Christ’s victory. Persevere with the Living Hope and you will overcome as you learn to walk with Him, through the resurrection power in you. That takes us to action step #2.

 

Action Step #2) Train together as one unit.

There is a story of two men who were distraught with the grief of Jesus’ death and did not know of the hope of the resurrection, yet. They walked together to Emmaus and Jesus joined them. Listen to this resurrection story from Luke 24:13-35:

 

And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. “But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive. “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He were going farther. But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them. When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.

 

You were never meant to walk alone! Walk with a traveling companion and you will experience the promise of Jesus Christ from Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” This is a powerful promise of Jesus walking with us as we walk with one another. Hebrews 10:23-25 commands all believers of the importance of doing life together, not just on Sundays and high holy days such as Christmas and Easter, but as a rhythm of our lives:

 

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

 

We walk together to encourage one another so that our lives bring glory to God through our love and good deeds, shining brightly of Jesus’ resurrection power in us through the first fruits of His Spirit. That takes us to our third action step.

 

Action Step #3) Seek the Commander’s approval.

Lesser things can be important and urgent, but when we allow them to get a hold of our hearts and minds, we find ourselves hijacked by the worries of this world. Lesser things, when prioritized above our walk with Jesus, cause us to struggle in experiencing the promises of God. Peter emphasized this in 1 Peter 1:3-9:

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

 

You will have tribulations and hardships in your life. Walking with the Living Hope doesn’t change the reality of your sojourn through this fallen world, where you will experience the distress of various trials, as Peter said. When you walk with Jesus, then your perspective of your circumstances is not bound up in the momentary sufferings, but rather is captivated by the Living Hope and His eternal weight of glory secured for you through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. This is what Paul intended through his encouragement given in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

 

As we move to our last action step of training ourselves according to the battle drill of Easter, remember that your greatest witness is how you walk through the testing of fire that is the circumstances of your life, whether that be through painful times of hardship and suffering, or through dangerous times of ease and success. Either way, whether in seasons of richer or poorer, sickness or health, we are to CM – Continue the Mission!

 

Action Step #4) Live on mission.

The third and final Scripture we are going to read today is a proclamation of the preeminence of Jesus Christ from Colossians 1:15-20:

 

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

 

Does Jesus have first place in everything? We finish where we started, “Put your hope in the Living Hope – the Hope above all hopes; the Hope over all other hopes.” This is the battle drill so guard your heart from allowing any lesser hope from captivating your devotion. You were created, by God, to live a life of devotion for His glory, so train yourself to live on mission by prioritizing your walk with the Living Hope through every circumstance of your life.

 

It is for your peace with God through the forgiveness of your sin that Jesus Christ died on the Cross. It is for your peace of mind and heart that He gave you the first fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Until you are at peace with God and at peace with yourself, you cannot fulfill God’s mission in your life to be His living embodiment of the resurrection, a signpost of Heaven, an image bearer of His glory. It was for this purpose Christ came and until He returns you are chosen and called by God to bring the hope of resurrection to all people by walking with the Living Hope.

 

Make this battle drill a reflexive, instinctive, and habitual part of your Christian life so that you can CM – Continue the Mission! Therefore, live on mission today and train the battle drill of the week for the glory of God. Let us pray.
 

You can listen to this message here:

 

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