The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pray Red Hot Prayers!

".. . by prayer and supplication . . ."

The Bible speaks of supplication prayer such as when Paul states, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). Anohter way of describing prayer that is supplication is that prayers should be red hot. That is what the great teacher of prayer E.M Bounds stated when he said:

“Prayers must be red hot. It is the fervent prayer that is effectual and availeth. Coldness of spirit hinders praying; prayer cannot live in a wintry atmosphere. Chilly surroundings freeze out petitioning; and dry up the springs of supplication. It takes fire to make prayers go. Warmth of soul creates an atmosphere favorable to prayer, because it is favorable to fervency. By flame, prayer ascends to heaven. Yet fire is not fuss, nor heat, noise. Heat is intensity – something that glows and burns. Heaven is a mighty poor market for ice. . . . The Holy Spirit comes as a fire, to dwell in us; . . . Our Lord warns us against feeble praying. ‘Men ought always to pray,’ He declares, ‘and not to faint.’ That means, that we are to possess sufficient fervency to carry us through the severe and long periods of pleading prayer. Fire makes one alert and vigilant, and bring shim off more than a conqueror. . . . Fervency has its seat in the heart, not in the brain, nor in the intellectual faculties of the mind . . . It is not in our power, perhaps, to create fervency of spirit at will, but we can pray God to implant it. ”
(E.M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1981. Page56, 58,59).

How's your prayer life? When was the last time you prayed a "red hot" prayer. I encourage you to do so. I think that's what Jude meant when he was inspired to exhort his readers to be "praying in the Holy Spirit" (Jude 20). I pray we all learn how to pray red hot prayers in the Holy Spirit. Let's pray in a way that melts any coldness that has crept into our spiritual lives. God bless you as you go to prayer.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

God's Call to Order - Part 2

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. . . . Let all things be done decently and in order. – 1 Corinthians 14:33, 40

I hope you are beginning to see that God’s will for us is His order and that disorderliness is a serious issue. But how do we deal with disorder? How can we eliminate disorder from our lives? God is not the author of confusion or disorder and therefore we can be sure that He is not in disorderly things. The best way to address this issue (and all life issues) is to go to God’s word. We see disorder clearly portrayed and addressed in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians where he is inspired to write:

2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 - 6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. 10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

In these verses Paul uses the word “disorderly” (ἀτάκτως - ataktōs, at-ak´-toce) which means idle, irresponsible, irregular, inconsistent or disorderly. Paul emphasizes the seriousness of the situation by using the same word three times in this short section (v. 6, 7, and 11). The opposite of such behavior would be diligence, industriousness, responsibility, regularity, consistency, and order. Paul tells us to withdraw from those who are disorderly (v. 6). This is probably because bad company corrupts good habits (cf. 1 Cor. 15:33). Disorderliness is infectious. Paul uses his own life example of order as a measure of what the Thessalonians were to follow and live (vs. 7-9). Paul didn’t want to be a burden to anyone and so he worked (v. 9). There are people who need to hear that today. It doesn’t seem like Paul was one with a sense of entitlement. Paul equates disorder with idleness or not working (v. 10-11).

Look at how the Lord used Paul. Paul was orderly not disorderly. If you are going to get anything out of this teaching get this: if you want to be used by God you must be orderly. God will use you in proportion to His order in your life. God works in orderly ways through people of order. Some might resist this statement saying, “Wait a minute, I’m sloppy and disorderly and God is using me!” Yes, you may be sloppy and God may be using you. But how much more might He use you if you were orderly? God is working through you in spite of your disorder. It would be a mistake to presume God approves your disorder rather than understand He is graciously and patiently waiting for you to come to His order and be used and blessed even more. Don’t mistake God’s patience for His approval (e.g. Rom. 2:4). What are you missing out on because of your disorder? How is your disorder hindering God’s use of you? God's best comes through order.

Our salvation is not based on whether or not we are orderly (cf. v 15). But spiritual health is definitely affected by the order or disorder in our lives. But there is a strong case to be made that orderliness is characteristic of spiritual maturity. The spiritually mature will be growing in orderliness in their lives. The spiritually mature want to be used by God. If we are to be used by God we must answer His call to order. He wants His people to live orderly and He will help them bring order to their lives if they seek Him for it. God’s word states, “Be imitators of God as dear children” (Eph. 5:1). God is orderly and therefore, we, His children, should be orderly.

Since disorder is not of the Lord, disorder itself is sinful (cf. James 4:17; 1 John 5:17a). We need to see disorder for what it is and stop allowing it to be an acceptable little idiosyncrasy. Disorder and idleness lead to temptation and sin. Some in Thessalonica were disorderly and idle and they were using their idle time to be “busybodies” (v. 11). “Busybodies” (περιεργάζομαι - pĕriĕrgazŏmai, per-ee-er-gad´-zom-ahee) means meddlers, or those who spent their time of unnecessary, worthless, superficial or inconsequential things (cf. 1 Tim. 5:13). Idle time is the devil’s workshop. They had nothing better to do than to talk about others and poke their nose into places it shouldn’t be. This caused problems. They were divisive. Disorder leads to division in the church.

Paul’s answer to the disorderly and idle was to get to work! (v. 12). He comments that those Thessalonians who were working should not “grow weary in doing good” (v. 13). Another problem with disorder and idleness is that it causes weariness and discouragement among those who are working. Too often too few are working in the Body of Christ. There is a business rule of thumb that says twenty percent of the workers do eighty percent of the work and eighty percent of the workers tend to do twenty percent of the work. Unfortunately this is often true in the church. The result is weariness. This is not God’s order or way. Each believer needs to learn to carry their own load so that the few who do work are not overburdened (cf. Gal. 6:2-5).

Paul ends his word to the Thessalonians with some pretty strong instruction. He says that they shouldn’t “keep company” with the disorderly or idle (v. 13). They weren’t to treat such persons as enemies but they were to admonish them by way of a level of exclusion. This would communicate their disorderly idleness was unacceptable. Maybe they would not include the disorderly and idle in certain events. Freeloaders were not to be entertained. They were to be taught that they must join in the work if they were to reap the blessing of the camaraderie that comes through mutually serving together in the ministry of the Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 14:40 it describes how God would have us function. Paul uses the word “decently” (εὐσχημόνως - ĕuschēmŏnōs, yoo-skhay-mon´-oce) which means peace, prosperity, quietness, rest, one, or set at one. When God does something it is decently done; honest; true to His word. The word “order” (τάξις - taxis, tax´-is) means arrangement, fixed succession, dignity, order or orderly manner. God does things in an orderly way.

What does order look like? Simply put, God’s order is revealed in His word. The orderly life is a life lived within the parameters of God’s word. We can claim to love the Lord but if we are living a disorderly disobedient life outside the parameters of God’s word we are not truly loving the Lord. Jesus said those who love Him would obey Him (John 14:21, 23-24; 15:14).

When we look at the Corinthian church we find a very gifted church. But they were disorderly. Their disorder is seen in their factions which were a product of not living under the Lordship of Christ (1 Cor. 3). Their lives were morally out of order as they tolerated severe sin in their midst (1 Cor. 5). They were so confused and out of order that they were relying on secular means to resolve their church problems (1 Cor. 6). Their marriage relationships were out of order (1 Cor. 7). They were disorderly in their use of Christian liberty and it was proving harmful to the brethren (1 Cor. 8). They had little to no concept of God’s order to support those in ministry (1 Cor. 9). They had little to no understanding of the lessons learned by God’s people who went before them and were in danger therefore of repeating or falling into the same kinds of sin (1 Cor. 10). Their disorder was seen in their lack of love. For instance they didn’t care that some in their love feasts went without food while others had plenty (1 Cor. 11). They weren’t organized or didn’t function in a way that met all the needs of those in their body. This sent the wrong message. With some being neglected it communicated not only a lack of order that was outside God’s will and way, it communicated a lack of love which is abhorrent to God. They were using spiritual gifts in a selfish disorderly way (1 Cor. 12). There was a lack of love in what they did (1 Cor. 13). They had little apparent understanding of what God’s love was and how to live in it.

The Corinthians were using spiritual gifts in a disorderly way. This is implied in the corrective words given by Paul. They were speaking all at once, out of order with no limit or direction (1 Cor. 14:27). They were using the gifts incorrectly, (e.g. there was no interpretation for those speaking in tongues - 1 Cor. 14:28). The prophets were speaking out of order (1 Cor. 14:29-32). They were arrogantly asserting themselves rather than seeking the welfare and edification of those around them (1 Cor. 14:34-39).

Incredibly their disorderly ways had apparently resulted in a diminished value and awareness of the import of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15). Paul’s letter is filled with corrective measures to address their disorderly ways. He concludes by exhorting them, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Cor. 16:13-14). Through Paul God was calling His people to order.

God calls us to order. What does your life look like? Would you best describe it with disorderly words like idle, irresponsible, irregular, inconsistent or disorderly, instability, commotion, confusion, tumult, disorder, disturbance, unrest, rebellion, or insurrection? Look at those words long and hard. Pray about them. Ask God to speak clearly and freely with you about the order or lack thereof in your life.

Could you describe your life in terms of orderly words like peace, prosperity, quietness, rest, one, or set at one, arrangement, fixed succession, dignity, order or orderly manner? Do you love God supremely and are you truly living out His word? Or are you making excuses and looking for loopholes and ways around applying His word in your life? Are you working? Are you being a scripturally sound spouse? A scripturally sound parent and child? Are you serving in your church? Are you attending church regularly and consistently? Are you church hopping or consistent in your accountability to a body of believers? These are questions that will help us keep in line with God’s call to orderliness. Keep in mind we have not only the incentive to answer God’s call in this matter but orderliness leads to peace, rest, prosperity, and oneness with the Lord and each other. Isn’t that what we want? Of course it is.

I encourage you to appraise your life and the way you live it right now. Take steps to bring God’s order into the places where there is chaos. Start off simply. Start with setting and keeping a regular devotional time where you prayerfully read God’s word and apply in the Spirit what He reveals to you. Maybe even keep a journal. Make every effort to find a Bible teaching spiritually sound church and get involved and make yourself accountable. Clean and bring order to your physical house. Clean and bring order to your mind and things you allow to enter it. Get your relationships in order. Follow God’s orderly scriptural guidelines. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the disorder. Ask the Lord to show you the disorder in your life and then step by step in faith begin to work His order there. Start a room at a time if you have to but work toward order. If you do that you will reap His rich blessings of order. You won’t regret it. God calls us to order. Will you answer that call?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

God's Call to Order - Part 1

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. . . . Let all things be done decently and in order. – 1 Corinthians 14:33, 40

Do you need a ladder and grappling hook to swing over to the other side of some of your rooms? Do you have to tunnel through to get to certain areas of your living space? Did you have to climb over or maneuver around a pile of stuff when you got out of bed today? Do you find old food in your bed? Do you have an insect or rodent problem not due to living conditions beyond your control but due to your personal chosen way of life? Tripped over and hurt yourself on some accumulated junk lately? Does your house regularly look like a hurricane hit it? Have neighborhood pranksters nailed a “Condemned” sign on your front door? Do you feel as though that is credibly something that could happen? Do you feel embarrassed when you run into your neighbors because of what they’ve heard, seen or witnessed in your home life? Or have you grown to accept your mess and are far beyond caring what your neighbors think?

How’s your work desk look? Piled high with outdated papers dating back a few years ago and beyond? Do you find yourself mumbling to yourself, now where did I put that paper? When people comment about the mess do you blush and find yourself saying, “It’s my own personal filing system and I like it just fine!” Then do you spend the better part of the day looking for misplaced things?

How’s your kitchen look? Every once in a while do you rejoice to find that cooking tool you hadn’t seen for years? How’s your kid’s bedrooms and play rooms, a total mess? Is your house or a room in your house so overrun with accumulated stuff that it acts like a black hole?

Are you constantly late for wherever you go? Are you constantly late with paying your bills? Do you frequently lose bills and other important documents? When you walk in public do you hear under the breath comments like, “Whoa, what a wreck!” Is your life a mess, disorganized, chaotic?

Do you constantly battle oversleeping? Do you stay up into the wee hours of the night and sleep into the mid-afternoon and do this not because of work hours, but simply because it’s your routine? Do you have a job? If not, are you actively looking for one? Are you an addict of Xbox and PlayStation gaming? Do you find adult responsibilities neglected because you prefer to play?

How about your personal spiritual life? When you do pray do you find yourself praying, “Lord, please bless this mess”? Is your devotional time optional for you? Do you set a devotional time but have little success or even desire to consistently stay true to it? Do you have a plan to read and study God’s word? Do you share your faith regularly or let opportunities pass in fear thinking I wish I would have listened when that teacher was explaining how to respond to the comment that person just made?

How about your church involvement? Do you regularly attend? Are you accountable to a local church and its leadership? Or do you church hop to avoid accountability? Do you pride yourself on not being accountable to anybody? Do you regularly contribute in some way? Do you regularly make excuses for not doing so? Are you beyond excuses and its simply understood you’ll go to church when you want to or when you feel like it and you seldom want to or feel like it? Is your church involvement just one other activity you and your family try to participate in but often find is squeezed out by sports activities, dance classes, or some other thing. When your church has an event does it base the starting time on the commonly understood “church” time which is normally fifteen to thirty minutes after the announced meeting time? Is there an epidemic of disorder in your church?

These are just some of the situations that are common place to many people who live their lives in various degrees of disorder. We often blame our mess and disorder on others like the kids or parents or our spouse or a co-worker. We have become expert excuse makers. Some of the consequences of disorder are anxiety, clouded thinking, uncertainty, loss, and a host of other unsettling conditions. Is it worth it? Is our disorder worth the cost of the loss of time in this short life? Is it worth the loss of missed blessings? Is it worth the anxiety, frustration, and disorientation? Disorder in its various forms is not the will of God for us. God is by nature orderly and He calls us to order. If we are to experience His best for us, we need to answer and follow in His call to order.

God is orderly. We see His orderliness throughout the Bible. We see His order in Creation (Gen. 1-2). We see His order in His Law (Exodus 20-24; Leviticus). He cares so much about the order of His Law that He gave it a second time to make sure His people would learn it by repetition (Deuteronomy). We see His order in the plans for His Tabernacle and His instructions for those serving Him there (Exodus 25-31). We see His order in the numbering and arrangement of His people leading up to their conquest of the Promised Land (Numbers). We see His order in the war strategy He gave to His people such as circling Jericho seven times (Joshua 6:4, 15). We see His order in the way He responded to the waywardness of His people (e.g. depart from the Lord; enemies prevail; repent; a judge to deliver the people – Judges). We see God’s order in the Temple construction (1 Kings).

In the New Testament we see God’s order in that He sent His only Son Jesus as just the right time (Gal. 4:4-5). We see His order in that there is only one way to come to Him, through Jesus (John 14:6). We see God’s order in that Jesus instructed the disciples to wait to receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit before they launched out in ministry (Acts). We see God’s order in His plan of salvation and doctrine (Romans). The gospel and centrality of the resurrection to it is given in a clear orderly way (1 Cor. 15). There is an orderly plan of God with regard to His Law and grace (Galatians). We see God’s order as He uses the Old Testament sacrificial system to symbolically point us to Christ (Hebrews). We see His order in His prophetic timeline (Revelation). We see God’s order from Genesis to Revelation. I know of nowhere in scripture where God works through disorder. Sin brings disorder and God seeks to restore order by overcoming sin.

When His people are out of order we see God seek to correct them. The church in Corinth was a very gifted church. But they were apparently a very disorderly operating church. And so God inspired Paul to write a corrective word saying, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. . . . Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). In light of the examples and evidence of God’s orderliness and His corrective word to those of His people who are disorderly, why is the church today and many Christians so disorderly? People pooh-pooh order and go so far as to equate disorderliness with the work of the Spirit and orderliness with the flesh. How can this be? Based on scripture the exact opposite is true!

God is not the author of confusion or disorder. In 1 Corinthians 14:33 the word “confusion” (ἀκαταστασία - akatastasia, ak-at-as-tah-see´-ah) means instability, commotion, confusion, tumult, disorder, disturbance, unrest, rebellion, or insurrection. God is not the author of such things. When you see such things understand God is not in it! Paul reveals by contrast that the things that God is in and does are characterized by “peace” (εἰρήνη - ĕirēnē, i-ray´-nay) which refers to peace, prosperity, quietness, rest, one, or set at one. Which of these words best describes your life or your church?

God’s orderliness is seen in priorities. Our godly order should be to love God supremely and love our neighbors sacrificially (Deut. 6:4-5; Mat 10:37; 22:37-40). God’s order is to follow and abide in His only Son Jesus Christ (Mat. 10:38-39; John 8:31-32; John 15). According to God husbands are to love their wives like Christ loved the church and wives are to support and respect their husbands (Eph. 5:21-33). God instructs that there are parental and child roles in a family (Deut. 6:6-15; Eph. 6:1-4). When children rule the roost and parents abdicate their position of authority they are out of order and chaos results. God calls His people to be involved in church fellowship (Heb. 10:24-25). God commands us to obey and live by His word (and that is for our own good! Psalm 119; John 14:21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

We may think our disorderliness is no big deal. We may even think it’s cute or just a quirky personality trait. We may dismissively think it’s just the way I am or it’s just the way they are. But disorder is a serious problem. It is not God’s will for us and anything we do or permit to continue that is not God’s will for us will prevent us from experiencing all God has for us. God loves us and wants the best for us. His best involves His order. I encourage you to seek God’s order and seek His help in bringing His order in your life. That’s what I intend to do in my life. I hope you’ll join me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Importance of the Lordship of Jesus Christ

The apostle Paul prayed for the Colossians, “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him.” (Col. 1:10a). The word “worthy” (ἀξίως - axiōs, ax-ee´-oce) means worthily, suitably, appropriately. Paul therefore calls the Colossians to a life that is appropriate. Appropriate in what way? Appropriate to their relationship to Jesus as Lord. What does that mean?

The title of Lord is one we should not glance over. Confessing Jesus as our Lord and believing in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead is the gateway to being saved from our sins. Paul wrote to the Romans, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

The word “Lord” (κύριος - kuriŏs, koo´-ree-os) is a title that means supreme controller, supreme authority, owner, master, or lord. Therefore when Paul prays that the Colossians would “walk worthy of the Lord” he is praying that they would walk or live in a way that is appropriate to God as their Lord, their supreme authority and controller.

How important is the Lordship of Christ? Francis M. Cosgrove Jr. in his book Essentials of Discipleship states the following about the importance of the Lordship of Jesus Christ:

The lordship of Christ is the daily submission and surrender of our entire self to the authority and leadership of Jesus Christ, recognizing his sovereign right to rule preeminently over us. The acknowledgement of Christ’s lordship is abdication of self from the throne of our life and the enthronement of Jesus in self’s place.
The lordship of Jesus Christ in a believer’s life is the most crucial issue in Christian living. It is absolutely necessary and foundational to Christian discipleship. In fact, this major doctrine of Christianity determines how useful a person will be to God.

All our aspirations, blessings, and joys of the Christian life are absolutely dependent on our submission to Jesus Christ as Lord of our life. We cannot experience the fullest in Christian living until we commit ourselves unreservedly to the lordship of Christ.

Furthermore, submission to Christ’s lordship is not a one-time experience. We must make Jesus Christ Lord of our life by decision, but we must also follow up that decision with daily recommitment. Every day we must say, “Father, I recommit my life to Jesus as Lord!”
Living with Jesus as our Lord can cause a struggle within us at times. Because of the contrary pulls of our flesh, the world and the devil we do not always see the way of Jesus as the best way for us. We think we know better than God. That is a big mistake and the cause of a great deal of hardship not to mention it causes us to miss out on God’s best for us.

At the end of his chapter on the Lordship of Jesus Christ Cosgrove sites a list of the stages of obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. He got this list from a missionary to Japan named Bob Boardman. These stages are helpful in evaluating whether or not we are truly living under the Lordship of Christ. It’s essential to know this because all that God has for us is closely connected to living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our life. Cosgrove states the following:

Obedience is tied into a lordship decision. You cannot separate obedience and submission. Bob Boardman, a missionary in Japan, has identified five stages of obedience. It is good to evaluate our life in light of them periodically.

(1) “I am going to do what I want to do no matter what God wants.” Many Christians realize that this is wrong, but they still live according to this pattern. Essentially they do not want Christ to rule their life.

(2) “If God will give me what I want first, then I will give him an equal exchange.” This is bargaining with God; I will give him what I think is an equal exchange. If God will only give me the job that I want, then I will give him some of my time in exchange.

(3) “If God will give me what I want first, then I will give him what he wants.” This is also bargaining with God. This stage is similar to the second stage, but includes a willingness to give God what he wants.

(4) “I will give God what he wants first, then in faith believe that he will give me what I want.” This has finally reverses the “me-first” approach, but it is still a form of bargaining. I am expecting God to do something for me because I have done something for him.

(5) “I will give God whatever he wants, regardless of whether he gives me what I want.” This is lordship in practice. This is the crucial stage in our obedience.

Are you living worthy of the Lord? What stage best describes you and the lordship of Jesus Christ in your life? Is Jesus truly Lord of your life?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Exposed!: Planned Parenthood Aids Pimp's Underage Sex Ring

The video below exposes the depth of depravity found in Planned Parenthood. I encourage you to watch the video and forward it to as many people as possible. There is no defense for such inhumane practices. This shows what happens when there is a rejection of God and a resultant loss of the sense of the sanctity of human life.

Planned Parenthood is supported in part by our tax dollars. I also encourage you to contact your legislator and express your outrage and opposition to such practices and abuse of your tax dollars. There is no way Planned Parenthood should continue to receive support from our tax dollars.

Remember, God's word says, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11).