God's truth for today's world

To start off 2010, we are in a message series called “Five Foundations for Life.” In this series, we’re looking at the five foundations for the Christian life that the Bible teaches. These foundations are essential for a growing and successful life as a follower of Jesus. I know that I need to be reminded from time to time about these five foundations or purposes of my life. Each of these foundations for life has many aspects and in this series, I’m trusting that God will help me highlight the aspects that will be most helpful for our church family right now.

Last Sunday, the message was entitled “Powerful Prayer.” We looked at the foundation of prayer, which is really the foundation of a growing relationship with God. When you become a believer, your relationship with God begins. However, our relationship with God must grow and be nurtured. Prayer is one of the most important aspects of growing in your relationship with God. This vertical relationship with God is the most important relationship in your life.

Today, I want to talk about the horizontal relationships with our lives. The second foundation for life we’re going to talk about today is the foundation of “Meaningful Relationships.” Specifically, we’ll be talking about the relationships that God wants us to have with other believers in a church family. Of course, we have relationships with other people who are not believers, but they will be the topic of another foundation later in this series.

Quite frankly, this is a somewhat controversial topic these days. Quite a few people claim to be Christians, but yet believe that they don’t need to be part of a church family. They feel that they can do quite well by simply maintaining their relationship with God. As with any other opinion, we must test it by looking at God’s Word. Opinions or beliefs that are not based on the Bible have no validity.

Hebrews 10:25 (NIV) Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Here we have clear instruction from the Bible, that believers need to meet together. Meeting together with other believers is not a new invention, it has been part of God’s plan since the beginning. The purpose for meeting together is to encourage one another. It’s interesting that this verse teaches that meeting together is more important as the time of Jesus’ second coming gets closer. So it’s actually more important now than it was 2000 years ago to build meaningful relationships in the church family. To love other believers in the family of God should come naturally.

1 John 4:21 (NIV) And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

If you love God, you must love your brother and sister in God’s family. If you love your brother and sister in the Lord, then you’ll want to meet together with them on a regular basis. Today, we’re going to look at the experience of the early church in the book of Acts to learn more about building meaningful relationships.

Listen to my January 10, 2010 message “Meaningful Relationships” (message-notes).

090705-maintaining-unityUnity seems to be an elusive goal in our society. Marriages and families are disintegrating at an alarming rate. Infighting and division is common in many other groups, including businesses and churches. What is the cause of this breakdown in unity and harmonius relationships? The cause is simply selfishness, seeking to obtain the greatest advantage from the group and giving back as little as possible. When there is no unity, when there is division, what is the result?

Mark 3:25 (NIV) If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

When there is no unity in a group or relationship, that “house” is doomed to collapse. On the other hand, unity is a wonderful thing to be a part of.

Psalm 133:1 (NIV) How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

There is blessing, there is peace and joy when people in a group work together in unity. Generally, groups and relationships begin with unity. However, over time, inevitable forces work to sow seeds of division into a group. Unity is something that must actively be maintained, whether in a relationship or in a group.

Ephesians 4:3 (NIV) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

This verse is speaking specifially about the unity of the Spirit in a church family. Notice that every member must make every effort in order to keep the unity. Of course, unity and peace go hand in hand.

So, whatever church, group or relationship that you are a part of, ask yourself some questions.

  • Am I taking advantage of others in the group or relationship?
  • Am I doing less than my fair share in the work of the group?
  • Am I doing less than my fair share in contributing to the group?
  • If my behavior is not conducive to keeping the unity, what will I ask God to help me change in my behavior?

Listen to my message “Maintaining Unity” based on Nehemiah 5, to learn the principles of maintaining unity in your life (message notes).

090618-fathers-buildersFathers are an incredibly important part of God’s plan. God has created fathers to be leaders and protectors in multiple spheres of responsibility. In the book of Nehemiah, the fathers helped to build the wall around Jerusalem. The wall provided protection and security. Today’s father must build three walls in order to be successful in God’s purpose for their lives.

1. Build your personal wall

The personal wall of a father involves your character. Your character is the kind of person you are when no one is looking. In order to build your personal wall of integrity, you must build your relationship with the Father, God Himself.

1 John 2:13a (NIV) I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning.

Knowing God, your heavenly Father, is essential to becoming the father God created you to be. Your model of a father is God Himself. To grow in integrity, you must grow in prayer and understanding God’s Word. Your personal walls must be strong to withstand temptation in today’s world. Last week’s revelation of the extra-marital affair of Senator John Ensign of Nevada  and today’s revelation of an affair by Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina show what can happen when your personal walls are in rubble. You’ll make no progress in the other areas of your life unless you are building your life on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ.

2. Build your family wall

A strong personal wall lays the groundwork to build a strong wall of protection around your family. The essence of a biblical family is the marriage relationship between one man and one woman. So, a father’s first task in a family is to build his relationship with his wife.

1 Peter 3:7 (NIV) Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

This surprising verse reveals that if a husband has a poor relationship with his wife, his relationship with God and his prayers will be hindered. Also notice that for a strong family wall, both husband and wife must be believers and committed to the Lord.

The second aspect of building the family wall is to train his children in God’s way.

Ephesians 6:4 (NIV) Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

The father has the chief responsibility in the family to train and instruct his children walking with God. Children must come to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and then grow in that relationship by learning from their father’s example. All too many fathers fall short in this, either through not having strong personal walls or pushing off the training responsibility to their wives and church only.

3. Build your church wall

The final wall of protection that a father needs to build for his family and others is the church wall. Contrary to popular belief that you can go to any or no church at your own pleasure, God has one church in your area that He has chosen you to be a part of. When you as a father faithfully participate in that church family, God will protect and bless your family greatly.

1 Peter 2:5 (NIV) you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

To build your church wall, you must not only have a vertical relationship with Jesus, you must have a horizontal relationship with other believers in God’s family in the church. You help build your church wall through participating in ministry, not just being a spectator. When you take responsibility as a member of the church family, your wife and children will follow. The church wall is a source of great protection in today’s world and no believer should be without it.

Unfortunately, many fathers give building their job their highest priority which leads to great problems. However, when a father builds these three walls, personal, family and church walls, the rest of his life, including his job will prosper.

Listen to my June 21, 2009 message “Fathers – Builders of the Wall” (message notes).

Being An EncouragerBeing a mother is an awesome privilege and a great responsibility. NIV Psalm 113:9 He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD. God wants Moms to be happy mothers of children. To be a happy mother, you’ve got to have a sense of humor. We don’t live in a perfect world, and even if we did, the kids would mess it up in short order.

Some elementary school children were asked the following questions about Moms: Why did God make mothers? She’s the only one who knows where the Scotch tape is. Mostly to clean the house. To help us out of there when we were getting born. How did God make mothers? He used dirt, just like for the rest of us. Magic, plus superpowers and a lot of stirring. God made my mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts. What ingredients are mothers made of? God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean. They had to get their start from men’s bones. Then they mostly use string, I think. Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom? We’re related. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people’s moms like me.

If you’re a mother here today, God wants you to be happy. One of the great things about how God made mothers, is that He made them to be encouragers. Mothers are great encouragers of their children. So today I’ve entitled my message “Being An Encourager.” I’d like to talk about how mothers can become even better encouragers and how they can encourage themselves. But I’m not just talking to mothers this morning. I hope that all the Dads will also put these principles into practice and learn how to be better encouragers of their wives. Rather than criticize and pinpoint other’s faults, each of us can learn to be an encourager.

And do you know who the greatest encourager is? It’s God Himself. We can learn from God how to bring out the best in others, how to be an encourager. Today we’re going to look at how God encouraged a new leader in Israel named Joshua. From this passage I’m going to draw out some ways to encourage others and bring out the best in them. And if you’re feeling discouraged this morning, you can apply them to your own life first and then share them with someone else.

To hear more about this topic, listen to my May 13, 2007 message entitled Being An Encourager

Currently we’re in a message series called “God’s Power For Your Relationships.” In the last weeks I’ve talked about the importance of love and patience. This week, I want to tackle a somewhat more difficult topic. What do we do when a relationship has problems? When a relationship becomes damaged? When someone we care about hurts us? Some people hold a grudge and become bitter. Others try to pretend that nothing has happened. Neither response is God’s way to deal with problems in a relationship. The way to bring healing to a relationship that has been damaged is through forgiveness.

Today my topic is “Forgiving When It’s Hard.” Some forgiveness is easy, when the hurt is small, when the other person seems truly sorry. However, forgiving is hard in other situations. Forgiving is hard when the hurt is big. Forgiving is hard when you are hurt repeatedly. Forgiving is hard when the other person does not seem to be sorry. Sometimes we may feel that we just can’t forgive what someone has done to us.

Take a quick inventory of your life this morning. Is there anyone in your life who you hold a grudge against? Is there someone who has hurt you and you feel bitterness, resentment or anger toward them? If there is, keep that person in your mind as listen this morning. God wants to release your mind and emotions from the pain of what someone else has done. And in many cases the relationship can be restored. What is the key? The key is forgiveness.

NLT Colossians 3:13 You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. There is a word in that verse that occurs two times that I would like you to circle, the word is must. It is repeated twice for emphasis, you must forgive. Those are commands from God for every believer. Forgive, even when it’s hard. Why must we forgive when it’s difficult? Because the Lord forgave us. Each one of us has been forgiven by Jesus for our wrongs. When we truly understand how much we have been forgiven for, we can forgive others, even when it’s hard.

To hear more about this topic, listen to my April 29, 2007 message entitled Forgiving When It’s Hard