“Life vs. Fake”

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Date: 05-17-15

Today’s fake flowers are pretty real looking aren’t they? Some are made with silk; others with a variety a materials. But they are truly life-like, yet upon closer inspection, it is clear they are fake: No fragrance; no life.

When our Awana Club started back up after Christmas, I had noticed something rather disturbing on our “A Place for Your Things” Table. I saw a little baby just lying there amid all the coats and bags and books!!! Aghast, I moved quickly to ‘rescue’ the baby. Getting closer, I noticed the baby still look real, but its skin was rather odd—rubbery like. Duh, it was a very life-like baby. (The operative word is “like” not truly alive.) Later, I spoke with the father of the daughter, whose baby it was, and he noted how he, too, would sometimes forget it was merely a doll….

Lifestyle worshiper, is there Life in your worship? In your walk with Jesus? Or is it merely “life-like”? Upon closer examination what will we find?

Main Text: — Galatians 2:20-21 — 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.— John 14:6 (NIV84)

 When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you, too, will be revealed with him in glory. —Colossians 3:4 (ISV)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly— John 10:10 (NASB95)

 “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:9-14). Amen. 

Pastor Mike

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“Can We Know How Much We Are Deceived?”

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Text: — James 4:1-3 — 1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: I discovered yet another factor in my remedy for self-deception.

My Thoughts: 

In our walk with Jesus, can we really know how much we are deceived by this world’s system? In the passage above, James jabs some rather pointed indictments, while pulling no punches later in the verses that follow. But as we read this, is your initial response, “I don’t do any of this?” Mine was. I do not kill anyone. I really don’t covet…. Ah, but do? Is it possible that I have not because when I ask, I ask merely to spend it on my selfish pleasures (v. 3)? Good question, oh my soul; good question, indeed.

Twice in his letter, James warns us not to deceive ourselves (1:22, 26). Self-deception is very cunning. The sad truth is, we really do not know when we are deceived. (If we did, we wouldn’t be, right?) I think this is why James closes his letter with “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth…” (5:19 emphasis added). (The Greek word for wander has the implication of being deceived from any source.)

Lifestyle worshipers, is it important to discover how much we are or have been deceived? I think so. If the truth shall set us free, then knowing the Lord Jesus (The Truth!) more intimately will set us free from deception, be it self-delusion or other-concocted.

Several years back, for several Sundays—which seemed like months, “We don’t know how much we are deceived” kept sneaking into my sermons. I am not sure if the Holy Spirit was talking to someone else, but He sure was directly talking to me. It was shortly after this that I had an epiphany. I received a DVD in the mail asking the question: “Is America A Christian Nation.” For years I had argued it wasn’t. I had all my history books from College and high school which clearly demonstrated we were more deistic is foundation than Christian, but as the DVD unfolded with original documents to establish that America, indeed, had deep Christian roots it her founding, my worldview of this began to crumble and a melancholy grieving overtook my life for some months to follow. (In subsequent research, I had discovered that this specific aspect of history had been systematically sterilized from our text books for decades.)

Now I know to some, this would seem like a frivolous bunny trail of sorts, but for me it was a soul stirring moment. Because after this unveiling, I had to ask, “How much more was I being deceived on other subjects—civil or sacred?” Back to the Word I went!

If the Word is the Truth, and if the Holy Spirit has imbued it with the very essence of the Holy Trinity, then it naturally follows that this Word shines a bright spotlight on any deception I may be in…. So I studied the Word all the more intensely. And in doing so, I discovered yet another factor in my remedy for self-deception, and I think James is subtly telling us this: We need each other to expose our blindspots.

In Love, I need to confess my sins to my accountability team (see 5:16) in order to find healing, and part of this healing is lifting the self-deception from my life. I must practice true wisdom from above (see 4:17) by often checking in with a close confidant in order to get a ‘spiritual checkup’ as one would a physical checkup. And in Love, I must make myself available for those who have ‘wandered from the truth,’ and gentle restore such a one, who may not realized that they, too, have been deceived.

Have you discovered these same elements if addressing deception? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive.”

— Matthew 24:4-5 (NIV84)

I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness

—Colossians 2:4-7 (NIV84)

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.

—1 Corinthians 3: 18 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I submit myself to You. Renew my mind. Deliver me from any deception I may be exposed to, whether it is self-imposed or not. I put You on, Lord Jesus Christ, as my Belt of Truth. Sanctify me and set me apart by Your Truth: Your Word is Truth.  Be that part of my life that has been in bondage to any deception. I release myself into Your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“True Religion”

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Text: James 1:26-27 — 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keeps a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: If our walk does not line up with our talk, then our ‘religion’ is merely mutter words.

My Thoughts: 

Many Christians often border on boasting when they say, “I don’t believe in a religion; I have a personal relationship with God.” And for the most part, I would agree that  indeed having a personal relationship with the Living God through the Lord Jesus Christ if vitally important. And, yes, this is vastly differently from the typical religions offered by this world. Religions are man’s attempts to make himself right with the powers that be, but Christianity is rather unique here: It offers God’s way, and His way is making us right with Him in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is in Him and through Him we have peace with God and access to the Throne of Grace in time of need….

All this being said, the passage noted above from James 1:26-27 is rather fascinating to me in light of this religion vs. relationship conundrum. But what clears it up for me is the word that James uses for religion. It is a rare word, with potentially two meanings. One meaning focuses on external religious behavior. The other potentially refers to ‘the muttering of prayers.’ With this word, James appears to be challenging those who say they are doers of the word: “Okay, you say you are a doer of the word (see vv. 22-25). Very well, then. If (and you most definitely do) consider yourself religious, have you reined in your tongue? Oh, and do you really take care of orphans and widows in their distress? Just asking….” If their walk does not line up with their talk, then their ‘religion’ is merely mutter words.

Lifestyle worshipers, I know you can see that it is very important that our walk lines up with our talk. In short, true integrity: we do what we say and we say what we do. And both must spring forth from a sincere faith (see 2:14-26). Otherwise, our ‘relationship’ with the Lord Jesus is merely religion in the human sense—‘muttered words’.

Ah, but when the Lord Jesus Christ is truly our Life, this vital relationship naturally produces the religion that James identifies as pure and faultless: Taking care of orphans and widows. As we lift up our eyes from the din and dust of our self-absorbed ‘religion,’ we will soon see that orphans and widows abound all around, literally and functionally. We know the literal orphans and widows. But the functional orphans? These are they who have absent or disconnected parents, either through  divorce or neglect. Likewise, functional widows are they who are neglected or abandoned through neglect or divorce.

How do you see the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ living out this religion that is both pure and undefiled? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.  — 1 Timothy 5:3-4 (NIV84)

 And when the Lord saw [the widow who had lost her only son], He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. — Luke 7:13-16 (ESV)

This is what the LORD says: “Do what is fair and right. Save the one who has been robbed from the power of his attacker. Don’t mistreat or hurt the foreigners, orphans, or widows. Don’t kill innocent people here.” — Jeremiah 22:3 (NCV)

Lord Jesus Christ, clear my vision to see the orphans and widows around me. Burn within me a passion to meet their needs as You have gifted me both spiritually and physically as well as emotionally.  Empower me to be truly religious in this manner so that my relationship with You will deepen. In Your Holy Name. Amen.

Pastor Mike