Connecting Points

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Today’s Topic: Brotherly Kindness

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:6 …and to godliness, [add] brotherly kindness.

Everyone knows that Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is the city of brotherly love. At least that’s what the name means. Whether they live up to that name or not is questionable, especially if you are a fan of a visiting professional sports team. Philadelphia fans are not known for their brotherly love to anyone wearing any other kind of a jersey to their home games.

The word philadelphia is the word Peter uses here to describe the virtue that is to be expressed in the life of a Christian as a result of adding godliness to his character. To discover one important aspect of brotherly love, let’s take a look at the history of a city in the Bible that was named Philadelphia.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus Christ is writing letters to all of the churches across Asia, with a challenge for each one of them. In chapter 3 He writes to the church in Philadelphia. It is the one church out of the seven that is not corrected for any wrong but receives only commendation. This church existed in a city that has an interesting history.

The city of Philadelphia was located in a region of the Roman Empire named Pergamum. By the way, the church in Pergamum also got a letter. You can read it in Revelation chapter 2. But back to Philadelphia. Pergamum was not always controlled by the Roman Empire. In 220 BC the Pergamum Kingdom was independent, and ruled by King Attalus the First. In that year, his second son was born, and was named Attalus the Second.

In 160 BC, Attalus the First’s older brother, Eumanes the Second, named after his great uncle who had been the first ruler of Pergamum, ascended to the throne. He was a sickly man but extremely influential in Greek and Roman politics. Attalus II became his right hand man and commander of his armies. He served his brother the King with great loyalty – loyalty that was extraordinary.

The Romans feared the influence and powerful army of Eumanes II, so they began to build a relationship with his brother Attalus II. They were grooming him for a takeover of the throne and used all of their wealth and promises of power to try to persuade him to overthrow his brother.

Two events happened that are the historical basis for the naming of the city of Philadelphia in Pergamum. First, during a battle with an enemy army, in which the King had participated, it was reported that Eumanes II had been killed. After a short waiting period, Attalus took the widowed Queen Stratonice as his wife and became the King. A short time later King Eumanes returns from the war, proving the report of his death to be false, and Attalus steps down immediately in honor and respect to his brother.

The second event occurred several years later, during the Third Macedonian War. Eumanes joined with the Romans to overthrow the Macedonian Monarchy. During that war it became evident to the Roamsn that Eumanes was gaining far too much political clout in Asia, and they concluded their courtship of Attalus with an offer to overthrow his older brother and take the throne. Attalus refused, stating loyalty to the throne and love for his aging and sickly brother. He became known throughout the land as Attalus Philadelphia – the man who loves his brother. When he finally ascended to the throne after his brother’s death, they named a city after him.

Here’s the connecting point. Loyalty and love trump personal ambition. If we are going to model godliness by showing brotherly kindness, it starts with sacrificing our own dreams and desires for the sake of others. It is a well-known fact of history that the people who are most famous and most remembered are those who focused most on others not themselves. He who seeks to exalt himself will be crushed, but he who seeks to exalt others will himself be exalted. “Whoever wants to first in the Kingdom of God must first be the servant of all.”

Pastor John

Attitude Always Accelerates Activity

Connecting Points

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Today’s Topic: Godliness is an Attitude

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:6 …and to perseverance, [add] godliness…

Our first instinct when we read that we are to add godliness to perseverance is probably to think in terms of activity. That would be a mistake. The development of character in our lives is not first about deeds, but about the heart. Every action we take is only recognized by God as righteous if it originates in a heart that is righteous.

For many people, godliness means the external activity of good deeds. However, the Greek word used here and elsewhere in the New Testament means literally to have reverence and respect towards God. Godliness is not our activity towards others – it is our attitude towards God.

Jesus addressed this issue with the Pharisees. They had developed all sorts of rules to regulate human behavior so they would appear godly. Their focus was on the exterior. Jesus spoke specifically to them in Mark 7. Here’s the story:

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles. )So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

Did you notice the word worship? Jesus said that the Pharisees were worshiping in vain. The word worship is the root word that becomes the word translated godliness in 2 Peter. Godliness is worship. Godliness is the attitude of the heart towards God. Godliness is not first an action, but first and foremost a condition of one’s heart toward God.

How quickly we fall into the trap of the Pharisees. We tend to move rather easily to the exterior appearance as our means of rating our godliness or the godliness of others. But the character of Jesus Christ is built first in the heart, not in the flesh. Worship of God always precedes activity for God. True worshipers worship in spirit and in truth, not in activity. Yet if the heart is right and godliness is the attitude of one’s heart, activity will follow. Lifestyles will change. Not to earn godliness, but as a product of it.

Having the proper attitude of reverence and respect for God has great value for every part of our lives. In 1 Timothy 4, Paul tells his young pastoral trainee to “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”  Then a little later he adds, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)

The focus of godliness must be on the person of Jesus Christ. Many religions and religious people claim that they can be godly simply by having the external appearance of righteousness and good deeds without a transformational experience with Jesus. But that notion is refute in 1 Timothy 3:16 which reads Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. It is only in relationship with Jesus Christ that true godliness can be experienced.

One more thing, godliness is not something we do for ourselves. It is not in our power to be godly. Our attempts at godliness have no power. Peter knew this from his own personal experiences. In Acts 3, Peter and the Apostle John have just told a crippled beggar to stand up and walk. Here’s what happens next – When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 

We do not have the power to become godly. Any godliness we think we have achieved is powerless. It is only through the indwelling power of the life of Jesus granted us through the Holy Spirit that we can produce any righteous activity. And that activity always – again I emphasize ALWAYS – originates in a heart that worships, reveres, and respects God in every area of life. That’s godliness.

Pastor John

No Quitting Allowed

Connecting Points

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Today’s Topic: One more thing

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:6 …and to perseverance…

Before we move on to the next Christ-like character trait that we are to be adding to our lives, let me say one more thing about perseverance. Regardless of your preference for sports teams, we all had the privilege on Sunday night to watch one of the greatest displays of perseverance ever by a professional football player. If we could apply the same intensity and drive to succeed for Christ as was displayed in the Superdome the church of Jesus Christ would be filling stadiums too.

He had a dream. He has a passion that is unmatched. He is filled with the joy that comes from doing what he loves to do. But on this night he would be beaten and beaten up. The opposition came after him. They were focused on eliminating him. They hit him high and low. He was battered. He was injured. But he kept getting up. He kept coming back for more because the game wasn’t over yet. If even one more play would bring about the fulfillment of his hope he would be there for that play. No matter how you rearrange the letters, there is no “quit” in “champion”.

God’s people are also called to be champions. We are equipped by the power of the Holy Spirit to be “more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37) No matter how you rearrange the letters, there is no “quit” in “Christian”.

It breaks my heart to see so many Christians give up and give in to the world at the slightest indication of resistance. It hurts even more when I see Christians simply drawn away by the appeal of the world. These are the people who take off the uniform of Christ before the game has even begun simply because they like the other team’s uniform better. They wake up on Monday morning and intentionally choose to wear the colors of the flesh rather than bear the cross of Christ. The cross comes out only when it’s convenient, but the flesh is there as a wardrobe staple. Simply the perception of persecution is enough to make them choose to bury their faith under a pile of pride known as personal protection. At least those who have started the week carrying the cross have entered the game and intend to play.

But even those who play aren’t playing with the determination to finish no matter what the opposition does. At various stages of the game, they succumb to the pain and sit on the sidelines, hoping someone else will keep going.

They quit because they don’t want to persevere under the pain of emotional persecution. They don’t want any more suffering at the hands of ungodly co-workers so they stop talking about Jesus, and eventually stop living like they love Him and live like they love the world more.

They quit because they’ve been hurt financially with the loss of promotions and/or the job itself because the boss was an agnostic and had ruled that their freedom of speech did not apply in the workplace.

They gave up because they were suddenly overwhelmed with a deep need for acceptance and approval by friends and family. They chose to ignore the truth that they are completely and unconditionally accepted and approved by their current Coach and that their current team has become their true and eternal family.

They sat down on the sidelines with their head in their hands and pitied the day they ever started this game because they didn’t think it would cost so much.

Meanwhile, out on the field, players are being bruised and battered because they’re wearing the wrong color uniform. Players are being helped to the sidelines by teammates because they can’t walk on their own. But when they get there, as they pass by the Coach on the way to the bench, they tell Him, “I’ll be ready to get back in the game in a moment.” The trainers, consisting of angels and teammates alike, gather around and minister to their injuries and wounds, and before long they have put their uniform back on, pulled up their socks, laced up their shoes, and are standing beside the Coach begging to return to action.

These are the players God wants on His team. These are the players who never quit. They may make mistakes, and some of them may cost them their dreams and even their life. But never will it be able to be said of them that they quit. These are the models of perseverance for us all. These are the kind of players referred to in Hebrews 11:32-39.

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith.

Will you be the model of spiritual perseverance like we saw on the football field? Are you going to be such a player for Jesus Christ?

Pastor John

Key Words for Search:  Brett Favre

Stick With It

Connecting Points

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Today’s Topic: Perseverance

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:6 …and to self-control, [add] perseverance.

In June l955, Winston Churchill, who was then near the end of his life, was asked to give a commencement address at a British University. At this time he was physically infirm; he had to be helped to the podium. Then he held on to the podium for what seemed an interminable amount of time. He stood with his head down but then finally raised that great leonine head of his, and the voice that years before had called Britain back from the brink of destruction sounded publicly for the last time in history.

Never give in! Never give in! Never! Never! Never! Never! In anything great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.

With that, Churchill turned and went back to his seat. I’m told there was silence, and then, as if one person, the whole audience rose to applaud him, because he was a man whose life and words were together. Again and again throughout Churchill’s political career, he had known setbacks. Three times, his career apparently was over, he was sent off to oblivion, and yet somehow he had a sense that there was still something left after the worst.

Such perseverance is possible only when self-control is well established. It is only as we shift the focus from self to others that we are able to stand strong against a myriad of setbacks and hardships. When the need to gratify self is under control, the ability to push ahead at all cost is empowered. Think carefully about this. Quitters are self-focused. Those who give up are really giving in to the desire to draw attention to their misery. It is a dysfunctional expression of the need for recognition.

As you ponder the distinctions between self-centered living and self-controlled living you will recognize that those who have denied self are those who have the greatest perseverance. This is no accident. When the need to please self takes a back seat to the passion to honor Christ, the perseverance of Christ is added to the character of the selfless. Just think how He persevered all the way to the cross and the grave. Self tried to interfere in the Garden. Sacrifice won out! Hallelujah!

Some of you today are in a position that tempts you to give up. As you contemplate the control you are losing over the need to please self, look ahead to the joy of the finish line as Jesus did, and deny self. Take up your cross again and follow Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith, and run the race He has marked out for you with perseverance.

Here are some famous quotes to get you started. One or more of them are just what you need today. First off, here’s the definition of perseverance from Thayer’s Dictionary of the Greek language:

Perseverance is: steadfastness, constancy, endurance. In the NT it is the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings

Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable; however, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable. Lord Chesterfield (1694–1773)

Bear in mind, if you are going to amount to anything, that your success does not depend upon the brilliancy and the impetuosity with which you take hold, but upon the everlasting and sanctified bull-doggedness with which you hang on after you have taken hold.  A. B. Meldrum

Genius, that power that dazzles mortal eyes, is oft but perseverance in disguise. Henry Austin

It is a great thing to see physical pluck, and greater still to see moral pluck, but the greatest to see of all is spiritual pluck, to see a man who will stand true to the integrity of Jesus Christ no matter what he is going through. Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)

Pastor John


Connecting Points

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Today’s Topic: Self-Control

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:6 …and to knowledge, [add] self-control; 

The desire to please self is as old as Adam and Eve. It started in the Garden of Eden when Eve was convinced by Satan that God was holding out on her and that she needed to do something for herself. Adam joined her in the pursuit of self-satisfaction, and ever since there is as insatiable desire in each of us from birth to take care of our own needs and desires ahead of anything or anyone else.

When Adam and Eve first sinned, the entire focus of their intellect, emotions and will was shifted from being centered on God to being centered on self. That’s why they felt shame and tried to cover their nakedness. They had instantly brought upon themselves and the whole human race an awkward awareness of inadequacy which produced insecurity and embarrassment. From that point on, mankind’s desire has been for approval and acceptance, and we are convinced that it is most easily fulfilled in the pursuit of self-gratification.

It is fascinating to watch what happens in the life of a teenager when they start to take a healthy interest in someone of the opposite gender. There are generally two possible scenarios.

  1. They lose all self-control, and do anything and everything they can to gratify their hormonally charged emotions. Everything is about how the other person makes them feel. Very little is ever said about how they are learning respect and sacrifice for the sake of the other person. Rarely do you hear them talk about the relationship unless in the context of the benefits it brings to themselves. It is this response that the world calls love, but love it is not.
  2. They gain self-control, and do everything they can to earn the respect of the other person by putting their needs and desires ahead of their own. They seek to spend time getting to really know the other person, and they use that knowledge to figure out ways of meeting that person’s needs. They willingly sacrifice their own desires for the sake of doing what’s best for the other person. They never take from the other person what is not rightfully theirs simply to satisfy their own equally hormonally charged emotions. They are learning what love really is.

I read in Godly fear the posts of teenagers who are my Facebook friends. The consistent shallow and self-centered expressions of what they think is love as they talk about their special friends lead me to believe that we have apathetically allowed far too much knowledge of the world’s ways into the minds of our youth. The result is the loss of self-control. The world denies the need for self-control. In fact, the world stands opposed to it in almost every form. Only the laws against such things as murder, rape, and theft stand between what we are as a culture today and absolute anarchy. And yet we continue to pump the knowledge of the world and its ways into our minds and the minds of our youth.

There is an option. The knowledge of God brings self-control. The more I know about the One who loves me unconditionally and gave His life for me, the more I will have both the desire and the power to control the impulses of the flesh and live in the purity of Christ-likeness. The same is true in our relationships with each other. The more we know about the person we claim to love, the more we desire to do what pleases them and meet their true needs. The deeper our understanding of their heart, their feelings, their emotions, and their dreams, the more we will sacrifice of ourselves for their sake. Now we are talking about love.

So let’s make this real personal right now. Every one of us struggles with some area of self-control. There’s some physical expression of self in your life that you think is uncontrollable. You may even justify it as a natural response to an emotion or circumstance. You know what it is right now. You may or may not want to ever get rid of it. But if you do there is only one way. It must be brought under the power of the Holy Spirit through the increasing knowledge of God.

I will make a bold yet accurate statement – not to offend you but to get you to face the truth. The lack of self-control is the direct result of your choice to not know God more intimately. When we choose to not seek to know God more every day, we will not be able to improve our self-control. Why would we want to? We are choosing to live under the direction of self. We do not choose to control what we have granted control. Every day that we choose not to study God’s word and spend time in prayer with Him, we choose to let self be in control rather than God. Every day that we justify not having a quiet time with God because of our busy schedules and the demands of work or family, we choose to let self be in control. But every day that we seek the Lord and His strength, and spend face to face time with Him getting to know Him, we are able to conquer the need to satisfy self and to serve the One we love.

My friends, the days are getting short. The night is approaching. Jesus is coming soon. It is urgent that we conquer the need to satisfy self and that we serve the Savior. We can do it, if we will pursue the knowledge of God with our whole hearts.

Pastor John

Knowledge and Truth

Connecting Points

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Today’s Topic: Knowledge

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:5  …and to goodness, [add] knowledge; 

I know. I wonder how many times each day we say that? But do we really know? What do we think we know? How do we know we know?

The study of philosophy is fascinating to me. Aristotle defined philosophy as the knowledge of truth. But before we can even begin to tackle the subject of truth, we must understand the meaning of knowledge.

Knowledge is the accurate and faithful reflection of reality. Those two adjectives – accurate and faithful – are critical. Our mental image of reality can become distorted by intellectual apathy, emotions, and dysfunctional personality issues such as the human cravings for approval and acceptance. Any one of these things will close our minds to real knowledge and become the territory of Satan who will terrorize us with false beliefs. True knowledge must always result in the knowledge of truth.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy he said, Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge,   which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. (1 Timothy 6:20-21) Paul understood that unless our knowledge is the accurate and faithful reflection of reality, it is false and should not even be called knowledge.

Jesus Christ came to earth to bring us true knowledge. John the Baptist’s father, under the power of the Holy Spirit, said that his son would be the prophet that would lead us to the knowledge of salvation by pointing us to Jesus. (Luke 1:77) Jesus declared Himself to be truth in John 14:6 when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”  And Paul tells us in Colossians 2:2-3 that all truth is found in Jesus Christ. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,   in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 

Therefore, it is impossible to have an accurate and faithful reflection of reality unless our knowledge is based on the truth of Jesus Christ. Every other pursuit of knowledge is to be set aside so that the knowledge of Jesus may be the priority of our intellectual pursuits. Paul, one of the most highly educated and respected Jews of his day, said it this way:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.   What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ   and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.   I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,   and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.   Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.   Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 
  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:7-14)

But we must be careful to remember that our knowledge of Jesus is to be added to the already growing existence of goodness. Paul warns us in First Corinthians 8:1 that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. We must not take pride in what we know, but must use it to generate even more love for others and do even more good for them.

Every day our knowledge of Jesus should be growing, and that will happen as you intentionally spend time with Him in prayer and the study of His written revelation of Himself to us. It’s called the Bible. Open it up today with an open mind so that your knowledge becomes an accurate and faithful reflection of reality.

Pastor John


Connecting Points

Monday, January 18, 2010

Today’s Topic: Goodness

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:5-8  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness;

Last Thursday we started our study of the building blocks we are given to construct a mature life that rests on the foundation of faith. The first building block we are handed is goodness. Stick with me here for a moment while we study this word. You will see an application soon.

The Greek word translated goodness in the NIV means virtue. According to the Greek dictionary it means to pursue any virtuous course of thought, feeling, or action and to have moral excellence. It comes from another Greek word which is the word for a man, or the word male. At its root is the Greek verb airo, which means to raise, elevate, and lift up.

Okay, enough grammar. What does it mean to us now? Well, here’s what I glean from the word study this morning. Goodness means that we are becoming morally excellent people who work with the strength of a man to lift heavy loads in the lives of others. Goodness involves the investment of our energy into the good of others, not just self. In fact, true goodness sacrifices the good of self for the good of others. Anything less than that could not be called virtuous. That means not only do the actions appear good, but the thoughts and feelings match the activity. From the depth of our hearts we are to add goodness to our faith as the first building block of maturity.

I am so very proud of my daughter, her husband, and his family. They are all Packer fans. I’m proud of the fan part of that fact. Let me explain what I mean by that.

My six year old grandson has decided that in the middle of this Packer family he wants to be a Viking fan. He made that choice on his own. No, I did not try to persuade him. Just ask his dad. But now that he has chosen, I have filled his room with Viking stuff. He calls me at least once during every game to tell me what he saw. He really understands the game of football.

Anyway, back to the Packer fans. Yesterday during the game against Dallas, Caleb called me. After telling me the score, he told me that every member of the Packer family wore purple and was cheering for the Vikings. One aunt even dressed her little girl in purple. His other grandpa and grandma rooted for the Vikings. Even mom and dad wore purple. WOW! What a statement of what goodness is.

I called my daughter after the game. I told her how proud I was of her for modeling true sportsmanship. But I told her more. I said that she was modeling for her son what goodness is. She had put the feelings and excitement of the other person ahead of her own feelings. Her husband’s family had modeled to Caleb what it means to sacrifice personal preferences for the sake of sharing in the excitement of another person’s choices. I told her that her activity was proof that goodness has been added to faith.

In Romans 12:15 we are told to rejoice with those who rejoice. If goodness has been added to faith this won’t have to be an act or something we pretend for the sake of appearing good. If we understand that goodness means to pursue virtue with every ounce of strength we have so we can elevate another person and lift them up, then we will become people who will sacrifice our own thoughts and feelings and act in such a way that supports others. You see, we must be fans of people first, not teams or dreams. My daughter and her husband’s family demonstrated that.

Every day we make choices to put our goals, ambitions, and dreams ahead of others. We give in very easily to the temptation to raise ourselves up ahead of others. But the Holy Spirit made no mistake when the very first building block He gave was goodness. He knows the heart of God. He knows the character of Christ. He is at work in us to produce the character of Christ. He has given us the power to put others ahead of ourselves and live virtuous lives of goodness. He has equipped us to care more about others than ourselves. He has filled us with the prospect of rejoicing when others rejoice, even when that rejoicing is contradictory to what we wanted to happen.

So no matter where you believe you are in the construction process of spiritual maturity, go back and dust off this building block. It’s easy to find. It’s the one right above the Cornerstone.

Pastor Josh

Building Blocks

Connecting Points

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Today’s Topic: Building Blocks

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:5-8  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

I am a builder. Liam is a destroyer. He has destroyed every single wood block tower I have ever tried to build with him. I am sure that at his age of 16 months I was also a destroyer. It’s a phase we all go through. Liam’s older brother Aidan has moved past the destroyer stage and is now a builder. Anytime Aidan wants to build something with blocks or train tracks, he asks if Liam can be removed from the room. He knows if he isn’t, that Liam will come and destroy anything he has built. Not in anger, but to him it is about as much fun as anything else he can do. It won’t be long and he will begin to find more pleasure in building than he does destroying.

This next point comes with a HUGE disclaimer that my grandson is NOT to be personally compared to the Enemy of our souls. But the spiritual analogy of building and destroying is appropriate. When we came to Christ for salvation, God made each of us builders. Satan is the destroyer. Every attempt we make to add another building block of spiritual character to our lives is met with a charge of the Enemy from across the room to knock us over. From the very conception of Christ in us at our conversion by faith, the roaring lion is on the prowl seeking to destroy us.

When Liam seeks to destroy a tower of blocks, he does it for fun. There is nothing funny about what Satan does. He is not playing a game. He is avenging his loss experienced at the cross. He is out to intentionally discourage, defeat, and destroy each and every person who has dedicated their lives to Jesus Christ.

His tactics are not always obvious. He will attack us mostly at the point of past weakness or failure. He will find the point of your tower of character that has one block slightly off center and he will work there to de-stabilize the whole thing.

Maybe he is attacking your goodness so that you’re more concerned with self than others.

Maybe he’s pushing on the block of knowledge, so that you stop growing in your understanding of who God is and His plan for your life.

Maybe he’s adding emotional stress to the current overload of life you are experiencing so he can make you lose self-control.

It’s possible that he has convinced you to give up and not persevere. Satan would love to get you to that point so that you surrender to self-serving sin and forfeit your godliness.

It’s absolutely a certainty that the Enemy wants to stop the spread of love, and he will do that by shaking the tower of your character to the point of collapse so that you take your life back into your own hands and start building on a different foundation than faith.

But there is hope. Back in verse 3 we were given a promise of power to be able to build without fear of destruction. The power of God to make us stand is greater than the power of Satan to destroy. We have been guilty of not removing the Enemy from the territory of our tower. We have let him into the room where we are building.

We let him in through a variety of holes in our armor. We watch the wrong kinds of movies and television shows that let Satan influence our thinking and our world view, putting fleshly lusts ahead of godliness. We listen to music that bombards our minds with false philosophies and worldly pursuits. We surrender to the influence of friends so we can feel accepted when we should be the ones influencing them to be accepted in God’s family. We build treasures on this earth which will eventually perish when we could be building treasures in heaven that will be there waiting for us when we arrive.

Let the images of the terrible and tragic destruction of Haiti be a reminder to you that Satan is attempting to knock down everything God is building in your life. But also remember that we serve a God who builds and rebuilds even after destruction. When the tower falls, no matter how hard and how far, the foundation of faith can never be destroyed. Get busy rebuilding.

Pastor John

Wii and Mii

Connecting Points

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Today’s Topic: Wii and Mii

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:5-8  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

My wife and I were surprised at Christmas when we opened up the gift our children had bought for us. It was a Wii (pronounced “we”)video game system. Immediately the kids began telling us everything it would do. We were especially excited about the internet connectivity option that allows us to play video games with them and the grandkids from their homes. I can actually play golf and tennis and baseball and bowling against my grandson in real time while he is at his home in Sun Prairie. It’s amazing.

But there are lots of things to be added before that can happen. First it had to be hooked up to the television. Then we each had to create a Mii (pronounced “me”). That’s what the game calls your identity. My oldest grandson helped me create mine. As we began he informed me we could skip one step because I didn’t need hair. After the Mii is created, there are training exercises for each of the games to learn the controls. Finally it was time to play. Each time a game is completed, the computer grades the outcome of that game and adds or subtracts from your skill level. The higher your skill level, the better you become at competing against others.

Last night I got my bowling skill level into the pro category for the first time. As a result, my Mii got a shiny new bowling ball. I talked to my grandson on the phone last night and his dad is supposed to be sending me the instructions to get hooked up to the family network. I’m ready to start playing against Caleb on line. I think he will beat me.

God has given each of us an incredible gift – the gift of faith. With this gift we are able to get connected to His spiritual network. By faith each one of us has become a part of God’s “WE”. We are His family. Yet each one of us is still a “ME”. Each “ME” is responsible to increase their individual skill level so they can be effective and productive in their knowledge of God and enhance the “WE”. We are each in various stages of training and experience, but we are each to be increasing in all of the skills necessary to make the “WE” most effective and productive.

Take some personal “ME” time today and really study what Peter says in the Scripture above. Here’s a couple of points to ponder:

  • Notice that faith was a gift from God, not something we did for ourselves.
  • Notice that it is our responsibility to add to our faith, and that it takes effort.
  • Everything we are to add is readily available from the Holy Spirit. We must choose to appropriate the fruit He is trying to produce.
  • Each quality that is added is interconnected with all the rest and they must be accepted as a whole. We cannot pick and choose which qualities we want. They are all to be added.
  • Nothing is said about ever reaching a state of saturation. No matter how long you have walked in faith, each quality is to be increasing in your life. None of us ever reaches perfection in any area, so keep building your skill level.

Now excuse me while I go increase the skill level of Mii so I can be a more productive part of the Wii.

Pastor John

Follow Your Nature

Connecting Points

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Today’s Topic: Follow Your Nature

Today’s Text: 2 Peter 1:4  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

The more I study God’s Word, and the more I experience of earthly life, the more I understand that everything depends upon faith. The significance of the verse in Hebrews that says “Without faith it is impossible to please God” increases every day. Those who walk by sight, in human reason and understanding, are growing more and more miserable, while those who walk by faith in God’s promises are escaping the corruption of the world.

Unfortunately, for most of us, there are days when we feel captured by corruption. We get mauled by misery. We feel discouraged because we are discontent and filled with unfulfilled desires. We appear more dead than divine. How depressing!

We should not expect more from a sinful nature. The fact is that everything in God’s magnificent creation follows its nature. Plant seeds of corn and you will get corn plants and corn cobs. Put a bull and a cow in a pen and you’ll get a calf. Put a tiger and a lamb in a pen and you’ll get a full tiger. Everything follows its nature.

When reason is added, mankind can alter nature. People can become imitators and deceivers, covering who they really are with behaviors that mislead the observer. But in essence they are actually only expressing their corrupt nature, which is captivated with the expression and affirmation of self. Man cannot change the nature of anything. He cannot create a new nature.

But God can, and He does for everyone who has faith in His Son Jesus and in His promises. My friends, this is an incredible truth. Let me paraphrase the words of the apostle Peter:

  • God has called us to live according to His nature and not ours.
  • His call is not because of our glory, but His.
  • His call is not based on our goodness, but on His.
  • Because of His glory and goodness, He has given us very great and precious promises. Of the 2000 promises in Scripture, here’s my top 5 –
  1. The unconditional forgiveness of my sin when I believe on Jesus Christ who died on the cross as my substitute and suffered the full wrath of God against sin. (1 John 1:9; Colossians 2:13-15)
  2. The guaranteed gift of eternal life in God’s glorious presence in heaven and that He is coming soon to remove us from this world and take us there. (1 Peter 1:3; John 14:6)
  3. The creation of a new nature in me – the nature of Jesus Christ – that allows me to escape the chains of corruption in this evil world. (2 Cor. 5:17; Colossians 1:27)
  4. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit who empowers the nature of Jesus to live abundantly in and through me. (Titus 3:4-7)
  5. The absolute acceptance of my life by God because of the new nature He has given me. He has qualified me to share His Son’s eternal inheritance. No longer do I need to strive to bring value to my life. No longer do I need to prove my worth or earn my acceptance with anyone. (Colossians 1:12-14)
  • When by faith we believe His promises, we may participate in the divine nature of Jesus Christ.

Oh how I pray that you understand this. You have not been given the responsibility to change your nature. You have not been given a new set of rules to try to obey. You have not been made accountable to a group of people to measure up to their standards. In Christ, you have been given the promise of a new divine nature. You have been given the faith to believe God’s promises. By faith you must believe it is true and then live like you believe it.

Peter’s statements agree completely with Paul’s, who wrote, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

In Christ you are a new creation. All the old things have passed away, and all things have been made new. Stop living according to what is dead. You have a new nature. Follow it.

Pastor John