Growth and Consistency 2

Ephesians 4:11-16 ( NKJV )
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Yesterday we talked about the need to come to the “unity of the faith” or the unity of what we believe.  The world is looking for a people who know what they believe and live what they believe.  In order for this to happen we must be in an atmosphere where we are consistently hearing the Word of God.  It is particularly important that we be hearing what the local leadership is preaching as this is the word that God has designed for you and your family.  The unity of the faith is not a unity with all Christians in the world, but a unity among those that you are in relationship with. 

Today I want to look at some other things from this verse.  All are benefits of being rooted in the house of God.  The first thing we see is that we are to grow up.  It is not the will of God that we be immature in our Christian walk.  God expects us to grow.  We need to grow in our knowledge of God.  We need to grow in our abilities in faith.  We need to grow in our character and integrity.  This verse speaks of a “perfect man” and measuring up to the fullness of the stature of Christ.  That seems like an awfully tall order sometimes, and yet it is what Paul says is expected. 

The end result is that we will not be tossed about by the “winds of doctrine.  We will not be deceived by the trickery of men.  The picture here is of a mature stable person who knows who he is in Christ and is walking that knowledge out in daily life.  Since he is not deceived he is in control and successful in his walk.  If this is desirable in natural life, how much more that we seek this maturity in our spiritual life.

The benefits of adulthood are many fold.  Sometimes we long for the simplicity of childhood.  We had no responsibilities.  We were taken care of.  That can sound good, and there is a time when we are first saved that God allows us to be children.  The problem with childhood is that it is limited and unproductive.  When we grow up in the natural we trade the carefree nature of childhood for the expanded potential of adulthood.  We can do more things.  We can travel farther from home.  We can make our own decisions and choices.  More important we have the opportunity to have impact in our world.  The same is true in the spirit.

God desires that we grow up and be adult Christians with the capability to experience the Lord on an adult level  He also has a work for us to do and as stable adult Christians we have the capability to affect the world around us.  Childhood is wonderful but we were not designed by God to stay children.  How does God intend for us to accomplish this growth?  We are right back to active involvement in local church. 

Of course part of the equation is the input of the 5 fold ministry in our lives.  However this verse indicates something else.  We come to maturity as the whole body is fit together with every joint supplying what it is designed to supply.  We need each other.  We need to interact and allow the rough edges we all have to rub against themselves until we are smoothed out.  We need to speak the truth in love to one another so that each of us can benefit by what the other has to offer.  As we encourage, exhort and sometimes correct each other we grow together in Christ unto the adult church made of adult members that God intends for us to be.

Again all of this is done in love or it produces strife not growth.  This love is the putting of my brother or sister’s need above my own need or convenience.  As long as love is reigning we will see growth in our own lives and growth and maturity in the church of God.  This is what our world needs from us.  This is what Jesus always intended for His body.  Don’t shy away from commitment to the local house of God.  It is the vehicle through which you will fulfill that call of God on your life and through which you will grow up in Christ in all things.

I will be traveling in Indonesia for the next month and will post as often as I can.  Check back daily as I will be sharing some aspects of the trip.  Once again I would appreciate your feedback at Info@livingwordgreene.com.

Growth and Constancy

Ephesians 4:11-16 ( NKJV )
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

This week we have been talking about the need to be part of and committed to the local church.  We have talked about being assembled and planted.  Yesterday we looked at the gifts that are given to every person.  These gifts range from the public to behind the scenes.  They range from music and teaching to administration and helps.  Whatever the gift it is clear from Ephesians 4 that those gifts were designed, primarily, to work within the framework of the local church.  Most people live in very few locations in their lives and it is within those locations that God expects us to fulfill whatever call we have.  The local church is by far the most efficient and scriptural vehicle for ministry to occur.

In the verses quoted above we see a number of other important reasons to be part of the local church.  The world is a place that is filled right now with uncertainty.  Christians are often just as unstable as the people around them.  This should not be the case.  It is the will of God that we grow up into Christ in all things.  We all bring issues and baggage to the church when we come.  Often those who turn to the Lord are the ones who know there is something wrong.  The will of God is not that we remain wounded Christians but that we become whole, spirit, soul and body. 

How can this occur?  What is the primary vehicle that God uses to work wholeness within us.  I believe we can see above that it is the local church which accomplishes wholeness and within it’s members.  Jesus gave us the 5 fold ministry to bring us to a place where we come to a unity of the faith.  What is that?  A unity in what we believe.  We cannot approach a stable Christian life if we are all over the place in terms of doctrine and faith.  No one church has all the answers.  No church is perfect in what they teach or believe.  However, if the pastor and leadership is diligent they will do their best to teach and preach accurately.  If the leaders you are under are not diligent find some who are.

It can be helpful to listen to other teachers outside the local church who may have a particular strength in their ministry.  There may be some that you like on TV or in books.  That’s fine and can be helpful.  However if you are hearing so many points of view that you are confused you may need to focus on the one set of preachers and teachers that are seeking God specifically for a Word to speak to your life.  That is the local ministry.

I liken it to home cooking vs. a restaurant.   I like to eat at restaurants.  I have some favorites that we frequently visit.  There are some dishes I really like.  The thing is those dishes were not made for me.  I happen to like them, but the truth is the cook out back couldn’t care less.  After enough visits to restaurants, even those I really like, I want some home cooking.  What’s the difference.  My wife is cooking for me.  She is making what I like because I like it.  She is concerned about my health and my nourishment.  That is the difference in the local church as well.

As a pastor I never just pick a dish to serve to my congregation.  I spend time seeking God for the things they need to hear.  I care about their health and well being.  Many people like to go to meetings where they are not known and receive a prophetic word or a teaching that speaks to their situation.  They consider this somehow higher because the minister does not know them.  I consider the sacrifice a pastor goes through to know his people and their needs the higher quality.  Often I preach things that speak to circumstances in the lives of people in the church that I have no knowledge of.  The difference is that I have been praying for them specifically.  Sometimes I speak to things I do know because that is what is needed for the health of the people in my care.

The process that occurs in our lives when we are in a consistent environment of teaching and preaching which speaks to our hearts and our needs is essential to stability.   Not only that, but the preaching and teaching in the local church is like the briefing in the military.  Each unit has to have it’s own briefing so it will know it’s place in the overall plan of God.  That happens in the local church setting.  We have a job to do.  We need to know what that is and how we fit.

The world is looking for a people who know what they believe and will walk in it.  Get under the consistent preaching and teaching of the word.  Prioritize listening to those who are responsible for you and your family  Commit to being a hearer and a doer of the Word you hear.  It will begin to produce a constancy that nothing else can.

Once again I would like you to let me know you are reading.  Send and email to info@livingwordgreene.com.  Visit us on the web where you can listen to the messages being preached at LWCC for free.  The address is WWW.livingwordgreene.com.   Obviously, if you are from another church we are here to help, but that is your home so prioritize there.  Thanks.

Gifts

Ephesians 4:7-13 ( NKJV )
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”  (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

As we have discussed the need to planted in a local church we have emphasized the fact that we need to be assembled together in order to accomplish the will of God in the earth.  The church is a body and we are all a part of that body.  No body part is designed to function alone whether in the spirit or in the natural.  We also need to understand it is not just attendance that is necessary but to be rooted in the house of God.  Ps. 92:12-13 tells us that those who are rooted flourish.  If we are rooted we are committed, we are stationary, we are both receiving from the ground and giving back to it. 

Today I want to talk about gifts.  In Ephesians we find that God gave gifts to men.  Some of those gifts are what we call the 5 fold ministry.  They are the public offices such as pastor that lead the church.  However they are not the only gifts to be given.  God gave gifts to everyone.  Some of the gifts are public and some behind the scenes but each one has a gift. 

In 1 Corinthians 12-14 we find some of these gifts.  In Romans 12 we find others.  I don’t want to spend time going over them, I just want to point out that they exist and there are more than 5.  You have a gift or gifts.  Something that God has invested in you to equip you to fulfill the purpose for which He created you.  How can you find that gift and where can you use it.  I believe the scripture above answers that question.

We are familiar with the gifts in verse 11.  Why did God give the gifts of apostle prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher?  He gave them to perfect the rest of thee saints’ gifts so they can do the work of the ministry which leads to the building of the body of Christ.  It is quite evident to me that God places all these gifts in the context of the local church.  It is true they can sometime cross the boundaries of individual churches, but the implication here is that people are perfected to do work.  These people live and work in local places. 

The world cannot be changed from a remote location.  People live in cities and towns and it is in those places that they must be touched.  TV, radio, books and other types of media ministry have their place but Christianity is a personal relationship that must be communicated personally.  There are a few people who may be raised up to travel or do some kind of ministry that puts them in a position to be known outside the local church, but the vast majority of people will never leave their locality.  They are called to labor in a local field and to change their local world. 

This is not a lower calling.  It is the point of all callings.  Every gift that is known beyond the local church really exists to build up the local church and it’s people, because that is the only arena where Christianity can be fully communicated.  Jesus expects you to go into your city or your town and introduce Him to people.  He expects you to do this work in the factory, the office, the school and the mall.  Where are you going to be taught how?  Where are the gifts God has given you to do this work going to be revealed, refined and released.  In the local church.  Where are you going to be changed into the image of Jesus that can communicate His life to others.  In the local church

God has given you gifts personally.  He has also given you corporate gifts.  Those corporate gifts, the five fold ministry, exist to help you be released in God’s calling for your life.  This process ensures that your gift will not be wasted but will be joined with other gifts so it’s effectiveness can be multiplied and the Kingdom of God can flourish in your world.  That means your town, your city and the sphere of influence God has given your life.

Why Should I Be Committed to a Local Church

Psalms 92:12-13 ( NKJV )
    The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.  Those who are planted in the house of the Lord Shall flourish in the courts of our God.

Yesterday we addressed the fact that every believer needs to be a part of a local church because we are called together to affect the world for the kingdom of God.  The bible calls the church a body and a body must be whole to fully function.  If you are not a part of any local body, both you and the body God has placed you in will suffer.  My hand, though a part of universal humanity, has no place and no life if it is alone.  Hebrews 10 speaks of us being assembled together.  If you are not where you belong you cannot be assembled.

Today I want to talk about the benefit to the individual that being in the house of God brings.  Again let me say that I believe this is important because the bible teaches it is, not because I am trying to build a following or fill the chairs in my church.  In the verse above we see another reason why.  Those who are planted in the house of the Lord flourish.  Those who are not do not.  It’s just that simple.

Now you might say, "I have been going to church for years and I don’t seem to be flourishing.”  It didn’t say that those who go to church flourish.  It said those that are planted flourish.  What does it mean to be planted?  First of all it means there are roots.  Something that is planted is dug into the ground where it is.  There is a vital connection between that ground and the thing planted.  The ground provides nourishment and sustenance to the plant.  The water that gives life to the plant comes from the ground it is planted in.  Even if there is plenty of rain a plant with no root can not live.  It has no way to receive the life in the water.  It needs the ground

On the other hand the root system of the plants stabilize the ground keeping it in place on hillsides and during times of flood.  This is vital for the ground.  A few years ago we had two unusually strong floods.  There are many hillsides next to roads in this area.  Some of them have a few trees on them but no grass or brush.  The root system of the trees was shallow to begin with and when the flood waters began to flow down the hill the topsoil and many of the trees went with it.  There was tremendous damage because the trees were not firmly planted and the soil was not held in place by sufficient vegetation. 

Another characteristic of the relationship of soil and plants is that some plants leave in the soil what others need.  In this way the soil nourishes the plants, but the plants provide some of what the soil needs to do it’s job.  What a beautiful example of what a local church should be. 

There is one more thing about being planted, however.  Plants don’t move.  Roots are not like legs.  They do not provide mobility.  If there is a drought the plants do not say, “I think I’ll go to greener pastures.”  The plants and the soil are committed to one another.  They will nourish each other through hard times and good times.  They will continue in their relationship until they are destroyed or until the Lord comes. 

Those who are planted in the house of the Lord will flourish.  That doesn’t mean there will never be problems.  That doesn’t mean you will always have everything you want or even need.  It does mean you will accomplish what God has for your life.  It does mean that in good times and bad you will have peace.  It does mean that mean that you will never be alone.  It means that someone will be with you to protect you and help you through whatever you face.  It also means you will be there for others when they face difficulties.  Isn’t that what life is really about? 

Get planted somewhere.  However, remember that this is the garden of the Lord.  To really flourish you need to planted where God plants you.  Seek Him.  If you are in a good church and you believe God has placed you there, stay.  Put down roots.  Don’t be afraid.  If you are not, then really seek God as to where your field is.  Once you find it put down those roots and don’t let anyone pull you up.  Not even you!!!!!

I would like to ask a favor.  If you are reading would you send a note to info@livingwordgreene.com.  I would like to hear from you.  Also visit our web site at WWW.Livingwordgreene.com.  Thanks.

Why Should I Go To Church?

Hebrews 10:24-25 ( NKJV )
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

We were blessed this week at Living Word Christian Center to Have Pastors Bob and Sandy Lauver from Muncy, PA. as guest speakers.  Pastor Bob said many good things, but I want to highlight a few from Sunday morning in this week’s blog.

As a pastor for over 30 years I have often had to encourage people to come to church.  Of course I have a vested interest in their attendance as my livelihood as well as my personal sense of success is affected by the number of people in the seats.  I have to pay salaries, heating and electric bills and myriad other expenses.  Since we are an independent church, we have no home office to help us.  We are solely dependent on the tithes and offerings of our people.  I am human and it is impossible for me to ignore those things when the attendance is down.  That said, if my reason for exhorting people to come to church is based on such considerations I need to close the doors and get into some other kind of business.

The reason I believe so strongly that church attendance is necessary for every believer is because the bible teaches it is.  There are many scriptures that exhort us to come together as the people of God.  In the book of Acts the people who were together when the Holy Spirit fell were the ones filled with the Spirit.  The early church prayed together in response to persecution and the room was shaken by their agreement.  Hebrews 10:25 tells us we should not forsake “the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some.”

That is an interesting choice of words by Paul.  It makes me think of the many Christmas mornings when our six children were small.  We always had some things with these dreaded words on the box.  “Some assembly required.”  Sometimes we would do the assembly on Christmas eve but it was our tradition to wrap every present and sometimes you couldn’t wrap the assembled gift.  It was also tradition not to do any wrapping until Christmas eve.  I can’t tell you how many grumpy Christmas afternoons Dad  spent putting together Army bases, Barbi houses, bicycles or any number of things.

To finally assemble all the toys we had to have all the parts.  The parts to each toy had to be in the right place.  If the parts to the GI Joe base got mixed up with the Barbi house we were in trouble.  If something wasn’t in the box we couldn’t finish the job.  There was a picture on the box and instructions as to how to put the pieces together, but if pieces were missing it was impossible to finish the job.  When that happened there were some disappointed children and one frustrated Dad.

The other thing that was needed was patience.  I needed patience to follow directions so I could get the whole toy together like the picture on the box.  That was not always easy when we had gone to bed at three AM only to have happy footsteps wake us at 5.  The children also needed patience.  The more they pestered me with, “When are you going to be done?” or “Is mine next?”, the more frustrated I got.

The truth is you should go to church for many reasons, but one of the most important is that you are part of a functioning body with a job to do in the earth.  God has purpose for each individual and for each church.  When we separate ourselves from the body of Christ we cannot fulfill our purpose.  If we had a car to be assembled on Christmas we needed all the wheels, the body and every other part in the box in order to make the car do what it was supposed to do.  You are part of something.  You have a destiny in God but that destiny is not for you alone.  It is part of a greater destiny called the body of Christ.

You may say, I am part of the greater body of Christ but I don’t believe I have to be part of a local church.  That is a little like my hand saying I am a part of greater humanity but I don’t want to be limited to one person.  The hand dies and the body is hindered in it’s function.  So it is with you.  God has placed you with a group of people that are being assembled into something.  It is not good for you to take your part and try to be assembled somewhere else.  If you are not where you belong, talk to the leadership and pray.  Find out what “toy” you belong to and get there so you can be assembled into something that will affect the world for the Kingdom of God.”

Finally let me say, have some patience.  As a pastor I am trying to read the instructions from the Lord as to how all the parts fit together.  Sometimes it takes a while, but if we stay together in faithfulness praying for one another we will get everything in place and working.  If your part hasn’t been assembled yet, stay with the church.  Be an encouragement.  Do whatever you are asked to do or try to meets needs where you can.  In the end it wall all come together as the “manufacturer” intended and we will get the job done.

How do I Yield to God?

Romans 6:15-18 ( NKJV )
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

This week we have studied the three things that Paul says we must do in order to walk in Righteousness.  These things are found in Romans chapter 6.  First we must identify with the ministry of Jesus in the cross and the resurrection.  Second we must reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God.  Finally we must yield our members, our  body, to God and not to sin.  We have a responsibility to see to it that sin does not control us.  We do this not by law but by grace.  Both law and grace lead us to walk in a way pleasing to God, however a law approach focuses on sin while a grace approach focuses on God.  Instead of working to not sin we work to yield to God.  (See Hebrews 4:11)

How do we yield our members to God?  This is a major question for all believers.  We live in a physical world.  There are physical responsibilities that must be met and physical temptations that must be faced.  How do I practically yield my life to a God I cannot see?  I believe there are some definite things we can do that will lead us to this condition.

If we want to yield to God the first place we need to look is the Word of God.  We cannot see or hear God in the natural, but we can see, hear and touch the Bible.  The bible is not just God’s book it is His Word.  This means it is the revelation of His character and of His will for every person.  When I read it I read his thoughts.  Not only that but Hebrews 4:11 says the bible is a living things.  It contains the life and power of God in the form of a seed.

If we want to have the power of righteousness work in our lives we must yield to God.  If we want to yield to God the place to start is by yielding to His word.  How do I yield to the Word of God?  I yield to it by making the Word of God the final authority in my life, by accepting it’s truth as the highest truth and by doing what it says to the best of my ability.  It is just  that simple.  When I do the Word I am Yielding to God.

Second I must yield to worship.  Worship is that time when I express my faith and love towards God.  It is not a time just to sing songs or perform a religious duty.  It is a time to open my heart to the Lord and let Him in.  Whether during my private time with God or in a public worship service I need to really open my heart and express my love to God.  When we do, yielding becomes a natural result.  Hebrews 10 says that when we draw near to God He, in turn, draws near to us.  It is not difficult to yield to God when He is near to you.

Finally we need to yield to the dealing of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God lives in the believer.  He is constantly working to influence us in our decisions and actions.  How many times have we all said, “I knew I shouldn’t have done that.”, or some variation after we have made some mistake.  If we would learn to yield to that voice we would be far more successful.  We become more familiar with the dealing of the Holy Spirit by doing the first two things.  His Word is his voice.  When I am familiar with His Word I will know his voice.  Worship makes my soul more sensitive to God.  When I respond to the Holy Ghost in the worship service I am cultivating the tools necessary to respond, or yield, to him in my everyday life.

Begin where you are.  I believe the Word is always the place to start.  Take some time to really respond to God in worship.  When you hear that still, small voice, obey it and see how things will begin to change.

So, Now Who or What is in Charge?

Romans 6:12-14 ( NKJV )
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.  And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

We have been identified with the death burial and resurrection of Jesus.  The first step to walking in righteousness is to accept that as the reality of our lives.  Yesterday we learned that we need to “reckon” or consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God.  This has a twofold application.  On the one hand, when temptation comes, we need to attack it with the fact that dead people can’t be tempted.  On the other hand we are not only dead to sin but alive to God.  This gives us access to the power of God to overcome anything in our lives that hinders our walk in the power of righteousness.

Today I want to begin to discuss the third step Paul presents in Romans 6.  Once we have done our reckoning we then need to cooperate with what we have reckoned.  Paul tells us how.  Do not let sin reign in your mortal body.  How do we do that?  By presenting or yielding our bodies as instruments of righteousness to God and not instruments of sin. 

Now it may seem that we have done all this talking about grace and righteousness by faith alone only to find ourselves right back at the law.  If it is up to us to make sure sin is not reigning in our bodies, isn’t that law.  Doesn’t that mean we are really not right unless we change our behavior?  No.  There are two differences between Romans 6 and a righteousness based in law. 

First, a law based righteousness requires that you keep the law to be right with God.  Paul is saying that we can be free because we are already under Grace.  We behave as we should because we already are righteous.  I am not creating righteousness, I am responding to it.  Why is this difference so important?  Because the law approach depends on us, the grace approach depends on God.  I am already in right standing with Him so I am free to live above sin with the knowledge that if I should fail it will not make God declare me unrighteous.

Second, Paul is not talking about resisting sin at all.  He is talking about yielding to God.  This is a totally different thing.  When we are resisting sin, sin is our focus.  Paul is saying that the focus of our righteous walk should be yielding our members to God.  Overcoming sin is a natural by product of that. 

The old King James version uses the word “yield” as opposed to “present” which is used in the New King James.  Both are good words.  When you present something to another you are transferring ownership.  If I present my members, my body, to God I no longer own them.  I think the word yield might carry a stronger picture.  To yield implies we are giving up.  We are surrendering to God.  It also means we are giving what is due.  God has purchased your body with the blood of Jesus.  We need to give him his due. 

In either case we are to make our focus allowing God to have control over our body as well as our soul.  One of the issues with this thinking is the human tendency to believe we are in control.  In the rest of this chapter Paul gives us an insight we need to heed.  We will be controlled by one thing or the other.  If we don’t yield to God and righteousness we automatically yield to sin.  It is interesting to me that people who most loudly proclaim their independence are often the most controlled by one sin or another.  So I ask you,  Who or what is in Charge of your life. 

Tomorrow; how to yield to God.