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A Different God? | To Make Much… Mini-Minute(s)

This will be a semi-daily video thought of the day, sometimes at the house, outside, maybe even in my pajamas… My goal:  To Glorify God and preserve His grace in my heart and life.  My version of personal journaling.

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Reflection of Faith

Photo by Arkady Golod

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 (ESV)
2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,
3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,
10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Photo by Arkady Golod

When I read this text this morning as an include to an email to my bride, it hit me just how focused this passage should be in the lives of believers today.  Paul is writing to these Christians primarily to show great thanksgiving to God for His supernatural work through the Gospel in their lives.  He also uses this time to stand up against adversaries of the truth and encourages the Thessalonians to continually see God’s work among them.

We reflect the light of God in our proclamation

Let’s put this in perspective of our own lives as believers.  If we truly are saved by the transforming power of the Gospel, then our lives will declare the power of God.  Paul says in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”  In this power, God gives us faith, light, and the power to be transformed by Him.  If we are believers, shouldn’t our lives reflect that claim?

It seems that more and more people are continually making excuses for sinful living and apathy every day.  People who claim faith in the transforming power of Christ are daily walking further away from the image of God.  This does not make sense according to scripture.  Of course, we will struggle with the sin that fights against God’s nature, but our lives will be marked as we suffer to fight for joy and rest in the grace of God.

In the referenced text we see Paul showing amazing gratitude to God for saving the Thessalonians and reminding them in verse 4 and 5 that God did the work, not them nor the apostles.  In essence, Paul is helping them to stay focused on God’s work among them resulting in salvation.  In this, the church should pay close attention: “our gospel came to you… in word…”.  See Paul’s reminder?  He is saying, we preached the words of Christ to you, not words about Christ, or examples to follow, but the truth was proclaimed.  This is the only way that people will know the true Christ – His word.

Also consider that Paul states this is not the ONLY way the gospel came, but it also came by POWER in the Holy Spirit and with CONVICTION!  Wow, let’s think about that for a second.  How often do we look for power, conviction and the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and try all sorts of things, even teaching people who to ‘tap’ into God’s power and forsake the very real power which comes only through God’s word?  Pay attention:  The word of God will do His work!  He doesn’t need our creativity and charisma to make people see the light.

We reflect the light of God in our person

When God’s word did His work, the apostles did not need to set themselves up as experts, holy men, or men with supernatural power, the life change that happened supernaturally in the lives of the Thessalonians was proof enough.  See verse five, the last part: “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”  In context, there were those who were refuting the apostles and their teachings and even starting to say there were other ‘ways’ of knowing the truth.  This is happening today.  Men and women who claim to have an inside knowledge of God in a deeper way and they twist and use scripture to try and prove ‘their’ worth or authority.

As we live transformed, holy lives, the world we see the power of God and it will MATCH our words.  Even Jesus warned the people about the Pharisees, He said, “Listen to what they say and obey them, but do not do what they do…”  They had the right words but would stand condemned in the end without hope for their religion.

We reflect the light of God as others proclaim the truth of our changed lives

6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.

See this text?  Oh, how I wish I could just pour this more and more fully into my heart each moment and how I wish I could just push it right off the page or screen into your hearts.  However, this text tells much more than I have time or the strength to write today.  The Thessalonians did not have to give testimonies of how good life was.  They didn’t have to stand up and make a big deal about what God was doing for them.  They didn’t write journals and make revival meetings and pass out fliers or preach all over the world.  They continued to live where God had planted them but their lives were marked; different and set apart.

The POWER of the preached word became TRUE in the lives of these people, they became believers by the will of God and the power of the Gospel, who is God!  Then their lives began to change immediately and their hearts were set on eternity, not this earth or its pleasures.  They didn’t live for their careers, their platforms or their future, but for the future of hope in Christ.

The power of God was reflected in their lives and the church was growing stronger in other areas.

We reflect the light of God and the church is strengthened – everywhere

Notice that Paul made mention of the fact that other cities had noticed and were striving to see that change in their lives.  The Thessalonians were examples, verse 7, to other believers in other places.  When we live as examples, the body of Christ across the world is edified and stronger.  Paul continues and says that not only has their faith and the power of God in their lives made a difference at home and in neighboring cities, but that their faith in God has become known everywhere!

When we reflect the light of God in our lives by living holy and passionately for the gospel, evangelism happens organically.  We don’t have to worry about how many events, outreaches and networks we build so that people will share their faith, true faith yields fruit.  A fruitless faith is evidence of a faith that is not saving faith!

We reflect the light of God and the Gospel goes before us

Look at the last part of verse 8, “we need not say anything…”  What?!  In other words, the faith and testimony of power in Christ for these people had reached to other regions of the globe.  When the apostles had gotten to their destinations, they just confirmed the message that had already been sent – God is light and He is the message in Christ that gives YOU salvation.  “We see it, we know it is true, we have heard about those people and want to know more!”  How would you like that to be the coffee talk at your job, school or buzz in the community?

What testimony was that?  Well let’s read it: 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God…”

They had reports from around the world about the apostles ministry to them and how they had turned to God!  Not just numbers on a page or people down the isle, but lives that bore fruit from the beginning.  They turned from idols!  That’s they gave up what was ultimate and precious in their lives and worshiped what was true!  “I don’t have idols” you might say, however, we all do.  We are a perpetual idol factory and we love our church, our family, our jobs, money, stuff and self-worth.  We have love for our knowledge and our intellect and the way we communicate.  We have idols, not just graven images that we think are gods, but ulitmate things in our lives.  Our very sinful desires and the small things that we just say, “eh, no big deal…”.  These are idols.

If our sins don’t shake us up, even our small ones, then we are on a very slippery slope.  WE might have a small love for Godly things, but if we have God in us, our hatred for sin will grow deeper and our love for God’s nature, holiness, will explode into a passion that can never be quenched!

If we do not find this hope, if we do not have this ‘reflection’ of faith, we need to stop worshiping our salvation date and repent and believe.  After all, the purpose of faith is to trust in the true, the one who is faithful – Jesus Christ.

We reflect the light of God and His eternal promise in Christ

10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

This is what the true church has focused in their hearts.  Not growth, mission, vision etc, but Christ and His eternal kingdom.  Friends, our sole hope is that Christ will bring us to Himself and fit us for the presence of Holy God!  Jesus is the victor, He is the elect, He is the righteousness of God – let’s make sure that we are found in Him.

Staying Stupid, James H. Tippins

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Oh No Obama | Savior at Risk…

Since before the election it seems that everyday I hear something positive or negative about President Obama.  First, I must say that I have never in my life of 35 years known of someone so famous and infamous at the same time.  People love him or hate him.  In this light, I have a few observations from a biblical world view based on some of the comments I hear.  If you are not a believer and are reading this, it was written for the ears of those with a world-view that is formed completely on scriptural truths, so it is not an argument for debate but statements for the sheep.

This post is also not a condoning of pacifism.  People should discern and stand up for truth, even protect the innocent against harm and fight for freedom as long as possible if needed.  However, our thinking must be transformed in order to fall in line with scripture, even on these matters.  As for when, and how we should stand up for truth, that will be in later posts.

I am tired of hearing that Obama is the anti-christ.  First, if you just read the scripture as it should be read, you won’t see a final world-power leader who is the incarnate seed of Satan.  Satan does not, nor will he ever have creative power, that belongs to God and to say that the enemy can do what God can do, well, that’s the spirit of the anti-christ.

Obama is not the savior of the country, must less the world.  This man, no matter who he might be, is not going to solve the problems of the world.  The very nature of people, even Christians, that have this idea and voted for him because of this hope flies in the face of scripture, violates the first commandment and makes the cross a joke at best. (If there is such a thing as best in this group.)

Scripture teaches that God is sovereign and no one else.  God himself orchestrates the saving of the world and points that salvation to the church alone.  There is no hope for the world at large less they repent and believe in faith in Christ to save them, period.  So why is it brother/sister, that we have allowed a man to take away the providential hope of our God who created the president as a person and an office in the first place? For those who hate Obama, let me let you in on a little truth:

Romans 13:1-2 (ESV)
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Obama is God’s man for America.  Plain and simple.  If you don’t believe this, then take it up with God, not me.  It’s one thing to disagree, hold to what is good or stand for truth, but to blatantly have hatred in our heart is nothing short of evil and is not showing worship to God because it does not show faith in God’s plan and God’s man who is in the White House.  So when someone goes against the government to suit their fancy, they are actually resisting God Himself.

On a matter of clarification:  This does not mean that we are to be stupid, Christians are to be discriminating (discernment) against policies and laws that violate truth of scripture.  For example, it is murder to kill children, the elderly or mentally ill.  It is also sinful for the government to take care of people’s medical needs and/or retirement.  The Christian dependence on the government in the US is the primary reason that so many Christians have lost hope in God – so put that shoe wherever it might fit.  It’s one thing to oppose sinful things by refusing to vote for them, sharing the glory of God in light of them and refusing to participate, but its another thing to desire harm, destruction or take up arms in rebellion.  There is no mandate in scripture for this type of action.

For those Christians who love President Obama, great, we all should.  However, if your hope is in him listen to the word of in Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”  This couples with the command to have “No other gods…”  So when your hope is in Obama, it is NOT in God and that my friend is idolatry.

In the essence of the ultimate purpose of America and the church in the world, let’s close with this:  America, by its very birth, is a land of sin and rebellion.  We rebelled against the King of England and declared independence which violates Paul’s teaching to the Romans.  Sorry, but this is truth to the core.  So, America being a land of rebellion and a land of ‘rights’, we are reaping the very seed we have sown from the very foundations of our nation.  Personal idolatry.

The scripture is clear that our purpose is to give glory to God by reflecting His nature.  (Matthew 6:33)  The church is to show the manifold wisdom of God and display His glory to the universe by surrendering their rights to the cross and their lives to the call of God.  We are not here in America so that we can be a people.  As Christians, we are first defined as a believer in Christ, a royal priesthood and holy nation and then can be described as American because it is where we live.

As believers, our hope is in the cross of Christ, not the government, its laws or money.  America’s purpose in God’s scheme is to show His glory and righteousness.  Either through repentance from idolatry and self-fulfilling living, or through judgment where His holiness will be vindicated.  May our prayer for America be found in Psalm 106:8 Yet he saved them for his name‘s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.  Let us pray that for ourselves and our people.  Otherwise we have this to look forward to:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,

Soli Deo Gloria, James Tippins

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When you think of accountability, most of the time it doesn’t ring true for your thoughts on church life. Well, that could be furthest from the truth. First of all, let’s define the term. Accountability is an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. You might ask, “What actions? What responsibility?” Exactly! That is the problem with people who call themselves the ‘church’ and don’t have a proper understanding of what being the body of Christ is all about.

A true believer should have several thoughts when it comes to being accountable.

  1. A true believer in Christ should desire accountability with the rest of the body.
  2. A true believer in Christ should be a partner for others in this area.
  3. A true believer in Christ should expect to be held accountable for their lives in all areas, not just ministry.
  4. A true believer in Christ does not shy away from biblical mandates.

So, are you in the right ‘frame-of-mind’ for this issue?  If not, then let’s fix that by using the final authority of scripture to answer what and how accountability is to be in the church and most importantly, why.

Being accountable as believers to each other is a requirement of the changed life.  Without someone to ‘view’ us in our living, how will we know for sure if we are even believers?  John states in his first epistle, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.”  These are strong, deliberate words that show a true condition by which one will have the full knowledge of their salvation.  Notice he did not say, ‘gain’ salvation, but that we ‘know we have come’ to salvation.  What is it?  It’s obedience.  What is that you might ask?  It means doing what is required for holy living in Christ.

Obedience is not the means by which we are saved, but it is the primary fruit of a saved life.  It doesn’t mean that we are going to never sin or that we are not going to desire to sin, however, a believer does make WAR against this desire and sinful living.  If we don’t, we are not true believers.  This is where accountability is so important.  If one is a believer, then he or she will desire holy living and desire help in the journey.

Accountability also helps us evaluate our focus and gives us a real picture of our motives.  If we are to live a life of grace by faith in Christ alone, then our lives must be producing fruit of that change.  This is not something that we do but something that God does in us.  God is the giver of life and He does the work of regeneration, as Paul states, we are saved by faith not of works so that no one can boast.

So this grace does its work through the power of God and in turn, we see the work of God in our lives. Which is a desire to be like Him!  So regularly talking and being open about our journey in Christ performs its duty by making sure our faith is for real and not just head knowledge, but that God has truly made us into a new creation.

Hebrews 3:12-13 (ESV)
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

In the end, the purpose of our lives together is to glorify God in all that we do, especially our daily lives.  As we live together in this world to do this, we must exhort, encourage, rebuke, teach and plead with each other to run, fight and make war against the sin in our lives.  Failure to have the heart to repent shows that the Spirit of God was never truly active but that we, for a moment, just wanted to live better lives in our own power.  This is why we must work together for the fight to finish the race.  Otherwise we will fall away having never known Christ who is the advocate for our Holiness.

Accountability as a believer with someone gives you the privilege and the power to stay focused on Christ-centered living.  We have the ability to be truthful about our struggles, tell someone to pray for us and  to pray for others.  We are able to see how God is growing us as others will see that fruit way before we do and we will begin to learn that partnership in the body is a sign of health in Christ.

When we practice accountability willingly in our lives, there is never a reason for church-wide discipline or the removal of someone from church membership.  It’s only when we turn from truth and being truthful in our lives together that requires the body to purge one from its ranks that sits to uphold the flesh and its desires which is the nature of Satan rather than the nature of the Father which is light!

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Sermon Updates

I have an automated system now to house the weekly messages. So instead of posting a new post each Sunday afternoon, you can just come to the site and click on the messages tab for the newest sermon.

Grace and Peace to you.

James

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Holiness: 1 John 1:1-10 Week 1

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Taboo Topics 7 | Truth on Death and Dying

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Quotable Quotes: Death and Dying

“Death is the end of something. Life, a beginning of something else, opposite of death. So, we are either living to die, or dying to live!”

In order to truly live, something must die. In Christ, we are dead to sin, dead to death and alive in Him. Just a thought.

1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (ESV)
54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tortilla Heaven film

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Reality of Death

Today has been a hard day already. I find a homeless woman this morning eating out of the trash and trying to find pennies on the ground that she might buy herself food. The brokenness by God’s Holy Spirit over this woman’s condition was more than I could bear. I quickly went into a local restaurant, bought a gift card and gave it to her before she left the area. On the way home from taking the children to school, I received an email that gave the grave news of a dear life-long friend of the family who is terminal. There are not words to express the pain of knowing and seeing suffering in this life, but there are even fewer words and feelings and ways to express the pain of knowing that those who are hungry and sick need much more than food and healing.

Something that God has truly been showing me is that a dead man has no control over his life, he’s dead. In the same way if the dead are to be alive, they must rely on something or someone else for resuscitation. The Gospel of John gives some understanding of God’s mighty work and great love and mercy in regards to bringing dead, blind and depraved souls to life so they might have life and eyes of faith.

There are two types of people in life, those who have been saved by the Grace of God and those who are not saved. Are you saved? This is the question that we should ask ourselves daily. Is Christ your treasure, is He your all sufficient, satisfying everything or are you looking to make off with something better? Does your heart yearn for another lover, a better life or more success? Do you desire to become something great in this life? Does the word of God bore you or are you disinterested in learning and growing? If you are able to answer yes to these questions outside of Christ being your all, then there are two truths: One, you are lost and have no relationship in Christ evidenced by your lack of passion and heart for Him and His word! Two, you are saved and are grieving the Holy Spirit and daily wonder about your salvation becoming more and more frustrated in life.

Either one of these situations are a type of death. Spiritual death in the first in that the judgment of God remains on you because you are not saved. Is God calling you to repent and trust in Christ’s finished work on Calvary’s cross? Are you grieving the Spirit and therefore have lost your joy, your hope and need to repent and come to the mercy seat? Come to Christ by faith today, no matter which place you find yourself.

The sad truth in everyone’s life is that even when we are fed and healed, we will be hungry and sick again. The only true hope is eternal life, everlasting hope that is found only the Gospel of Christ! God takes the dead and gives them life, he takes what is old and worn without hope and gives it new birth. May God do this work in your heart today. May we stop looking at the temporal and earthly or fleshly answers and begin to feast upon Christ as our eternal treasure, not our ‘map’ to eternal life.

John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

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Taboo Topics 6 | Sexuality Marriage et al

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