Monday, September 29, 2008

Why in the world should we seek repentance?

In our "Embers to a Flame" class, we have been challenged to seek repentance, both as individuals and as a church. Repentance seems like such a mournful process, so why would anyone head in this direction? Let me suggest just a few of the benefits of walking with a repentant attitude:

The Fruits of Repentance

  • Intimacy with God. The main reason to seek repentance is because God loves to get close to those with a broken heart and contrite spirit (Isaiah 57:15, Isaiah 66:2b). Remember the definition of repentance is, "turning away from sin by God's grace for purposes of reconciliation to him and intimacy with him".
  • Honesty in prayer. When we realize that God loves us as we are, not as we have been pretending to be, a great freedom and honesty before God gives vitality to our prayer life. To "confess" literally means to agree with God's assessment with things. Grace allows us to be honest before God
  • Empathy with the lost. As we grow honest with God and ourselves, there is a natural transition to start loving sinners where they are, not where they are pretending to be – or where you think they should be.

  • Humility with the saints. Humility is the oil on the gears of interpersonal relationships. Anger and bitterness are stiff, brittle things. Humility softens hearts, allows love to flow to the undeserving, and grants the supernatural ability to put the needs of others before your own.

Well, I am sure you could add many other "fruits" to this list. But I do hope I have primed the pump for us all to seek a humble repentance and a repentant humility!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pretty amazing quote considering the source...

"Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding line, and no way of knowing how near the harbor was. "Light! Give me light!" was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour."
Helen Keller

Monday, September 22, 2008


What do you think of when you hear the word "Repent"? An invitation given at an evangelistic rally? The rants of an angry preacher during "revival" meetings"? Sorrow and tears after we sin? Repentance is a key Biblical ingredient for personal and church renewal, so we must be sure to understand it rightly.

In Revelation, Jesus tells the Church in Ephesus to "Remember, Repent, and Recover" (2:5). In our "Embers to a Flame" FBH class, we've been taking a hard look at what this means. If we want to see revitalization as a church, we've got to recover the Biblical patterns for spiritual renewal!

What is Repentance?

Repentance is a wonderfully healthy Biblical word. In its simplest form, repentance is turning away from sin by God's grace for purposes of reconciliation to him and intimacy with him. With that turning also comes a willingness/commitment for God to change us in any way he wants. Repentance results when a person with a soft and humble heart realizes they've gone of the path. Or have drifted from their closeness and love with God. Or have been convicted by the Holy Spirit of an area of sin or compromise in their life.

When does repentance happen?

The "original repentance" for a Christian happens at the moment of faith. Repentance is a turning away from sin. Faith is a turning to Jesus in trust. So faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin! But we must also speak of "ongoing repentance". That is the day to day sensitivity to the Holy Spirit in our lives making corrections and adjustments to our walk with Christ. In that way, Martin Luther was right when he said, "When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance" (#1 of 95 Theses!)

Repentance happens when we take seriously the meditations of passages like Psalm 139 and Psalm 19:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" Psalm 139:23-24

"Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression." Psalm 19:12-13

Such introspection is not done in a spirit of shame, guilt, groveling, or condemnation. Rather we ask our gracious Father to pinpoint anything standing in the way of intimacy with him.

How do we repent?

Repentance must never become kowtowing before God so we can convince him to forgive us. It is not self-flagellation in the hopes we can do penance for our sin. That is an affront to the cross-work of Christ! We don't bring shame, but we do bring humility! Humility is a virtue that attracts the gracious attention of God. But we always humble ourselves in the context of the hard-fought, blood-bought, grace of Jesus! Here are two important reminders and important scriptures upon which to meditate (click and read!)

Seek Humility! Isaiah 57:15, Isaiah 66:2b

Remember Grace! 1 John 1:9, Micah7:7-9

And bear in mind these helpful words: "All the wickedness in this world that man might work or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal in the sea." —William Langland (1332-1386), Piers Plowman

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Learning Endurance through Tough Times

How do you react when adversity strikes? What is your response when you are dealt a set-back? Do you throw up your hands and cry "Why me?" Do you fume at the seeming randomness of afflictions? Do you get mad at God and doubt his concern for you?

Our reactions to tough times depend on how we view them. If we see them as unwelcome intrusions into our plan for security, safety, comfort, and convenience we will tend to respond with frustration, despair, anger, and unbelief. Our interpretation of trials is the key.

The writer of Hebrews urges us to view our "tough times" as the loving discipline of our heavenly Father who is committed to our spiritual victory. He knows we need endurance. And He knows the only way to gain endurance is through vigorous training. Consider Hebrews 12:10-12:

"He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

Lest you think this is head-in-the-clouds spirituality lacking real-world grit, remember that this is being written to the persecuted church! If this is solid counsel for a church facing opposition and persecution, it certainly is for us as well! Rather than wringing our hands and falling down in desperation, we need to clasp our hands and fall to our knees in prayer.

So at the next flat-tire, appliance break-down, relational conflict, vocational disappointment, financial down-turn (fill in the blank here!), surrender the crisis to God, see his commitment to our progress in the tough times, and look to the fruit this will yield in our lives and for eternity!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Monday, September 8, 2008

What is holding you back?

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1

I'm not much of a runner. I could never make it as a sprinter. I've got an awkward stride and I'm just not fast. But I am a plodder and given enough time I can go the distance. I won't set any speed records, but I can finish the race.

The bible tells us to "run with endurance". That means the Christian life is not a sprint, but a marathon. Our need is not for speed, but rather stamina. And in any endurance race, we've got to run lean. Runners wear light clothing so they won't be weighed down.

So the writer of Hebrews tells us, "Let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely". Sin is any entanglement that keeps us from focusing on Jesus. The "weight" is anything that will slow us down in that pursuit.

William Lane, in his commentary on Hebrews explains it like this:

"The expression covers any encumbrance that would handicap a runner, and by analogy, anything that would interfere with responsible commitment to Jesus Christ. This might have reference to the love of wealth, attachment to the world, preoccupations with earthly interests, or self-importance. Christians are to divest themselves of every association or concern that would limit their freedom for Christian confession."

Are you feeling sluggish in your spiritual journey? Are you feeling weighed down? Maybe you've accumulated some excess baggage that is slowing your race! What do you need to shed from your schedule? What do you need to sell on eBay? What attitudes or thoughts do you need to discard? Take some time to do some soul and life searching with the Lord, get rid of the excess stuff, and run with freedom!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

When denial is really delight

By anyone's measure, Moses was a man who lived a life of sacrifice for others. From the decision to leave Pharaoh's palace and identify with the people of Israel, to leading this same (often stiff-necked) people into the wilderness, Moses' life was one of self-denial for the sake of others. Hebrews 11:24-25 give us insight into the extent of his self-denial:

"By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (Hebrews 11:24-25)

One could easily imagine a dour ascetic grumbling through the desert with moans of self-righteous self-pity; "Look at all I sacrifice to serve God and His people!" And yet that's not what we see in Moses' life. His motivation came from deeper places:

"He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." (Hebrews 11:26)

No, it wasn't duty that drove Moses' denial – it was delight! He considered any suffering and reproach to be greater wealth than the treasures he turned his back on. He wasn't losing a reward; he was gaining a better one!

We are also called to deny ourselves to follow Christ and serve others. What kind of reward makes denying ourselves to serve God's people a delight? Let me suggest these:

1. The delight of pleasing our Father through our service.

2. The delight of knowing we are a help to those we love.

3. The delight of increased intimacy with Christ through our service.

4. The delight of one day hearing "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

There is nothing that you give up for Christ that you don't get back, multiplied ten-fold or more!

The Bottom Line: If denial causes you to grumble – it's all about you. If denial causes you delight – it's all about him!

From the well-wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom