Faith Comes by Hearing

faith comes by hearing

The tenth chapter of Romans is a tremendous section from the Word of God. Paul provides a perspective on salvation and instructions for receiving salvation.

10 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

Notice that this verse is addressed to Israel. Paul always went to the synagogues first because he believed in this verse.

For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

The Jews were zealous of God according to man’s thoughts and ways. This may be talking about the 600+ fence laws that were instituted by the religious leaders to keep people far away from breaking the law.

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

These Jews were endeavoring to earn their righteousness by their works instead of by God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Since Christ fulfilled the law then the Mosaic Law ended on the day of Pentecost for all those that believe.

For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

There are rewards and consequences for the Law. In Deuteronomy 28

28 “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you because you obey the voice of the Lord your God:

Verses 3-13 proceed to list the blessings received for obeying ALL His commandments. The requirement for receiving the blessings is to fulfill 100% of the law. If you missed one then you fell short and received the cursings.

In verse 15, God declares the consequences of not obeying ALL of the law

15 “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:

In verses 16-68, God elaborates on the cursings resulting from not obeying ALL of the law. God spent 11 verses detailing the blessings for obeying ALL of the law and 53 verses detailing the cursings for NOT obeying ALL of the law. Why would God spend approximately five times more verses to explain the cursings?

But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)

Christ is seated at the right hand of God in heaven (Colossians 3:1).

Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

God raised Christ from the dead three days and three nights after his burial.

But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

The following two verses are the minimal requirements for salvation; confess Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

This highlights our need to stop being Lord over our lives and confess Jesus as the new Lord in our life. Then we confess that God raised Jesus from the dead because otherwise the Lord of our life is dead.

11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Christ died for both the Jews and the Gentiles, extending his riches to all that believe.

14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15 And how shall they preach, except they are sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!

There is a progression in these two verses.

  1. Send – Our responsibility
  2. Go – Our responsibility
  3. Preach – Our responsibility
  4. Hear – Their responsibility (fulcrum)
  5. Believe – Their responsibility
  6. Call on him [Jesus] – Their responsibility
  7. Salvation – God’s responsibility

They are presented in reverse order, but the progress is forward. Our responsibility is to Send, Go, and Preach. Their responsibility is to Hear, Believe, and Call on Jesus. God’s responsibility is Save those that believe.

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Faith (believing) comes by hearing the Word of God. Hearing the Word of God is the fulcrum of faith. It’s the hearer’s responsibility to tenderize their heart for receiving the Word of God.

Paul the Apostle expresses God’s desire for both Jews and Gentiles to be saved, the inadequacy of the Mosaic Law producing  righteousness, ,the details of how to be saved, then the steps for sharing salvation with our friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors. Share how God has changed your life and the Good News that Christ wants to change their life.

My Pet Peeves

Pet Peeves

These are some of my observations on the coarsening of our culture. This is not extensive because it will probably grow, but definitely not shrink.

  • OMG – This is a ubiquitous acronym meaning “Oh my God”. No Christian should ever use this exclamation because at best it’s a numbing of the meaning of God and at its worse blasphemy. Choose another exclamation e.g. “Thank you very much.”, “Whoa”, “Wow!”, “What???”,
  • Like – This is an overused filler word which can be left out most of the time. It’s appropriate when using a simile e.g. “It was so hot today that it felt like the desert.” Usually, this is a result of laziness when talking.
  • Frigging – Frigging is a substitute for the F-bomb. It seems to be nice, but it has the same meaning. Find another adjective in the thesaurus or even better just leave it out. Instead of saying “That was frigging great.” just say, “That was great.”
  • Addiction to electronic devices –Learn the art of conversation. Sitting in a room with friends and family while texting is usually not a necessity but, a habit. One of the problems with electronics addictions is that your mind is constantly occupied with email, text, Snapchat, music, Facebook, etc. This means that there is limited to no time allocated to think, process, muse, ponder, and have that critical inner dialogue.

My nephew, from Rhode Island, visited us at a North Carolina beach. He was walking on the beach by the surf with his smartphone in hand and buds in ears. He was on vacation and spent his time listening to music and texting with friends. I asked home about his frequency of texting and he said “About 300-400 a day”. That may be an exaggeration but over 100 a day is a lot!

Just as clean air makes it possible to breathe, silence makes it possible to think. – Matthew Crawford

  • Thinking a ringing phone or text needs immediate attention – Screen your phone calls and text because most are not a real-time response. It’s a modern opportunity to always be available for communication. Millennials are the first generation to have cell/smart phones from elementary school.

If I am visiting somebody’s office and their phone rings, then they will inevitably answer the phone as if it’s a higher priority. However, if another person comes to the office then they will have to wait for my visit to complete. They are both disruptive, but a phone call seems to have priority over a personal visit.

Take advantage of your voice mail to control your time. Allocate specific times of day to catch up on email and voicemail.

  • Social media is a poor choice for therapy – If you are having relational problems then Facebook (or any social media) is a bad forum because it’s public, and most of your “friends” are not really friends but acquaintances. It can become gossip, which is a sin. Some things are better handled in private.
  • Comparing yourself to others – The popularity of tabloid magazines (People, US, most of the magazines at the check-out counter) are about the wealthy, famous, beautiful people and the façade of their great lives. We like to live our lives vicariously by imaging how great their lives are. The same thing happens with Facebook. We see pictures of smiling people at events or on vacation but never pictures of the struggles and frustrating times. This presents a distorted view of life when balance is needed. We all have good times and bad times. We like to hide the uncomfortable in our lives when those weaknesses are what makes us relatable.
  • Pursuing the world’s unattainable beauty standards – Most of the models have a makeup artist, a hairstylist, professional photographers, lighting, and Photoshop. Even the models do not look like their pictures. God made you beautiful. Focus on your inward beauty.

What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them. (Matthew 15:11)

What comes out of your mouth reveals your heart which is fed from your mind. To improve your beauty, change what you put into your mind, which will influence your heart, which will change the words that come out of your mouth. Now that’s a beauty makeover!

Should we ignore the Devil?

The devils greatest trick

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”, Verbal Kint from the movie The Usual Suspects

Serpent. Deceiver. Thief. Accuser. Tempter. Terrorist. Do we give the Devil too much credit? Can’t we just ignore the Devil? Isn’t God all-powerful? Since God is in control then why learn about the Devil. These are all questions and comments that I have heard from Christian believers. The Devil seems to receive either too little or too much credit for the happenings in this world. I believe that there is a balanced perspective needed.

Since Adam and Eve, all of us have been born with free will. This allows us the opportunity to listen, contemplate, and decide. However, we are not exempt from the consequences of our choices. God even gave free will to the angels, which resulted in a third rebelling and being cast from heaven.

We have two spiritual influences in our lives; God and the Devil. God created the world and knows how man should live. Satan is the God of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4) after Adam committed treason by transferring his authority to the Devil. Satan’s lease will expire when Christ returns.

When we walk by the spirit and the Word of God then we are equipped and aware of how to confront the Devil. When we walk by the flesh then we walk in ignorance of the Devil’s influence on our lives.

What is God’s perspective concerning the Devil’s influence on our lives?

God, Satan, Adam, and Eve

In the book of Genesis, God highlights the influence of the Devil in the first conversation of the Bible.

Genesis 3

1) Now the serpent was more subtle [cunning] than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

2) And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

3) But of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

4) And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

God had told Adam to freely enjoy everything in the garden except to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because, on the day that you eat of it, you shall die.

  • If you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil then you will be just like God. They had only experienced God’s goodness in the garden. That means that they only needed the knowledge of evil to be Gods.
  • You will not die on the day that you partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve had body, soul, and spirit from the beginning. This meant that they have soul/breath life and spirit life. Since Adam did not die on that day but lived until he was over 900, then it was his spiritual life that died that day.

5) For God, doth knows that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

6) And when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food and that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make [one] wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

7) And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they [were] naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

8) And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

9) And the LORD God called unto Adam and said unto him, Where [art] thou?

10) And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I [was] naked, and I hid.

11) And he said, Who told thee that thou [wast] naked? Did you eat of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

12) And the man said The woman whom thou gavest [to be] with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

13) And the LORD God said unto the woman, What [is] this [that] thou hast done? And the woman said The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

14) And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou [art] cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

15) And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

16) Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

17) And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed [is] the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat [of] it all the days of thy life;

18) Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

19) In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou [art], and unto dust shalt thou return.

In the first encounter with God’s crowning creation, the Devil is introduced. His first words are to attack God’s word. God shows the Devil’s influence on his creation and the consequences of Adam choosing to obey the Devil instead of God.  The consequences extended to Satan, Eve, and Adam.

God, Satan, and Job

The next occurrence that we will consider is the oldest book in the book, Job. In Job, God contrasts the Devil’s evil intent and influence versus God’s goodness and influence. In Job chapter 1, Job’s prosperous lifestyle is presented.

Job 1 (ASV)

1) There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil.

2) And there were born unto him, seven sons and three daughters.

3) His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the children of the east.

Job had ten children, thousands of livestock, and a great household. He was the greatest man in the East.

4) And his sons went and held a feast in the house of each one upon his day, and they Sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.

5) And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned and renounced God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.

God now proceeds to have a rare conversation with Satan. God shows Satan’s intentions and influence.

6) Now it came to pass on the day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Jehovah, that Satan also came among them.

7) And Jehovah said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered Jehovah, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

8) And Jehovah said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and turneth away from evil.

9) Then Satan answered Jehovah, and said, Doth Job fear God for naught?

10) Didn’t you make a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.

11) But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will renounce thee to thy face.

12) And Jehovah said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thy hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of Jehovah.

God tells Satan that all that Job has, is in his (Satan’s) power. This is because Satan is the God of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4).

13) And it fell on a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house,

14) that there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them;

15) and the Sabeans fell [upon them], and took them away: yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

It was the Sabeans, influenced by Satan,  that killed Job’s servants and stole the oxen and donkeys. One messenger was spared to tell the story.

16) While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

The fire of God (lightning?), influenced by Satan, consumed the sheep and the servants. One messenger was spared to tell the story.

18) While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house;

19) and, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead, and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

A great wind (tornado?) killed Job’s children by crushing his eldest son’s house. One messenger was spared to tell the story.

20) Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshiped;

21) and he said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah.

22) In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

In spite of these devastating pains inflicted by Satan, Job did not sin or blame it on God. In Job chapter 2 Satan visits God again.

Job 2

1) Again it came to pass on the day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Jehovah,  that Satan came also among them to present himself before Jehovah.

2) And Jehovah said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered Jehovah, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

3) And Jehovah said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and turneth away from evil: and he still holdeth fast his integrity, although thou moved me against him, to destroy him without cause.

4) And Satan answered Jehovah, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.

5) But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will renounce thee to thy face.

6) And Jehovah said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thy hand; only spare his life.

7) So Satan went forth from the presence of Jehovah and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.

8) And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself therewith, and he sat among the ashes.

Sickness, influenced by Satan, then attacks Job’s health by inflicting boils on his body from his head to the soles of his feet.

The remainder of the book is about Job’s conversations with his wife and his “miserable comforter” friends. Then God shows his influence in chapter 42.

10) And Jehovah turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends: and Jehovah gave Job twice as much as he had before.

11) Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him and comforted him concerning all the evil that Jehovah had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and everyone a ring of gold.

12) So Jehovah blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: And he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses.

13) He had also seven sons and three daughters.

14) And he called the name of the first, Jemimah: and the name of the second, Keziah; and the name of the third, Keren-happuch.

15) And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.

16) And after this Job lived a hundred and forty years and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, [even] four generations.

God delivered Job after Job prayed for his friends.  Then God doubled everything that Job lost except God seemed to miscount the children. He lost seven sons and three daughters, but after the doubling he only had seven sons and three daughters. God did not miscount. The discrepancy is that in eternity, after the resurrection, then Job would have fourteen sons and six daughters.

Jesus Christ and Satan

The third occurrence is immediately after Jesus Christ is baptized then he is led in the wilderness to fast for forty days. At this moment of physical and mental weakness, Satan confronts Christ in Matthew chapter 4.

Matt 4

1) Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

2) And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.

3) And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

4) But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

Jesus first response to the Devil’s influence is “It is written” and quotes the Old Testament.

5) Then the devil takes him up into the holy city and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple,

6) And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.

7) Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.

Jesus second response to the Devil’s influence is “It is written” and quotes the Old Testament.

8) Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

9) And said to him, All these things will I give you if you will fall down and worship me.

10) Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.

11) Then the devil leaves him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

Jesus third response to the Devil’s influence is “It is written” and quotes the Old Testament. Jesus responded to the Devil’s influence with God’s word by quoting the Bible.

10) To whom you forgive anything, I forgive also: for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;

In 2 Corinthians chapter 2, God expresses his desire for us to be keenly aware.

11) Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

This verse is about Satan’s influence on us through unforgiveness. Unforgiveness gives Satan an advantage in our lives because it keeps us under his influence.

Also in verse 11 God reminds us that He does not want us to be ignorant of Satan’s schemes. Being ignorant is to our detriment.

God is very clear about the importance of Satan’s thoughts and ways. He teaches us about Satan’s influence in four significant passages.

  • Book of Job – Considered the oldest book in the bible. God clearly shows the workings and influence of Satan.
  • Genesis – the first book of the bible. Satan interacts with the first man and his wife in the garden paradise.
  • Matthew – After Christ is baptized he is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to fast for forty days. Then he is confronted by Satan in his weakness.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:4 – God does not want us to be ignorant of Satan’s ways.

The Power of a Question

The power of questions

Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Every elementary child learns these six foundational questions. Questions are  useful, diverse, and powerful tools  in communication.  Some question types are:

  • Information questions request additional information. These are the most common types e.g. How was your week?
  • Rhetorical questions provoke thought without expecting an answer. e.g. Are you kidding me?
  • Validation questions reveal the listeners understanding(or willingness to be honest) because you already know the answer.
  • Leading  questions direct the conversation
  • Internal question stimulate your inner dialogue
  • Closed questions require a short answer, e.g. What color is your car?
  • Open questions require an extended explanation, e.g. Why did you choose to become a dentist?
  • Relationship questions express an interest in somebody by finding out about their interests and background, e.g. if you meet somebody that is a beekeeper.  “I know nothing about beekeeping. Why do you like beekeeping?”

The bible is a rich source of questions utilizing the above reasons and more. This study explores how God’s word utilizes questions.

The first question in the bible (Genesis 3:1) is a statement and not a question. The first question in the bible is asked by God in Genesis 3:9

9 And the LORD God called to Adam, and said to him, Where are you?

Adam committed treason by disobeying God’s only commandment. God asks Adam “Where are you?”. This is a validation question because God knew the answer. This question is the subject of the Old Testament. The focus is on man and where his thoughts lie.

In Matthew chapter 2, King Herod askedd the first question in the New Testament.

2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

“Where is he?” is the focus of the New Testament. Where is Jesus Christ in your life? This is the pivotal question. I’m not interested in what church you attend, your ministry work, worship music that you enjoy, the preacher that you listened to, or any of the other activities involved in being a Christian. I intently listen for what place Jesus Christ and the Word of God resides in your life. The rest of these things are important but they pale in comparison.

In Matthew 5 Jesus addresses love and hypocrisy.

38 You have heard that it has been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

This is the world’s law of rigid justice.

39 But I say to you, That you resist not evil: but whoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.

“Resist not evil” means not to fight evil with evil. This is in contrast to “ an eye for an eye, and a tooth for tooth” from the previous verse. exact justice by getting even.

40 And if any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also.

I don’t think that this means that Christians should never go to court or defend a lawsuit, but to have a heart of generosity that is not provoked to get even. Pursuing justice is right, revenge is wrong.

41 And whoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you turn not you away.

Exceed expectations. Be generous in giving.

43 You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;

This is not about letting your enemies take advantage of you. Do not let your heart be hardened by unfair and harsh treatment. We are called to love those that hate and despise us.

45 That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

We are called to reach the lost, broken, abused and hateful because God loves them and wants them to be part of his family. This can only be accomplished by being born again and realizing that Christ is returning.

46 For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if you salute your brothers only, what do you more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Loving those that love you is the way of the world. If we only fellowship with our friends and brothers then we are not demonstrating the love of God. Even thieves and crooks are loyal to their friends.

48 Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

The crowning point of this section is to grow up to full maturity even as God is full mature.

Jesus uses the questions in verses 46  to 47 to demonstrate agape love instead of phileo love. Phileo love is conditional based on some quality that you like in the other person e.g. physically attractive, talent, likes the

music, movies or sports. Agape love is unconditional based on the new nature received in the new birth. Agape love is the love of God in action.

Questions are a  rich form of communication. Have fun with the following process.

  1. Ask an insightful question.
  2. Keep your mouth shut.
  3. Listen intently.
  4. Repeat.

Unexpressed Expectations

Danger Expectations

Expectations. We all have expectations of others, in addition to others having expectations of us. Unmet expectations can result in disappointments, reprimands, arguments, firings, or broken trust. Fulfilled expectations can build trust and raise confidence levels. Exceeded expectations can produce raises, promotions, and celebrations.

The best communications are expressed expectations. This means that both parties understand the expectations, the consequences for not meeting the expectations, and the rewards for meeting or exceeding expectations. This eliminates surprises and disappointments.

One of the most common problems for strained relationships, failed performance reviews, and divorces are unexpressed expectations. Unexpressed expectations could be a result of

  • Avoiding uncomfortable conversations
  • Rejecting  boundaries
  • An unwillingness to come to an agreement with team members (specifically in team or matrix leadership)

Unexpressed expectations is a weakness for leaders and followers. The solution is to have the courage to begin the dialogue with your boss, mate, partner, or friend so that the expectations are clear. Clear expectations are usually negotiable. An early discussion of expectations will result in smoother relationships.

When vetting a mate for marriage, discussing expectations is vital for success. In the beginning, your hormones may be maximizing your pleasure levels but this is temporary. Hiding expectations until after marriage is a BAD idea. It’s best to mutually agree to part ways while dating than after marriage. What are some of the expectations to discuss?

  • Children – Should we have children and if so how many?
  • Employment – Do we both work? What about after children?
  • Money – Thoughts on debt? Do we need new cars? Do we need a house that stretches our means? Is savings important?
  • Sex – Enjoying your spouses body is a gift from God. Discuss your drives.
  • Communication – Ability to talk and listen. Is your conversation strained or fluid?
  • Observe what makes your potential mate angry? Is it traffic, arriving late, spending money, annoying children, etc. This is a revealing of character which will be covered during dating and will be amplified after marriage.

Dating is a negotiation. Seek God for guidance. As Ronald Reagan said “Trust but verify”. Evaluate your potential mate critically now because you will evaluate them after you are married.

You will never find the perfect mate. What did you say? That’s right, you will never find the perfect mate. Do not be fooled that good looks, money, fame, or prestige will make your marriage a success. The tabloids are filled with articles about the rich, famous, beautiful people getting divorced due to “irreconcilable differences”. Which usually means that one or both are filled with pride resulting in an erosion of commitment.

Ephesians 5

22 Married women, submit to your own husbands as if to the Lord; 23 because a husband is the Head of his wife as Christ also is the Head of the Church, being indeed the Saviour of this His Body. 24 And just as the Church submits to Christ, so also married women should be entirely submissive to their husbands. 25 Married men, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up to death for her; 26 in order to make her holy, cleansing her with the baptismal water by the word, 27 that He might present the Church to Himself a glorious bride, without spot or wrinkle or any other defect, but to be holy and unblemished. 28 So too married men ought to love their wives as much as they love themselves. He who loves his wife loves himself

Husbands are charged with loving their wives as Christ loved the Church by sacrificing his life. Wives are to submit to their husbands as to Christ.

Marriage is not a feeling. Marriage is about both the husband’s and wife’s commitment first to God and then to each other. Quitting is not an option. This is probably the second most important decision that each of you will make in your lives.

Don’t let unexpressed expectations and the accompanying fear poison a relationship.

Sifting the World

sifting wheat

Philippians 3

8 Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

In this verse, the apostle Paul exhorts us to sift the world looking for any truth, honesty, justice, purity, beauty, or good report with a goal to think on whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.

What is the standard for determining what is true, honest, just, pure, beautiful, and virtuous or praiseworthy? The Bible is the only logical answer. Everybody has  a standard of truth, but the Bible is THE standard of truth.

Sifting the world with the Word of God is a challenge for all Christians. This means that everything that we see, hear, read, or think is filtered by God’s thoughts and ways. Why is this needed? Isaiah 55 sheds some light.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD.

9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Since our thoughts and ways do not naturally align with God’s thoughts and ways then we need to compare and evaluate. The comfort for Christian’s is that everybody in the Body should be using the same standard of truth. This standard becomes our common ground for regulating our behavior, thinking, and relationships.

Notice what Philippians 3:8 does not say.

  • It does not say that when we hear something that we disagree with that we stop our ears and walk away.
  • It does not say that when we see something that offends us that we turn our heads.

I believe that this is one of the keys for befriending sinners, a trait of Jesus.

My family likes to vacation in the mountains of North Carolina during the summers. One of our favorite past times is to go gem mining. This activity involves going to a gem mine, buying a bucket of dirt, and then sitting down in front of a trough with running water. A scoop of dirt is placed in a framed screen. The screen is slightly submerged in the running water which washes away the dirt. As the dirt washes away then some gems are discovered. The joy is to unearth the few gems in the bucket of dirt.

This reminds me of Philippians 3:8. Just like gem miners will spend hours looking for a handful of gems in a bucket of dirt so are we instructed to look for the few uplifting, positive, Godly things in the world’s bucket of dirt.

This investment requires patience, time, and knowledge of the Word, but the rewards are great.

Godly Disobedience


“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”  Abraham Lincoln

Gamaliel addressed the Sanhedrin council in Acts 5 with the following profound statement during a discussion of what action to take with Peter and John who refused to obey their demand to stop preaching about Jesus Christ.

38 And now I say to you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nothing:

39 But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply you be found even to fight against God.

His counsel presented them with two possible outcomes:

  • If they were obeying men then the work will collapse.
  • If they were obeying God then the work cannot be stopped.

While our country descends into moral bankruptcy, should the Christian majority fear persecution?

Is our country as bad as Roman-occupied Israel during the first century? The Romans rulers were a decadent class with minimal morals. The following were staples of their society:

  • Vomitoriums – buildings to accommodate the aftermath of their gluttonous, all-you-can-eat appetites.
  • Bath houses – buildings to accommodate homosexual’s appetites for boys
  • Coliseum – entertainment derived from watching men fight men, men fight animals, and ship battles
  • Imperialism – Roman expansion and occupation of a geographic region
  • Slavery – captives were forced to provide manual labor

The United States is still a free country with freedom of worship, free markets, and freedom of speech. We are to obey man’s laws unless they violate God’s laws. When we are ordered to disobey God’s laws then conflict and tension arise. Anything not done in faith is a sin.

Our country has a long history of civil disobedience:

  • The founding fathers disobeyed the King of England when they signed the Declaration of Independence
  • Dred Scott left a slave state in order to declare his freedom in a non-slave state.
  • Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King disobeyed Jim Crow laws and authorities to overturn segregation and unconstitutional laws.
  • Edward Snowden committed treason by taking 10’s of thousands of NSA documents to China in order to expose unconstitutional privacy violations.
  • Speakeasy operators violated Prohibition until it was repealed by a Constitutional amendment.
  • The 1960’s spawned a generation of disobedience concerning the Vietnam War.

Civil disobedience is required when believers are asked to violate God’s laws in order to obey Man’s laws. The consequences can be devastating but needed due to the impact to future generations. When we think past our own generation then sometimes we have to sacrifice our comfort for our children.

Persecution of Christians is in the future. The question is no longer “if” but “when”. The Christian churches in Russian and China are models to study. In Russia, the churches were centralized with a few leaders meeting with large groups in church buildings. When the persecution came the leaders were arrested and the church dissolved due to their dependence on the leaders. In China, the churches were decentralized via small groups meeting in homes instead of church buildings. When the persecution came the leaders were unidentified and churches were indistinguishable from family gatherings in homes. The church flourished because of their untrackable activities.

What will happen in your church when the persecution comes? Will it die or thrive? The only sustainable way to not only survive but thrive during the coming persecution is to decentralize the church by organizing small groups meeting in homes. This requires cultivating home group leaders that can operate independently if needed. The apostolic leaders will equip, strengthen, and encourage the home groups. However, the apostolic leaders must be willing to set an example for civil disobedience which could lead to arrest and prison time.

The leaders in the book of Acts were beaten, arrested, and jailed, but the Church grew and thrived. The Apostle Paul wrote the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians letters while in prison, but there is a curious absence of urgency for his quick release from prison. Leaders need to pour out their lives to equip the Saints because during persecution the Church should grow during their absence.