Are We Dead Yet?

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You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”  (Titus 2:1–8, NIV 1984).

Other People’s Musings – “Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair … these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.  Whatever your years, there is in every being’s heart the love of wonder, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing, childlike appetite for ‘what next,’ and the joy and the game of life.  You are as young as your faith, as old as your,  doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.”  (Douglas MacArthur).

My Musings – “Whatever your years,” you’re not dead yet.  Continue to learn.  Continue to grow.  There is much that the older generation can (in humility) teach those that are younger. But it is also true, that those who older can learn from the younger generation.  We have a tendency to retreat into our own self-defined groups of people that we feel comfortable with.  But comfort tends to quench the “love of wonder the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing, childlike appetite for ‘what next,’ and the joy and the game of life.”

My Advice – Actually Mac’s. “You are as young as your faith, as old as your, doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.”  What ever your years, get in the game.  You’re not dead yet.

 

Our Needs, His Riches

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You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”  (John 15:16, NIV 1984).

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (Matthew 6:25, 32–34, NIV 1984).

[For] my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19, NIV 1984).

Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.”  (Psalm 50:10, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Followers of Christ are chosen and appointed by Him.  So we need not worry about the things that the rest of the world worries about.  He knows our needs, and whatever we need for our appointed tasks will be provided.  So we need not seek after these things.  Rather we should seek after the things of God and God will take care of adding the other things as well.  According to His riches.  This should tell you why we need not worry.  His riches (“cattle on a thousand hills“) are abundant.

My Advice – So let’s not get greedy by asking God to meet our wants instead of our needs.  Let’s make sure that “whatever [we] ask in [His] name” are needs not wants.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

Trustworthy Sayings

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Here is a trustworthy saying:  If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.  (2 Timothy 2:11–13, NIV 1984).

My Musings – This is an interesting passage, containing four couplets, each beginning with the word “if.”  What makes it interesting to me, is that the word “if” is typically the introduction to a conditional clause (if a certain condition is true, then a particular result happens), which it is in the first three couplets, but not the last one.  This should cause the reader to question why that is so, because it begs an explanation, which is given in the text.

If we died with Him, [then] we will also live with Him – “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3, NIV). “Unless” also forms a conditional clause.  As with most conditional clauses, we would like to substitute our own conditions (good deeds, live a “good” life, don’t commit any “mortal” sins, etc.), but we cannot.  We must “die” with Him (accept His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf) in order to live (be born again) with Him.  We cannot be born again, if we have not “died.”  We die so we will not perish. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it is not.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16, NIV 1984).

If we endure, [then] we will also reign with Him – John 3:16, cited above, is not a conditional clause.  Whoever believes has eternal life.  It cannot be eternal if it can be lost.  So this conditional clause must mean something else.  “Well done, my good servant!” his master replied.Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.”  (Luke 19:17, NIV 1984).  How we live (endure in) this life, does not determine if we will live with Him in the next.  It determines how we will reign with Him in the next.

If we disown Him, [then] He will also disown us – This clause stands in juxtaposition to the first clause.  We can either die with (be owned by) Him, or die without Him by disowning Him. “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 10:32–33, NIV 1984).  If we disown Him, we will never see the Kingdom of Heaven. To make sure we do not misapply this clause, that having once genuinely accepted Christ we can later disown Him and lose our salvation, the final unconditional clause is added.

If we are faithless, [nevertheless] He will remain faithful – There will be times in our Christian walk that our “enduring” will be less than stellar.  We will be unfaithful at times.  But God’s faithfulness to His promise “whoever believes in Him shall not perish” is unconditional.  He cannot be unfaithful. “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  (Hebrews 6:16–19, NIV).  As Christians, our identity is in Christ, God’s “one and only Son” and  “he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

My Advice – Die with Him so you can live and reign with Him.  Then live a life worthy of the calling.

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Want to become a Christian (die with Him)? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ (endure with Him)? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

The Overflow Of The Heart

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For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” (Matthew 12:34–35, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Sometimes we Christians will intentionally speak (post, tweet) maliciously and no amount of “thinking” can stop us.  In these cases the “overflow of [our] heart” is quite clear. The old man, the evil man is still controlling us and the overflow of our heart brings out the evil of our old sin nature.

At other times, it’s just a matter of speaking (posting, tweeting) without thinking.  It is then that the overflow of our hearts reveals how far along we are in our walk with Christ.  Is the old, evil, sinful nature still in control or are we being transformed into His likeness?  Are we being controlled by the Spirit?

My Advice – Think before you speak (post, tweet).  The truth is, of course, paramount.  But sometimes, we can use the truth to be hurtful not helpful, to discourage rather than inspire.  It is never necessary to lie, but it should never be used to be inconsiderate, cruel or unkind.  “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV 1984).   For  “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  (Galatians 5:24–25, NIV 1984).  Then the overflow of your heart (intentionally or without even thinking) will be “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22, NIV 1984).

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

I’m Not Alone

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My Musings – Although our troubles are temporary, while we are in them, we all have a tendency to be consumed by them.  We fix our eyes on them.  We can hardly focus on anything else.  Yet because we are in Christ, if we fix our eyes on Him, things can be different.  Hard pressed but not crushed.  Perplexed but not in despair. Persecuted but not abandoned.  Struck down but not destroyed.  Wasting away but being renewed.  With the proper focus we can see the all sufficient grace of God while still in the midst of what is pressing against us, perplexing us, persecuting us, or striking us down.

My Advice – In the less than memorable movie Noah’s Ark, starring Russel Crowe, there is one brief exchange between Noah and Tubal-Cain that I do remember quite well.

Tubal-Cain (menacingly):  “I have men at my back, and you stand alone and defy me?”

Noah (matter-of-factly):  “I’m not alone.”

Remember, no matter how desperate the situation, if you are in Christ you are never alone.  Fix your eyes on Him, not the situation.

My Fab Four

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My Musings – In many situations, the pastor needs to be a Bible teacher, accountant, strategist, visionary, computer tech, counselor, public speaker, worship director, prayer warrior, mentor, leadership trainer and fundraiser. (Philip Wagner, Lead Pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles).  Appreciate your pastor(s).

Today I am celebrating the “Fab Four” at my Church.  Two (Steve and Bill) have blessed me for years.  One, I watched grow up (Nate), not realizing then what a blessing he would become.  The last (Kevin), I served on the pulpit committee to bring him to our Church.  Actually, we did not bring him, God sent him, and I am learning to appreciate him too.

They will likely never become famous, as the world regards fame.  And goodness knows they’ll never get rich , as the world regards prosperity.  But these few words are what they hope to hear one day – “well done, good and faithful servant!”  In the meantime, let’s be a source of encouragement and appreciation.

“[He] loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah!  It’s you [He’s] thinking of, and you know that can’t be bad.”

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KEVIN RUTLEDGE, LEAD TEACHING PASTOR (upper left)
Kevin has a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies, an MA in Theology, and nearly twenty years of ministry experience. His latest adventure involved starting a new church in a city with the lowest percentage of Bible-believing Christians in the United States. He adores his wife and four kids, who have served God together with him as a family. Kevin is passionate about God and His Word, and genuinely loves people. So, he lives to see people connect deeply with God through the love and amazing grace of Christ. Kevin and his wife, Sundi, have 4 children: Ryleigh, Zander, Lily and Canon.

NATE MILLER, PASTOR OF WORSHIP & TEACHING (upper right)
Pastor Nate Miller is the Associate Pastor of Worship & Teaching. Nate is a graduate of Judson University with a degree in youth ministry/adolescent studies. He is a native of Sycamore and has attended FBC since the first week his parents brought him home from the hospital. Nate’s first foray into the wild world of youth ministry came as a high school junior when Pastor Bill gave him a chance to lead the junior high youth group.

STEVE PERSSON, PASTOR-AT-LARGE (lower left)
Pastor Steve Persson is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Northern Illinois University, and Wheaton College Graduate School. He has served at FBC since 1974 – first as a youth pastor, then spending one year in the Philippines as a missionary, and as senior pastor since 1981. He and wife, Jaime, have 6 children: Leah (Noel), Hannah, Deborah (Keenan), Luke, Mark (Michelle) and Matthew. They are the proud grandparents of a grandson, Noel George, and a granddaughter, Karis.

BILL BADAL, PASTOR EMERITUS (lower right)
Pastor Bill is retired, but remains with us in an emeritus role. Bill moved to the United States in his early teens, having grown up in a Christian home in Baghdad, Iraq. He received his Bible training at Moody extension school. Bill and his wife, Michele, have 2 sons: Joel (Lisa) and Tim (Amanda), and they are the proud grandparents of 8 grandchildren: Noah, Joshua, Luke, Rebekah, Jacoub, Matthew, Lydia and JoAnna.

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Appreciate your pastors.  They carry burdens that we could never understand.  Respect them and hold them in highest regard. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” (John F. Kennedy).  This is the best way to honor them, by living by the words they have proclaimed from the pulpit.

Spiritual Investments

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My Musings – Such is Paul’s description of two of his disciples. People he had invested his life in.  In his early ministry, Barnabas had risked his reputation and took this former persecutor of the Church under his wing and ministered with him.  Paul, in turn, invested in the lives of others.  When He could not go, he sent these two.  They had been mentored, now it was their turn to “pay it forward.”  And it’s been going on just like this for nearly 2,000 years.

In the above passage, Paul described the product of discipleship (genuine, proven, service, fellowship, commitment).  In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul described the process of discipleship.  “You then, [Timothy] my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  (2 Timothy 2:2, NIV 1984).

But we should never think that it is only a one-way street.  Near the end of his ministry Paul summoned another of his disciples.  One who stumbled early on and for a time was cast away by Paul.  “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11, NIV 1984). One who Paul once considered not helpful at all was now considered helpful.  Once considered a bad investment, now an investment paying dividends.  Investing in others and letting others invest in us.  Iron sharpening iron.

My Advice – Grow in Christ by letting others help you and helping others do the same.  It’s proven pattern.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Nate Miller’s sermon on October 13, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you too.