Tuesday, November 17, 2015

True Repentance: A 3/3rds Study

I recently went through this short, but powerful study with a group on what Repentance is and how we repent. It uses the 3/3rds process. You may have to snoop around here to learn more. You can also jump over to http://www.jonathanammon.org/movements-training and learn a whole lot more.

The study: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4Gp5HabTdUlbDZmV3c5SFVjOU0/view?usp=sharing

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Servant's Success (November 2015 Newsletter)

A graphic of the laborers I am training and churches they have started
The greatest among you will be your servant. – Matthew 23:11

Jesus regularly equated leadership with serving. In a number of passages (Mark 10:42-45, Luke 22:24-27, John 13:12-17), Jesus challenged the world’s perspective on leadership and service. In the world it is obvious that the lesser serve the greater, that the least gifted serve the most gifted, that the least successful are servants or even slaves of the most successful. Jesus said, “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant” Mark 10:43. In the Kingdom of God the greatest serve the least, and the most gifted serve the least gifted.

I’ve read these passages for many years, but they didn’t come to life for me until I started obeying the great commission and making disciples. Scripture takes on a new meaning when we put it into practice and find ourselves in the practical context of obedience. My mentor (Chuck Wood) trained me, encouraged me, honored me, prayed for me daily, and loved me through thick and thin. He served me. His goal and his labor were in order to see me be successful in making disciples and spreading the Kingdom of God. Rather than demanding honor or labor towards his ends, goals, vision, or ambition; Chuck served my ministry with his prayers, patience, and training.

As I train others to share the gospel, make disciples, and plant groups and churches; I find myself with the responsibility of serving their callings and ministries. I cannot demand that they serve my calling, my city, or my vision. They are not my servant. They are the Lord’s. Instead, as I train and mentor others to obey scripture and the Great Commission, I become their servant. It becomes my job to support them, encourage them, pray for them, and serve their ministry in whatever way I can. I am invested in making them successful.

Multiple hours of my day are spent encouraging, counseling, coaching, training, and praying with disciple-makers, church planters, and gospel laborers around the nation and even in different nations. Through video conference and the phone, I can connect with, train, and coach people around the nation who are hungry to see God’s kingdom spread through their city with a movement of the gospel. I would have never seen myself in this role, but it enables me to serve others and their ministries on a daily basis. I become invested in their success and their interests. I get to share their highs and lows. I get to celebrate their victories and testimonies, and I get to join in their battles.
This year God has done amazing things our network of groups and church starts. Multiple Muslims have come to Christ, many from other backgrounds as well. God has performed many miracles in people’s bodies and lives. New believers have been baptized. Many have been mobilized and trained to share the gospel. Communities of faith have been formed and built with Jesus as Lord. I praise God for every single testimony and every story of His blessing. I am even more thankful that the vast majority of these successes are not mine, but the faithful laborers God has given me to train and serve as they go out into the harvest.

Multiplication has changed my ministry. I wake up in the morning and I wander, “What is God doing in Steve’s life today? What is happening in Robert’s ministry? How is Konstantin doing today?” I know they are laboring for His Kingdom, and I know the best is yet to come!

Read the rest of the November 2015 Newsletter
Read previous Newsletters

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Walk of Repentance: Lying

I'm doing a series of Bible studies on specific sin or issues and focusing on turning away from those things as the Lord and the Scripture commands. These posts will mostly be short, simple, and full of Scripture. The idea is to meditate on the verses and apply them through turning from sin and turning to God.

You will destroy those who tell lies.
    The Lord detests murderers and deceivers.
Psalm 5:6

Scripture promises the destruction of those who tell lies, which is reinforced by a powerful description in the book of Revelation. God is displeased with those who lie. The tone of much teaching in the body of Christ is that God is universally pleased. He is not pleased by lying or liars.

3 Who may climb the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,
    who do not worship idols
    and never tell lies.
5 They will receive the Lord’s blessing
    and have a right relationship with God their savior.
Psalm 24:3-5

Psalm 24 describes the qualities of those who are welcomed into God's presence in the Old Covenant. This required purity of heart and life, undivided worship of God alone and complete abstinence from lying. Jesus welcomes all into His presence, transforming us into people whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and who never tell lies.

12 Does anyone want to live a life
    that is long and prosperous?
13 Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
    and your lips from telling lies!
14 Turn away from evil and do good.
    Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
Psalm 34:12-14

Lying cuts off prosperity and success in our earthly life. The truth is always the most effective.

Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.
Psalm 119:29

The psalmist asks God to keep him honest with himself. He wants to be free from rationalization and excuses.

What are worthless and wicked people like? They are constant liars,
Proverbs 6:12

Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.
Proverbs 12:19

Lies do not last. They are exposed. They are found out.

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.
Proverbs 12:22

The godly hate lies; the wicked cause shame and disgrace.
Proverbs 13:5

The crooked heart will not prosper; the lying tongue tumbles into trouble.
Proverbs 17:20

A false witness will not go unpunished, nor will a liar escape.
Proverbs 19:5

A false witness will not go unpunished, and a liar will be destroyed.
Proverbs 19:9

For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.
Matthew 15:19

Lying comes from the heart. It is what we want and choose to do. In order to repent, the heart must be addressed and the heart must turn to the truth.

For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.
John 8:44

When we lie, we align ourselves with the devil and his character. We are not children of the devil, but children of God.

 But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2 He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”

5 As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6 Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?”

“Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”

9 And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.”

10 Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.
Acts 5:1-10

Lying, especially in matters regarding the church and the body of believers, can have disastrous results. The death of Ananias and Sapphira produced fear in the church. The story is meant to produce a healthy fear in us. God desires us to be motivated by love for Him and for His glory. But if that will not motivate us, fear of discipline should. God would rather His children obey because they know the consequences of disobedience than disobey and destroy their lives.

So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.
Ephesians 4:25

The New Testament forbids lying. This verse specifically targets lying within the Church.

Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.
Colossians 3:9

Paul instructs the Colossians to stop lying because they have put off their old lives and old sinful ways. Their sinful nature has been stripped off along with its deeds. We are no longer bound to its behaviors including lies.

But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.
James 3:14

They have told no lies; they are without blame.
Revelation 14:5

The context is a group of believers who have overcome in the last days and receive the reward of the Lord. Regardless of how you interpret the rest of the passage, God honors those who have a record of being totally honest. He considers them blameless.

“But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Revelation 21:8

Liars are coupled with unbelievers, murders, those who practice witchcraft, etc. and have their place in hell or everlasting destruction. Those who lie to the point that it identifies them will perish regardless of their confession of faith.

Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.
Revelation 22:15

Living a lie, living a hypocritical life, separates you from the Kingdom and City of God. Honesty in our mouths and our lives identifies us as citizens of Heaven.

Father, I have told so many lies in my life. I can remember many of them with shame. I have a reputation as honest and transparent person. Lord, I don't want to be a hypocrite or a faker. I don't want to be a liar or deceiver. There are so many past sins I've hidden and covered up in my life. I don't want to be dishonest. I don't want to be deceptive when it comes to my life. Lord I don't want any lie to stand. I repent, Lord. I never want to lie again. If there are any lies or deceptions in my life identify them, convict me, and help me repent and hold up the truth. I want to be on of the ones who is blameless when it comes to lie. I want to be honest. I want to have a good testimony. I want to live and believe and honor the truth. I know that the truth is always the most effective thing in any situation. Help me to live that out always. Forgive me of past lies. Cleanse me of any lying that has been in my life. I want to be honest with myself and honest with others. Father, if there is sin that I am hiding, help me to confess, and to trust your forgiveness and grace. Help me to not try to keep or preserve my reputation. I would rather be honest than be a hypocrite. Lord, you know that I love You. I turn from the sin of lying today. I commit to walking in the truth. Because I love You and I trust You with my life. In Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Walk of Repentance: Lust

I'm doing a series of Bible studies on specific sin or issues and focusing on turning away from those things as the Lord and the Scripture commands. These posts will mostly be short, simple, and full of Scripture. The idea is to meditate on the verses and apply them through turning from sin and turning to God.

I made a covenant with my eyes
    not to look with lust at a young woman.
Job 31:30

Job is often complex to interpret, but a few things are clear from this verse. In a pre-law covenant, Job considered it wrong to lust with his eyes. He made a covenant or commitment or vow not to look with lust. This was a part of his practical holiness.

9 “If my heart has been seduced by a woman,
    or if I have lusted for my neighbor’s wife,
10 then let my wife serve another man;
    let other men sleep with her.
11 For lust is a shameful sin,
    a crime that should be punished.
12 It is a fire that burns all the way to hell.
    It would wipe out everything I own.
Job 31:9-12

Job continues to describe the shame and destructive consequences of lust. He believes that it would indeed be just for him to lose everything if he committed lust in his heart.

24 “I will scatter you like chaff
    that is blown away by the desert winds.
25 This is your allotment,
    the portion I have assigned to you,”
    says the Lord,
“for you have forgotten me,
    putting your trust in false gods.
26 I myself will strip you
    and expose you to shame.
27 I have seen your adultery and lust,
    and your disgusting idol worship out in the fields and on the hills.
What sorrow awaits you, Jerusalem!
    How long before you are pure?”
Jeremiah 13:24-27

God addresses the adultery and lust within Jerusalem's society and promises that it will be exposed and bring shame upon them. God pairs these sexual sins with idol worship. He laments the sorrow that follows these sins and then laments how long He has patently waited for them to repent and live pure lives.

But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:28

Jesus strikes at the heart of the issue. No longer can sexual immorality be identified only by external behavior, but by the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. God cares about our inward desires. Our hearts are what God desires, not just our behavior.

So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
Matthew 5:29

This verse comes with a number of caveats and explanations from various teachers. We must recognize that it is true. It is truly better to lose a body part than to go to hell. Is Jesus commanding us to remove body parts? Do body parts cause us to lust? Jesus teaches us that lust comes from the heart not from our body parts. His teaching in this verse is that we are to do whatever it takes, no matter how drastic it seems, to live holy lives and to extinguish sin from our lives. This may mean throwing away a phone, a computer, or any other number of practical steps. But repenting of lust must be taken seriously. It is better to suffer great loss than to allow lust to lead us away from Christ.

21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
Mark 7:21-23

Lust comes from within: from our hearts. Certain thoughts, temptations, sights, and sounds may come from the Tempter, but we are responsible for our willful mental fantasies and lusts. 

21 Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure.
2 Corinthians 12:21

Paul writes to a church and he grieves because they have not repented. They continue in impurity (this could range from filthy talk and masturbation to pornography and deviant sexual behavior) sexual immorality and an eagerness for lustful pleasure. They were obsessed, entertained, and eager for sexual stimulation. Paul orders them to repent. They must give up their "old sins," the sins they have grown accustomed to over time.  

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Galatians 5:19-22

Paul clarifies that lust, lustful behavior, and sexual immorality are the desires of the un-redeemed flesh. They are not characteristic of the redeemed. He also warns them, repeating himself, that if they continue they will not inherit the Kingdom of God. They will be found in darkness. They will be cast into the lake of fire with all of those who rebel against Christ as King. They must repent. Their hope is the power of the Holy Spirit who produces fruit in our lives that overcomes these lusts.

17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
Ephesians 4:17-24

Paul authoritatively commands the Ephesians to stop living like unbelievers. They do not know the truth and so they live as slaves to lust. If we live as slaves to lust, we are living like unbelievers. We are to throw off this behavior, but even more so this identity and this way of life. We are to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds and help us live out the new nature we have received in Christ.

5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
Colossians 3:5-11

We receive the command to put to death, to kill, the earthly or fleshly desires that "lurk" or hide or live within. We are to combat and root out these desires with the truth, with the light of the Holy Spirit, with confession and repentance.

God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor— 5 not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. 6 Never harm or cheat a fellow believer in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

God's will and desire and plan for us is holiness so we have to not only stop committing sexual sin, but keep our distance from it. We must learn and know how to control our bodies.

9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Those who continue in sexual immorality and refuse to be rescued from their sin, will die in it outside of the Kingdom of God. We have been rescued. We have been cleansed. We have been made holy. We have been made right by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are empowered and rescued and continue to be rescued by the Spirit of God.

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.
1 Corinthians 6:18

We are not commanded to fight sexual sin, but to run from it, to flee from lust.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.
Ephesians 5:3

These sins are not to be winked at or "understood." We are not to empathize in a worldly way: "you lust, I lust, we all lust," but to not allow these sins to exist in our fellowship. We have to fight them in our own lives and in our communities.

Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.
Romans 6:19

We are either slaves to lust or slaves to righteousness. We died to these sins in Christ. We are raised in victory over them with Christ's resurrection. May our repentance not only be a turning from sin and a modification of our behavior or thought lives, but a transformation brought about by faith in the truth.

Father, all that I have written, I have written to my own heart. I confess that I have lusted more times than I can count. I have been involved in impurity more times than I can count, and I have been involved in sexual immorality. I've confessed these things again and again, and I thank You for Your cleansing. I thank You that Your mercies are new every morning. I turn from lust, Lord. I repent. I no longer want to give in to these thoughts and desires and temptations that come. I turn to You and to Your purity, which You have given me on the cross. I want to do whatever it takes to be free from any kind of lust or sexual immorality in my life. I want to receive and live out of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, to never give in to lust or fantasy again. I want to live a pure life. I want to be transformed. I want to be free. Like Job, I make a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust. I thank you for the victory you have given. Teach me how to control and possess this body you have given me in holiness and honor. Give me true repentance, Lord. I don't want this prayer to just be words. I don't want it to just last a few weeks or until the next temptation. I want this to be the end. I want this to be true repentance that lasts through eternity. I know this is Your will, and I know that I am Your child, accepted in Jesus. And so I know You will hear me and answer. You have forgiven me so much. You have loved me so much. Thank You. I love You. In Jesus name, Amen.