COMMITMENT

 

Every year countless people will make a commitment in the form of a New Year’s Resolution – a decision that usually revolves around starting or quitting something. And every year 92% of the people that made a commitment to better their lives will drop off at some point along the 365 day calendar year. What’s more is that 50% of those that fail to honor their commitment will fall short within the first month.

Why is that?

Why do people have such a difficult time following through on the things that they’re committed to?

According to multiple psychologists, there are several reasons including, but not limited to:

FAILURE TO PLAN

I once heard it said that if you fail to plan you may as well plan to fail. Honestly, making a commitment in one’s mind to start or to stop something without a plan in place generally amounts to little more than a good idea at best.

Life’s best ideas and goals are optimized when a plan is built and put into place. This is one common characteristic that many of the greatest leaders our world has ever known has in common.

GOING IT ALONE

Accountability is often overlooked where people are too embarrassed or uninformed to realize the need for help. There tends to be a gap between the expectations in our minds compared to what comes to the surface through our actions. It’s too easy to become distracted, discouraged, dissuaded and disillusioned when we’re left to our devices.

From the beginning, we were not created to “go it alone”. Instead, we are better together and the benefits that come from community, specifically with realizing our goals and dreams, is tremendous.

TOO EASILY DISCOURAGED

Inevitably, this is one that we’ve all struggled with from time to time – the ability to stay excited, therefore committed to our cause. What starts out as energetic enthusiasm for what we hope to accomplish becomes far too easily compromised when things don’t go the way that we had envisioned. This failure to see things come together the way that we had hoped often leads to discouragement, which can prove detrimental when it comes to achieving our goals.

Much like having a plan in place, we need to intentionally remind ourselves of what it is we’re committed to doing and the reasons why; in others words, cost and affect. So long as we can keep the bigger picture in mind, we will be better able to stay the course when things don’t always go as we anticipate.

NOT INVESTED

“There is no such things as a free lunch.” If I had a dollar for every time I heard a good friend and mentor of mine say this to me, I would be able to feed my Chick-fil-A habit for a year! The principle behind this sentiment is that everything in life will cost us something. Whether financially or relationally, spiritually or mentally, everything that we set our minds to comes with a cost.

When people set out to achieve great things but have little to no personal investment, there tends to be little reason for resolve when things become difficult. On the other hand, when we have personal investment in what we’re doing, we are much more likely to put and keep our hand to the plow, making every genuine effort to see through that with which we have committed.

A LACK OF RESOLVE

“To decide firmly on a course of action”; this is the crucible of resolve. It’s what gives us the ability to apply fortitude and the gumption to keep going when things get difficult and threaten to take us off course from accomplishing those things that we initially commit to. If we make commitments without resolve, we are doing little more than “giving it a shot”, hoping for the best.

Resolve is an incredible ingredient in commitment. Without it I would argue that realizing one’s best can’t happen because at the first sign of trouble, on the surface it always seems easiest to cut bate and abandon ship. However, when we have a deep resolve within us, we will be able to see the forest through the trees and our end-goal in mind, which will provide all of the motivation and incentive that we need to press on and keep going.

OUR FAITH

When it comes to matters of faith and a real commitment to grow in knowledge and grace, I believe that we can get caught up in the same reasons and excuses that I just went through when comparing reasons for failure to our commitments and goals.

If we want to experience life to the fullest and really Live It Up! as a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe it’s imperative that we:

  1. Develop a plan of how we are going to grow in our faith, including:
    • Personal Bible study
    • Church involvement
    • Prayer
    • Building community and relationships
  2. Intentionally invite someone into our lives and faith-journey for accountability and encouragement
  3. Trust in the Lord and remind ourselves of why we’re doing what we’re doing in growing our faith through the promises of God, which not only inform us, but inspire and encourage us as well
  4. Consider what we need to invest in growing in our relationship with Jesus, including:
    • Time
    • Energy
    • Resources
    • Involvement in church and a Christian community
  5. Consistently remind ourselves of what we’re committed to and why so as to stay the course when things become difficult and threaten to pull us off-track from our goals

I addressed the need for us to Live It Up! through making a commitment and sticking with it this past Sunday. I invite you to click the video link above from Sunday’s message and consider what God is calling you to commit to and your next-steps in that commitment.

A. Anderson

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Living Beyond Yourself…


I once heard a story about a married couple that would go to great lengths in an effort to display their love for one another. They went out of their way to be creative and ever-intentional in telling the other how much they were loved.

“S.H.M.I.L.Y.” – See How Much I Love You

The wife would leave a piece of paper with the acronym S.H.M.I.L.Y., which represented the following statement, “See How Much I Love You”, in her husbands socks as she folded them up, knowing that when he went to wear them the note would fall out.

The husband would leave a similar piece of paper in the flour container knowing that when his wife went to bake something, she would find the note.

This went on for years; in fact, this carried on throughout their marriage and in countless ways. An intentional way of demonstrating one another’s love for each other.

As Christians that are committed to living our lives to the fullest, demonstrating our love for others is essential! We know the extent of God’s love for us in that while we were still sinners, God sent His Son – a life lived by Jesus of love and in death and ressurection, a life of redemption made possible.

If we are image bearers of Christ, how much should we then look to love others in how we live beyond ourselves?


Living Beyond Yourself

This past weekend I shared the first of a 2-part message from a story found in 2 Kings 4, a message about how to live beyond ourselves. I’ll share the second part next weekend. This message is one part of a collection of messages given in our “Live It Up!” series at Country Bible Church. To check out the video series of messages, you can visit the MEDIA page.

Below are a few of the highlights I’ve pulled from the message:

#1  //  Living beyond yourself means RECOGNIZING that we all have something to give! 

For far too long I have been witness to people all over the church that don’t feel like they have anything to give. What’s more is there are an equally alarming number of folks within the church that don’t give because they don’t feel like what they have to give compares to what others in the church are giving, i.e., finances, volunteer hours, experiences, spiritual gifts, etc.

While I understand that there are some gifts and givers that are more obvious and outspoken, I struggle with the notion that someone wouldn’t see value in what they have to give based on what others are doing in the church. Each one of us has something to give; every person that has come into a right-relationship with Jesus has been awarded a gift by the Holy Spirit and God is able to redeem our experiences and education and time as well as our financial gifts for His good purposes and glory. We are not called to compare our gifts with others or wonder around in darkness with little effort given to understanding our gifts and how they can be used by God in the lives of others.

On the contrary!

What I believe we are to do is to intentionally recognize those unique gifts that God has given us as individuals and look for opportunities to share our gifts with others!

What are you gifted in that God wants to bless others with through you?

#2  //  Living beyond yourself means LOOKING for opportunities to give!

I just said it but it bares repeating. What I believe we are to do, with regards to our gifts, is to intentionally recognize our unique gifts that God has given us as individuals and to look for opportunities to share our gifts with others.

Last week during our annual Vacation Bible School, we had 75 adult volunteers intentionally look for opportunities to share their gifts with children from all over our community. Here are just a few of the “wins” from the week:

  1. 235 people attended Vacation Bible School
  2. 75 adults volunteered their time and gifts in serving at VBS
  3. We raised $840.76 in children brining in their change, which 100% of the money brought in will be given to our local food bank to meet the needs of the needy in our community
  4. We had more volunteers for this one event than we have had in recent history
  5. There are countless stories coming out of our VBS week together in which these children’s lives will be changed forever

All of these things and more were made possible by our Great Big God and the tremendous sacrifices of the volunteers whom made our VBS week not only possible, but wildly successful!

Every person that volunteered recognized that they had something to give and came looking for an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the children.

While recognizing that we all have something to give: time, money, a skill or craft, etc., recognition is just the beginning. We must look for opportunities to live beyond ourselves!

How are you looking for opportunities to use your God-given gifts and experiences to live beyond yourself?

#3  //  Living beyond yourself means MEETING people where they are!

I can’t stress enough the importance of being the church – of doing life and ministry on purpose, with a purpose, for His purpose! What this means is that we cannot simply settle for opening our doors up on Sunday or some night of the week for programs and expect people to come in droves. We just can’t! And that’s not at all what Jesus modeled for us nor was it the practice of the early church.

Instead, we have to begin to identify where people are at and start creating opportunities to meet them there. Living beyond ourselves means taking to the streets of our community and sharing the love of Jesus through how we live our lives and how we’re applying the gifts that God has give us. Living beyond ourselves means meeting people where they’re at, investing in their lives, and inviting them into our lives.

What are you doing to use your gifts by meeting people where they’re at?


Some final thoughts

If we want to Live It Up! in our faith, it comes with a price. We must recognize that we are called to live life beyond ourselves and start not only recognizing that we have something to give, but intentionally looking for opportunities to give and serve others. When we recognize our gifts and look for opportunities to use our gifts, we will start meeting people where they’re at and lives will be changed! God promises to redeem our gifts and use them for his glory, which carries eternal significance!

How are you living beyond yourself today?
A. Anderson

To learn more about living beyond yourself, be sure to check out the video message from last Sunday!

 

Media, Metrics & Motivation

 

In 2003 my life changed forever! With the birth of our son Kaedon as well as the addition of Social Media, I learned more about media, metrics and motivation than I ever thought possible. You can hear a little more about my experiences in the first 6-minutes of the message from Sunday (see video link).

Here’s the deal…

How we share information (media), how we measure how healthy we are (metrics), and how we determine what matters most to us (motivation), these are all matters that inform our faith.

This past weekend I shared a message from our “Live It Up!” series from
Colossians 1:3-10 (NLT)

Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer

We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace. You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you. So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.


MEDIA

Paul was writing encouragement to the church of what he was hearing about the Christian’s in Colosse, of their faith in Jesus and how they were living out their faith through their love for people. The fact that he was hearing about their faith or the fact that it was worth reporting is pretty significant!

While under house-arrest in Rome, over 1,300 mile away by land and sea, it would have taken 54 days on average for news to travel this distance and this is without any hiccups or detours along the way. The fact that Paul is hearing about the faith and love of the Colossian people is not insignificant. It means that their faith was worth talking about. The faith and love of the Colossian church was making an impact not only within their church and community, but had begun to infiltrate the world at-large.

Sharing this information was no small feat when you consider that there was no social media, no email, no phone calls, no smoke signals or carrier pigeons to speak of. The mainstay of media was word-of-mouth or personal testimony and formal letters. And it’s worth noting that the media shared was done on purpose. Given the limited means for communication, what was shared was as equally deliberate as it was detailed.

As a Junior in High School, my youth Pastor asked me one day if I was living a faith in Jesus that was worth talking about. This question was significant and has caused me to consider this question of significance and intentionality more often than not over the years. This is a question, a difficult question, that I think we need to wrestle with today…

Is our faith in Jesus and love for people worth talking about?


METRICS

While in the hospital awaiting the delivery of our son Kaedon, I found a way to push every button (both literally and metaphorically speaking) and mess with the machines. It was no surprise when the doctor came in and encourage (ASKED FIRMLY) me to stop playing with the machines because the information that they were providing for the nurses and doctors was significant. Everything from the ultrasound to the blood pressure cuff, the blood panel to the stethoscope, each instrument was used to measure metrics in an effort to determine the health of my wife, Stacy, and our unborn child.

God has given us several metrics by which we can and should measure our faith. Here are just a few:

When was the last time you had a “spiritual check-up” to determine how healthy you are in your faith?


MOTIVATION

In life there are a lot of things that motivate us – from athletics to academics and quite literally, nearly everything in between, people find motivation for why they do what they do.

When my son was born I found that my motivation as a man, not just a father, but as a man, husband, father and if I’m being honest, even as a Christian changed. While holding Kaedon I considered the significance of how my life would inevitably impact my son and it lead me to change much about not only my behaviors but the way that I thought about life as well. Honestly, this change through the life of my son and daughters has been one of the greatest gifts that God has ever blessed me with. An awesome responsibility? Absolutely! And an amazing blessing that has motivated me to become the man that I am today as well as strive to the best man that I can be tomorrow and thereafter.

What motivation do you have for living a life of faith and godliness?
I pray that you may know the awesome salvation that comes from a right-relationship with Jesus and that this saving grace will drive you to a life full of health media, metrics and motivation!

A. Anderson

 

Knowledge & Power!

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” This statement carries with it a sentiment that speaks to our motivation(s) as much as it does our actions, and in many cases, our inactions. What I’ve come to understand over the years is that head-knowledge often puffs up while applied knowledge builds up.

On Sunday I shared a message from 2 Peter 3:11-18, which spoke, in part, to the tremendous value of how we live our lives. It was the final message in our study through Peter’s second letter to the early churches; early believers that were at risk of becoming caught up in false teaching and wayward living. If you’re interested, I’ve included a link to the video from Sunday below.

Here is a quick recap from Sunday’s message; some takeaways that we can think on throughout the week:


What you believe about death can be found in how you live your life…

Peter draws an incredible parallel for the early adopters of the faith about all things temporal being consumed by fire on the day of judgement. He’s addressing refugees that have been forced from their homes, many whom lost everything by fire, under Nero’s reign and persecution. These followers of Jesus lost much if not all, including their lives, because of their faith.

Near the conclusion of his letter, Peter reminds the Christian that the things of this world will be consumed by fire and at that point the only thing that will matter is our eternity.

For those of us that have the hope of eternity, we are called to look forward to the day of God when we will experience the new heavens and the new earth. In this day there will be no more sorrow, no more brokenness, no more war, no more terrorism, no more devastation. We will experience the best of all that God has in store for all of eternity.

How we live our lives this side of heaven; what we invest in and hold on tightly to, speaks volumes about what we believe in death.

What does how you live your life say about what you believe in death?


There is work in the waiting!

Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but there is a growing number of people within society that seem perfectly content in waiting rather than doing. There seems to be little sense of urgency and in many cases, even less of a sense of urgency about our responsibility to work while we wait.

I am continually reminded that life is short and hell is hot. And while we are awaiting the day of Christ when Jesus will return, there is much to work to be done. We have lives to live and our faith to share. While we are waiting we get to love our neighbors, share our faith, present the Good News to every nation, tribe and tongue, care for the orphans and the widows, pray for those whom persecute us, love those that hate us, continually grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus, worship God individually and collectively, and so much more!

Where do you need to start working in the waiting?


Leading is a by-product of living; what you say is only as good as how you live. 

Growing up I heard adults that were responsible for leading the future generations say things like, “Do as I say, not as I do!” While I completely understand the sentiment of this statement, I cannot disagree more with the practice of this phrase.

What good is what we say when we aren’t respected for how we live our lives? Where is the credibility? What makes us think for even a moment that people will give an ear to what we have to say about life and faith when what they see in how we live? Whether through our relationships, by way of the pictures that we post of Instagram or the posts that we make on Facebook, how we spend our time, what we invest our money in, how we invest our time at our places of employment, how we treat people around us and so much more, what we say is only as good as how we are living our lives!

What does how you are living your life say in comparison to the words that are coming out of your mouth or the posts that you’re making on social media?


The application of knowledge is what leads to power!

I want to finish where I started – that people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care!

Through the years within education circles, people have heard time and again that knowledge is power. I said it on Sunday and I will say it again here…

I cannot disagree more with this statement!

What good is knowledge if not applied?

How useful is a doctor that has all of the knowhow in the world to administer treatment to a man or woman in need of triage after an accident, but does nothing to apply their knowledge? That knowledge is useless, plain and simple!

And what about us as believers?

What good is our knowledge of Scripture and of all things pertaining to faith in Jesus if we do nothing to live out what we know?

Nothing!

All of the knowledge in the world is useless if not applied!

I cannot implore Christians enough to grow in their grace of knowledge of Jesus. Even more than this, a greater imploring is in how Christians are applying what they’re learning through the Word of God, in their Christian communities, in their LifeGroups, in their accountability relationships with other believers, and in the church.

We’ve got to learn, yes. But more than what we learn is how we live!

What has God taught you by way of knowledge that you need to begin living out today?

May you be blessed by God and filled with inexplicable joy as you live out your faith and knowledge throughout your lives this week!

A. Anderson

 

Just A Thought…

just-a-thought.jpg

Eternal security vs. Human responsibility…

Reformed vs. Armeniast…

For centuries theologians and some of the brightest minds to walk the earth have considered, questioned, studied, discussed and debated the doctrinal divide of eternal security or “once saved, always saved” and the seeming juxtaposition of human responsibility otherwise known as “free will”.

While I do not count myself among these great minds, there are some foundational passages of Scripture that I have been working through and have wrestled with for years, all of which have lead me to a greater understanding of what I see as human responsibility with regards to our faith and salvation.

Theological Arguments
I am well aware that there are theological arguments; that whole camps and systems of theology and even denominations, that have divided over this issue of eternal security of the believer for generations. Men much smarter than I could ever imagine or hope for in my own life have studied and wrestled and fought hard over what they have come to understand in their own lives and systematic theology. These men on both sides have education and credentials that far surpass anything that I will likely ever know. And the point that I wrestle with is that they are on both sides of the fence. Both camps. Both sets of belief carry with them amazing theologians whom love Jesus and have been used of God, by God, for God in life and ministry. These are brothers in the faith that will encounter eternity, ushered into heaven by the same God and creator of all; men that have professed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Much has been said about these
I cannot say that I have it all figured out or all correct. I would never presume that what I believe about eternal security of the believer is the only line of thinking or correct system of belief. What I can say with assurance is that I have studied God’s Word, I have wrestled hard with these theological truths and ideas, and that I have come to an understanding of what I believe based on both education and personal experience. I am continuing to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, and I am ever-aware of my need and total dependence on the Spirit of God to lead me in every aspect and area of life and faith and ministry.

As a teacher of God’s Word I know all too well the ramifications of those that teach faulty faith and doctrine. I will be held accountable before God for what I teach. With that in mind I BEG God that the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart will be holy and pleasing and acceptable in His sight – that these words will flow out of a right-relationship with Jesus and discernment from the Holy Spirit of God!

I do not profess to be Calvinist. I am not fully Armeniast. I am a culmination of great reformers and holiness theologians and preachers that have gone before me to lay a foundation of faith, knowledge, understanding, and instruction. Most important, I am a child of God doing all that I can to live out of my salvation.

I hope what I have said and what I am about to share helps a little to understand where I’m coming from and how I arrived there. It’s not the only theological position and I’m always open for healthy discussion and dialogue so long as we keep with the unity of believers and in humility, consider one another better than ourselves as we seek to both understand as well as to be understood.

So what do I believe?
In short, I do not believe that any person that has experienced prevenient grace, initial sanctification, regeneration, and is growing in their faith through progressive sanctification can ever “lose” their salvation. This person has an assurance of salvation for all eternity. No sin is too great, confessed or otherwise, to keep us from God’s love and saving grace (Romans 6:1-12), but we have a responsibility to live out and live out of our salvation.

Salvation cannot be earned; it is a gift from God alone (Ephesians 2:8).

Salvation cannot be bought; God has already paid our ransom (1 Corinthians 6 & 7).

Salvation cannot be taken from us or lost (John 10:28-29).

Salvation requires a choice (Joshua 24:14-15; Romans 10:9-10) .

Salvation, once saved, cannot be separated from God (Romans 8:38).

Salvation is reserved for our Sovereign God alone whom illuminates our minds through the power of the Holy Spirit, drawing us unto Himself, and provides us with the opportunity to respond to His invitation (John 1:9, 16:13-16; Hebrew 6:4; Ephesians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 4:5).

What I am about to share is no commentary neither are these personal feelings or my interpretation(s). Instead, what I am about to share is little more than Scripture that I have wrestled with for years and the original language with which these words were intended, which have given me more than a compelling reason to hold to the doctrine of human responsibility. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Understanding Eternal Security
One of the passages that I have heard referenced and recited to me many times over the years, specifically the last 9 months, with regards to eternal security of the believer in the reformed camp comes from the gospel of John 10:28-29, which reads:

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.

At first blush it is easy to understand how theological arguments for “once saved, always saved” come into being. It seems to me that God is saying that once he chooses us, there is nothing that we can do to lose that election. However, when we dive into the original language (Greek) as well as culture and context, there are a few key words/ideas that we need to investigate further to really try and understand.

Let me offer the same passage of Scripture with the original Greek language included:

28 I give (δίδωμι // didomi // to offer or allow // requires acceptance) them eternal life (αἰώνιος // aionios // unending and/or ageless), and they will never perish (ἀπόλλυμι // apollumi // destroy, lose, perish resulting in death). No one can snatch (ἁρπάζω // harpazo // to take by force, obtain by robbery) them away from me, 29 for my Father has given (δίδωμι // didomi // to offer or allow // requires acceptance) them to me, and he is more powerful (μέγας // megas // greater, stronger) than anyone (πᾶς // pas // every kind) else. No one can snatch (ἁρπάζω // harpazo // snatch, obtain by robbery) them from the Father’s hand.

When we take a closer look at the text it becomes clear and I would agree fully that there is no one and no thing that can rob us of or take away our salvation. However, what we must account for is the word didomi or “give/given”, which we see used twice in these 2 verses. This language denotes that God offers us this eternal life, but as is the case with any gift, it must be accepted by the recipient. In order to accept this gift, we, as individuals, have human responsibility to make that choice (“free will”) to accept God’s gift.

The other piece that many have run through is the idea that our salvation can never be “snatched” away from us. I fully agree that our salvation cannot be snatched away from us! That said, we must understand the word snatched here, in the original language, is harpazo, which means “taken by force or robbed”. Once we are in Christ, there is no one and no thing that can ever take our salvation away from us. This does not excuse our responsibility to accept this salvation and does not suggest that we have no right or ability to abandon our salvation otherwise known as apostasy. I will discuss this more as we go on.

Another passage of Scripture that comes up time and again with regards to eternal security of the believer is Romans 8:31-39:

 31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I would argue that we must look at the first 30 verses, specifically verses 4 through 16, which set up the context and show us clearly that we are not devoid of human responsibility and the necessity to make a choice. On the back end, once we have made our decision our salvation is secure from outside powers or influence to take away our salvation, but does not excuse our human responsibility.

Here are some examples of a quick word-study:

Romans 8:4 – “follow” // περιπατέω // peripateo // follow, walk, conduct my life

Romans 8:6 – “letting” // ἐάω // eao // allow, permit

Romans 8:9 – “if” // εἴπερ // eiper // result of a choice

Romans 8:12 – “obligation” // ὀφειλέτης // opheiletes // a debt owed

Romans 8:13 – “live” // ζάω // zao // to live, come alive

Romans 8:14 – “lead” // ἄγω // ago // to be lead or to follow a guide (not drug along)

Romans 8:15 – “receive” // λαμβάνω // lambano // to take hold of, accept (to choose)

Romans 8:16 – “affirm” // συμμαρτυρέω // summartureo // witness, testify

Romans 8:35 – “who” // τίς // tis // outside source

Romans 8:38 – “separate” // χωρίζω // chorizo // to separate, divide

When you take the totality of the context from Romans 8, specifically the first 16 verses, it does not excuse our human responsibility for choice but helps us understand, all the more, that when we make this decision for Christ, nothing outside of ourselves can strip this away from us. As I understand it, what Paul was telling the church in Rome was that no one and no thing can take away or strip us of our salvation. However, I can’t find anywhere in this text the absence of human responsibility and the ability for each person to make a decision based on God illuminating our mind through the power of the Spirit of God. It would seem, then, that God presents us with the truth and in his sovereign desire that we all come to salvation, but there is a choice that must be made by each individual. And once we experience this salvation, we can never lose it or have it stripped or taken from us, but we do have both the choice and the responsibility to live out and live out of our salvation.

Human responsibility in Scripture
The following are just a few passages of Scripture that I have wrestled with over the years with regards to human responsibility and what has helped to inform my theology, which is ever-growing. I have not added my own thoughts or personal commentaries. Instead, I have included original language (Greek), which has refined and shaped my beliefs.

Matthew 10:22-32 (NLT)
22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures (“endures” // ὑπομένω // hupomeno // verb // remain, stand firm) to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel. 24 “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. 25 Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names! 26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! 8 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul (Refer to John 10:28-29). Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.32 “Everyone who acknowledges (ὁμολογέω // homologeo // verb // confess, agree with) me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.

Matthew 19:28-30 (NLT)
28 Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers (ἀκολουθέω // akoloutheó // verb // to attend, follow, accompany one’s leading) will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has given (ἀφίημι // aphiemi // verb // release, sent away, permit to depart) up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.

John 15:1-8 (NLT)
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain (μένω // meno // verb // choose to stay, abide) in me, and I will remain (μένω // meno // verb // choose to stay, abide) in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain (μένω // meno // verb // choose to stay, abide) in me. 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain (μένω // meno // verb // choose to stay, abide) in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart (χωρίς // choris // adverb // to be without) from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain (μένω // meno // verb // choose to stay, abide) in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain (μένω // meno // verb // choose to stay, abide) in me and my words remain (μένω // meno // verb // choose to stay, abide) in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

1 Corinthians 9:27 (NLT)
27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified (ἀδόκιμος // adokimos // adjective // unapproved, failing to pass) is.

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 (NLT)
Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed (παραλαμβάνω // paralambanó // verb // to take, to receive) it then, and you still stand firm in it. 2 It is this Good News that saves you if you continue (κατέχω // katecho // verb // take possession of, bind, cement) to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.

Galatians 5:1-5 (ESV)
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm (στήκω // steko // verb // preserve, hold on to) therefore, and do not submit again (πάλιν // palin // adverb // go back to, return) to a yoke of slavery.2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed (καταργέω // katargeo // verb // abolish, separate from) from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

Galatians 5:13-14 (ESV)
13 For you were called (καλέω // kaleo // verb // invite, summon, call) to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 6:1-6 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome (προλαμβάνω // prolambanó // verb // caught up in, a taken back) by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back (καταρτίζω // katartizó // verb // bring into its proper condition, return) onto the right path. And be careful not to fall ( πίπτω // pipto // verb // fall under, come under, prostrate, fall to) into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. 4 Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct. 6 Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.

Philippians 2:12 (NLT)
12 Dear friends, you always followed (ὑπακούω // hupakouó // verb //listen, hearken to, obey) my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show (κατεργάζομαι // katergazomai // verb // labor, to accomplish) the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.

Colossians 1:21-23 (NLT)
21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. 23 But you must continue (ἐπιμένω // epimeno // verb // remain, persist) to believe this truth and stand firmly (ἑδραῖος // hedraios // adjective // steadfast, not move away from) in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance (ἐλπίς  // elpis // noun // hope, expectation) you received (ἀκούω // akouo // verb // to hear, to listen, respond) when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.

Hebrews 6:1-6 (NLT)
So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. 2 You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding. 4 For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once (ἅπαξ // hapax // adverb // once for all, once knew, once more) enlightened (φωτίζω // phótizó // verb // having brought to light, illuminate, make evident, reveal) —those who have experienced (γεύομαι // geuomai // verb // to taste, having experienced) the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted (γεύομαι // geuomai // verb // to taste, having experienced) the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— 6 and who then turn away from (παραπίπτω // parapiptó // verb // to fall away, fall back (into the unbelieving and godless ways of the old time), return) God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.

Hebrews 10:26-31 (NLT)
26 Dear friends, if we deliberately (ἑκουσίως // hekousiós // adverb // willingly, of one’s accord, choose) continue sinning after (μετά // meta // preposition // having already experienced, encountered) we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins.27 There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. 28 For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. 30 For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge.     I will pay them back.” He also said, “The LORD will judge his own people.” 31 It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

2 Peter 2:20-22 (NLT)
20 And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled (ἐμπλέκω // empleko // verb // enfold, entangle, get involved with, caught up in) up and enslaved by sin again (πάλιν // palin // adverb // go back to, return), they are worse off than before. 21 It would be better if they had never known (ἐπιγινώσκω //epiginóskó // verb // to come to know, understand, recognize) the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject (ὑποστρέφω // hupostrephó // verb // turn back to) the command (ἐντολή // entole // noun // ordinance, instruction, demand) they were given to live a holy life. 22 They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns (ἐπιστρέφω // epistrephó // verb // come back, towards, turn back to) to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.”

Revelation 2:10 (NLT)
10 Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain (μένω // meno // verb // choose to stay, abide) faithful (πιστός // pistos // adjective // believing, continued faith) even when facing death, I will give (δίδωμι // didomi // to offer or allow // requires acceptance) you the crown of life.

Revelation 3:1-5 (NLT)
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars: “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive (ζάω // zao // verb // to live, come alive, once have life) —but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what little remains (λοιπός // loipos // adjective // to leave behind), for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.3 Go back to (μνημονεύω // mnémoneuó // verb // to remember, recall, make mention of) what you heard and believed (τηρέω // tereo // verb // guard, observe, watch over, keep) at first; hold (κατέχω // katecho // verb // take possession of, bind, cement) to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again (πάλιν // palin // adverb // go back to, return). If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief. 4 “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 All who are victorious (νικάω // nikao // verb // conquer, overcome) will be clothed in white. I will never erase their (αὐτός // autos // personal pronoun // specific to those that remain in Him, group of people or person) names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.

Finishing where I started
As I stated early on, I do not pretend to have all of the answers. That is reserved for my Sovereign God alone. I’m so glad He reminds us that His ways are not our ways, neither are His thoughts like our thoughts (Isa 55). Instead of trying to fit an incredibly infinite God into a finite theological box that I can understand and am seemingly comfortable with, I would much rather live out my salvation rather than exhausting myself with whether or not I can ever lose my salvation.

There is too much at stake for us to get caught up in and divide over non-essential theological arguments. Instead, what would happen if we studied to show ourselves approved and looked to grow in God’s grace and our understanding so as to honor Him and not try to please and/or cause division amongst men?

These are just some humble thoughts from a Pastor in process.

In Humility,

A. Anderson

 

Finding Focus

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Finding focus, at least in my experience, is hardly easy when you’re inundated with distractions. When things are seemingly coming at you from every nook and cranny of life, vying for you – your schedule, your relationships, your energy, and all that takes up space in your mind, it can become overwhelming and cause us to lose focus on what matters most.

Brad Smith is one of my favorite teachers of all time at any level, elementary school through graduate school. My history teacher at Oregon City High School, Brad was also the girls varsity basketball coach. Not only was Brad a basketball coach, he is one of the greatest high school basketball coaches of all time.

In 27 seasons at Oregon City High School, Brad Smith compiled a record of 629 – 92Under Brad’s leadership, his teams won 26 League Titles in 27 years as well as 10 Oregon State Championships, and 3 USA Today National Championships (1995, 1996, 1997). Brad was named National Coach of The Year 3 times, was 6 time Oregon Coach of The Year smith-inducted-hall-fame.jpgand was awarded the 2012 Morgan Wooten Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Award for lifetime achievement.

What Coach Smith accomplished throughout his coaching career is no small feat and will likely stand for generations.

Over the years I have had the privilege of having Brad as not only a teacher, but as a mentor and friend. I remember well a conversation that I had with Brad a few years ago over breakfast about what it takes to become an expert at something. He shared with me that he believed it takes more than 20,000 times or repetitions of doing something with excellence to become or to be considered an expert. The example that he gave me was that of a basketball player at the free-throw line. Brad told me that in those moments, when all of the distractions were intentionally seeking to take a player off focus, there was nothing left to coach. It was time to do. The principle here was that a player that has become an expert at free-throws will be able to rely on their repetitions and muscle memory as well as years of experience to help keep focus despite the loud noise and sensory overload that looms.

In light of what Coach Smith shared with me I see many parallels to what the apostle Peter shared with the early church that was inundated with distraction, both from around the community as well as from within the church and the importance of maintaining focus.

This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.

Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”

They deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood.And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

In his encouragement (2 Peter 3:1-7) to Christians, Peter calls us to what we call today, “muscle memory”; to remember the Word of God when the distractions of this world are coming at us. It is in remembering what God calls us to that will help us stay focused when faced with distractions.

While there are many spiritual disciplines and practices designed to help the believer in living out their faith regardless of the noise, there is no replacement for repetition in God’s Word! It is imperative that we have a working knowledge (the greek word: epi-gnosis  //  active, experiential or first-hand know how) of God’s promises and instructions as well as an active relationship with Jesus!

On Sunday I shared a message entitled, “Remember”; a message from our Live it Up! series. If you’re interested in hearing more about the importance and power in keeping focus as a Christian in a world filled with distractions seeking to pull us away from our focus, check out the video below.