Archive for the ‘Relationship with God’ Category


On May 1, 1992, after four police officers were acquitted of the savage beating of Rodney King, Rodney uttered this now famous line: “Can we all get along? Can we get along? . . .

That phrase instantly became a joke, yet as we view the world in conflict and turmoil, as we view Christians in conflict and turmoil, is it possible for us to all get along? No, not unless we commit to following the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Only at the Cross is there Peace

Colossians 1: 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting (moving or falling away) from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Paul addressed a fleshly church in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 12:20-21 20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity(uncleanness of soul), sexual immorality (porneia-idolatry like Israel), and sensuality (seeking your own pleasure) that they have practiced.

Paul said two things that are pretty amazing in their importance.

  1. When the church is overtaken with “quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder”, it should not make us quit or get angry, it should humble us, and bring us low before the Lord.
  2. The only way to cleanse such a church is to repent of uncleanness. We have been made morally and spiritually ‘dirty’. We need to repent and ask for God to cleanse us.

This is why I have been saying since 2007 that you cannot allow yourself to listen to gossip, bad reports, or ‘whispers’ that are negative about someone or something. When you do, it taints your soul, it brings uncleanness to your heart. If you listen to such reports, in order to be clean, you must go to that person and check things out.

I made a covenant with my Dad and all the employees of Tompkins Industries in 1983 that I would always give a good report. If I could not say anything good about a person, I would simply be quiet, or if able, go to that person and tell them why I could not give a good report about them. This is a wonderful way to live your life.

The Lesson of 1945 Germany Churches

If you could imagine being a pastor in Germany in 1945, you could get a glimpse of pastoring a church that has gone through a war.

Churches were torn apart, suffering and discouragement were throughout the land. God directed the pastors of the Evangelical Church in Germany to gather and issue what has been called the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt. It was issued by unanimous proclamation on October 19,

The Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt, was issued on October 19, 1945 by the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland or EKD), in which it confessed guilt for its inadequacies in opposition to the Nazis and the Third Reich.[1]

The Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt

by the Council of the Protestant Church of Germany, October 19, 1945

“we not only know that we are with our people in a large community of suffering, but also in a solidarity of guilt. With great pain we say: By us infinite wrong was brought over many peoples and countries. That which we often testified to in our communities, we express now in the name of the whole church: We did fight for long years in the name of Jesus Christ against the mentality that found its awful expression in the National Socialist regime of violence; but we accuse ourselves for not standing to our beliefs more courageously, for not praying more faithfully, for not believing more joyously, and for not loving more ardently. Now a new beginning is to be made in our churches. Based on the Holy Scripture, with complete seriousness directed to the lord of the church, they start to cleanse themselves of the influences of beliefs foreign to the faith and to reorganize themselves. We hope to the God of grace and mercy that He will use our churches as His tools and give them license to proclaim His word and to obtain obedience for His will, amongst ourselves and among our whole people[2].”

There are three elements of the Stuttgart Confession that bear noting:

1. It was an expression of solidarity with the nation in its sin and suffering.

The confessors were not standing in judgment against a guilty nation that had been brought to its knees. They were experiencing the pain of the nation and acknowledging their part in its guilt. They did not make excuses.

2. They did not give a false sense of guilt.

They stated that they opposed the Nazi regime and suffered as a consequence. But this did not take away from their share of the guilt of the nation.

3. Their sense of guilt did not drive them to despair but to fresh commitment.

They committed themselves to a new beginning. Repentance should lead to real change and a commitment to action[3].

As Germany sought to rebuild and re-unify their nation, they chose to work toward a goal rather than stagnate in blame and despair.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians church, and encouraged them to walk worthy, walk in humility, bear with one another and maintain the unity of the Spirit.

Ephesians 4:1-3 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Unity is never maintained when people resort to blaming others. Now is the time to humble our hearts before the Cross of Jesus Christ and seek His forgiveness and righteousness. Now is the time to cry out for God’s Justice to reign in our church, for His Word to have free course in our midst, and for His Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, righteousness and the judgment to come.

Hebrews 12 is the “Keep on Pressing On” Chapter

Keep pressing on for Jesus, pressing on for His Body, pressing on for His Kingdom

Hosea 6:1-3 1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Philippians 3:12-14 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

A. Keep on Pressing on for Jesus

  • Jesus is the head!

1. Consider the Cost

a. The Cost to Jesus

b. The Cost to all those witnesses.

Hebrews 12: 1,2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

1) He began the work

2) He will finish the work

c. The Cost to Us

1) We must lay aside every sin and every weight

2) We must endure, regardless of the cost.

2. Consider our Coach (and a great host of witnesses)

a. Jesus endured hostility

12:3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

b. We must struggle with Him against sin

12:4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

3. Consider our Character

a. Value Discipline

12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

b. Discipline is Sonship.

12:7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

12:8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

12:9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

c. Discipline allows us to Share His Holiness

12:10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

B. Keep on Pressing for a Healthy Body

We all want healthy bodies. That usually involves exercise, training, strengthening. But as in all things, we get weary, we get tired, we may not feel like going on. Especially if we don’t lay aside those things that distract us.

12:12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,

12:13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

1.  Following Jesus Requires Effort.

a. Arms and Hand droop
b. Knees get wobbly
c. Feet wander, grow hesitant, even halting.
d. If there is no effort, our joints become affected and even infected. (we can even get out of joint)

Arthritis refers to a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and other conditions that can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints.[4]

A little weakness can affect the whole body. Just one arthritic joint can affect your health and well-being.

2. Hold Fast to Jesus and find Healing & Growth

a. “rather be healed”

Colossians 2:19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

See the rest of the story in Isaiah:

Isaiah 35:3-6 3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;The lame will leap like a deer. Blind will see, deaf will hear, mute will sing. There will be life springing up in the desert because water will break forth, there will be “streams in the desert.”

b. Strive for Peace and Holiness

12: 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

3. Hold Fast to Grace

12:15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

12:16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

12:17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

a. Danger of Losing God’s Favor.

b. Lost through Bitterness

1)  Causes Trouble

2) The many are defiled
(made common, tainted)

Absalom (close to sister Tamar, who was violated by Amnon, and he became bitter)

c. Lost through uncleanness

1) Esau had “REJECT” stamped across his forehead

2) He chose his satisfaction rather than God’s.

d. Literally cross a threshold and lose your inheritance.

C.    Keep on Pressing for the Kingdom

1.  We look for an Invisible, Eternal Kingdom

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest

19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them.

20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.”

21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”

2. We Look for the City of the Living God

a. Consider the Prize

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,

23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

b. Always Heed His Word

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.

26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”

c. Things get shaken

12: 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.

d. What remains are the true worshippers

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Who is Mitsuo Fuchida? He Cried TORA TORA TORA! As he led the Japanese atack on Pearl Harbor!

Mitsuo Fuchida fought the United States throughout WWII and was intimately involved in the planning and leadership of the Japanese war effort as flight commander and later as a senior operations officer. After the war, Fuchida was a defeated warrior in occupied Japan, farming to meet the needs of his family. In 1950, Fuchida miraculously came to know Jesus Christ as Saviour through a tract handed to him while exiting a train in Tokyo. The tract was entitled, “I Was a Prisoner of Japan,” written by Jacob DeShazer who was one of the famous Doolittle Raiders. DeShazer trusted Christ as his Saviour while held captive by Japan for 40 months. DeShazer went to Japan in 1948 as a missionary and preached to the nation who held him captive. Fuchida faithfully served Jesus Christ as an evangelist until his death in 1976. “From Pearl Harbor to Calvary” is Fuchida’s testimony of salvation.[5


[3] De Gruchy, John, Reconciliation: Restoring Justice, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2002, p. 109

[5] http://www.biblebelievers.com/fuchida1.html

You were first introduced to him on December 7, 1941, at 7:49 A.M. on a cloudless Sunday, the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor. In two hours:

* 2,403 Americans were killed
* 1,178 were wounded
* 169 U.S. aircraft were totally destroyed
* 5 battleships were mauled
* the Arizona was scrapped for good
* the Oklahoma, California and West Virginia were sunk
* the Nevada was beached in a sinking condition
* 18 other battleships were damaged
* nearby the airfields, barracks and dry docks were also crippled

This incredible attack was led by a 39-year-old Japanese top gun pilot, Commander Mitsuo Fuchida. whose life hero was Adolf Hitler. Fuchida led 360 Japanese airplanes into the harbor at Honolulu and devastated a whole nation and triggered, as you know, the massive death that came about through American atomic retaliation as well as conventional weaponry. Mitsuo Fuchida, a name that you read over and over and over and over in anything you ever read about World War II. His plane was hit numerous times as he came and went from Pearl Harbor, but he survived.

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This year I want us to begin a Journey, Journey 2010, in which we discover the awesome power of our creator God in a more personal and intimate way. 2009 is over, and I admit that at times I felt powerless, inadequate to deal with situations with friends that resulted in them turning away from this awesome God. Sure there were times of victory. but I lost some good friends last year, friends that made conscious decisions to turn away from the church, from our fellowship, and I have trouble not taking that personally. When people make decisions that I know will affect their eternity and their love for God, and affect their families, I don’t like it, it really bothers me. That is why I want this Journey 2010 to be life-impacting.

When we decide to go on a Journey with God, to discover His power, He will show us what in our lives is hindering our view of Him. No matter the problem in our lives that hinders our Journey, they will center upon three areas:

  1. Temporal Value System
  2. Bitterness
  3. Moral Impurity

John reveals this to us in 1 John 2:16: For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.

The world desires to keep us from this Journey 2010. The world wants us to see a God who is powerless. So these problems that are in every persons life, will try to dog us, to drag us down, limit our seeing Him who is invisible. We must recognize this when this happens, and deal with it.

In the movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal plays a radio advertising salesman going through a mid-life crisis. He and his friends deal with the humdrumness of life by participating in a cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado—an experience that turns out to be a kind of epiphany for all of them. At the end of the movie as they prepare to return to New York and the familiar routine, Billy Crystal explains to one of those friends the concept of a “do-over.”

We Get a Do-Over

Crystal is addressing his pal who, nearing 40, feels he is at a dead-end.

Brunno Kirby: I’m at a dead-end. I’m almost 40 years old. I’ve wasted my life.
Crystal: Yeah, but now you got a chance to start over. You know? Phil, remember when we were kids? And we’d be playing ball and the ball would get stuck up in a tree? And we’d yell “Do over!” Huh?
Kirby: Yeah.
Crystal: You got a clean slate..

Crystal tells him that he can start over again. His life can be a do-over.

In a follow-up (comical) scene he sees the light:

Kirby: You know you were right, Mitch. My life is a “do-over”. It’s time to get started.
Crystal: I hope I can help.
Kirby: Now I’m gonna go home, and I’m gonna get Kim pregnant.
Crystal: I hope I can help.

Something like that happens every January 1. We all  get a “do-over”—another chance to do it right. If 2009 was a tough year for you, cheer up. It’s a brand-new year! There is a biblical perspective we need to remember at the beginning of a new year. It’s a perspective that’s wrapped up in one simple word. If you remember not to use this particular word this year, your chances of succeeding are going to go through the roof. In fact, I think you’ll be happier if you make a decision here and now to cut this word right out of your vocabulary. I am designating it the “No-No” word for 2010. Just as we do with our small granddaughter, we say “No-No” to using this word.

Cutting this one word from your life will force you to open your eyes to God, to His greatness. That is what Journey 2010 is all about-discovering the greatness of our Creator God. Perhaps you saw the recent news report of the Mom who had a heart attack while delivering her baby. The baby was delivered by emergency C Section (without anesthesia) and her newborn baby was delivered without a heartbeat as well.

Dr Martin said she did not have a “great explanation” for why Mrs Hermanstorfer’s heartbeat returned.
“Somewhere between four and five minutes she had been without heart rate and had stopped breathing a minute or two prior to her heart stopping,” she said.
The doctors were then able to resuscitate the baby.
Despite tests, she said doctors were still not sure about what had happened.
However Mrs Hermanstorfer and her husband Mike have said they believed it was down to a miracle.
She said: “I got a second chance in life.”
Dr Martin said she would take help from wherever it came.

This world ignores God. Clearly God was at work here. Perhaps he has great plans for this baby. The world just looks the other way rather than give glory to God.

This year I want to Give Glory to God! I want this to be a Hallelujah Year. So by official Pastoral Proclamation I am banning one word from use at Pleasant Prairie. That word is “CAN’T”. If you catch anyone saying this word at church, it will be a $5 fine. If I use it in a sermon after today, fine me $5.

That’s right. The one word you shouldn’t say in 2010 is the little word can’t. We use it all the time, don’t we?

We say, “I can’t lose weight.” “I just can’t seem to save money.”“I try and try but I can’t find the time to read the Bible.” “After what she did, I can’t forgive her.” “No matter how hard I try, I can’t change, I can’t quit smoking, quit ….”

If 2010 is to be a year of Journeying with our Mighty God, it will be a CAN DO year.

Our Can-Do God

In order to understand and embrace this wonderful CAN DO God, we need to understand a few “CAN’TS from God’s Word. These Cannot’s help us understand how we can live in God’s will. Amazing how the cannot’s of God are not negative, but liberating to see Him! So let’s understand them, make them our foundation for our journey 2010, and then move on with our CAN-DO God!

So here are the foundational Truth’s for our Journey into the Will of God and seeing Him as our CAN DO GOD!

God Limited

  • Accept Yourself: Mt 5:36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
  • God is It!: Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 1 Cor 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Mark 3:25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
  • Care for your Soul! Mk 7:18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him

We must accept ourselves as God designed us, we must decide that He is Lord, and we must decide that the condition of our soul is of primary importance in our life.

God Ready

  • Father uses kids as excuse for not helping a stranger in need: Luke 11:7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything
  • Man uses his wife, family as excuse for not following Christ: Luke 14:20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’

If you journey with God you must be ready to go when He calls. No excuses, No delays.

God Prepared:

  • Spiritually Healthy: Mt 7: 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.
  • Prayers: Mk 9:29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
  • Pay Attention: John 8:43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.
  • Value God’s Word:  John 10:34-36 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
  • Know the Holy Spirit: John 14:17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
  • Abide: John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
  • Seek Truth: 2 Cor 13:8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.
  • Let Go: 1 Tim 6:7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
  • Know His Faithfulness: 2 Tim 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
  • Avoid Temptation: James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
  • Seek the Unshakeable: Heb 12:27-28 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

God-Focused

  • Self-Denial:Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
  • Single Minded: Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
  • Born Again: John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
  • Look to God: John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.
  • Lose the Flesh: Rom 8:7-8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
  • Lose the Sin: 1 John 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
  • Forgive and Love: 1 John 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

Ok, Now to Get rid of Can’t from our lives, so we can focus on our Can Do God! I think you can make a persuasive case that “can’t” is the single most destructive word in the English language.

  • It destroys motivation.
  • It shifts responsibility.
  • It denies reality.

When you say “can’t”—especially with reference to the problems of life—you are simply giving up without a fight. You are walking off the field, turning in your uniform, turning in your helmet and admitting defeat—all without a battle. You are saying, “I’ve lost and it’s not even worth trying.

Suppose that you knew you could … in 2010? Could what? You could get out of debt. You could lose 20 pounds. You could restore a broken friendship. You could have a relationship with your spouse that is giggly and mushy again. You could get a new job. You could get a decent raise. You could get well. You could overcome your shyness. You name it. Suppose you knew that this year you could do it. What a difference that would make. What a great year 2010 would be!

I want us to see that God is our Can Do God. If we are willing to focus on Him, depend upon Him, abide in Him, God will open up to us how truly Amazing and Awesome He is. I firmly believe that this year you can do everything God intends for you to do. You can live in His Will, you can live in His power!

No matter how hard, no matter how difficult, no matter how impossible things may seem right now. If you want God to be your Strength, in 2010 you can!

Many Versions of One Verse

Our Can-Do God is revealed in one verse. You’ve heard it, you’ve read it, and most of you have memorized it. The verse is Philippians 4:13. It reads like this in the familiar King James Version: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Here are some other readings:

  • I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ESV
  • I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me. GW
  • I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. HCSB
  • I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength. NCV
  • I can do everything through him who gives me strength. NIV
  • Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. MSG
  • I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. TEV
  • For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. NLT
  • for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power. TLB

J.B. Phillips gave us this colorful rendering: “I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me.”

The Amplified Version combines all:

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]. Philippians 4:13

No matter what version you use, Philippians 4:13 is a verse of unlimited possibility. There is no way I can convey to you in this message the power this verse can have for your life. This verse must be experienced, but most of us take it for granted and say “ho-hum”. This verse has lost its power to amaze us, to challenge us, to encourage us and to convict us.

We need to see it in light of a New Marketing Campaign, calling it the P413x Extreme Christianity Fitness Plan!

P413x “Can-Do” Christianity

Here, then, is the question before us in 2010: The Bible says that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. “All things.” Can you really do “all things” through Christ? Is that just wishful thinking, just another piece of hopeful religious propaganda? Or is it literally true?

“All things?” Most people would say, “Some things, yes. All things, no.” But the Bible clearly says, “All things.” Is this just hyperbole or is it literally true? Is this a verse upon which you can build a coherent, optimistic philosophy of life or is it just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo?

Can you do “all things” in 2010? I am going to give you four answers to that question. Along with each answer, I will also give you a principle to think about. These four answers—taken together with the four principles—make up what I call “P413x Can Do Christianity.”

Can you really do “all things” in 2010? Yes with “P413x Can-Do Christianity!”

1. You Can If You Want To.

The P413x Principle of Personal Desire. Before you can, you must want to. Before the deed, there must be the desire. In order to accomplish your goals in 2010, you’ve got to decide what it is you truly want to do. I love the movie called “Rudy”.

Rudy Ruettiger harbored a dream to play for Ara Parseghian and the Fighting Irish football team, despite being merely 5’6″ and 165 pounds. Ruettiger earned a place on the Notre Dame scout team, a practice-squad that helps the varsity team practice for games.

After Parseghian stepped down after the 1974 season, Dan Devine was named head coach. In Ruettiger’s last opportunity to play for Notre Dame at home, Devine put him into a game as defensive end against Georgia Tech on November 8, 1975. In the final play of Ruettiger’s senior season with the Fighting Irish, he sacked the Georgia Tech quarterback. Rudy was carried off the field by his teammates following the game. (Only one other Notre Dame player holds that honor).

The real Rudy says: Prepare for your Dream. “Preparation is what comes from struggle. Knowledge comes from preparation. These are the elements that pave the road to your Dream. If we do not prepare we will not succeed. Set your goals and pursue your Dreams with all your heart. If you miss a goal, don’t quit, reset it! You just need to learn more … step by step you will win!”

Now there were a lot of football games over the past four days—a fact many wives discovered when their husbands suddenly turned into TV zombies and sat in front of the tube 12 hours a day. One phrase we hear a lot when it is a closely fought battle (Penn St and LSU, Oregon and Ohio State, not MU and Navy)-“They Wanted It More”. That DESIRE is what winners have.

Here is how you prepare and get your desire and your want to going in the right direction: should be:

Hebrews 12:1 “let us strip off everything that hinders us, as well as the sin which dogs our feet, and let us run the race that we have to run with patience, our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and the goal of our faith. For he himself endured a cross and thought nothing of its shame because of the joy he knew would follow his suffering; and he is now seated at the right hand of God’s throne. Think constantly of him enduring all that sinful men could say against him and you will not lose your purpose or your courage

One team wanted it more. Our Savior Jesus Christ wanted it More! That is why He went to the Cross!

There’s an important lesson for us to learn. Isn’t it a principle in life that you usually get the things you really go after? Isn’t it true that if you really want something with all your heart, and if you focus all your energies toward one supreme goal, that’s what you’re going to achieve? That’s not the end of the story, but it is the place you have to begin. If you want it badly enough, you have a fighting chance of getting it. If you don’t really care, then it probably won’t happen. So many people who say they want to do things really don’t want to. If you don’t aim for anything, you won’t accomplish anything.

Can’t Versus Won’t

One thing I have learned dealing with people in the ministry, and before that with employees; you get a lot further in dealing with your problems when you are honest about yourself. People never get anywhere making excuses or blaming others. If you’ve got a problem in your life, you’re going to get better faster if you stop saying “can’t” and start saying “won’t.” Once you start saying “won’t” you’ve put the matter in the right framework.

We say, “I can’t lose weight.” For most of us that really means, “I won’t lose weight.” We say, “I can’t forgive.” For most of us that means, “I won’t forgive.” We say, “I can’t find time to read the Bible.” For most of us that means, “I won’t find time to read the Bible.” “I can’t love my spouse, is I won’t love my spouse…”

When you say “won’t” instead of “can’t,” you have started to tell the truth. For most of us “can’t” is simply a convenient excuse. Is it possible for you to do “all things” this year? Yes it is. But first you must want to. That’s step number one—the P413x Principle of Personal Desire.

Can you really do “all things” in 2010?

2. You Can If God Wants You To.

The P413x Principle of Divine Direction.

It’s crucial for you to understand this second answer because it is clearly stated in the text. “I can do all things through Christ.” This verse is not a blank check. It’s not as if Paul is saying, “I can do anything I can dream up.” No. If you read the context, he is speaking about the varying and sometimes difficult circumstances of life.

  • Verse 11—”I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
  • Verse 12—”Sometimes I find myself with plenty of food and sometimes I have nothing to eat. Sometimes I have a roof over my head and sometimes I don’t.” “I know what it is to have money in the bank and I know what it is to be flat broke. And I’ve learned to be content no matter what my situation might be.” (The Jimized version)
  • Then verse 13—”I have learned through the power of Jesus Christ that I can face whatever comes my way.” If it’s good, I can enjoy it. If it’s not so good, I can deal with it.

Why? Because I have access to the everlasting strength of Jesus Christ. Let me put this teaching in one sentence:

Through Jesus Christ you can do everything God wants you to do this year. You can face everything he wants you to face, you can fight every battle he wants you to fight, you can obey every command, you can endure every trial, and you can overcome every temptation through Jesus Christ.

“If God Is In It, You Can Do It”

Back to Rudy. At one point he wanted to quit. Here is what happened…

(Charles Dutton)Fortune: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey what are you doing here don’t you have practice?
Rudy: Not anymore I quit.
Fortune: Oh, well since when are you the quitting kind?
Rudy: I don’t know I just don’t see the point anymore.
Fortune: So you didn’t make the dress list, there are greater tragedies in the world.
Rudy: I wanted to run out of that Tunnel for my dad to prove to everyone that I worked…
Fortune: PROVE WHAT?
Rudy: That I was somebody.
Fortune: Oh you are so full of crap. Your five foot nothin’, a hundred and nothin’ and you hung in with the best college football team in the land for two years, and you were also going to walk out of here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame in this life time you don’t have to prove nothing to nobody except yourself and after what you gone through if you haven’t done that by now, it aint gonna never happen, now go on back.

God doesn’t have to prove anything to you. He has done so much or you, you simply need to trust Him and say OK be my Can-Do God. Let me share a simple phrase with you: “If God is in it, you can do it.” That brings it all together, doesn’t it?

  • If God is in your difficulty, you can face it.
  • If God is somehow in your failure, you can overcome it.
  • If God is in your dreams, your dreams will come to pass.
  • If God is in your goals, you can achieve every single one of them.
  • If God is in your prayers, he will not only hear them, he will also answer them.

“If you are going through hell, keep going.”~ Winston Churchill

Can you really do “all things” in 2010?

3. You Can If You Rely on Jesus Christ.

This is the P413x Principle of Divine Enablement.

We come now to the heart of the verse: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” The last part of that verse is a participle in the Greek. The word itself means “to pour strength into.” It’s like pouring milk into a pitcher or water into a glass or coffee into a cup. It’s the picture of something empty that is filled by an outside source. It’s the picture of a believer facing the problems of life—hopeless and helpless—and in that situation; Jesus Christ pours his strength into the believer’s life. He strengthens us—by pouring his strength into us.

This is what makes Philippians 4:13 totally different from things like Positive Thinking, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” and other purely secular approaches to life. Those techniques may be useful and may in fact help you to a limited degree, but if that’s all you’ve got, you still don’t have anything that impacts your heart.

You may get up every day, look in the mirror and say, “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.” That’s a nice thought, and if it helps you, okay. But that’s a far cry from the truth contained in this verse. How far will Positive Mental Attitude get you when you lose your job, when you come home and your wife has left you, when the stock market crashes, when your daughter has just decided to have an abortion? Where’s the hope for life? What will you cling to then? How will you find the strength to go on? Where is the anchor for your soul?

It takes more than positive thinking.

You’ve got to have Jesus Christ on the inside. Are we who believe better than other people? No. Are we stronger? No. Are we spared the problems of life? No. Are we tougher than others? No. Does God give us a free pass so that what happens to others doesn’t happen to us? No. Are we wiser than others? No. Do we suffer? Yes. Do we know heartache and disappointment? Yes. Do we see our dreams crumble? Yes. Do we face opposition? Yes. Do we get sick? Yes. Do our loved ones die? Yes. Do we know tragedy, tears and death? Yes. All that anyone else suffers we suffer too.

What makes the difference? Only one thing. Jesus Christ within. We have the power of the indwelling Christ and that makes all the difference in the world.

Is it enough? Is Jesus Christ enough for the problems of life? Is his broken body enough? Is his shed blood sufficient? Is his intercession in heaven able to sustain us? Can his power meet the problems of life? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, and the saints across the ages testify that Jesus Christ is enough.

You can do “all things” if this year you rely on Jesus Christ. Not on your own strength, not on your own power, not on your own wisdom, and not on your own ability to figure things out. But if you will say, “Lord Jesus, this year I’m relying on you,” you can do all things through Christ.

Can you really do “all things” in 2010?

4. You Can If You Start Today and Don’t Look Back.

This is the P413x Principle of the Personal Choice.

One question: Which way are you going this year? Are you going backwards into 2009 or are you going forward into 2010? Your answer makes all the difference. So many people I know live in the past, worry about the past, fret over the past. Forget it! 2009 is over, done, gone, kaput, finished. It’s never coming back. You can’t go back even if you want to. The old year is over, the new one is dawning. Wrap up the old year and give it to the Lord. Then strike out in 2010 to do great things for God.

Let me put it all together. Can you really do “all things” in 2010? Yes, you can. Here are the four P413x principles:

  • Personal Desire
  • Divine Direction
  • Divine Enablement
  • Personal Choice

Notice that the first one is personal, the next two are divine, and the last one is personal. There’s perfect balance here. Two depend on you, two depend on God. Does it depend on you? Yes. Does it depend on God? Yes. Think of the verse this way: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It begins with I, ends with me, and Jesus Christ is in the middle.

Let me boil it down to four key words: “I can through Christ.” To make it clearer, let me explain what I am not saying:

  • I am not saying, “I can do all things.”  Those are the words of a boaster.
  • I am not saying, “I can do some things.”  Those are the words of a doubter.
  • I am saying, “I can do all things through Christ.” Those are the words of a believer.

You can do in 2010 everything God wants you to do. You can fulfill his will in your life. You can obey every command, endure every trial and overcome every temptation. You can do everything God wants you to do this year—through Jesus Christ.

There is, then, one word that is our NO NO Word for 2010. That’s the little word “can’t.”  Instead we need to make “I CAN THROUGH CHRIST” our motto for 2010. We need to write this out and put it in our car, in our bathroom, on every wall in our house, at work: Instead of I can’t, we say:

“I CAN THROUGH CHRIST”

“William Carey… dedicated his life to spreading the gospel in India. Serving as a missionary there from 1793 until his death in 1834, he… [hoped] to translate Scripture into as many Indian languages and dialects as possible….

Carey supervised the creation of India’s first printing press. He established a large print shop in the city of Serampore, where he did his Bible translation. The building was two hundred by fifty feet, and twenty translators worked there in addition to typesetters, compositors, pressmen, binders, and other writers. On March 11, 1812, Carey was teaching in Calcutta. While he was gone, a fire started in the printing room…. Despite many hours of exhaustive efforts to fight the fire, the building burned to the ground. Just five pieces of equipment were saved. Carey’s entire library, his completed Sanskrit dictionary, part of his Bengal dictionary, two grammar books, and ten translations of the Bible were lost. Gone also were the type sets for printing fourteen different languages. Vast quantities of English paper, priceless dictionaries, deeds, and account books were all gone. When Carey returned to Serampore and surveyed the scene, he wept and said, “In one short evening the labours of years are consumed. How unsearchable are the ways of God. I had lately brought some things to the utmost perfection of which they seemed capable, and contemplated the missionary establishment with perhaps too much self-congratulation. The Lord has laid me low, that I may look more simply to him.”

Although he was heartbroken, he did not take much time to mourn. With great resiliency Carey wrote, “The loss is heavy, but as traveling a road the second time is usually done with greater ease than the first time, so I trust the work will lose nothing of real value. We are not discouraged; indeed the work is already begun again in every language. We are cast down but not in despair.”

Carey resolved to trust God that from the embers would come a better press and more scholarly translations. Within a few months Carey had set up shop in a warehouse. Little did Carey know that the fire would bring him and his work to the attention of people all over Europe and America as well as India. In just fifty days in England and Scotland alone, about ten thousand pounds were raised for rebuilding Carey’s publishing enterprise. So much money was coming in that Andrew Fuller, Carey’s friend and a leader of his mission in England, told his committee when he returned from a fund-raising trip, “We must stop the contributions.”

Many volunteers came to India to help as well. By 1832 Carey’s rebuilt and expanded printing operation had published complete Bibles or portions of the Bible in forty-four languages and dialects!

William Carey lived his life with the following creed:

There are grave difficulties on every hand, and more are looming ahead. Therefore we must go forward. (William Carey was a I CAN THROUGH CHRIST kind of guy!)

Where are you as we look forward to 2010?

  • Are you facing difficulties ahead?
  • Are facing marital difficulties?
  • Are you facing financial difficulties?
  • Career difficulties?

Some of you are facing tasks that are so difficult that it seems impossible. The year ahead seems impossible. Don’t despair, don’t give up, don’t think you are powerless.

Let’s get with God and live the P413x “Can-Do” way:

You can climb any mountain in 2010. You can do it. When you come to the end of this year, you’ll say, “Wow, God, You are amazing”

The Little Engine said I think I can, but in Jesus we say I know I can!

Let’s make this very practical. In the space below, write down three goals that you believe God wants you to reach in 2010. It can be personal, professional, relating to your family, your marriage, your friends, your career, your dreams, any part of your life at all.

A Place to Begin

With Christ’s help, in 2010 I can …

  1. ______________________________
  2. ______________________________
  3. ______________________________

What are you trusting Jesus Christ to do in your life in 2010? Are you willing to live in His Will?

Can you really do “all things” in 2010? With the P413x System of Jesus Christ you can.


Parable of Prodigal SonSome suggest we no longer call this the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but the Parable of the Lost Sons.

I suggest that we should call it the parable of the Lost Son and the Selfish Child.

Jesus said the Father had two SONS, using the Greek word “huios” for both. Then the younger SON (huios) left, declaring his freedom, and in that culture became DEAD to his Father. When his Father saw him afar off, he leaped from his chair and ran to meet him. Rejoicing, he told everyone that this SON (huios) of mine was DEAD and is ALIVE again. (has come to life again – anadzah’o)

The younger brother was his SON again. This the Father demonstrated with the ring, the robe and the sandals. They meant the Father had RESTORED his RELATIONSHIP with his SON! WHY? Because our Father is is the Father of LIFE, of HOPE, of LIVING RELATIONSHIPS.

God of the LivingJesus declared this when he answered the Sadducees  “He is not God of the dead, but of the living.Matthew 22:32. The Word further declares:

Not only is God the God of the Living, but Paul declared this to the Romans: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit(Rom. 15:13).

Peter further explained that this is a Living Hope by the Resurrection:Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Pet. 1:3).

The ResurrectionGod is the God of Hope by the Resurrection — in other words, by the triumph of Life over death. This means that in every dark situation, God never despairs and never gives up. For our Father knows the tremendous power of Resurrection, of Life.

Huios vs TeknonThe Father had two SONS, but only one knew the power of RESURRECTION. In fact, when the Elder Brother argued with the Father, the Father called him my CHILD (teknon). Calling him a child was like saying “I know you are mine by birth, but you are not my SON, because we don’t have a REAL RELATIONSHIP!”

Jesus was never referred to as TEKNON of God. He was always called the HUIOS of God. We, on the other hand, are called the TEKNON of God by John to indicate we are BORN into the family of God:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name.  John 1:12.

The Elder Brother Refused to Go In

Elder Brother Refuses to go in

Both Younger and Elder Brothers were the children of the Father, but as our Parable ends, only one was the SON of the Father. The Younger was the Son because he had come back to life and had come into a LIVING RELATIONSHIP with his Father.

The Elder Brother was a child of the Father, but there was no RELATIONSHIP.

The shocking truth of this Parable is that only the younger son reflected the character of the LIVING FATHER. The sinner was more like his Father than the righteous Elder Brother. WHY? Because the Younger Son was ALIVE, while the Elder Brother was DEAD in his self-righteousness.

Like Father Like SonMatthew 5:9 & 45 use the word huios and it refers to those who reflect the character of God. The Greek word for child or children is teknon. In contrast to huios, it means the fact of birth whereas huios stresses the dignity and character of the relationship. Another aspect of this Greek word, huios,  involves “likeness.” The New Testament contains the concept expressed in the proverb, “Like father, like son” (Matt. 5:45,48). It was typical Hebrew usage to employ the word “son” to express likeness. For instance, those who are peacemakers will be called God’s sons because they are like God (Matt. 5:9). God’s likeness, His image, will be “stamped” upon those who have been brought to maturity and adopted as sons (Rom. 8:29; I John 3:2-3).

One way to understand the difference between the Elder and Younger is to understand another use of HUIOS with the addition of thesia or “huiosthesia” – “adopted or placed as sons”. In the Roman world, the father adopted as a son his own child. Birth made him a child (teknon); adoption made him a son (huios). Between the period of birth and adoption, there were stages of growth, education and discipline, until the maturity was reached for adoption into sonship. With adoption the son was recognized as one who could faithfully represent the father. He had arrived at the point of maturity, where the father could entrust him with the responsibility of overseeing the family business. The son becomes the “heir” of his father’s inheritance. Birth gives one the right to the inheritance, but adoption gives one the participation in the inheritance.

Elder Brother Child Corinthians BabiesThe Elder Brother assumed upon the FATHER’S Stuff because of his natural birth, because he was the first born child. But what the Father was declaring was the SONSHIP of the younger brother because of the RESURRECTION and their restored RELATIONSHIP.

Paul referred to the Corinthians as babies, still on milk. They had been born into the family of God, but had never matured, even though they had been enriched in speech and in knowledge of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:6). In fact, he said they were not lacking in any spiritual gift. The Corinthians probably saw themselves as the Elder Brother saw himself – the Mature Ones. But the Father called him a child, and Paul called the Corinthains babies!

Secret of SonshipWhat makes the difference? How do we Elder Brother Types become SONS? Paul gives us the clue when he says “you are still of the flesh.” What does that mean to born again children of God?

It means we are still walking around in our stinking rotting corpses. And the flesh is abhorred by the Father.  Paul shouts the secret of SONSHIP to all Elder Brothers:

And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. 1 Corinthians 2:12 (NLT)

We have a LIVING RELATIONSHIP with the FATHER of the LIVING, but it is only through the Holy Spirit! We must walk after the Holy Spirit to enjoy this Living Relationship with our Father. It is not on the basis of our works that we have this living relationship. It is on the basis of the Holy Spirit being allowed to LIVE in us!

The Father went outside and pleaded with his Elder Child. The word for plead is paraclete, the same word we use for the Holy Spirit! Picture the Holy Spirit pleading with all us EBT’s to reckon our flesh and works dead, and to FOLLOW HIM, to Walk in the LIFE of the Holy Spirit! This is the only way we will enjoy any RELATIONSHIP with the FATHER!

He is the FATHER of the LIVING, the FATHER of those who have died to the flesh, and now walk in the Living Relationship of the Holy Spirit within us! The younger brother experienced that death and so was welcomed to LIFE. The Elder Brother saw no need to die, and so found no LIFE.

Alive but actually dead to GodElder Brothers must realize they can be all righteous and moral but inwardly be walking corpses, dead to God!  Our morality is worthless without a LIVING RELATIONSHIP with our LIVING FATHER!

God is all about the RESURRECTION! He is all about LIFE! And ther can be no SONSHIP without the RELATIONSHIP! The Resurrection will bring all Elder Brothers (and younger) into RELATIONSHIP with the Father!

Most people who read and study The Parable of the Prodigal Son concentrate completely on the character of the younger son, his repentance, and the father’s forgiveness. And yet look at the text. It doesn’t end with the return of the prodigal. Almost half of the story is about the older son. The story is about two sons, who are both alienated from the father, who are both assaulting the unity of the family. Jesus wants us to compare and contrast them. The younger son is “lost”—that is easy to see. We see him shaming his father, ruining his family, sleeping with prostitutes, and we say, “yes, there’s someone who is spiritually lost.” But Jesus’ point is that the older son is lost too. Let’s learn from the text:

      1. A new understanding of Lostness,
      2. Signs of being an Elder Brother
      3. What we can do to join the Feast?.

1. A startling new understanding of LOSTNESS—verse 28.

  • The elder brother would have known that the day of the prodigal’s return was the greatest day in his father’s life.
  • The father has “killed the fattened calf”, an enormously expensive extravagance in a culture where even having meat at meals was considered a delicacy.
  • The older son realized his father was ecstatic with joy. Yet he refused to go into the biggest feast his father has ever put on. This was a remarkable, deliberate act of disrespect. It was his way of saying, “I won’t be part of this family nor respect your headship of it.
  • And the father had to “go out” to plead with him. Just as he went out to bring his alienated younger son into the family, now he had to do the same for the older brother.

Do you realize what Jesus is saying to his listeners, and to us? The Elder Brother is lost ! At the Very Least He is Missing out on Fellowship with His Father and Brother.

  • The father represents God himself, and the meal is the feast of salvation. In the end, then, the younger son, the immoral man, comes in and is saved, but the older son, the good son, refuses to go in and is lost
  • The Pharisees who were listening to this parable knew what that meant. It was a complete reversal of everything they believed. You can almost hear them gasp as the story ends.
  • And what is it that is keeping the elder brother out? It’s because: “All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed…” (v.29). The good son is not lost in spite of his good behavior, but because of his good behavior. So it is not his sin keeping him out, but his righteousness.
  • The gospel is neither religion nor is it irreligion; it is not morality nor is it immorality. This was completely astonishing and confusing to Jesus’ hearers at the time—and it may even be astonishing and confusing to you

Why is the older son lost?

New understanding of Lostnessa) There is No Relationship.
b) There is No Companionship.
c) There is Only a Selfish Child.

The Father Parakaleo – came along side, is a picture of the Holy Spirit, pleading! Come in, Fellowship with me!

The younger brother wanted the father’s wealth, but not the father. So how did he get what he wanted? He left home. He broke the moral rules. But it becomes evident by the end that the elder brother also wanted selfish control of the father’s wealth. He was very unhappy with the father’s use of the possessions—the robe, the ring, the calf. But while the younger brother got control by taking his stuff and running away, we see that the elder brother got control by staying home and being very good. He felt that now he has the right to tell the father what to do with his possessions because he had obeyed him perfectly.

So there are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord.

  • One is by breaking all the laws and being bad.
  • One is by keeping all the laws and being good.

If I can be so good that God has to answer my prayer, give me a good life, and take me to heaven, then in all I do I may be looking to Jesus to be my helper and my rewarder—but he isn’t my Savior. I am then my own Savior.

The difference between a religious person and a true Christian is that the religious person obeys God to get control over God, and things from God, but the Christian obeys just to get God, just to love and please and draw closer to him.

2. ARE YOU AN ELDER BROTHER TYPE?—verses 29-30.

Elder Brother TypesSome people are complete elder brothers. They go to church and obey the Bible—but out of expectation that then God owes them. They have never understood the Biblical gospel at all. But many Christians, who know the gospel, are nonetheless elder-brotherish. Despite the fact that they know the gospel of salvation by grace with their heads, their hearts go back to an elder-brotherish “default mode” of self-salvation.

Here is how to tell if you are infected with the Spirit of the ELDER BROTHER:

  • AN ANGRY SPIRIT (v.28—“became angry”).

But he was angry (ōrgisthē). First aorist (ingressive) passive indicative. But he became angry, he flew into a rage (orgē). This was the explosion as the result of long resentment towards the wayward brother and suspicion of the father’s partiality for the erring son.

If you believe God owes you a good life…
You will be angry…Why does my buddy have a better life…Why is all this going wrong…
Anger is a characteristic-frustrated, hostile
Elder brothers believe that God owes them a comfortable and good life if they try hard and live up to standards—and they have! So they say: “my life ought to be going really well!” and when it doesn’t they get angry. But they are forgetting Jesus. He lived a better life than any of us—but suffered terribly.

  • A Selfish SPIRIT (would not go in)

Would not go in (ouk ēthelen eiselthein). Imperfect tense (was not willing, refused) and aorist active (ingressive) infinitive. Selfish people are Fleshly People. They are Dead, but don’t realize it.

The Elder was dead and did not realize it. The Younger was dead, and realized it.

  • A SPIRIT OF Joyless and Dutiful Obedience (v.29—“I’ve been slaving for you”).

Duty without beauty.
Younger son – I’m not worthy, make me a slave, Father makes him a Son.
Elder son – I’m your obedient son, so he becomes the obedient slave.
You go to college to study to make money
In the world you spend money because it is beauty.
Totally results oriented, becomes a grind, a duty
Elder Brothers pray but not adoring God.
Prayer is a duty, not a beauty.
I obey and obey but I don’t get anything out of it.
Everything went wrong becasue he was faithful and obedient.

Elder brothers obey God as a means to an end—as a way to get the things they really love. Of course, obedience to God is sometimes extremely hard. But elder brothers find obedience virtually always a joyless,
mechanical, slavish thing as a result.

  • A SPIRIT OF Coldness to Younger Brother-types (v.30—“this son of yours”).

You Don’t Rejoice in what the Father Rejoices in. You have Religious and class superiority. If you ground your value in success or hard work, you have to look down your nose at the poor, the perceived lazy.  When you look at people of different races, classes, you look down at them or creeped out at them you are an elder brother.  The older son will not even “own” his brother. Elder brothers are too disdainful of others unlike themselves to be effective in evangelism. Elder brothers, who pride themselves on their doctrinal and moral purity, unavoidably feel superior to those who do not have these things. If you hate other cultural styles and customs, you are an elder brother.
You don’t grow in love in sweetness. Do evidences of the joy and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus doesn’t lash out at them, condemn the Parisees, the ones who will kill him. You are alienated from the Father’s heart, my child, While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us.
The Cross is the greatest challenge to us. We are so messed up that nothing short of the cross will save you. See the humiliation of the Cross, and the Affirmation of His Love for You.

  • A DOUBTING SPIRIT – Lacking Assurance of the Father’s Love (v.29—you never threw me a party).

As long as you are trying to earn your salvation by controlling God through your goodness, you will never be sure you have been good enough. What are the signs of this? Every time something goes wrong in your life you wonder if it’s a punishment. Another sign is irresolvable guilt. You can’t be sure you’ve repented deeply enough, so you beat yourself up over what you did. Lastly, there is a lack of any sense of intimacy with God in your prayer life. You may pray a lot of prayers asking for things, but not sense his love.

  • An Unforgiving, Judgmental Spirit.

The elder brother does not want the father to forgive the younger brother. It is impossible to forgive someone if you feel “I would never do anything that bad!” You have to be something of an elder brother to refuse to forgive.

3. What we can do about this spiritual condition?

How do we Go in to the FeastAnd he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ” Luke 15:31-32

First, we have to EXPERIENCE DEATH TO SELF

  • Jesus ends the parable with the lostness of the older brother in order to get across the point that it is a more dangerous spiritual condition. The younger brother knew he was alienated from the father, but the elder brother did not.
  • If you tell moral, religious people who are trying to be good, trying to obey the Bible so God will bless them—that they are alienated from God, they will just be offended. If you know you are sick you may go to a doctor; if you don’t know you’re sick you won’t—you’ll just die.
  • Moralistic religion works on the principle, “I obey, therefore God accepts me.” The gospel works on the principle, “I am accepted by God through Jesus Christ, therefore I obey.”
  • These are two radically different, even opposite, dynamics. Yet both sets of people sit in church together, both pray, both obey the Ten Commandments, but for radically different reasons. And because they do these things for radically different reasons, they produce radically different results—different kinds of character. One produces anger, joyless compliance, superiority, insecurity, and a condemning spirit. The other slowly but inevitably produces contentment, joy, humility, poise, and a forgiving spirit.
  • Unless a person and a congregation knows the difference between general religiosity and the true gospel, people will constantly fall into moralism and elder-brotherishness. And if you call younger brothers to receive Christ and live for him without making this distinction clear, they will automatically think you are inviting them to become elder brothers.
  • Must learn to see yourself through the eyes of the Younger Brother.

Second, we HAVE TO EXPERIENCE LIFE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

The Father Entreated (parekalei). Imperfect tense, he kept on beseeching him. This is a picture of the Holy Spirit pleading for the Elder Brother to surrender to His Control, to allow Him to be in charge, and thereby experience the feasting of FULL FELLOWSHIP with the Father and the Son.

  • Remember, again, whom Jesus is speaking to (vv.1-2). Jesus is speaking to his mortal enemies, the men he knows will kill him. On the one hand, this is an astonishingly bold challenge to them. He’s talking to those who want to kill him and telling them that they are lost, that they fundamentally misunderstand God’s salvation and purpose in the world, and that they are trampling on the heart of God.
  • But at the same time, he is also being so loving and tender. When the father comes out to the older brother, that is Jesus pleading with his enemies. He is urging them to see their fatal error. Jesus does not scream at his enemies, or smite them, but lovingly urges them to repent and come into his love.

Climb the Ladder to HeavenAnd so we have a foreshadowing of that great moment on the cross when he says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). This love toward his enemies made him vulnerable and cost him his life. On the cross, instead of blasting his enemies, he lovingly took the penalty of their sins on himself. While we were his enemies, Christ died for us (Rom 5:10).  Knowing what he did for us must drain us of our self-righteousness and our insecurity. We were so sinful he had to die for us. But we were so loved that he was glad to die for us. That takes away both the pride and the fear that makes us elder brothers.

We must stop trying to climb our own ladder to heaven. It is fruitless, it is hopeless. Only when we go to the cross and die to what we are and want and hope, and reach up and take the hand of Jesus – will we have the proper relationship with our Heavenly Father. We will be ALIVE, partakers of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Younger Brother returnsWhat was the difference between the younger and the elder brother that meant that one could enjoy the feast and the other could not? The Prodigal or younger son feasted with the Father, while the Elder Brother did not go in, even though the Father begged him.

Why is it that some Christians experience the power and presence of God and some do do not? Why do some of God’s children live victorious lives while others are in a state of constant defeat? The difference is not explained by the presence or absence of the Father. He is present with every child of His.

banquet The-Invitation-PostersGod is Father to both sons, yet only one enjoyed the feast. Why? The younger son had come to a place of deep reverence for his Father, while the Elder Brother had not. The prodigal son recognized the Divine ownership of his life, while the Elder Brother was still his own master.

Peter wrote “Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15) Elder Brothers will never feast with the Father until they realize He is Lord of every aspect of their life. Elder Brothers must let go of everything, and realize it is all the Father’s. He is Lord!

The Prodigal returned with nothing. Even his reputation and standing were gone. He had become as nothing. He had no where to go but to the Father’s arms. Instead of scorn, his Father kissed him and opened his storehouse of grace to him. Can you feel the great reverence and humility that must have overwhelmed the prodigal’s heart? Such a Father! Such a Relationship! His Father became the Lord of his life!

Younger and Elder BrothersThe Elder Brother clung tighter to his world, and refused to reverence the Father’s wishes. He gained his world, but lost the Father’s Heart!

Elder Brother, how is your relationship with the Father? Do you feast with Him every day? Or is your relationship cold, lifeless, sterile? Open your arms to Him as your Lord. Realize you are nothing without Him.

Father: I want your Life! Teach me that I am nothing without you. Nothing in the world matters except my relationship with YOU!


Journey of an Elder Brother Day Three

Joseph cast into pitJoseph was a younger brother, but had the characteristics of an elder brother. He was responsible, industrious, kept out of trouble. What was the driving force of Joseph that enabled him to escape the normal pitfalls of being either a lost younger or a lost elder brother? I think the driving force of Joseph was his confidence in God’s plan for his life. Joseph saw his life, no matter the place or dungeon he was in, as in the PURPOSE of GOD!

In Genesis 50:20 Joseph addresses his elder brothers: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good!” Earlier in chapter 45 he revealed his awareness that “God sent me before you to preserve life.” This awareness of God’s divine purpose for our life is what elder and younger brothers need to have. Jospeh God meant it for good

If we focus on ourselves, on our things as the two lost sons did, we fall away from the Father’s heart.

But when we draw near to him, whether in the pigstye or the crop field, we will see that He is accomplishing something Divine, Holy, even Loving. God has a purpose for each path He has us on. Some may resent their parents, some thier spouse, some their job, some their circumstances. God has a purpose through it all. When we focus on His heart and His purpose, we will come to our senses (our God Sense) and willingly accept His grace, His will, His plan.Prodigal God Kisses his neck

What has God planned for your life? Seek to know His heart, and He will run to you and shower you with kisses. Joseph knew this, even in the deepest, darkest dungeon. That is why he could proclaim, “God meant it for good!”

From Pathway of Blessing