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10 Commandments – 6th Commandment

Hi, Jason Pankau here with another video devotional for you to help you walk in the Lord today. We are still looking at our series on the Ten Commandments together. We are looking at the 6th Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” Let’s read it out of Deuteronomy 5:18, “You shall not commit adultery.” There it is, straightforward. So what does that mean?

Let me take you over to Dr. Martin Luther’s perspective on this. He says, “What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do and husband and wife love and honor each other.” Obviously in our society today, people get very far afield from this. Drawing back to a pure and decent life. Living a chaste life would be another way of saying it. Do not commit adultery. God intended sexuality to be expressed in the covenant of marriage and there alone and nowhere else.

Of course, Jesus took this, as He did with most of these Commandments, and really explained them. If you look at a woman lustfully, in your heart you’ve committed adultery with her. That’s why you need to see the greater meaning. A lot of the guys I mentor or counsel say, “Yah, I look at pornography from time to time.” They don’t see how that is destroying the kind of intimacy that God wants them to have with their wives and the purity of that.  They don’t see why God would want to encourage that intimacy and purity so strongly, because we are the ones missing out when we disobey. We absolutely are. Any kind of sexual deviancy from purity will have consequence. Lust, which flows out of adultery, is part of the seven deadly sins. It’s an anti-intimacy, anti-community sin. It moves people to treat one another like objects of desire rather than human beings for whom God died.

I’ll never forget, it was early on in my walk as a Christian, when I was in high school.  Tony Schwartz, by God’s grace, was discipling me.  He’s a Pastor out in Las Vegas now, but he was a Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church at the time. He challenged me in this area because I wasn’t brought up with that kind of training, to really understand how you live this out. Even though I went to church every Sunday of my life.  He helped me to think it through. These women are your sisters in Christ. From God’s perspective, they’re your sisters. They’re people, not objects. Even though the worldly training was moving me that way. It was that thinking that unlocked me. It helped me understand that from God’s perspective, I was going against the family. For me that was unacceptable. That was the truth God used to unlock my life and to help me understand the biblical view of chastity. So that we would not commit adultery. Don’t mess around with this area of your life. It has profound consequences and we miss out on what God has for us in intimacy and love and purity in community.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we pray that You would purify our hearts. That You would cleanse us from within. That You would purify our thoughts and our actions. That You would help us relate to one another in biblically functioning community the way that You designed. Father, help us not to commit adultery. Help us to walk with You. Heal our relationships. Lord, there are so many relationships that need healing in this area. We’re so grateful that Your mercies are fresh every morning. They are new. Father, forgive us. Help us to walk in Your ways, to walk pure. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

God bless you as you walk with Him.

 

A New and Living Way

“A New and Living Way”
Hebrews 10:11-25

We begin this week with a sermon Jason did on Hebrews 10:11-25. We hope it will encourage you and help you to walk strong in the Lord this week!

Let’s pray. Father, may the cross be our glory, may You be our song. That’s our prayer today Lord. And we ask that by the power of your Holy Spirit, right here and right now, that you might give us eyes to see and ears to hear what that means for us. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

This week has been a very interesting week for me. I’ve been travelling around to different places, speaking from Valparaiso University, to Joliet, to out on the East Coast for a couple of days and one reoccurring theme, as if God knew what He was doing, kept coming up. Whether I’m sitting down one on one with people or speaking to groups, the reality is that most people who call themselves Christians do not understand what it means to live in this new and living way. Most people who call themselves Christians are stuck in religion. They are stuck just trying to be good people. Do you know anyone who’s trying to be good people? Because that is our drift. That’s my natural drift pattern. I’m not trying to be a bad person, but if left up to my own devices, can I generate any good? No! And wrestling with that truth is challenging. Wouldn’t you agree? We sang this awesome song, “God you are good, you’re so good, you’re good.” We said that quite a few times, didn’t we? Well there’s a reason we did, because I forget. I start to believe that I might or could be good. You see, I don’t know any good people. I only know people through whom God does good. That’s the crux of what we are going to talk about today. This new and living way is the life-giving way of living by faith through grace and living by grace through faith.

I do a lot of couple counseling and coaching. Do you remember the phrase, “stop biting and devouring or else you’ll be destroyed by one another”? That’s what they were in the midst of, and so they called me in and asked me to help them sort this out. Have any of you had trouble in your marriage? Do you know what I’m talking about, where you’re biting and devouring? You can’t seem to forgive one another. You can’t seem to just let it go and move forward. Basically, they were standing one on each side, there’s the problem in between them, and they’re just lobbing bombs at each other. You see, unless you understand the new and living way of Jesus, the way of grace, living in and through Him by faith, we will continue to destroy one another. That is the way of man and women, of mankind. This new and living way though helps us get on the same side and look at the problem together. Remember that I am saved through grace and that I am not perfect. Remember that I need forgiveness and I should not stand in judgment of others, though they might have sinned against me or disappointed me and not lived up to my expectations. Now aren’t you glad that God doesn’t treat you that way? God very clearly proclaimed to us his expectations, didn’t He? In giving us the law, He gave us the Ten Commandments. Has anybody here ever stolen? Anybody here ever lied? Let’s get all of our hands up please. So we have disobeyed God. And God tells us that the wages of sin is death, separation from God. That is what we all deserve, but He doesn’t. He gives us grace.

In the Old Testament, the Jewish people were taught this. They were given the Law and they were given the sacrificial system. They were told that not only does their sin separate them from God, but that there must be payment for sin. Blood must be shed. So they engage in this sacrificial system of rams, goats, bulls and all kinds of stuff. But that never actually took away the sin because it would require, if humans are the ones doing the sinning, a human sacrifice.

So that’s where we’re digging in today. Here’s the Scripture, from Hebrews 10. “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins”, as I’ve just said. All it’s doing is paying forward. All it’s doing is making sure we don’t forget that God’s righteous, holy decree must be satisfied and that there must be some payment for the disobedience and therefore blood must be shed. All foretelling what’s about to be talked about here in verse 12. “But when this priest had offered for all time” (Jesus is this priest) “one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” No more sacrificial system, no more doing the religion thing. It’s been done, by the new and living way of Jesus. Continuing with verse 13 and 14, “Since that time He (Jesus) waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice” this is the key verse, “he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Do you understand that you have been made perfect forever in Jesus Christ if you are living by faith through grace?

How many of you in here have been baptized? We want you to understand what is freely being offered to you in baptism: forgiveness for all your sins. Cleansed. Purified. For those of us who were baptized a long time ago, we still just live back into our baptismal promise, don’t we? That’s what we come to bank on. He promised that He would forgive. And that’s good news! He’ll never change. And those of us who are really engaging in what I just described, do you sense day by day that you are being made more and more holy? Do you see God, not only justifying you, but sanctifying and growing you in this grace? That’s normal for all believers, for us to be growing constantly and living by faith. Not just being saved by faith, but living by grace through faith.

Alright, let’s go through the first principle. Jesus, not only is our high priest, but He is the sacrificial Lamb of God that takes away, not just pays them forward, the sin of the world. It’s done, it’s gone. Past, present and future. He’s our High Priest. He offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. Let’s continue in Hebrews 10, verse 15. “The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.” A covenant, a new expectation, a new agreement. “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write the on their minds. Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” You’re being made more and more holy through baptism and as we’re growing through Him. The more I understand the will of God, the more convicted I am of my sin. Does that make sense? The more I understand how egregiously I’ve offended and do offend a holy God, the more I am going to understand that He is God and I am not. And boy do I need His grace! That’s not a one-time thing. That’s an ever-growing awareness of my need for His grace and my receiving of that grace. It only grows, it only magnifies, as you come to know him. So aren’t you glad that as you come to have that written on your mind and on your hearts, you can be for sure that it’s forgiven. He’ll remember it no more. It’s a very important point. “And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin”. It’s done, it’s over.

Let’s continue with verses 19-21, “Therefore, brothers (and sisters), since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God “. So let’s understand this a little bit. We now can enter the Most Holy Place. He’s talking about the temple. Inside of the temple was the Holy of Holies. What separated us from the Holy of Holies? It was the curtain, which on the cross when Jesus was dying, tore in two. Miraculously by the power of the Holy Spirit, it tore in two, symbolizing there’s access to God. What’s separating us from Him is over. The sin is paid for. We can all have access to God now through Jesus, through His blood that has been shed once for all. The curtain is torn. Talk about a great High Priest! What do you think? Back then they would have known the high priest. They would have gone one time a year. They’d tie a little rope around their leg and they’d go into the Holy of Holies. This is a holy God and to connect with Him requires awesomeness and that’s what Jesus provides to us. Forgiveness of our sins, cleansed, so that we can move into that space unafraid. So here’s the challenge. Will you do exactly that? Verse 22 says “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart”. Will you draw near to God? Do you draw near to God? How do you draw near to God? Do you walk daily with him? Do you hold on to him as if He’s life? Because He is. “With a sincere heart”, that means a humble and contrite heart. This is not just doing what I want to do anyway and then asking for the Lord to bless me. This is “You are God and I am not”, apart from You I can do nothing. I need Your grace. Take me deeper into that understanding Lord, use my life as You will. “Thy will be done, thy Kingdom come”. “On Earth as it is in Heaven”. Continuing now with verse 22, “having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience” (sprinkled through the shedding of his blood) “and having our bodies washed with the pure water.” Verse 23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly” (drive a stake in the ground and remember that this is the core of life) “to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Let’s hold on the fact that He is faithful. Me, not so much. How about you? Do you mess up once in a while? The good news is He is absolutely perfect, so let’s hold on to Him. So let’s live by faith in him, not in us. That’s what it means to live in full assurance of faith. I have faith in him. I have full assurance in Jesus, not so much assurance of me.

Next is Principle #2: We live by Grace through FAITH. Not only are we saved by grace through faith, we live by grace through faith in God. Through faith in His sacrifice for us, we can be forgiven, cleansed from our sins and reconnected with God. That is what life is all about: connecting with Him and with one another. Then as He uses our lives, He’ll use us to connect others in His calling that He’s given us. Look what it says next in Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” You know God is love. And good deeds are what God does through us. Let’s consider all the myriad of ways that we could do that as a body. How many of you here have taken the Body Life Basics training we’re doing? Hopefully you’re going to be soon, by God’s grace. Because that’s what we’re trying to help each other get on the same page about. This is what it means for us to be the body of Christ. To do exactly what He said: to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:25 continues, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The Day is the final day when Jesus comes back again. He is going to consummate history.

Principle #3: “Biblically functioning community”, states that if you want to live by grace through faith you need the body of Christ. That’s why we are here for one another and God in and through you is a blessing to me. So I want to connect with that. I want to talk to you about my sins and what I’m struggling with. I want to ask you to pray for me and help me grow in Christ. I was back in New York and it’s just interesting again how God knows what He’s doing, right? So I’m talking with 3 or 4 people about New Year’s resolutions. They’re kind of funny when you think about it, right? How little traction we actually get, especially when they are done alone. So we are all contemplating the reality that we could lose a few pounds. Ok, so my number was 40. That’s the number I felt convicted about. So 4 or 5 of us all at the same time are saying “me too”. It was just awesome. I’ve known these people a long time. We’ve journeyed together, we’ve wrestled together, we’ve prayed together. So we’ve all committed together, for the next year, to go on a journey together. We’re going to encourage one another. We’re going to try and spur one another on towards love. This is love for God, to obey His command. Don’t be a glutton. Aren’t you sometimes? The only way to stop it, isn’t just pray “Father”, it’s pray and get together with the body of Christ and encourage one another daily. So we grow in this new way of Jesus, this way of grace and community, not isolation, not self-help, it’s God. As we live by faith together in biblical functioning community, whatever the Bible teaches us, however it teaches us how to relate to one another, that’s what we will do. We will spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Now Mark 13:1 says, “As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent building!” Then Jesus responds in verse 2, “Do you see all these great buildings? “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” So that was them leaving the temple. They walked through the valley, they’re thinking on these things, like that’s one of those things you don’t forget, right? They get back up to the other side of the valley and they are on the Mountain of Olives. Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, opposite of the temple, so now they’re looking at it. It’s a beautiful scene if you’ve ever been there. There are Peter, James, John and Andrew. You can almost picture the conversation between them: “You ask him”. “No, you do it. I’m not doing it. Last time he said get behind me Satan, I’m not doing it.” Peter’s out. “Don’t say it’s not going to happen, just find out when”. “No Lord, that’ll never happen.” “Get behind me!” “It’s going to happen, don’t stop that again. When?” So they try. In verse 4 they ask, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” Verse 5 continues, “Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you”, that no one shows up and says “Hi, I’m Jesus back for the second time”, which has happened quite a few times, in some of our lifetimes even. Continuing in Mark 13:6-7, “Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, (like what is happening right this moment in the Middle East) do not be alarmed.” That’s the way people disconnected from His love and grace, that’s the way they are going to act with one another. Until He comes back, that’s part of the deal. Mark 13:7-8 continues “Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains

So Jesus comes, consummates history and brings in the new Jerusalem. He ushers in the new way of heaven No more sin, no more struggle against evil. We will be living with our Lord, abiding in Him, all day every day, serving the King. Mark 13:9 says, “You must be on your guard.” Are you on your guard this morning? Are you ready? Do you understand the deception of the evil one trying to drag you back to religion? Trying to be a good boy or girl, not living by grace through faith in Jesus every day in every way. Because it is a very slippery slope. Because here is the reality, things are going to get worse. Mark 13:9 continues, “You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues.” And every one of the people, those four guys that were asking, they all died for their faith. That happened. And that isn’t just a truth for them, it’s also foretelling a truth for us. This is the way it will be at the end of the times. Continuing verse 9, “On account of me you will stand before governors and kings (they actually, literally did) as witnesses (to Jesus) to them.” Does that make sense to you? Do you embrace the reality that as I am living in this new way, as He is growing me and sanctifying me, it is normal for Him to bear witness to who He is through me? And I will stand for him. When people come against me with hatred and anger, I come with love and forgiveness because that’s what Jesus did. And sometimes, they will want to take our lives because of it. Do you understand that more people are dying, are being martyred for their faith right now than ever before in history? Did you know that? It’s easy to miss that sometimes, living in America. You should know this is true. By the way, where that’s taking place, the Kingdom of God is expanding, multiplying. I was talking to one of my buddies in New York. He just came back from Africa, the church is expanding like wildfire in Africa. Praise God. People are finding life by grace through faith. It’s awesome and they are living in that way. They’re not being proud. They’re not standing against God. They’re submitting to Him. They’re living. It’s awesome. They’re being God’s witnesses and they’re receiving that witness. They’re living boldly for the Kingdom.

Moving on to Principle #4, “There will be increasing trouble and persecution in this world, and we will bear witness to God’s love in the midst of it all!” Because He will do it through us. Guaranteed, as we live by faith. And then He says this in Mark 13:10, “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial,” (it might be painful, no doubt about it, it was painful for Jesus, but here’s the thing you have as a guarantee, don’t waver on this) “do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” So let Him speak. Be used of God.

How many of you have had the privilege of being used of God, in any circumstance, and you’ve seen God change lives? You know that’s God doing that, right? And we get to be used as His instruments to bear witness to His forgiveness and His bringing life into us and then life through us. That is good news. It’s very good news. So God will speak through us. He will give you words to speak. Don’t be afraid. Then He goes on to say this. He’s really trying to make sure you get it, how hard this is going to get. Continuing with Mark 13:12-13, “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child.” I can’t even imagine that. “Children will rebel against their parents,” (that I can imagine) “and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Guaranteed, because He who promised, is faithful. Remember, He who promised is faithful.

Lastly, Principle #6, “Persecution reveals Character!” How do you find something out? One of my mentors and I were sitting in a mall food court. We were having this mentoring time. I was wrestling with some stuff and he was looking at me all weird. This guy is a very wise man of God. He took the cup of juice and he picked it up in his hand and said “watch this”. He got really close to me and smashed the cup and the juice got all over me. And I said “Jim, what’s up? That’s not cool dude.” And he said, “That’s how you find out what’s in somebody. Pressure!” The real them comes out. I said “you could have just said that Jim”. He said, “well this way the point will stick.” Real sticky, now I have to go wash my clothes. But that’s how you find out where someone really stands. And Jesus is trying to help us all understand. If you stand with Him, live by grace through faith, not only will He strengthen us, not only give us words, not only change the world through us, He will bear testimony to his goodness. And He is good. We will experience and express His love in ways you could never even ask for or imagine for yourself. It’ll be awesome. That is us who are being made holy. That is the journey of faith that we all get to be a part of. Is that not good news? Let’s pray.

Father God, we are grateful that You invite the likes of us, not only that You would come and die for us, but that You use our lives to bear witness to Your glory, to Your holiness, to Your goodness. Father, we all proclaim that You are good and we are not. We are so grateful that we get to be cleansed and purified, that you create in us new people. Teach us how to live in Your ways, Lord. Help us to walk with You. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

10 Commandments – Second Commandment

Hi, Jason Pankau here, with another video devotional for you to help you walk in the Lord today. We’re in a series looking at the Ten Commandments. The Second Commandment says, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name”, out of Deuteronomy 5:11.

So, are you flippant with the name of the Lord? I don’t know about you, but I wander into all kinds of settings where people are misusing the name of Jesus, or the name of the Lord. When people say OMG, they’re not really revering and keeping in awe that name, which is the name above all names. And so if we are going to be impacted by our world, we might drift into that way of thinking or acting. And it’s a very, very dangerous way of acting. In the Small Catechism, Luther talked about “what does this mean?” and described it this way, “we should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks”. That is how we are to use the name of the Lord rightly, and then of course there’s a way to not use it rightly.

So, have you ever dabbled in that? Have you ever been challenged or tempted to deceive, even in the name of God? To curse others, literally, saying, “you’ll never amount to anything”. Our words have power, and what you speak into peoples’ lives can have a dramatic effect on them. God wants us, if you look at James 3, to be careful about the tongue. It’s a deadly fire, full of deadly poison. Be very careful what you say into peoples’ lives. God is, of course, encouraging here, to speak to Him and to use His Name in a holy way.

I remember when I first came alive in Christ as a senior in high school. I used to be someone who would swear and curse, using Christ’ name in an awful way. And I remember how the Spirit just brought my soul alive, and I used to feel the impact of hearing the other athletes that I was with, using the name of the Lord in vain. It just started to wreck me inside. I was usually a very good athlete on the team, so I had a little bit of influence on the team. I would start to tell guys to not speak like that around me, that it was starting to bother me. And I sensed them reacting, “oh you’re becoming a holy roller, I get it”. Part of me wanted to say,  “I guess I am.” You need to have reverence for God. I used to live as a man who didn’t. I didn’t live under the authority of God, and now that I’m following the First Commandment, living under the authority of God, he is my God and I am his servant. I’m not the Creator. I am the creature, and if I want to live the best life, I need to live it in Him. Part of that is, in the second commandment, I need to honor the name of the Lord. It is special, just like our names are special. God knows all of our names, but His is set apart: the name above all names. So I challenge you today to honor this commandment. And “do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks” in the name of the Lord.

Let’s pray. Lord, we do give you thanks for loving us the way you do, for providing for us the way you do. You are so different from us. You are the Creator. You are our God. And Your name truly is above our names, above every name. Help us to live in a way that honors You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen. God bless you.

Transformative Power of Believing

There are some beliefs that form the basis of our whole view of reality as Christians. For many Christians these are enumerated in one of the creeds. There are other beliefs that sustain us from moment to moment in times of serious difficulty and where mere human willpower is frustratingly inadequate.

First, what are we believing about the power to subdue our sin tendencies and the power to grow in character strength? With the best of intentions, some have sought to accomplish these things with their own willpower, perhaps even congratulating themselves on taking responsibility for aiming toward these praiseworthy objectives. But God wants us to be in relationship with Him. This is a matter of submitting ourselves to Him, depending on Him and trusting in Him, all of which is opposed to the mere exercise of human willpower. We have a vital assurance from Romans 6:14: “Sin shall not have dominion over you.”

Second, what are we believing in regard to other practical situations? For example, some Christians place a burden on themselves in the area of self-discipline, believing that it reflects a praiseworthy sense of responsibility. Then they find themselves frustrated by repeated failures. But they might be likened to an employee who keeps walking long distances without realizing the company car is available. In other words, God wants us to move forward, even in continuous forceful action, toward achieving practical goals using the discipline He grants to us. If the discipline in a given situation is what we need, we can believe in Him for it.

Third, what are we believing for regarding other people? If, let’s say, we have loved ones living unwisely, we can begin believing for God’s wisdom to take root in their lives. Believing for God’s blessing for another never removes the need for people to seek God on their own, but until that happens and even after that, we can take faith responsibility for them in times of difficulty.

Even though a small amount of faith can make a great difference, Jesus doesn’t want us to be like those He spoke of as “of little faith.” For instance, do we suppose God loves us just a little, or do we believe in a tremendous “John 3:16″ kind of love (“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…”)  Do we believe He has enough love to forgive us? Enough to cleanse us from unrighteousness when that has been repeatedly manifest in our lives? Enough to help us even with minor difficulties?

May our belief be so wholehearted and all-encompassing that we depend on the greatness of his power toward us (Ephesians 1:7) and are thankful to Him accordingly. Let’s have a big picture of how much power can be exercised by believing. Let’s believe that God is giving us power for conquering sin, building up character strength, drawing on healing, joy, and peace, and for living like people who are forgiven and loved. Let’s react to things in terms of believing that God has promises and purposes for us and, as we believe these things before they become manifest, we will discover over time that we can thank Him on the basis of our actual experience.

10 Commandments – Intro

Hi, Jason Pankau here with another video devotional, trying to encourage you to walk in the Lord, Jesus Christ today. We’re going to begin a new devotional series this week and we’re going to look at the Ten Commandments together. One of the most famous passages in all of Scripture, actually found in two different places; Deuteronomy 5 and Exodus 20 and I want to dive into it out of Deuteronomy because this is a great little set up to the Ten Commandments, out of Deuteronomy and I want to dive in, again, Deuteronomy 5 with the first verse. “Moses summoned all Israel and said: Here, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain.” And then verse 5 is in parentheses, “(At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.)” “And he said”, and then we go into the Ten Commandments, but I want to highlight in this first little intro devotional, a couple of things.

Again, “Here, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them”. You know, it’s so important for us to commit Scripture to memory and to be able to draw upon them, to know the Ten Commandments and their meaning, is so important and in many different denominations they’ll teach children the Ten Commandments, especially in the Lutheran faith. We go through Luther’s Small Catechism and we teach not only the Ten Commandments and their meanings according to what Dr. Martin Luther, how he broke them down. And learning them and knowing them are key, of course, but more importantly would be “and be sure to follow them”. That these aren’t legalistic laws to hold you back. These are, this is the guidance of our loving Father leading us to the best life possible. And so he says, again I’m making this covenant, God made this covenant with us at Horeb. He didn’t make it with our forefathers, he made it with us and I don’t know about you but I like to read those words as if Moses is speaking to me. And do I really understand the covenant that God, this covenant relationship God has made with me? Now he had to send his own Son, Jesus Christ, to enter us into the new covenant in his blood, how God is going to connect us for all time now because of what Christ has done for us on the cross through His death and resurrection. But the idea of covenant, that I’m living in a covenant relationship with God and He is my Lord. I’d like you to just think on that today. Are you really submitting your life to living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and allowing him to guide and empower, to be your sustenance, to be your provision for all things in your life?

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we want to open up ourselves to you, in that way, in a deeper way, maybe it’s for the first time for somebody hearing this to know the life that is truly life that you guide us into. Thank you that you made it clear through Moses in the Old Testament to the people back then and for every generation since to know the ways of the Lord. So Father, I pray that you would give us eyes to see and ears to hear and then the courage to walk in your ways. Father, the only way we can do that is through the power of your Holy Spirit in us. So Father, strengthen us to follow your ways and to keep your decrees. It’s in You and only in and through you that this is possible. Thank you for the gift of faith that we received in baptism and the way that you love us and grow us. We pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.

God bless you as you begin to honor that covenant relationship between you and the Lord and I look forward to more in this series. God bless.

Moving to the Next Level of Character Strength

A Door to Spiritual Renewal

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God wants to press strong character traits into the fabric of your being. So many Christians place the burden on themselves to work up the ability to triumph over character weaknesses and be pleasing to God. This is a recipe for endless frustration. It is God Himself who provides victory over character weaknesses. He gives us the opportunity to appropriate that by repentance, faith, and obedience.

The path to spiritual victory in the area of character training is twofold: (1) the things that pertain to us as individuals, and (2) the things that involve others in the church, such as small groups and mentoring.

First, the individual aspect. We can rest in the finished work of Christ. Some find it difficult to believe that God will answer certain prayers, and it is not within the scope of this devotion to address that general problem, but it should be very easy to believe that we are praying within the will of God to overcome a character weakness within us. By this means He is preparing us for our eternal destiny together with Him and giving us a foretaste of that destiny here on earth.

It is true that we will never be perfect to the side of heaven, but that doesn’t mean that we should see life as a deadly round of sin and repentance, and sin again with no upward movement. Consider the words of John Wesley after his famous experience of spiritual renewal: “Then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.” We are a new creation (1 Cor 5:17). Even Wesley had no lack of things he needed to conquer, but he also had no lack of Holy Spirit power by which to conquer them. He began moving on a higher plane of life.

Second, the importance of our connection with fellow Christians. Continual victory over character weaknesses is among the sure signs of spiritual renewal. One of the early signs of revival following the horrors of World War II occurred in Darmstadt, Germany, when the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary was founded by Sister Basilea Schlink, a German theologian and intellectual, in 1947. The sisterhood is an ecumenical, Lutheran based, religious order which immediately began to emphasize repentance and personal revival.

Their experience of joy and peace stems from their concentration on having power over sinful habits. They have a phrase: ‘repentance, the joy-filled life’. Their point is that when we turn from sin we are enabled to draw on joy and peace. We cannot have joy and peace as a kind of ‘positive thinking’ activity, but when we have power over sin it is a consequence that we will draw on those blessings from God.
We have to believe that victory over sinful tendencies is continually possible. The battle of faith has to be fought every day, but so far as God is concerned we don’t have to be afraid, because we have the constant availability of Holy Spirit power on which we can draw. This implies, of course, a state of mind based on dependence, rather than self-sufficiency, and yet paradoxically it’s state of mind in which we are more than conqueror.

God’s life is within us, and that means He becomes our purity; becomes our courage, becomes whatever character strength that we need and that He wants us to have. That goes deeper than saying that He will give us those things, because it is the Kingdom within us, His very Life within us, by which we are assured of these things as our possession. If we are not sensing or exhibiting these things right now, we can affirm them by faith with thanksgiving that they have been given to us, and the more we do that, the more easily they become our habitual way of life.

Open yourself to God’s powerful action; let it flow to you and through you. Develop a big vision of the promised spiritual blessings that are available; open yourself to them and act accordingly. Continual victory over character weaknesses can be ours.

Seven Values of Abundant Living – Glorification

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Acts 2

Jason Pankau here with the last video devotional from this seven part series, looking on what it means to BE the church as presented in Acts 2:42-47, an amazing picture of Biblically-functioning community. People are living in the Spirit.

Just to recap: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (to growth) and to the fellowship (to group), to the breaking of bread (to grace) and to prayer (to guidance). Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” And as others matured and started to grow up, God started to do miraculous signs and wonders through them as well. They learned how to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” They were trained by God. I like to see Good Stewardship as a trip-hammer. When you really see someone walk under the Lordship of Christ, is when He gets a hold of his pocketbook. Then we truly live lives of worship.

Verse 46: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, [another reference to Grace] praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. [all, not just some] And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

So, I want you to look at this as the Glorification of God. They were devoted to glorification. Not only were they devoted to getting together regularly (devoting themselves to growth, group, gifts and good stewardship), but it all manifests itself in Glory to God. Whoever does a thing, gets credit for it. Not only were they are living in the Spirit, God was doing things thorough their lives and saying that God did it! They were giving glory to God! And they were doing this with such joy and such power that everyone around saw it and said, “I want to be a part of that!”

Where does this goodness come from? Where does this amazing sacrificial grace and love come from? And they would say, “It comes from Jesus, who lives in us through his Holy Spirit and who wants to live in you and forgive all your sins. That’s why He died.”

And they would continue to spread this news in the temple courts. God, who is the one who gives you favor with people, gave them favor with everyone! It’s all God. Do you see why He gets the glory? God gives me the motivation to pray and do all the above, and then it’s God who does it through me. That’s why it says that it was the Lord who added to their number daily those who were being saved. Because you’re willing to live by grace through faith in Him. To live by faith, not by sight. To walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. Because a community of people were willing to let God be God amongst them, He transformed the lives of thousands and thousands of people. 5000 were added just before this time, and thousands more after, but daily people are being used. God moves through us to touch the lives of others around us to show His goodness and His grace. And that is what draws people unto Himself.

So I pray that we’d be willing to live as true worshipers today. People who give all the glory to God. People who worship Him as servants, and He as our God, pointing everybody to Him for everything that is good and right in this world.

Let’s pray. Lord, we praise you. We honor and worship you as our Savior, as our Lord, as the One who fills every thing in every way. Father, we want to ask for your forgiveness for being self-centered, for wanting the attention and glory for ourselves. Let us throw that off and focus ourselves for bringing glory to you. You truly are, we believe, the Great One, the only one deserving and worthy of praise. Thank you for saving and rescuing the likes of us. Use us, Father, to bring glory to Your name this day. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

I pray that you’d be used as an instrument to bring glory to God today. Amen.

7 Values of Abundant Living – Good Stewardship

Acts 2

Jason Pankau here with another video devotional for you. We’ve been working through this series of what it means to BE the Church, this amazing Biblically-functioning community of God here on Earth as it will be in Heaven.

We’re looking at Acts 2:42-47. We’ve already looked at how “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” and through that devotion, “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.”

We’ve talked so far, using the Seven Values of Abundant Living paradigm, that they were devoted to Growth, Grace, Group, Guidance, and the experience of Spiritual Gifts as God’s power moved in and through their lives.

The next one, especially for Americans, might rock your world. Starting in verse 44, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” You see, they were being taught by the Holy Spirit to live as good stewards of their entire lives, especially their possessions. They were being trained to be Good Stewards, one of our Values of Abundant Living.

You do understand, everything you are and everything you have belongs to God. You do not own it. It is not yours. And one day, we (as stewards) will stand before a Holy God and give an accounting of how we stewarded the gifts God brought into our lives. What did we do with them? Did we use them for our own selfish reasons, or did we live as we’re told? Again, no human being drifts towards this picture right here. It is the Holy Spirit of God who moves us to live together, to have this mindset that everything is in common. It’s all for us. It’s how people should read the New Testament. When you see the word translated into English “you” in the Bible, it really means “y’all” if you want to go “Southern” with it. It’s a corporate you, a pluralyou. God’s resources are for everybody. We have more than we need to feed every human being on the planet five times over. Just the United States of America could feed the world five times over. I remember hearing that a couple years ago. But because we’re living in the flesh, because we’re holding on, we’re living as owners not stewards as the Lord would teach us.

What a blessing it is to live as a good steward in this world, to let God motivate you and let Him use you to help others in need, to be generous, to be filled with that kind of Spirit. THAT is the Spirit of God! Not good human philanthropy. It’s God that helps you release finances towards His kingdom and His kingdom efforts. These people in Acts 2 understood that so much so that they gave to anyone who had need. Part of that is praying that God would give you eyes to see people who have true needs, not just wants. And you would just do what He tells you to do with His stuff that is in your care.

When I got into ministry over 20 years ago, I was doing financial planning in Providence, Rhode Island right after I graduated from Brown. One of the best mentors in my life was Bob Kalander who was 20 years older than me, walking with the Lord. We created a Biblical Christian financial planning ministry out of that workplace. And the way God taught me to see my life as a steward has transformed everything about how I look at discipleship, how I look at being a parent, a father, a husband, and a friend.

And I pray that today, God would transform how you look at everybody and everything. It ALL belongs to Him. Let’s live as His stewards of the life He has given us.

Let’s pray. Father, we pray that not only would you give us that perspective but that You would guide us and give us the courage to release resources. Where our sinfulness wants to hold on, we pray that You would give us the vision and enablement to release resources for Your kingdom, to be good stewards according to Your will, Your principles, Your priorities, Your promptings in our lives. Father, mature us to the point that we can live as Your stewards in Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

God bless you as you do!

7 Values of Abundant Living – Gifts

Acts 2

Jason Pankau here with a new video devotional for you. We’ve been working through this amazing passage of Scripture in Acts 2:42-47, a very famous passage of Scripture looking at what it was like to be part of the early church that was moving by grace through faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and learning and growing. We’re told that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (to growth), to the fellowship (to group), to the breaking of bread (to grace) and to prayer (to guidance).

They were devoted to those first four things, and as they were empowered, motivated by God’s Spirit to engage in that, here’s what took place next.

Verse 43, “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” They were done by the apostles initially, but when people matured and learned how to live by grace through faith, they also started engaging in these many wonders and miraculous signs, and they started to flow in Spiritual Gifting as well. The apostles had been through Pentecost. The Holy Spirit had come upon them through tongues of fire. Not only were they speaking in tongues, and sharing the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus, they continued to move in the Spirit, teaching

 the Word of God and then revealing all the Spiritual Gifts we see in Scripture. The body of Christ started to express itself in all these different ways and all the people had all these different gifts, but together, they had this amazing expression of God through His people.

Something always accompanies the Spiritual Gifts: awe. You did not do this on your own. That was God speaking that through you. “Who-told-you-that?” kind of awe. When you see the healing of God, that kind of awe. It’s “forgive me, Lord. I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” There’s this awe and reverence for God.

Is that awe gripping your life today? Are you in awe of the power of God? Or are you just going through the religious motions? Are you working out on the religious treadmill and trying to be a good person? You know you can’t be a good person without God empowering you and motivating you to “do good” through you. Are you getting sucked back into religion or are you being sucked out into doing life totally on your own? God doesn’t want you in either of those places, because when we’re walking in the Spirit, everyone gets filled with awe. Wonders and miraculous signs are normal. That’s the sign that it’s God doing it, not us!

So, are you truly dependent, and living in Gifts in the power of the Holy Spirit? It’s not just the guidance of God and the grace of God and the growth of God and the group, the people of God.  When we live together, the power of God moves in and through our lives.

I know that Christians are afraid of this part of the Christian faith. There’s an out-of-body kind of vibe to it. It’s not your strength. It’s not your power. It’s the power of God. Many people are afraid to release themselves to let God do things through them. I want to encourage you to be people of faith, not only faith in God’s forgiveness on our behalf but also in God’s power for living everyday, that He would use us as His instruments, promoting His Gospel of forgiveness, redemption and transformation to everyone we know.

So let’s believe in Gifts, the power of Spiritual Gifts, the power of God in our lives today.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, forgive us for walking in our own strength, for not submitting to your strength, for not surrendering to your power. We pray that You’d give us that focus, the motivation to live by grace through faith in You, and that You’d strengthen us in ways that we would not even imagine for ourselves. Father, we are weak. We cannot do it without You. We ask that You in Your strength, through the power of the Holy Spirit would live through us today. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

God bless you as you do! Amen.

7 Values of Abundant Living – Guidance

Acts 2

redbiblJason Pankau here with our next video devotional, looking at what it means to be the community of God, this biblically-functioning community on Earth that we will be in Heaven. We’re looking at Acts 2:42-47, the most famous passage that addresses the question of what it means to BE the church. We’ve already learned that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (to growth), to fellowship (to group, biblically-functioning community, covenant community), to breaking of bread (to grace, to remembering the Lord’s Supper together, allowing God to use that in our lives to transform us into people of grace).

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

Where would we be without prayer? Where would you be without the guidance of God in your life? Are you devoted to prayer? What does that look like in your life? How do you devote yourself to prayer?

As I’ve said in every devotion, it is the Holy Spirit of God that even moves us to pray. I don’t wake up and have a good thought that I should pray today. It’s the Spirit that is constantly drawing us to pray to seek God, to depend on God, to draw on God to allow God to move through our lives. And prayer is the key – being in constant communication with God.

There are a variety of ways to think about this. There are scripted prayers you can read out loud. There are models you can follow like A.C.T.S. Adoration. Confession. Thanksgiving. Supplication. I personally wake up praying the Lord’s Prayer every day and think about the Seven Values of Abundant Living. That’s my personal habit. And then I move on to intercession for the day. What do you have built into your life?

Then there’s walking in the Spirit of prayer, a constant submission and listening for God, speaking with and listening to God even in your thoughts. Lord, what would you have me do in this? Lord, what is it that you want for that person? Listening for the promptings of God – all that would be considered “devoted to prayer.” So, to simplify: Are you devoted to being guided by God, not just listening to His advice, but being guided by God? Is your attitude: “Where you command, I will go!”?

In this world, especially in America, this is a foreign concept. We’re all taught, even if you go to church, to treat God like an adviser, to come listen to God, check out what He thinks, and then figure it out on your own. I want to encourage you to submit to God as Lord and you as a servant of the Lord, Jesus Chris, and devote yourself to prayer, to listening to His voice!

None of us do this perfectly! I sure don’t, but I can tell you that when I get confused, whenever I feel distracted, whenever my life feels unfocused, a very powerful discipline that God uses in my life is fasting and prayer. We are commanded on several different occasions throughout Scripture to fast and pray.

I want to encourage you today: devote yourselves to fasting and prayer. Listen for the Lord, and do this in community. Get the encouragement of what the Saints are also hearing as you seek out God’s will for your corporate life together. So I encourage you today. I challenge you today: Devote yourselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to breaking of bread and to prayer.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we want to live in that constant dialogue with You. We want to be guided by You. It’s so foreign to us, Father, our natural inclination is to be in charge and to want what we want. Teach us to be Your servants. Teach us to listen and follow. We want to be devoted to that just as Your early church was. And we pray that whatever that means to each one of us right now, You would take us deeper. You would make us more of a follower than we were before. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

God bless you as you devote yourself to prayer! Amen.

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