God’s Plan, Jesus’ Contribution, and Our Place Part 1 of 3: God’s Great Plan

God' Plan - Trust

When my daughter was in 1st grade, my son was still a year away from starting school. We lived in Southern Pine, NC which had a great quaint downtown shopping area and a regionally famous breakfast restaurant called ‘Mac’s Breakfast Anytime’.  My wife would drop my daughter off at school downtown and she and my son Landon would have the day together until they picked up Beth again at 3 pm, often including a morning walk in the ‘Village’ and breakfast at ‘Mac’s”. Every day was an adventure to Landon and I will never forget my four-year-old saying, every day with enthusiasm, “Mom (or Dad), what’s the Plan, What’s the Plan?!” Those days as a young family living out ‘the plan’ were so sweet. Inherently, as humans and Christians, we want to know the Plan. This is built into us. God’s Plan is the real ‘big-picture’ Plan for not only Christians but all people. The Bible delivers God’s plan thoroughly, starting with the initiation at creation in Genesis 1 and culminating with His delivered end-goal in Revelation 22. Understanding the plan is pivotal to God’s people understanding the offering of God’s love and their place in His Kingdom:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. It included land and sea, dark and light, plants and animals, and man and woman.  God spoke this creation into existence, saying “Let there be light, etc.” Jesus, God’s faithful Son, assisted God the Father from the very beginning. Speaking of Jesus, John 1:1-3 tells us that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.’ At the completion of a six-day creation project God declared that “It was good.” The necessary beginning of the Plan was in place and it was set up well for His purposes.

In a simple phrase, God’s plan or purpose, as revealed clearly throughout the Bible, is “God with Man”. The depth of the plan, however, is detailed. The real goal is Holy God together with a man with free will and purged of sin. A man who sees, acknowledges, and worships a Holy and deserving God. For free will and holiness to exist there must be choice and so in the Garden, God provides a people made in His image, physical beings, but with a spiritual side like God. We also see knowledge of the mysteries of God represented in the tree of knowledge. To this mix, God adds Satan the deceiver, representing the opposite of Holiness, an anti-Christ option and thus the first man and woman, from the beginning, must choose to trust and believe God, who is good, or Satan, who is evil.  God designed and framed the environment, the players, and the choice, and “it was good.” Satan’s initial lie is cast, fallen and sinful man emerges, and through one man Adam, the seed of sin is planted in mankind’s flesh forever, and the choice or free will of man is established for all men to come.

A Holy God cannot directly mix with a fallen man; if tainted with sin, He would not be Holy. So fallen man is removed from the Garden, but even so a promise or covenant is made through Abraham (Genesis 22:17-18) and a vision is planted of a future great city (Hebrews 11:10), i.e. a restoration of God the Father with a redeemed man. In Abraham, faith is established as the key to righteousness or redemption. The Law is put in place through Moses’ delivery of the commandments and absolute clarity of man’s sin is established by that Law. God’s stiff-necked and restless people cry out for a man to lead them versus God and God gives them what they want in the first of many kings in King Saul. God’s early plan for grace is demonstrated through David and a sacrifice for our sin, even indeed a new covenant and kingdom, is prophesied to rise from King David’s line. Fast forward and Immanuel, meaning ‘God with us’ is born under miraculous means in Bethlehem, out of David’s line (called the ‘root of David’; Revelation 22:16) and He is called Jesus. Jesus, the Word from John 1:1, arrived to walk among men, becoming the first Son of Man, with a purpose of 1) delivering God’s word to men, 2) being the sacrifice for our sins, 3) ushering in His spiritual kingdom, and 4) inviting all men to the planned outcome, i.e. Holy God joined with a redeemed, free-will man. Jesus’s teaching is completed and then He does what God the Father could not do directly, when He takes the sin of man on His shoulders and becomes, the great sacrifice for all (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus dies a horrible death on the cross and when complete, notes that “It is finished” and He releases His spirit and His body dies. Sin, Hell, and the grave are then defeated in His resurrection and Jesus returns to the Father to complete the preparation of a place for the kingdom of men and women who would choose God over Satan.

Peter and the other disciples, obedient and empowered by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, launch the preaching of Jesus’s kingdom and 3000 are added to the first church on the first day. Sharing and believing and serving together the church grows quickly. After a dramatic Damascus Road experience (Acts 9:3-6), Jesus launches the Apostle Paul on a task to include the Gentiles, along with the Jewish people, in the kingdom invitation.

Much time has elapsed since the initiation of the first church and just now perhaps the greatest prophesied sign, the restoration of Israel and the completion of a 70-year generation has been completed and celebrated this year. God’s plan, as delivered through John in the book of Revelation and supported by various Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles calls for a remaining return of Jesus, a reign of Jesus, a judgement and destruction of evil. This is followed by the completion of God the Father’s plan where God delivers a New Heaven and New earth, basically a new perfect order of things and God and a redeemed man are together. Here, the believers who have chosen God (and therefore Good) will be with God. In Revelation, it says that God will then declare that “It is finished”, i.e. His plan is fulfilled.

Can you see God’s plan? The beautiful creation, the use of Satan for free will, the early Promise to Abraham and his great faith, the sacrifice and work of Jesus, and the prophesied completion of God with Man? As God’s children, it really is good to know the plan for the Day — what an adventure. In Part 2, we will discuss Jesus’s great service to God the Father. There truly could be no greater Son.

Derek Dougherty

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Effective effort from God’s Men in Today’ Post-Christian World Part 3 of 3: Do we obey?

In Part 1, we determined that to be effective for God, love of God and others must be our first and primary focus as Christian men.  In Part 2, we stated that to be effective, we must believe.  If we don’t really believe Jesus is who he says He is, and we are who He says we are, what use can we really be to the Lord?  But even if we love God and others, and if we believe in Jesus, we will not be effective if we do not (really) obey God.

God calls us to action.  He speaks in many ways, but all men are called to some sort of obedient action.  Without putting action behind our love and our faith, we can have little effect at all, much less be deemed effective for the Lord.  You might ask, “Who would do this?, i.e. who would say they love Jesus, and believe on Him for salvation, but not act for him?  Well, let’s see…maybe me, maybe you, maybe every Christian man at some point?  Peter denied Christ and ran.  Moses hid in the desert.  Jonah went the opposite direction of Nineveh; and on and on…  But at some point, all defiant or immature runners will go through a gut check.  At some point, God breaks us down, provides clarity (vision and truth), and we have to be real with ourselves and Him.  Looking back over time, God called and we either genuinely loved, believed and served, or we wasted the time we were given, to the detriment of our spirit and others’ souls.

In the New Testament book of James, the author gets right to the point in Chapter 1, verse 22-25: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

Where are you at today in regard to obedience? Maybe teaching some, serving on committee, working at the food kitchen some?  Maybe even being a deacon or elder, i.e. a man with position?  For a good twenty years of my Christian life, about every five years, the Lord would show me with clarity the reality of my heart; that I didn’t harm Him, I said good things about Him, I read the Bible, and served at church, but really I was incredibly ineffective when it came to the advancement of God’s Kingdom.  I loved the Lord.  No doubt about it.  I believed on Him unto salvation.  I served in His name.  But I was not all in, not surrendered, and not obedient.  My faith was small and my actions, although busy, were ineffective.  This literally changed in a day.  God works that way.  What seems impossible (simply hidden) for decades, He can change in a moment.   For me, it started with a simple question that God placed on my heart, “If Jesus is who He says He is, and I am who I claim to be in Him, what is really possible?”  This question became a desire, that spawned a pursuit, which developed faith. Ten years later all I can say is “WOW!” and my conclusion is that Jesus is real, faithful, deep, and powerful today for changing lives; that His literal words — as written in the Bible AND delivered by the Holy Spirit — are truth; that He is LIFE now and eternal; and that the peace He promises defies understanding.  Obedience is now the natural response of my spirit that He has developed in me (my flesh sometimes interferes but my spirit always says, “Yes”).

We can ask this question individually, i.e. do we hear, obey and act?  As a group of God’s men we can ask the same question collectively.  If we are collectively hearing, obeying and acting effectively, why are babies murdered daily in our country before they are born? If we are acting, why are our schools devoid of God’s Word and our children not taught Jesus’s truths?  Where are the Christian men leaders speaking out about these issues and so many more?  Will this be the year of clarity that we look up from our inward denominational focus groups and realize that the next generation is going to Hell while we ‘serve’? Or will this be the time when clarity comes, those who ‘have ears to hear’ hear, HIS Christian men see that Jesus is who He says He is, and we get about doing the Father’s business with purpose?  Discuss this with your men’s group this month.  As for you and your group, will you really obey and serve?

Derek Dougherty

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Effective Effort from God’s Men in Today’ Post-Christian World Part 2 of 3: Do we really believe?

Do we really believe?

In Part 1, we determined that to be effective for God, love of God and others must be our first and primary focus as Christian men.  But beyond Love there is a need for Faith.  Apostle Peter, for instance, loved God but initially failed to act effectively.  Why?  Because his faith was still limiting and his focus was still physical.  But when his faith and vision matured, he fulfilled his purpose (to be the Rock upon which Jesus built his church) well.

If we review our personal relationship status with Christ and effectiveness for Him, we must first ask, “Do we love Him?”  Beyond this, we must ask, “Do we really believe Him?”  Do we believe the truths that He told us? Jesus used a unique statement with such great effect to take His original 12 disciples to another level of faith.  “Oh ye of little faith” was used three times in the book of Matthew.  This statement should be equally challenging and faith-prompting to today’s disciples.

In Matthew 6:25-30:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 

In Matthew 8:23-27:

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”  26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

In Matthew 16:5-11:

When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread.“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”   They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

In the three uses of this statement Jesus basically collectively says, 1) Quit worrying about basics of life because your Father that love you knows what you need before you ask, 2) Quit fearing for your life because you are friends with the One who controls the winds and the waves, and 3) Quit being such shallow thinkers and believe and mature in your knowledge of the Faith.  Why and how do we do gain the faith to do these things? Because He is who He says He is and ‘in Christ’, these great promises and callings are ours.  How do we get to this level of faith and understanding? ‘Hear and See!’ Seek Him, ask for wisdom, and the Spirit of God will do the miraculous that only He can do, i.e. enlarge our faith.  Do we believe Him?  Oh WE of little faith — Let’s put fear and worry and immaturity behind, and believe today.

Derek Dougherty

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Effective Effort from God’s Men in Today’ Post-Christian World – Part 1 of 3: Do We Really Love?

Jesus’ and the Apostle Paul’s New Testament teaching on the priority and importance of love is crystal clear.  Because we know that Jesus spoke only what He heard God the Father speak (John 12:49), we know that His teaching on this priority comes directly from God the Father Himself.  Similarly with Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit that searches the mind of God, we know that his teaching comes from the Father as well. As a Christian, God says love is to be our priority. You might say, of course it is, I know this, we all know this. If so, then why the passivity, distraction and ineffectiveness? Do we not know that God’s love always has an outflow and a product?  What is the product or fruit of our love? Is it what it could be?

In Matthew 22:36-39 Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is. His response is simple, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself.” Pretty straightforward. And he pushes in a little further, noting that, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” In other words, if you do these two, all other commandments and laws will be carried out. Do we prioritize well?

Paul gets the principle well. In a mature state, after being called by the Lord directly on the Damascus Road and instructed by the Holy Spirit for an extended and intense time, he puts the love priority in the most eloquent, clear and deep wording of the Bible in what is well-known as the Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13. To fully get the emphasis, we must put ourselves in his shoes and look at it from his perspective. Doing so as a younger man or younger Christian, with an open mind and heart, can help avoid many wasted and ineffective years.  Paul said, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…if I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge…have all faith so as to move mountains…bestow all my goods to feed the poor and give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing (and I am nothing).” That statement and the depth of the sacrifice that we read that could be made without love, should give us great pause. It basically says that what we consider our most sacrificial deeds and what we deem our greatest spiritual gifts does not imply that we truly love God or one another. It says knowledge of the deepest mysteries of God is worth little without love before it. It says great belief in God’s being and power without love has no profit. It says love of God comes first. And it makes sense, right? For that which we love, we will do anything required; we will make the ultimate sacrifice; and we will serve.

Jesus modeled love for us. In John 13:1 is says that Jesus, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” In John 15:13 Jesus says, “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.”  In John 13:34 Jesus is direct to His collective disciples saying, “Love one another as I have loved you…By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.” In John 21:17, Jesus is direct to one of His mightiest men, Simon Peter, “…Jesus asked him for the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’….‘Feed My sheep’”. Jesus loved the Father. He was all in, ‘til the end.

The priority is clear. We are to love. The product of that love is clear, i.e. if we love we will act (believe, hope, serve others, give generously, give all, etc). The questions remains individually, “Do we really love God and others? Or do we really just love ourselves?”

Derek Dougherty

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