Sat, Oct 31st - 9:10PM
Me and My Problems, Are they all gone?
The problem of depression.
Nobody is immune to depression, not even Christians. It hits at surprising moments, and yet there are times when we can almost predict it's coming. Some depressions are deep and wide and complex, lasting for months or even years. Some other depressions last for only a few hours. Tragically, there are some that result in suicide. Some leave lasting scars on one's life that affect how you relate to others. Let's take some time and look st three of God's men who suffered from an episode with discouragement and depression; those feelings of extreme despair, undue sadness, unrealistic grief, or hopelessness.
Victims of Depression
Though each of these men suffered the same kind of depression, each one's struggle was different: Moses had an inferiority complex, Elijah had a martyr's complex, and Jonah had a superiority complex. By examing each of these men we will note physical, emotional, and spiritual reasons for their depression.
1. Moses - In Numbers 11:1-15 we find that he had been miraculously used by God to lead the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt. The people knew little else than a life of miracles: safe passage through the Red Sea, steady diet of manna in the desert, ample water to drink. Divine guidance via cloud and fire, yet they griped about everything. The people did not focus upon the Promised Land nor the promising future of living as free men, instead they focused upon Egypt. They longed for the paltry fare that they had been fed by their Egyptian masters rather than the manna that came from heaven each night. Verse ten of our text reports: "...Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, and Moses was displeased" Was Moses merely unhappy, or was he depressed? I say that he was depressed since he asked God, "...Please kill me at once..."(verse 15). It begs the question, Why was he depressed?
(a) Physically - From verses 16-17 we find that Moses was exhausted and overworked because he had not learned to delegate his work load. He tried to do everything by himself(Exodus 18:13-23). His father-in-law, Jethro, advised him to delegate so that he would be able endure until the end of his God-given task.
(b) Emotionally - From verse 15 we find that Moses had an inferiority complex; he held a low view of his self-worth. He took the situation with the people as a personal failure. He was diligent in his leadership, and yet had as his reward griping and complaining people all around him.
(c) Spiritually - From verse 11 we find that Moses felt distant from God: "Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me?" Can you hear the implication that is unstated? Have you ever been in this place spiritually?
(d) How God handled him - From verses 16-25 we find that Moses was instructed by God to spread his work load, to slow down. He was to find seventy men to do the work he alone was attempting to do. We are not to try and do everything ourselves, we must find others to share the load with otherwise we will burn out and become depressed.
2. Elihjah - Looking at I Kings 19:1-21 we find that a series of events tracked Elijah's life, including a famine that he himself had prophesied, and a confrontation on Mt. Carmel where he defied 450 prophets of Baal. After hearing of the reward placed upon his life by Jezebel he sought out an extremely solitary retreat under a juniper tree. And guess what his words were upon finding shelter underneath that juniper tree? "...O Lord, take my life...". Again we have an exhausted, depressed man of God. Why?
(a) Physically - From verse 3 we find that Elijah, in fear for his life, had just run approximately 30 miles. Not only was he weary, fatigued from running, but also from relating to the cultic prophets on Carmel. He had missed sleep and meals...he was simply worn out. Have you been there?
(b) Emotionally - From verse 10 we find that Elijah suffered from a martyr's complex. Notice his words: "I have been very zealous for the Lord...for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." He figured that he was all alone against the prophets of Baal and Ahab and Jezebel. How untrue. God soon reminded him that there were 7,000 others in Israel who had refused to bow to Baal worship. Have any of us been here? Thinking that we alone are standing for truth and that there is no one else who will stand alongside of us in support?
(c) Spiritually - From verse 3 we find that Elijah's fear was an indication that his eyes were not on God, but on the enemy. Jezebel was anxious to take his life, payment for what he had done to her 450 prophets, and it seemed that all were against poor Elijah: Jezebel, the world, even God.
(d) How God handled him - God did not rebuke Elijah. Rather, God fed His faithful servant and allowed him to sleep (verses 5-8). God understood that this man was in deep need of sleep and food. God had sustenance provided to Elijah for forty days, and he also provided him with a friend: Elisha (verses 19-21).
3. Jonah - From reading Jonah 4:1-11 we find that Jonah, in the wake of perhaps the greatest evangelistic success ever recorded, became victim of depression. The entire city of Nineveh (capitol of the Assyrian Empire) repened and turned to worshipping God. Now, note the same words, but from a different man, "...O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life (verse 3)." Why did Jonah battle depression?
(a) Physically - From verses 1-3 we find that Jonah had fought hard against God. He had attempted a trip to Tarshish to avoid preaching in Nineveh, and in the process had survived time in the belly of a great fish. He had subsequently preached his way across Nineveh, and effort that took three days to achieve. Have you ever tried to avoid doing what God has placed directly before you to do? Has your avoidance ever worked out for your benefit?
(b) Emotionally - From verse 2a we find that Jonah was a bitter man, angry at God for showing His compassion and grace to the people he himself despised. Jonah felt superior to them. He was a bigoted nationalist more than he was an evangelist.
(c) Spiritually - From verses 2-3 we find that Jonah was carnal. Anger was the tell-tale sign of his deeper problem. In this instance he wanted to preach without seeing the results for which an evangelist usually hopes.
(d) How God handled him - In verses 4-9 God brought the facts to Jonah's attention and pointed out that he had no reason to let his anger get all heated up.
Become Victors Over Depression!
Five significant lessons emerge from out of this study. If appled they can help us to win over depression.
1) Realize that depression is not a sin, it is a symptom.
2) Maintain a consistent program of relaxation and rest. Do not overwork yourself, delegate some things to others to do. And be thankful when they do the work for you!
3) Guard against those subtle complexes (inferiority, marty, and superiority). Keep your eyes upon Christ Jesus and away from yourself.
4) Remember that God is for you, not against you. It is not His design to make your life miserable, but meaningful.
5) Don't forget, Satan and his demons may bring depression. It's one of his sharpest darts that he hurls at us daily.
In summary, each of us must be aware of the three major areas that if we become unbalanced in them we will become susceptible to falling into depression. Are we overworked? Overextended? Accepting too many tasks, can't seem to say "no?" Thinking that God has turned away from you, that He is laying too heavy a load upon your shoulders? Do not believe that Satan is out there waiting to take you down into the depths of emotional and spiritual depravity? Remember that God warns us to do all things in moderation, that way maintaining balance in our lives.
That concludes this section of our study on Our Problems. The next section will deal with the problem of worry in our lives. I hope that you all will return to find out more about how this problem impacts our spiritual walk. Until then, grace and peace be yours.
Thu, Oct 29th - 9:52PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Let's see, in verse one God reminded the Jewish people that He had taken Jacob, whose name means "crooked," and He made a nation out of him. God took the dust of the ground, breathed into it the spirit of life, and it became a living human being. That human being rebelled, but now God makes sons of God out of those who will trust Christ. I agree with Dr. McGee that this is my beginning, and it was a very bad beginning. I do not accept the evolutionary theory that I evolved from a monkey; I came from something worse than a monkey. I came from a rebellious sinner who had been taken from the ground. That first man, Adam, passed on to me a fallen nature which will never be reformed or repaired. But God has given me a new nature and a token to carry with me the rest of my days on earth: His Holy Spirit.
Beginning with Jacob, God created a nation. Then He redeemed them by blood and power from Egypt, and they became Israel, a prince with God. They belong to God because of creation and because of redemption.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you (43:2).
God gave them this promise. It applies to Israel and the manner in which God delivered them in the past, the crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan River for examples.
This also has spiritual application for all of God's children today. Sometimes we get into what can be called "deep water" when we can't touch bottom. We get involved in things which put us in positions where we are "in over our heads." At these times God is still with us and will carry us through to the other side and safety.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior: I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopa and Seba for you (43:3).
God never lowers His standard for anyone in regards to salvation. God gave these nations to discipline Israel for its transgressions against Him. He permitted them to treat Israel as they did and now He will judge them.
In Proverbs 21:18 it is found: "The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright." This explains why God allows wicked people to cross your path and cause you all sorts of trouble. He does it in order to bring you and I into line and in order to mature us spiritually. God gave them for our deliverance. Proverbs 11:8 tells us: "The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked comes in his stead." God uses them to straighten us out and then He proceeds to straighten them out.
Since you was precious in My sight, you have been honorable, and I have loved you: therefore will I give men for you, and people for your life (43:4).
We cannot imagine how much God loves Israel, nor how precious we are to God.
Beloved, never forget how God willingly gave His Son for our sakes when we were still wicked sinners, far from Him. Give Him the praise, honor, and glory that He deserves. God willing I will continue tomorrow evening and we shall find more evidence that God is still dealing with the Israelites.
Wed, Oct 28th - 12:04PM
"God's "negative" commands
"The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing."(Psalm 34:10)
Many worldly-minded people tend to resent the Bible as a book of prohibitions, or "thou shalt nots", as in the Ten Commandments. In reality, many of God's most precious promises use the phrase, "shall not" in a diametrically opposite way, not listing prohibitions, but provisions!
For example, there is the opening verse of the much-loved, and quoted, 23rd Psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Or, as in the words of our text, "they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Here we can see that the negative statements actually turn out to be ones of fulfillment.
There is the great promise of salvation and everlasting life: "He that hears My word, and believes on Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation (John 5:24)". Oh beloved, what a precious promise that one is! You are hearing God's Word even now, and if you believe on Him then you have everlasting life and shall not suffer from condemnation. You are saved! You are free from the Law! Following salvation, there is the promise of divine guidance: "He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12)." What assurance that is to seeking hearts! With that assurance we can rejoice with the psalmist: "The Lord...is at my right hand, I shall not be moved;...Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with His hand(Psalm 16:8, 37:24)." No matter how great the trial or tribulation, the Lord will not leave us. "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you (Isaiah 43:2)." God assures us that the problems of our lives shall not be so great that we will be washed away for He is with us. He is closer than the air that we breathe in and out with each breath that we take.
God's Word and His promises can never fail. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away(Matthew 24:35)." "Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it(Matthew 16:18)." "Sin shall not have dominion over you (Romans 6:14)."
So we should never resent God's "negative" commands, His "shall nots" are there through His grace to lift us up when we are in the midst of trouble. Grace and peace be with you all the remainder of this day, I pray.
Sun, Oct 25th - 8:32PM
Me and My Problems, Are they all gone?
Temptation is inevitable. That is very sobering news. It ought to motivate each of us to be better prepared to face its onslaught. Reread James 1 and then create a chart in your notebook. Your chart should have four columns, the first has a heading of VERB, the second a heading of VERSE, the third a heading of meaning, and the fourth a heading of CROSS REFERENCE. You should be able to find seven verbs to put in the first column. Use a concordance, a dictionary, or a Bible dictionary to discover meaning to each one. Try to find any cross references and list these as well.
* What is the relationship between this passage(1:13-15) and that which precedes it (1:1-12)?
* What about the relationship between 1:13-15 and that which follows it?
Have you ever considered how to counteract temptation? I had to confront this many years ago, before I got married. I used to frequent a nightclub where exotic dancers performed seven nights a week. It was a magnetic draw. Once I began reading God’s Word I realized that I was not in a very good place when I was there. Upon finally reading Proverbs 1 and 2 I knew without a doubt what sort of place that nightclub actually was. Through prayer and abstinence from frequenting the club I was able to break the hold of this tempting place. As long as I remained going to such a place and putting myself in very close proximity to sexual temptation, then I was perilously near to committing sin. It was in my mind eerily close in nature to being an alcoholic. I have not visited such a place since, and cannot picture what would drive me back. I avoid the temptation.
This would then be an appropriate time to develop a specific strategy in order to overcome any temptation.
* First, are you “on your own” when it comes to temptation, or are you accountable to someone for your actions? Accountability can’t be overemphasized for it helps immensely in keeping you away from that which tempts you. Seek out someone with whom you can be accountable in this area.
* What areas pose the greatest threat to you? Are you most vulnerable to the sensual, material possessions, gossip, slander, self-gratification, wrath, lying, or coveting? Maybe it is an area not even mentioned here, yet one that causes you to struggle. Write it down and title it as your greatest temptation.
* Now that you’ve specified the troublesome area, think through specific steps that will provide a path to victory over temptation. It is much better if you can discuss these steps with a friend to whom you are accountable. This becomes something similar to a 12 step program. Your personal plan must be realistic, attainable, and simple. It could be as simple as reading sections of Proverbs, meditating upon them, having them written down on index cards so that they can be read while at work or in the car. It could also mean being able to call a friend to talk about the temptation 24/7.
I hope and pray that this part of the study can provide you with some help in dealing with temptation in your life. Always remember that God has told us that He will always provide you with a way out of the temptation, it is up to us to be aware and on the look out for the means to escape it.
Sat, Oct 24th - 12:54PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Last time we found out that Israel is the subject of verse 22. Because they turned away as a nation from God and they turned to worshipping idols they were robbed and spoiled.
Who among you will give ear to this? who will listen and hear for the time to come?
Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, He against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in His ways, neither were they obedient unto His law.
Therefore He has poured upon him the fury of His anger, and the strength of battle: and it has set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart (42:23-25).
Just as Isaiah put the question to his people, so too today I put the question to people around the world: Who will listen to the Words of God? Who will listen and remind people in the years ahead? Who will walk in the way of Christ and be obedient to His law? Who will stop living in sin? Why should anyone do this? Because if people do not then God will pour out His fury upon all who have refused to listen. God shall begin the judgment and no one so afflicted will even be aware of their impending doom. The lost shall be as lemmings to the cliff edge: they shall run headlong off the cliff to their doom following those in front of them.
God did indeed scatter nation Israel to the four corners of our world for a long time. But they have now regathered in their homeland, awaiting the Messiah. We need to see and understand that even though nation Israel was severly chastened by God, still they have not repented and returned to worshipping Him in faith. Has this stopped the purposes of God? No it has not. God does what He wills, no matter what mankind chooses to do.
That finishes chapter 42 of this Book of Isaiah. Now we begin the next chapter which has as its theme an ongoing involvement of God with His people. Israel was not abandoned long ago and they are not abandoned today. Revealed here for us is the thought that it is tantamount to unbelief to deny that God has a future purpose for the nation of Israel. In the New Testament Paul asks the question, ",,,Has God cast away His people? God forbid..."(Romans 11:1). As much as many find it distasteful, it is a very dogmatic statement, God is not done with the Israelites, and it is made quite clear to all of us in this chapter now before us for study.
But now thus says the Lord that created you, O Jacob, and He that formed you, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are Mine (43:1).
Jehovah properly identifies the relationship between Himself and His people: He created them all. Jehovah redeemed them, called them by name, and they are all His. Today, I know many people do not listen once they are told that upon salvation they will no longer own themselves, that they will belong to God in total. Anyone who, through a variety of reasons, does not concede to human authority will not be willing to concede to the authority of God. If I believe that I am a law unto myself then there is no way for me to be willing to believe in a benevolent God who will rule my life wanting the best for me at all times. I wish to remain rebellious to all authority except my own. For all who qualify for this grouping, my prayers go out to you. May you all one day come to a saving knowledge of Christ.
I think this is as good a place as any to stop for today. Next time, God willing, we shall find out that God gave promises to His people Israel before they ever went into captivity in Babylon. Until then, grace and peace be with you today!
Fri, Oct 23rd - 5:43PM
Me and My Problems, Are they all gone?
3. Temptation is an individual matter - From James 1:14 we find: "But each one is tempted...is carried away and enticed by his own lust." Nothing is strong enough outside of us to alone cause sin. Sin occurs when we agree to the temptation and get involved with it.
4. Temptation that leads to sin always follows the same process - Simply put, there are four steps to this process which can be found within verses 14-15 of James 1.
STEP ONE The outer bait is dropped near us.
STEP TWO The inner desire is attracted to the bait.
STEP THREE Sin occurs with the yielding to the inner desire.
STEP FOUR Sin results in tragic consequences.
One thing that happens between step three and four is a temporary period of pleasure. Satan's lie is that we will receive pleasure or some sort of gain by involving ourselves in certain acts. The pleasure most certainly happens, but Satan does not tell us that it is extremely temporary. In fact, the only way to get the fleeting pleasure again is to commit the sin again, and again, and again. Sound like addictive behavior to anyone?
Some suggestions for overcoming temptation:
Temptation is always counteracted by self-control; a character quality made possible by the Holy Spirit as can be found in Galatians 5:22-23. The word literally means "strength." Simply put, self-control is inner strength. It comes from being plugged into the Holy Spirit of God, but we must pave the way for it in our lives, we do not wake up one fine morning and discover that we found self-control overnight while we slept.
A. Counteract temptation---do not tolerate it - "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:13)." Have memorized verses ready at hand to be used to combat temptation so that you will not be enticed. Physically leave the location of the temptation.
B. Use the right resistance - Job 31:1 and Proverbs 4:25 will help in dealing with a wandering eye.
C. Remind yourself that the final pain will soon erase the temporary pleasure - Look to Hebrews 11:24-25, and realize that the pleasures of alcohol, drugs, sex, and others, all ultimately lead to degradation of one's body, mind, and soul. No one stops to consider the cost of one's behavior when in the midst of its present pleasure. But when the doctor's visit brings news of HIV, or any of a host of STD's the pleasure is nowhere to be found. Or when news of your infidelity reaches your spouse and you lose your marriage, your family, your home, and most of your friends there is very little pleasure to be had.
D. Control your thought life through memorizing God's Word - We should take note of Christ's example in Matthew 4:1-11 and in Psalm 119:9,11. If we fill our mind with God's Word we can keep out the inner desires of our flesh.
E. Do battle on a daily basis - Do not think that you can relegate this to a once a week or once per month ritual exercise. You can go ahead and try but it will fail miserably. Each and every day you must exert self-control over yourself. Are you going to be the one in control of yourself, or are you going to be lazy and allow desires to rule you?
That is all for today my friends. I hope and pray that this helps some to avoid the pitfalls of temptation and keeps them away from enticements.
Grace and peace be yours,
Fri, Oct 23rd - 1:04PM
What if I Sin After Salvation?
Christian brothers and sisters, you may ask: "What if we slip up and sin after true conversion?" The apostle John spelled out the answer to this question: "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:7-9)."
This clearly does not give us liberty to commit sins(I John 2:1 and Jude 4), but it is a frank acknowledgement of the humanity of even the most righteous Christian. Our fight and struggle against sin in our flesh is a daily task as we work with God's help to overcome our human tendencies (Hebrews 12:1 and I Corinthians 9:26-27).
The apostle Paul tells Christians to "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13)." As with repentance and salvation, this is a part of our partnership with our Creator and Father in heaven above. God wishes to work intimately with us each and every day, it is up to us to choose to do so.
So, when we slip up and sin, we are to confess the sin and ask Christ to forgive us and cleanse us of the sin. Then we are to turn away from committing the sin. This is what Christ instructed the adulterous woman to do once all of her accusers had walked away from stoning her, "Go, and sin no more." He expects nothing less from believers today. Walk away from the sin, avoid the temptation in the future. Learn from your mistakes in decision-making and become wiser.
Wed, Oct 21st - 8:22PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Now we will find that God is ready to speak of new things that shall happen. Old things have now come to pass and it is time to move on.
Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.
Sing unto the LORD a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth, you that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.
Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar does inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare His praise in the islands(42:9-12).
God deals in prophecy. He proclaims things before they ever come to pass. God tells us to raise our voices to the heavens in praise of all that He has done. All creation is supposed to give God glory and declare His praise to all corners of the globe.
The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, He shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: He shall cry, yea, roar; He shall prevail against His enemies.
I have long time held my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once(42:13-14).
God shall go out and confront His enemies and shall prevail against them. God has been patient a very long time but now the time arrives that He shall go out and pass judgment upon humanity.
I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools (42:15).
God will devastate this world during His coming judgment against sinful mankind who refuse to repent of their wicked ways. It has nothing to do with vindictiveness, or meanness, or maliciousness on God's part. It has everything to do with Him being holy and pure and us being corrupt and filled with sin.
And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them (42:16).
Here is how we were before Christ came and saved us. We were blind spiritually to what was going on around us and to us. We were living in darkness and in crooked places. In other words, we were twisted up individuals. God came to heal us from our injuries, from our genetic defects, from our wounds inflicted upon us by loved ones, by friends, by neighbors, relatives, etc.. Whatever hurt that you have hidden deep down in your heart, Christ has come to relieve you of it. He has come to give you rest and peace.
They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, You are our gods(42:17).
Here we finally see the idolaters being warned that judgment is coming, it is inevitable. The same warning is in effect for those today who worship the human body and its vanity. Attempting to prolong youthful good looks and sexuality at any financial cost is idolatry.
Hear, you deaf; and look, you blind, that you may see(42:18).
And here are we all. Deaf, blind people wandering through our days thinking that we are so smart, not realizing that there is an entire other existence all around us. This is why faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Until we truly listen to what God has to say to us we wil remain ignorant of God's existence. We can occupy a pew in a church our entire lifetime and still not know Christ's love. We can attend mass faithfully and yet never hear the cries of those whom we need to help.
Who is blind, but My servant? or deaf, as My messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the Lord's servant?(42:19)
God identifies the blind servant here as His own Chosen People, Israel. God does not spare the people that He Himself picked out to be a living example of serving Jehovah.
Seeing many things, but you observe not; opening the ears, but he hears not.
The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.
But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none deliver; for a spoil, and none say, Restore(42:20-22).
Nation Israel is the subject in these verses. They were robbed and spoiled by prophets and leaders who allowed them to turn after idols rather than continue worshipping and serving Jehovah. We gentiles today are in a similar situation. We have been given God's Word and if the pastors and ministers do not take proper care and preach the truth from the pulpit then they too have allowed the people to turn away from God and run after idols.
That is all for tonight. Next time, God willing, I shall finish up with chapter 42 of Isaiah. We shall see that God does allow for misfortune to befall those to whom He has given much if they fail to use their gifts to edify others. Squander what God has given us and He shall require it back. The parables teach us that much my friends.
May Christ be with you today, and always.
Wed, Oct 21st - 12:53PM
Faith and Faithfulness
"Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?"(Proverbs 20:6)
Do you trust God completely? So much so that you live accordingly; to the point that He is able to trust you in return? Are you and I yearning to hear Christ say to us upon His return, "Well done, good and faithful servant?"
It is increasingly difficult to find someone whose love or loyalty can be counted on. Too many people are fickle and faithless. Sadly too many of us are bringing Paul's prophecy of the end times to pass: men will be lovers of themselves.
Marriages and families are a major casualty in our world. Fewer and fewer people are willing to make a lifelong commitment. Wedding vows seem to not matter, they are made to be broken when times get tough.
All good relationships are built upon the foundation of faith and faithfulness; of mutual trust born out of trustworthiness. A good friend is a true friend or a faithful friend, they are there when you need them. A good employee is a trusted and dependable employee, one that is faithful. A good marriage is largely defined by its basic components: a faithful wife and faithful husband.
In order to be faithful we must first learn what faithful is all about. For this we must turn our eyes to God. We can always count on God being there for us. Christ Jesus epitomizes faithfulness: even faced with death upon the cross, He remained obedient to the Father and faithful to redeeming us from our sins. Thus we can then respond to the faithfulness of God with deep and abiding faith which will involve our utmost allegiance, fidelity, obedience, and devotion.
God's standard of faith and faithfulness is far greater than what we can personally achieve with our own human efforts. To begin approaching His standard we must wholeheartedly seek out His assistance by reading His Word. By reading such passages as Romans 10:17 we are inspired to follow His example. By seeking out fellowship of "the church of God" where other like-minded people are trying to faithfully follow God still today, just as shown in Acts 2:42; 20:28.
To truly "hold fast" spiritually, we must have God's Spirit dwelling within us (II Timothy 1:13-14). How do we then obtain God's Spirit? Acts 2:38 reveals that upon repentance of sins and accepting Christ's work to redeem one from those sins, that one shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a gift from God to you. Freely given. God's Spirit then imparts to us the nature of God, which gradually develops in us like a slowly ripening fruit upon a tree.
The "fruit" that His Spirit produces within us is made up of many wonderful virtues. Galatians 5:22-23 lists these virtues, faith/faithfulness being one of them, depending upon which version of bible you happen to be reading.
Sadly, too often our faith is seen to come from ourselves and not as a product of God's Spirit working within us. In I Corinthians 12:9 we find that faith is a gift of the Spirit. So we cannot even begin to have faith until the Spirit gives it to us. The Book of Galatians tells us that we must have and live by "the faith of Christ"(Galatians 2:16,20). Revelation 14:12 says that God's true servants "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."
How can we reconcile this? Initially, we believe what God has said is true and that Christ came to save us from the debt of sin. This belief cannot happen unless God's Spirit already begins to work upon our hearts while we either read His Word or we hear His Word being read. Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God. Once we have salvation then the Spirit comes to dwell within us and we receive our full share of faith that God has decided we specifically are able to handle at that specific point in our lives. We may receive more faith as time passes, or not. That will depend upon our choices in life. God gives to each of us only what He feels that He can trust us with.
We now come to having deeper faith, led to trust God more and more. This is the living faith portion of our lives. It is at this point where faithfulness begins to become a point of concern for us. How faithful shall I be? Only faithful for a handful of years, a decade, or a score? Or an entire lifetime?
Luke 16:10 explains why some people end up with much responsibility within a congregation and others do not. "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." God never overlooks or excuses any irresponsibility. We must prove ourselves trustworthy to Him, not the other way around. God judges our character by how we manage everything.
If we were to continue reading the verses following Luke 16:10 we would find that accountability comes into play. We cannot expect God to trust us with stewardship of His kingdom if we are to be untrustworthy.
How about this next passage that we are going to look at? How do you see it applying to your everyday life? "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism (Colossians 3:22-25)." Is God speaking to you and me about our bosses? I think so, beloved. I know of co-workers who often get very busy when the "boss" shows up, but once he leaves they slack right off to doing next to nothing again. That is not working as we are instructed in this passage. We are to give it our best effort, just as if Christ was there in the flesh overseeing us.
This is a huge subject, and I wish to keep it short as possible here. I wish to end with pointing out that faithfulness includes perseverance. Perseverance is a key to success in very many things of life. When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy he was in prison awaiting execution. But he was at peace because he knew he had been faithful to God, and God would remain faithful to him. Paul wrote, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (II Timothy 4:7)." I do not know if I will be able to exactly copy Paul's efforts, I expect I will fall woefully short of them, but I strive daily to fight the good fight, to work at finishing this race as strongly, if not more strongly, as I began it over twenty four years ago. I strive to keep the faith and remain faithful to Christ, to my wife, to my family, to my fellow saints. Perseverance requires endurance and so I must exercise daily so that, as a good professional athlete, I may perform up to the best of my abilities given to me by God. To do less is unacceptable. How about you, my friends? Have you determined in your hearts to train yourselves so that you will be able to fight the good fight and be able to finish this race set before us? So many pastors fall by the side of the road, exhausted, disillusioned, despondent. All because they failed to prepare themselves properly for this "race." Do not be a jackrabbit, be a tortoise! Get to the finish line! Be faithful your entire life to Christ! Never give up the Truth for Satan's glamour! Never forget what our God has done for you!
I pray that this post will be of some service to you as you seek to do what our Lord and Savior has put before you to do. May all glory, and honor, and praise be God's!
Tue, Oct 20th - 12:47PM
My Speech as a Christian
"Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man." (Colossians 4:6)
As a Christian, my words are of transcendent importance, for Jesus has said: "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment"(Matthew 12:36). The word "answer" in our text means more than simply giving an answer to questions. It is more than simple yes or no replies. It refers to ordinary conversation, indicating that every verbal response of mine should be gracious and tasteful---never crude, hurtful, or bland. I have to admit, I have had trouble at times in my Christian walk to always be gracious and tasteful. As I get older I am much better at it than I was when I was a youngster at age 32!
The Bible includes many other spec's for a Christian's speech. For one thing, there ought not to be too much of it! "Study to be quiet, and to do your own business"(I Thessalonians 4:11). My words should be carefully chosen, able to be backed up; "Sound speech, that cannot be condemned"(Titus 2:8). People should be able to rely upon the truth of what I say. "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor"(Ephesians 4:25). Can you see how this dovetails into my study on temptation yesterday? I need to be circumspect. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers"(Ephesians 4:29). "But who you also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth"(Colossians 3:8). My words should always be edifying and helpful, wholesome and thoughtful. I cannot denigrate anyone, I cannot be spiteful with anyone, I cannot be slanderous of anyone, I cannot be profane with anyone. If what I am about to utter is not helpful, then I should close my mouth and bite my tongue. I should spend some time rethinking what I was about to say. If I am about to bait my spouse with some slightly sarcastic comments, then I must shut my mouth and say nothing for it will not be helpful in the least to utter those comments. The saying goes "Have nothing good to say, then say absolutely nothing."
Does this seem to be inhumanly possible? Well, remember God is able to tame our tongues, even though we cannot! The key is prayer, earnest and consistent prayer, not just that our speech become non hurtful, but that it may edify, testify, and minister grace to those to whom we speak.
I ask Christ Jesus to bestow blessings unimaginable upon you as you read this posting. Walk in the Light!
Mon, Oct 19th - 9:50PM
Me and My Problems, Are they all gone?
Very few things plague us more persistently, and consistently, than temptation. We are tempted to gossip, to steal, to become rich quick, to desire popularity, to take revenge, to be lazy, to overeat, to cheat, to fight, and to yield to sexual desires. We are also tempted to be selfish, envious, and to hold grudges. Evil is all about us each and every day. It is there while we are awake and while we are fast asleep. We ought to want to live an insulated life, not an isolated one. We need God's Word to speak to us on this important issue as we attempt to diagnose the problem; we need to look to the Book of James.
I. Diagnosis of Temptation - In James 1:13-16 we can read this: "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts He any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren." Under the divine inspiration of God's Spirit, James wrote to group of people undergoing a number of difficulties. They had been dispersed and were no longer together in a secure group. That in itself brings loneliness and trials. In the first twelve verses James addresses the problem of trials; in verses 13-16, he speaks to the problem of temptation. There is a difference in the two. In the original Greek text, it can be seen that the term peirasmos is used for both words. However, the context determines the proper thought---trial or temptation.
A. Difference between Trials and Temptations
1. Trials - These are what we would call "ordeals," or tests of our faith. Usually there is no evil connotation associated with them. Job experienced a series of tests of loss, or trials; under the juniper tree Elijah experienced a test of hardship; and on the Island of Patmos, John experienced the test of loneliness.
2. Temptations - These are associated with the invitation to do evil. Temptation is an act of enticement to do wrong, by promise of pleasure or gain. The sensual aspect is only a part of temptation; it has many other facets.
B. Principles that Apply to Temptation
1. Temptation is inevitable - Notice that the issue is not one of "if" but of "when." None of us can live without temptation, it is a part of our lives. The monk or nun living in seclusion behind tall walls wrestles with temptation just as the businessperson who works in a busy downtown area. Also note, the Lord does not make us feel guilty because we have temptations. There is nothing wrong with facing temptation or having tempting things come by us or even at us. Bottom line here: temptation is not equal to sin. The issue has to do with our response when temptation comes knocking on our door.
2. Temptation is never directed by God - Verse 13 points out that God tempts no one. The question of agency, or vector, is a particularly critical one. How is God related to temptation? There are two different ways of describing agency in the original language of the New Testament---either directly or indirectly. James wrote of indirect agency. God is neither directly, or indirectly involved in bringing us into sin. When we sin we do so solely by our choice. We could say "no" but most of the time we renege making choice thinking that this will absolve us of responsibility. It does not for we have still chosen a course of action. We need to remember the concluding phrase of verse 13, "for God cannot be tempted by evil. and He Himself does not tempt any one." Check out I John 1:5-10 and see how these two passages are related to one another.
That is all for tonight my friends. Next time, God willing, I shall continue with the final two principles that apply to temptation. I pray this study will be beneficial to you.
Grace and peace be yours.
Mon, Oct 19th - 1:56PM
Living in Occupied Territory
"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light (I Peter 2:9)."
When considering our ongoing struggle for both survival and victory in this world, we do well to recognize that we are in enemy territory. We live at Normandy Beach. While it is true that our Captain created this world---indeed, "all things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made"(*John 1:3).---sacrificed His life to redeem it, and will reign over it for all eternity, it is also very true that "the whole world lies in wickedness (I John 5:19), occupied by "the prince of this world"(John 12:31), "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience"(Ephesians 2:2).
The very fact that we are surrounded by such pervasive darkness should come as no surprise, for before we were rescued by His grace, we too were part of that darkness---we had to be called out of it. John the Baptist came "to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet unto the way of peace"(Luke 1:79). Furthermore, Christ taught, "men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil"(John 3:19).
We therefore can see that we have been called by Christ to the Way, said Way being one of peace. Does this mean that we are at peace with the world? No, we are not. We are at peace with God, no longer is there any enmity between us and God once we are saved through Christ Jesus' shed blood on Calvary. Christ has called us to come out of our prison dungeons and see that the doors have been flung open wide. We must come out of the darkness and enter into the light of truth. It is why Christ proclaimed that we were to become free indeed. Darkness hides truth, vision is impaired, our senses are negatively affected by darkness. Darkness is what burglars prefer to work in, their actions hidden from the perception of their victims and the surveilance of the authorities. Sinful people prefer to remain in darkness, they do not desire light in the least.
This confrontation of darkness and light is far more than merely human conflict, however, "for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places"(Ephesians 6:12). Now, we can waste much time arguing over whether or not this means spiritual or physical conflict. Does this mean there is wickedness up in heaven? I do not go there. I will say this much; is there any doubt in any of your minds that today there exists wickedness in the halls of our American government? Is there any doubt that serial killers walk in darkness and wickedness? Beloved, Satan is the ruler of this world and of all who abide in the darkness. We are involved in a spiritual war that spills over into the physical, natural world around us. When someone capitulates spiritually and falls into the darkness headlong, then Satan has himself a living tool to wield against those who are innocents, whether they be children or adults. These are the persons who murder others, dismember them, and either bury them on their properties or consume them. These are the persons who murder others and assume their identities for periods of time. They drift through society like ghosts, nobody knowing who they are actually dealing with. It is having no attachement to others, feeling no remorse, having no fear of consequences. Living in the darkness long enough creates these individuals who are then unleashed upon the unsuspecting members of lawful society. But, praise God, we have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light as described in our text today. Although we are still in the world, we are not of this world. We have delivered by our King from the power of the darkness, and have been translated into the kingdom of His dear Son.
Beloved, we all need to keep mindful of the fact that Christ established the beach head at the Cross but we are the ones on the frontlines, pushing the beach head further inland each day. Warfare creates casulties. Pastors burnout through trying to do too much by themselves. We must pray our pastors up. We must pray for continuing protection of those out spreading the word throughout the streets of our communities. It is a necessity. We must clothe ourselves in the armor of God, be ready for instant combat with the forces of darkness. Satan is out there sniping at us from a distant. He is layinng landmines along our life's path, hoping to take us out. We must be ever vigilant, ever watchful. We must support one another in love, just as Christ loves us.
Grace and peace be with you this day.
Sun, Oct 18th - 9:11PM
Book of Isaiah Study
With each chapter Isaiah steadily works his way towards comdemning idolatry. It is in this chapter 42 that we find that the nation Israel is called the servant of Jehovah. We find also that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Servant of Jehovah and is so called in the Gospel of Mark. An application of the prophecy is in Matthew 12:17-21.
Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delights; I have put My spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles (42:1).
"Behold" could very well be considered a trumpet call to consider the Lord Jesus Christ. We can see the references being made to Christ here. "Mine elect," "in whom My soul delights," "he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles," are all things that are traceable within the New Testament.
He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth (42:2-3).
The prophecy continues. Jesus Christ did not cry out while being crucified. He brought truth to all via Himself being Truth incarnate. These verses characterize the life and ministry of Christ while He lived here upon earth. He did not carry a great big club and brain people to get them to see the error of their ways. He did not strong-arm people to listen to what He had to say. Christ simply came and let sin bring its own judgment against itself. The smoking flax represents the sin in a man's life. It smolders and burns fitfully over a long period of time giving off visible signs of its existence. Finally, it will break out into open flames and consume the man. As I have pointed out repeatedly, the wages of sin is death and destruction.
He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for His law.
Thus says God the LORD, He that created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it; He that gives breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:(42:4-5)
Here we uncover more information concerning exactly who was active in creation of our universe. We can directly infer that Christ shall not fail nor be discouraged until He has established judgment in the earth and that it is He that created the heavens and the earth. It was Christ who created all life and now still gives breath to each new life and spirits to the people who walk upon this earth. It is Jesus the Creator to whom we need to run to for refuge from all of the evils of this world. It is Jesus the Creator to whom we owe our newness of life upon accepting God's gift of redemption. Everything is Jesus. We truly live within a Christocentric universe!
I the Lord have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand, and will keep You, and give You for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house (42:6-7).
Jehovah reveals that He called the second person of the Trinity and was with Him and kept Him each step of the path that He walked, even unto death on that cross at Calvary. In same fashion God the Father will be with us each and every step of our lives. We see that the Father always intended to give His only begotten Son to the non-Jewish people of the world as a covenant, as a Light to the Gentiles. What was the purpose of all of this? For Christ to come in the flesh in order to open the eyes that were blind, to free those in bondage to sin and were living their lives in prison, having been forced to pay the consequences of their actions. God considers all of us who remain bound up in our sins to be sitting in darkness, it is spiritual darkness in which we cannot see our problems are truly rooted in our separation from God the Creator.
Now physically Christ came and physically performed these miracles in order that people could discover that their ailments were frequently caused by their unbelief in God. In Luke 2:32 old Simeon prophesied, "A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel." Christ had to come to show the Way to redemption, for all peoples.
I am the Lord: that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images (42:8).
Here we finally find Jehovah's "mark in the sand." He informs the Israelites, and us, that He does not give out His glory to any other being and His praise does not go to any image that we might devise to create ourselves with the intent to worship it. So, throw away those paintings of Christ, throw away those pictographs of the Last Supper. None of these things have God's praise within them. They are graven images that draw people's focus away from the true God. They create misconceptions that force people to think wrong thoughts about the true nature of God. That ultimately leads people to commit unknowing sins through these wrong thoughts. This verse marks the beginning of Jehovah's indictment of idolatry.
Next time, God willing, I shall continue with the next 7-8 verses and show the development of God's indictment of idolatry. May Christ be with you all, may He answer your prayers each day, and may He fill your "barns" copiously!
Fri, Oct 16th - 8:06PM
Me and My Problems, Are they all gone?
The problem of a gap in clergy-laity
It is the relationship breakdown between people in professional ministry and those whom they serve. Once people live with this problem for a long time they begin to downplay its importance and to accept their situation as unchangeable. On the other hand, those people who have been in a place where the clergy-laity gap has been bridged/repaired love the long-term affect of such repair. They have more readily accepted the ministry to them...they have enjoyed a stronger impulse toward maturity...they have found greater delight in being involved in the work and process of ministry itself. Too often though, this gap is ugly and deep. To those on either side, looking down into the gap produces a chilling effect. Perhaps if we spend some time with Paul we will be assisted in reevaluating this problem and see the need to change it.
Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica, telling them that he didn't believe his visit with them had been in vain; he did not leave a gap when he left them. Instead, his time was marked by great fellowship and a heart-to-heart love for one another. Paul listed six reasons why he felt the time to be worthwhile. If we could preserve these qualities, perhaps this gap would be eliminated.
Paul's philosophy regarding his ministry. A philosophy of mininstry will either restrict or release those who serve. What is felt by those at the heart of a ministry will be lived out in their techniques and methods. In I Thessalonians 2:1-12 Paul lists his six reasons for seeing his visit as valuable.
1. For our exhortation was based on truth, not deceit (verse 3).
Paul's ministry was truthful; no one had to question his motives. Trust and confidence close this gap. The term exhortation means "to call alongside"; it is an intimate term which has the idea of both encouraging and confronting. Paul encouraged and confronted with the truth of Christ.
2. For our coming was not to bring glory to anyone else, and it was not to receive glory from anyone else (verse 4-6a).
Whenever there is human glorification this gap widens. Paul viewed his ministry as a vertical thing, not a human effort or work. Paul had decided, when God called him and sent him from Damascus to the Arabian Desert, that his ministry was prescribed by God; therefore, he was to make certain that God alone would be pleased and glorified by all of his ministry activity. This is something that we need to do more in today's congregations, seek no glory of our own, give all of the glory to Christ.
3. Our ministry was one of tenderness, not force (verse 6b-7).
If anyone was qualified to exert his authority, it was Paul. He was a Roman citizen, he was a Pharisee, he was an Apostle, but he was not out to build an empire of his own. Rather than demand his own way, this is what he did: "...We proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children." Paul acted precisely as a shepherd; he didn't drive people, he led and nurtured them.
4. We shared our lives (verse8).
Paul wrote that he not only "imparted" to them the gospel of God, but also his life. He had a love relationship with those in Thessalonica. The people weren't merely an audience to him. He broke down the potential gap by giving both his words and himself. In other words, Paul served them.
5. Our labor was based on dedication, not remuneration (verse 9). Paul never failed to remember his calling. He was dedicated to it, for the calling was from God and not one of his own making. Motivation for ministry must always come from dedication to Christ, not from concerns of "what am I going to get out of this."
6. Our example to you was positive and encouraging, not negative and critical (verses 10-11).
This was made possible by Paul's perspective. He thought of everything in terms of devotion, uprightness, and blamelessness. What he did with the people in Thessalonica, he did as a father would do for his own children. They became his "children" spiritually. A positive spirit breeds harmony and happiness. It creates delight. Criticism broadens gaps, and can spread quickly through a congregation like a virulent cancer. When the criticism comes from the clergy...it is inexcusable and extremely harmful.
Verse 12 gives us a general motivation for his approach to his personal ministry. "...so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you..." The Thessalonian congregation was known throughout Greece and Macedonia. It was not the one in the pulpit who characterized the group of believers, but those in the pews. The gap between the preacher and the preached to had been eliminated and the church had functioned properly and was healthy.
At this point each of us ought to be asking ourselves what have the fellowship times of our various groups been like over the past few years. Paul had fond memories...we should too. Perhaps there is something in your life-style that could be contributing to a clergy-laity gap? Can you think of any ideas to use this week and next to deepen your relationship with your minister/pastor/priest?
When we meet here next time, God willing, I will begin the next problem: Temptation. Now there is something that each of us must deal with on a daily basis! See you next time!
Grace and peace be with you all.
Thu, Oct 15th - 7:57PM
Me and My Problems, Are they all gone?
Has it been a week since we spoke about this issue? Time flies by. Feelings of inferiority impact our lives, sometimes all at once but normally these feelings attack us sporadically. We already looked at Moses last week and saw some of the inferiority feelings that he suffered from. Now, let's look at the prophet Jeremiah.
B. Jeremiah In Jeremiah 1 we find that God's prophets were not immune to emotional battles, just as we aren't. Many times we respect them for their victorious track records shown to us in the Old Testament but overlook their struggles along the way. A little over 800 years after Moses, God chose another man to serve Him---a prophet. Just as with Moses, Jeremiah responded not with humility, but inferiority: "...I do not know how to seak, because I am a youth." He realized that God was asking him to accept some sort of commission and that responsibility would take him before the elders of his land. His inferiority resulted from fear of the older people. The story is encouraging---not because of his response, but because of God's: "Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth..." After God's touch Jeremiah had plenty of words to speak to the elders of his land. So too today, each of us simply need to have God touch our lips and give us the words that He desires us to speak in His name. Too often we decide to speak our own words and they get us into trouble. We need to stop and ask God in prayer to touch our mouths and give us the words He wants us to speak, or to type.
C. Amos In Amos 7 we find another man who was recruited by God to witness to others in His name. Amos had absolutely no training in the schools of his day. From a human perspective he had every reason to feel inferior. He wasn't handsome, or eloquent in speech. By occupation he was a mere "fig-picker" which today would be itinerant orchard workers who pick fruit. Not a very prestigious position. Amos' job was to mash the fruit to make it soft for the buyer; God's man lived with stained hands as a result. He was the man God chose to represent Him before the priest of Bethel---Amaziah. A crude-looking, unpolished man stood in the presence of a refined, slick priest. When Amaziah ordered him to get out, Amos didn't back away. Instead of allowing feelings of inferiority to rule him, he replied: "I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock and...said to me, 'Go prophesy to My people Israel!" Amos redirected his focus and was able to step into life and fulfill the task that God had given him. That is what we must do in our lives each day. We do not need to be limited by the way we perceive ourselves compared to others; we can go on successfully in spite of ourselves and our limitations.
These illustrations are helpful, but we need to find some statements that clearly voice the principles we need to learn from these men's lives.
1. Regarding the Lord's estimation of you.
a) God considers you to be a person of great worth. Look to Matthew 6:26-30: "...They (birds) do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?"
b) God is at work within us, His workmanship. Ephesians 2:10 says: "...created in Christ Jesus for good works..."
c) God will not be through with us until we're in His presence. God is at work in us every day of our Christian lives: "...He who began a good work in you will perfect it...(Philippians 1:6)" It is His objective to complete us His way, not ours.
And so since He is conforming us, since He is working on us as unique vessels, and since He's not finished with us yet, how about considering yourself and the Lord as a team rather than yourself in competition with someone you perceive to be better, more gifted. Why not think of it as a cooperative relationship---God and i?
2. Regarding the Body's estimation of you.
In I Corinthians 12:12-18, 21-22 Paul informs us that even the unseen organs in Christ's family are vital. Not only is each member---seen or unseen---needed, each is vitally essential! The least esteemed part of Christ's body is vitally essential to those parts greatly esteemed. To overlook the least servant is to do dishonor to the body as a whole and to Christ in particular. It is why many believers will say, "What you do is more important than what I do." "Thank you for praying for me this week, I really needed the support."
3. Regarding your estimation of you. Look at what it says in Romans 12:3: "...I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith." Or, have an honest opinion of who you are, measure your value by how much faith God has given to you and what you are actively doing with it.
Thus we can now synthesize four applicable statements:
* Realize that you were prescribed before birth.
* Remember that the process of growth is still going on.
* Refuse to compare yourself with others.
* Respond correctly to your shortcomings.
Many of us struggle with inadequacy, yet cover it up so well that it may not be noticed by even those who are closest to us. Our relationship with God can be vital in validating good feelings about ourselves.
* Because of our relationship with God we know we are accepted and have a sense of belongingness. Check out the following Scriptures and write down what you see in each:
John 1:12; Romans 8:15-17; Ephesians 1:3-6
* Because of our relationship with the Son of God, we know feelings of worth. Check out these verses and write down your thoughts:
John 10:27-30; II Corinthians 5:18; I John 3:1-3
* Because of our relationship with the Holy Spirit, we are assured of competence. Check out these verses and write down your thoughts:
John 14:15-26; John 16:7-15; Romans 5:15; Romans 15:13
In order to fight inferiority, remember who you are. You are a child of God, a child of the Light. You are an heir with Christ in the kingdom of God. Know that He chose you before birth. Realize that the spiritual growth process takes your entire lifetime. Refuse to compare yourself to others, only to Christ. Finally, respond correctly to your shortcomings by applying Christ's commandments to your life.
That finishes up this section of this study. Next time I shall begin posting about the problem of the clergy-laity gap in our world today. This is a worldwide issue that affects believers everywhere to greater or lesser extent. But, that is for next time we meet, God willing. I pray that the scripture verses given will bless you and help you form a better picture of what this "body of Christ" is and what it is supposed to be doing and how it ought to treat its various parts relationally. Mercy, grace, and peace be with you.
Thu, Oct 15th - 12:32PM
What is Specific Creation?
"All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds (I Corinthians 15:39)."
The doctrine of special creation means that creation took place by supernatural processess, and that each created entity was specifically planned and formed by God for a specific purpose. This concept is clearly taught in the Genesis record where the phrase "after his kind" is used no less than ten times in the first chapter of the Bible.
In I Corinthians 15:37-44 can be found distinctiveness of several major realms of creation. Botanical: "God gives...to every seed his own body." Zoological: "All flesh is not the same flesh." Physical: "There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another." In this physical category we see that although all celestial bodies may be made of the same basic chemical elements each is different from the other and planet earth is unique in its complexity and purpose.
Astral: "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differs from another star in glory." Even among the myriad stars in the heavens above us there is uniqueness from one star to the next.
Spiritual: "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." Scripture indicates that although they are genuinely physical bodies, they will one day be supernatural bodies, not controlled by the present force systems of nature.
God has a noble purpose for each created system, and He has specially designed each for that purpose. Although He has provided ample means for "horizontal" changes within the system, no one can evolve "vertically" into a more complex system. Catch that? God provides no means for anything to evolve vertically from primitive forms to that of more complex forms. Evolution is a falsehood foisted upon a populace worldwide in order to push God as far from us as is humanly possible. It is a consistent agenda that is traceable down through the centuries. The Roman Catholic Church has done this, they have pushed God away from the parishoners and placed men between them and their God. Christ came to remove everything that might be a barrier between people and God so that everyone would have the opportunity to approach the presence of God Almighty. The Catholic Church has worked against Christ's efforts for centuries. What does that make them? I leave that judgment up to the Word of God.
So we see with our text for today that God created each type of organism with a specific purpose in mind, which molds closely with how we find these organisms in our natural world. The academic world call these places in which we find organisms "niches." Very many organisms are unable to survive outside of their "niche." They have little to no ability to adapt to changing conditions in their environment. We do see mutational ability at work in populations of bacteria and viruses but this does not equate to evolution of new species in the sense that they are becoming something other than a bacterium or a virus. God's Word holds truth then concerning the nature of species of organisms. God has given to us the basics of genetics: like begets like. This explains in a basic way why mules cannot reproduce themselves sexually.
That is all for today, beloved. Remember: study God's Word in order to properly identify truth and falsehood that confronts you from within the scientific community.
Wed, Oct 14th - 12:55PM
Who are the "Watchers?"
"This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever He will, and sets up over it the basest of men (Daniel 4:17)."
If you are like me, you want to know who are these mysterious "watchers" who are so concerned that we know that "the powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1). They are mentioned in the Bible only here in the fourth chapter of Daniel (verses 13, 23), all three times evidently synonymous with "the holy ones," beings who come down from heaven. Such phrases could apply only to angels, created to serve the Lord and the "heirs of salvation" (Psalm 103:20, Hebrews 1:14).
The word is used in our text in reference to Nebuchadnezzar's vision and period of insanity. Angels, both God's holy angels and those fallen ones with Satan, have keen, direct, interest in people on earth, as they "watch" them---even on occasion directly controlling events that affect them.
In any case, the Bible does indicate that "the angels desire to look into" the outworking of the gospel in the hearts of men (I Peter 1:12), and that "unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10). Children, as well as adult believers, seem to have guardian angels who "watch" them (Matthew 18:10, Acts 12:9-15).
This is a mysterious subject, because we cannot see these "watchers," but we at least need to know they are still there. In fact, we can praise God that "the angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him, and delivers them (Psalm 34:7)." If you are one who says that it is impossible to believe in things that are no visible, well, you believe in air, don't you? You can't see it, normally, but you take it for granted that it is still all around you. Just because we cannot sense angels' presence around us does not mean that they are any less real.We have microscopic organisms crawling all over us each and every day, 24/7, that we cannot see with our eyes and yet they are very real. We need to open up our minds and allow ourselves to conceive how things might be outside of our accepted paradigms. Otherwise very many people one day are going to be jolted into paralysis when Christ returns to judge this entire world. They will be unable to function due to the fact that their entire concept of how this world must be has been shattered. Do not become a part of that group of people, allow yourself to truly see with unfettered eyes.
Tue, Oct 13th - 1:27PM
Ever go and give blood? People who receive a blood donation are forever grateful to the donor/s. The donation provides life to someone who without it would soon die.
In a spiritual sense, Jesus Christ donated His own blood for each of us. Blood is not offered by any of the other world religions; no founder of a religion ever offered his blood for his followers. Jesus Christ is the one and only who did.
Christ's blood reaches people in every race and rank, in every class and climate, in every tribe and tongue. We know this from Hebrews 2:14-15: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." And in Revelation 5:9: "And they sung a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;" Christ loves everyone, He is not willing that any should perish.
We must realize that our pint of blood is a donation while Jesus Christ's gift was a sacrifice. After we give blood we enjoy a small snack and a drink of orange juice, and then return to our normal activities. After Jesus gave blood, He died. We give what we can easily spare; Christ gave His very life's blood in total. You and I have sinned away our right to live: "For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)." And since all have sinned "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)," and sin demands the death of the sinner "Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die,(Ezekiel 18:4)" how can anyone be saved? Jesus Christ died for us. "But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12)."
We ought to feel uncomfortable about this situation. When we give a donation of our blood we rest in a nice chair or bed in an air conditioned room with the best equipment; Jesus was nailed to that rough cross, nearly naked, beaten bloody, a crown of thorns jammed down upon His head, people cursing Him, mocking Him, spitting upon Him. Our blood comes out of our arm through a sterile needle, Jesus' blood came out of His entire body via nails, thorns, and a whip. We should feel ashamed.
Our donation is quick and easy. Actual donation time is about ten minutes; Jesus took six hours to donate His blood for us. The entire process for us---signing in, filling out paperwork, the actual donation, leaving---takes about one hour. For Christ the process took 21 hours---it began at 6Pm Thursday and ended finally at 3pm on Friday.
A pint of our blood costs around $35, but it could cost ten times that much depending upon how much typing and testing is done on it. With Christ's blood you do not have to bring your checkbook in order to receive it. It is a free gift as we are told in Romans 6:23. Thanks ought to be given by everyone to God for His unspeakable gift. But too often we curse God for even existing.
U.S. blood banks frequently have difficulty maintaining a three-day supply for routine transfusion demands. Christ's blood's salvation power is just as strong today as it was when first offered at the cross on Calvary. We may give our blood many times over the course of our lifetimes, but Jesus could give His only once, for all. It will never need to be replenished, it will never run out, it will remain effective until the ends of time.
One final thought before I close. One pint of your blood can save up to three lives; one drop of Christ's blood can save the entire world (John 3:16). Donors say they give blood because they wish to help others. Isn't that why Christ came and gave His blood? He wished to help others become reconciled to God and regain a position in heaven. Christ Jesus make a blood donation for you, won't you accept it and gain renewed life?
Mon, Oct 12th - 8:25PM
Book of Isaiah Study
When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together:
That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it (41:17-20).
The Israelites' return out of Babylon was typical of our redemption by Christ; and so the contents of these promises were provided by the gospel of Christ. That glorious discovery of His love has given full assurance to all those who hear this joyful sound that God has provided unimaginable comforts for them, sufficient for the supply of all their wants, the balancing of all their griefs, and the answering of all their prayers. They are applied by the grace and Spirit of Christ to all believers, that they may have strong consolation in their way and a complete happiness in their end. Our way to heaven lies through the wilderness of this world. Now we can suppose that the people of God, in their passage through this world, are often in straits: The poor and needy seek water, and there is none; the poor in spirit hunger and thirst after righteousness. The soul of man, finding itself empty and needy, seeks for satisfaction somewhere, but soon despairs of finding it in the world, creatures are broken cisterns, that can hold no water; so that their tongue fails for thirst, they are weary of seeking that satisfaction in the world which is not to be found in it. Their sorrow makes them thirsty; so does their toil. It is here promised that, one way or other, all their grievances shall be redressed and they shall be made easy. God Himself will be close unto them in all that which they call upon Him for. Let all the praying people of God take notice of this, and take comfort of it; he has said, "I the Lord will hear them, will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them; I will be with them, as I have always been, in their distresses.’’ While we are in the wilderness of this world this promise is to us what the pillar of cloud and fire was to Israel, an assurance of God’s gracious presence.
Produce your cause, says the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, says the King of Jacob (41:21).
This is nothing less than a direct challenge to idolatry. Who is an idolater? Ever consider the possibility that you might be one? Anything that you put between your soul and God is your idol---regardless of what it is. It is anything that you are giving your time and energy; it could actually be your religion. Anything that you allow to take the place of an intimate relationship with God is your personal idol.
Can idols explain the origin of the universe? Or of people? Are you satisfied with the explanations that evolution has given? No matter that there have been many explanations, God says to bring them all out.
Let them bring them forth, and show us what shall happen: let them show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come (41:22).
Mankind does not know its beginnings or the origin of the universe. Man simply doesn't know, although he desparately wants to know. I have been saying for a few years now that the evolutionists are going to be very embarassed in due time (50 years or less) because their theory will be just one of many theories which will be left along the highway of time. It will have its season and then it too, shall pass away. There have been many theories of the origin of the universe which were called scientific at the time but were debunked over time. Evolutionary theory will be debunked also. Will man turn to God at that time? Probably not. Man will simply turn to some other made up theory that has no way of being tested and proven. Man does not know from where he came from and he does not know the future. Man sounds rather ignorant, don't you think? Ever consider how little you really do know?
There are very many people walking around with BS's in Science, Ph.D's and Doctorates. They are all very well educated but yet do not know very much. He knows nothing of his origin, nothing of where he is going, nor anything about why he is here. No idol can give him that information. Why not then turn to God who has all of the answers to all of our questions. It does not mean that He shall give us all of the answers, but it is comforting to know Him who knows the answers. One of the smartest mottos there is is this: "Next to knowing is knowing where to find out." I simply choose to go to the Bible to find out about spiritual matters and to find the answer as to why any of us are here to begin with.
Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods: yes, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.
Behold, you are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooses you (41:23-24).
All of man's efforts apart from God are very vain, empty. This is why so many people opt for suicide to solve their emptiness. They can not see any way to solve their problems, or a way to stop their pain. If people would just turn to Christ and prove Him at His word they would be pleasantly surprised to discover that what is written in the Bible is true.
I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon My name: and he shall come upon princes as upon mortar, and as the potter treads clay.
Who has declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? yes, there is none that shows, yes, there is none that declares, yes, there is none that hears Your words.
The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that brings good tidings.
For I beheld, and there was no man; even among them, and there was no counsellor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word.
Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion (41:25-29).
God reviews whether or not any man has ever declared accurately what will come in the future? Has there ever been someone who can accurately show what is to come? Then God declares that He shall bring someone who brings good tidings, Christ Jesus is the one. God declares that man's works are all as nothing, the pretty statues and other ornate idols are merely confusing people rather than giving them clarity of thought. Confusion is the end result of idolatry or any phiolosphy which is anti-God or atheistic. It does not have the answers to the problems of life. Man-made systems do not satisfy and do not provide lasting solutions to problems of the heart. The answer/s can be found in the One who brings good tidings of great joy, Christ Jesus.
This ends chapter 41. The next chapter speaks of the Servant of Jehovah; Jesus. It also speaks about the nation Israel and how it was also a servant of Jehovah. God willing, we shall meet here again to open up God's Word to discover truth that can be applied to our daily lives.
Mon, Oct 12th - 12:22PM
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction" (II Peter 2:1).
Thousands of clergy have signed "An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science." On the Sunday closest to Charles Darwin's birthday, these pastors eulogize him and endorse evolutionary science as compatible with the Bible. I will give you five reasons why this concept is wrong.
* The Bible has absolutely no hint of ages of evolutionary development. Forcing the "days" of Genesis 1 to somehow mean "ages" can be done, but there is no support for that idea in the rest of Scripture (Psalm 33:6-9, 148:5-6; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:3; Revelation 4:11, as some examples).
* Evolution is not observed at all today. Empirical science is based upon observation and verification through experimentation. Nothing can be observed to be "evolving" into "higher orders of life." Backpedaling explanations are offered up: there was "fast" evolution long ago but "slow" evolution is taking place now. How convenient! My question to all of those so concerned about species extinction: Why be up in arms? Vacant slots in nature will help stimulate evolution and speed up replacement species to fill the voids, wont't they? Isn't that part of what "natural selection" is all about? Now, Christians ought to be up in arms about the extinction of any species since there are a finite number of species to begin with. The loss of any is cause for sorrow for we were given stewardship of this earth and everything upon it by God. The parable of talents causes me to wonder...
* Fossil data does not show any transitional forms. If evolution did occur prior to recorded history, it can only be documented by the fossils embedded in the rocks of our planet. Those "missing links" are still, regretably, missing. Existing fossils can be interpreted in any one of many ways, not just evolution.
* God's character absolutely forbids evolutionary theory. God's holiness demands truth, and His omniscience demands perfection. He can't know what is best and then "create" something inferior, which evolution teaches. He wrote that He took six days to create the entire universe, and God cannot lie!
* God's stated purpose for creating excludes evolution. The creation reveals the Creator (Romans 1:20, Psalm 19:1-4), gives authority to the message of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-14, Colossians 1:16-18), and is the foundation for the gospel and for worship (Revelation 14:6-7). Creating is what God does at the moment of conception of a child. Creating is at the heart of what Christ does at the moment He brings salvation to a believer. The old man is dead, you now have the new man. All old things have passed away and we have a "new creation." My brothers and sisters, to give away the inerrancy of the Creation as recorded in the Bible is to give away everything else! It is to forget what and who we are! To give away the beginning allows everything else to be questioned as well. Do not do it! Satan managed to persuade Eve, and then Adam, to give away everything that they knew in exchange for half-truths and lies. Shall it happen all over again, shall we refuse to learn from our history?
Grace and peace be yours this day,
Sun, Oct 11th - 3:56PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Let's get back into Isaiah, shall we?
Behold, all they that were incensed against you shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with you shall perish.
You shall seek them, and shall not find them, even them that contended with you: they that war against you shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought (41:11-12).
As the prophet Isaiah moves on he says that if any oppose God it will be the very height of folly, because they are moving toward the day when all these adjustments shall have to be made. The day of atonement for all eternity approaches, all wrongs shall be made right on that day. The crooked shall be made straight, darkness shall be replaced with glorious light.
For I the Lord your God will hold your right hand, saying unto you, Fear not; I will help you (41:13).
Is that a fantastic verse, or what? God Almighty promises that He shall hold our right hand and so we are to fear not for He shall help us! Who can stand against us when God, the Creator, is standing for us? No one, not any individual, not any nation. It is why Christ proclaimed that not even the gates of Hell could prevail against His Church. Nothing created has the ability, the capability, of prevailing against God's plans. This is a gracious overture to trust Christ. God wants to take us into His confidence. He wants to enable us to walk with Him, to have fellowship with Him, and to know Him intimately. What things mankind is missing out on today! Even church-going people can get so caught up in Church-work that they miss out on this.
Fear not, you worm Jacob, and you men of Israel; I will help you, says the Lord, and your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel (41:14).
Any of us who believe that we are something important in this world, in reality we are but a "worm" to God. We are a nobody. Only God can make any of us important. Only God is able to make a man a somebody. Little men fret and strut across the stage of life, deceived into believing that they are so important. Where is man going, and just what exactly is he getting out of what he is doing? Some few people see the futility of it all and end up taking their own lives as a result. Where else can they turn? The only legitimate place man can turn is to God. What is it that man is missing? God's fellowship, God's salvation, God's goodness, His mercy and grace---all of these are yours if you would but turn to Him.
Behold, I will make you a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shall make the hills as chaff.
You shall fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and you shall rejoice in the LORD, and shall glory in the Holy One of Israel (41:15-16).
What magnificent promises are made by God here! We simply must trust wholeheartedly in the Lord and take action that is Godly and He will do the rest. We must remember Jericho, not the Alamo. If we do this then we will glory in the Holy One of Israel just as in the days of the prophets. "Hills" and "mountains" often are also used within scripture to depict mankind's governments, both local and national. Am I an anarchist? Heaven forbid! I am simply saying that when the day comes that any government moves against Christians, that is the day when believers must act in a Godly fashion and call upon Jehovah to come to their defense. Those believers shall then rejoice in the Lord and shall glory in the Holy One.
God willing, we shall continue this study tomorrow. Until then, Take seriously the warning that we are repeatedly given in scripture about defending what is ours against the "young lions." We must be ever watchful for Satan who as a ravening lion paces to and fro seeking out whom he may devour. In our natural world the "young lions" pace around the boundaries of established territories of mature male lions, seeking out when the time is ripe to attack and steal the pride away from him. Spiritually Satan is doing the exact same thing. He is patient. He will wait you out, wait until you relax and let your guard down. It is then that he will attack you, sometimes with everything at his disposal in order to take you down. Perhaps you will become demon possessed. Or demon influenced. Perhaps you will utterly lose control over your mind, become mentally ill. Perhaps you will become deranged and have to be comitted by your loved ones to an institution for the remainder of your life. All because you either were in the wrong place at the wrong time, became lazy and allowed questionable things to enter into your lifestyle, or you were abused as a child by someone whom you considered to be a protector of yourself. Whatever it might be, Satan is patiently waiting for you to slip up while you attempt to straighten your life out under your own efforts, leaving Christ out of all of your decisions.
Ponder these things beloved. Be sure that you understand the truth in all things, not just in some things. If Jesus came tonight, would you be ready to go with Him? Or would you be like the virgins who needed to go and find more oil to keep their lamps lit for the marriage feast and in so doing missed the Bridegroom? I want my lamp to be full of oil, shining always! How about you?
Fri, Oct 9th - 9:57AM
The Paraclete is here!
"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort thm which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God." (II Corinthians 1:3-4)
One of the titles of the Holy Spirit, especially as used in the King James Version, is His beautiful identification as "the Comforter." The Greek word is parakletos, meaning literally, "one who is called along side to help." Another familiar verse is John 14:26: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things..." The Holy Spirit is our teacher, our guide, our helper, our Comforter. This is why God is intimately involved in our lives each day.
This same word is also translated "advocate," meaning an attorney for the defense. In this sense it is applied to Christ Jesus. "And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I John 2:1). Even though we are guilty and lost sinners, He takes our side before the Judge, pleading the sacrificial offering of His own blood for our sins, and we are saved (I John 2:2).
Even the Father is our "paraclete," according to the verses I have cited above. He is "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort" (Greek, paraklesis), and as we pray to our heavenly Father, He indeed does provide us great consolation in every second of trouble and sorrow.
And so, each person of the Godhead---Father, Son, and Holy Spirit---serves as Comforter ("paraclete") to the believer as is needed. The believer also has access to the "comfort of the scriptures" (Romans 15:4). As if this is not enough "comfort" to each of us, there is yet another "comforter." Each of us receives such comfort from God so that we ourselves "may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted." Thus we have a Triume Comforter who is ever with us wherever we might go and whatever we may be doing. God the Father is fully engaged in our lives. The question, as always, is whether or not we are fully engaged in Christ. Are we dispensing mercy to those around us? Are we available to share the pain and anguish others are experiencing and in so doing dispensing a measure of comfort? Or, are we hoarding the comfort that God has shared with us, refusing to share any of it with those in dire need? Are we considering God's comfort as being "ours?" It is not nor can it ever become just "ours." God gives and He takes away. Be not deceived, He will remove our "comfort" if we decide to refuse to share it with those in much need of comfort. What God has given to us we must freely give to others who are in need of it. We do not need to charge them fees. Just share it with them, allow them to discover the wonder of Christ, the beauty of being free indeed from the shackles of sin.
I go to a men's retreat later today and tomorrow at the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA. It is WildFire weekend! I anticipate 5000 men to gather and raise their voices to heaven in unified worship of Christ. Praise the Lord! If you happen to live within driving distance of this locale I strongly urge you to come next year, it will be a tremendous blessing to you and then to your entire family. Come and spend some time with Christ Jesus! It will change your life forever!
Thu, Oct 8th - 8:36PM
Me and My Problems, Are they all gone?
How about creating a chart in your notebook, one that has the following headings: SIMPLE, SCOFFER, FOOL, WISE. Then read Proverbs 1 once more. Each time that you see a statement pertaining to any of these headings jot down the observation in the chart under the appropriate heading. Once done, does this give you a different perspective on this chapter of Proverbs?
How about some questions you have probably not thought about in some time: Are you wise? Are you a simpleton? Are you a scoffer? Or are you a fool? Looking back at what we just did up above, how about using those observations to help us decide?
* Looking at these observations for the simple can you put into a sentence or two how you measure up to this description of the simpleminded person?
* Now do the same for the scoffer.
* Do the same for the fool.
* And finally do the same for the wise.
How do you rate as a wise person? Jot down where you're strong and where you are weak and could use some help. Spend some time pondering a few concrete ways you could improve yourself in those weak areas. Write these down also in your notebook.
The next problem area I wish to look at is that of inferiority. Many Christians face this problem today which is the opposite extreme of pride. It is common and disturbing in today's world. Inferiority represents acute feelings of inadequacy, lack of confidence, an exaggerated and unhealthy sense of unworthiness, and an inability to accept one'sown self. It often leads to embarrassing timidity, various compensations (sarcasm, "superiority complex," unrealistic ambitions, etc.), and withdrawal from close contact with people. At the heart of this frustration is frequently a poor self image. This has a damaging influence on one's attitude toward God, family, friends...even on one's future.
I wish to begin with some preliminary comments. We need to establish a perspective before we look at the lives of several men in the Bible who were faced with this problem of inferiority:
1. The feeling of inferiority is not necessarily related to intelligence.
2. The feeling of inferiority is not always noticeable on the surface.
3. The feeling of inferiority is not a problem unique to non-Christians.
Now for some illustrations of what I mean. Let's look at three men from three differnet time periods in the Bible who struggled with this problem and see how they handled their struggles.
A. Moses as seen in Exodus 3-4 was 80 years old when dealing with his bout of inferiority. The reason he felt inferior was because he had failure in his past. Guilt often comes from failure, especially guilt stemming from something one feels can never be corrected. Moses had murdered a man in Egypt and God sent him into obscurity on the far side of the Midian Desert. While pasturing his father-in-law's sheep there, the Lord appeared to him in the midst of a burning bush that did not become consumed by the fire and called Moses' attention to Himself. God commissioned the shepherd and said, "...Come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people...out of Egypt"(3:10). I think from feelings of inferiority rather than humility, Moses responded: "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and...bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?"(3:11), "What if they will not believe me?..."(4:1), "...I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and...tongue...Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will"(4:10,13). Was Moses' eyes upon God, or upon himself? They were squarely upon himself and what he felt were his faults. Excuses came out of his mouth born of inferiority issues. I think that he would have been content to live out his life in that desert tending sheep. The point we need to take away from this is that God is able to handle our inabilities and turn what seem to be restraints into huge blessings. This keeps us trusting Him from word to word...as eventually it was with Moses. God told Moses not to worry.
I will stop there for now, beloved. Have a wonderful evening, and may God bless you!
Thu, Oct 8th - 1:34PM
Me and My Problems, Are They all Gone?
In this part of this study we need to now look at what constitutes a Wise Man. In Proverbs 13:1 "A wise son hears his father's instruction: but a scorner does not hear a rebuke." In Proverbs 15:31 "The ear that hears the reproof of life abides among the wise." In Proverbs 21:11 "When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge." A wise person hears and listens. They do not turn a deaf ear to what is being said to them, and to others.
In Proverbs 4:5-7 "Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve you: love her, and she shall keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all your getting get understanding." In Proverbs 10:14 "Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction." A wise person increases his/her learning, they do not ever think that they have learned enough.
In Proverbs 9:8-9 "Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate you: rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." In Proverbs 12:15 "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that listens to wise counsel is wise." A wise person pays attention to wise counsel and increases their overall learning.
In Proverbs 4:13 "Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is your life." A wise person seeks out counsel and instruction realizing that these things are the basis for life. They are the bedrock of becoming a wise, understanding person.
Now I have broken apart all of these verses from out of Proverbs but it does not mean that there aren't more that can be applied to being wise and full of understanding. It does not mean that any of them can't be lumped together to bring a fuller meaning to being wise. I have simply separated these out to focus attention on specific parts of being wise. Next time I will walk us through an exercise that hopefully will help all of us to see just how much is written in Proberbs one concerning various aspects of this topic. God willing I will get back to this later today. Until I do, may Christ bless you richly in all that you do this day.
Wed, Oct 7th - 6:04PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Here we see another reference to idolatry.
So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smoothes with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the soldering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved (41:7).
Here is a process laid out as to how they made their idols. It was an entire industry unto itself.
But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My friend (41:8).
That is a very large "But" at the beginning of this verse! God singles out Israel, reminds the entire nation of their special status in God's eyes. God informs them that they are not to be wasting their time hammering out idols. He knows that they are sinners, He still calls them Jacob, and Jacob was the crooked man. It was God who made him Israel, a prince with God. This is what God wishes to do with the sons of Jacob.
You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called you from the chief men thereof, and said unto you, You are My servant; I have chosen you, and not cast you away (41:9).
Here is comfort offered to bofh the Israelites back then and also to individuals today who are being drawn by God to Himself. We can know that God has taken us from out of the earth and called us from what ever jobs we were doing, and once we have accepted Christ into our hearts He considers us to be His servants and He will not throw us away. Get that? He will not throw us away.
Fear you not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness (41:10).
This verse ought to be a pillar of strength and encouragement to every single one of God's children. Whose God is Jehovah? He is our God. Be fearful? No, for God is with us. Be dismayed? No, for He is our God. He will take care of us, He will hold us up. See, God intends to be with us, protect us, and help us each and every day.
God willing we will move along a few more verses the next time that we meet here. May Christ be with you and give you the grace to deal with all problems that may come your way.
Tue, Oct 6th - 1:24PM
Me and My Problems, Are they all gone?
Let me make a general observation about wisdom, as it is found in Proverbs 1:20-33. Wisdom is personified as an individual who shouts in the street, lifts her voice in the public area, cries out to any who will hear, and utters her sayings to those with ears to hear. Wisdom is made touchable for us. From Solomon's description here is what we learn:
A. Wisdom is available to everyone (verses 20-21, 23).
B. Wisdom can be rejected (verses 24-25).
C. Wisdom rejected bears bitter results (verses 26-32).
D. Wisdom applied brings great rewards (verse 33).
A profile of people rejecting wisdom:
In contrast to the wise man are three types of men who, though similar, reject wisdom to differing extents.
1. The Simple. The term used in our text gets translated as "naive." In Hebrew the word simple means "to be open to deception, to be easily misled." Are you there? Hopefully not, but if you are then please give your full attention to this study. "Simple" in its noun form frequently refers to a door that is wide open. The simple person, loving their simplicity, lacks any type of meaningful discernment. This person lacks both knowledge and insight where the basic issues of the Christian life are concerned.
2. The Scoffer. This person differs from the simple person in that they are a smidge more hard-core. They are not necessarily lost, but they have a nature that scoffs. This term means "to turn aside, to mock, to reject with vigorous contempt, to refuse, to show disdain, to be disgusted." This person may have knowledge, but actively refuses or resists application of that knowledge.
3. The Fool. This person is basically stupid, dull. They reason wrongly. They think they can exist well without God and apart from scriptural principles. The fool is characterized by wickedness and even brags about it to others.
That is all for today, my friends. Next time, God willing, I will cover some verses that will give us a good glimpse of the Wise person. I hope that you all will come back to learn more! Until then, grace and peace be with you all.
Mon, Oct 5th - 8:45PM
Book of Isaiah Study
As I mentioned last time, this world is filled with pitfalls and dangers. But comfort is here for every child of God.
Keep silence before Me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.
Who raised up the righteousness man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow (41:1-2).
The entire world of individuals is moving inexorably toward judgment. That is a spiritual fact. The showdown is coming between light and darkness, between God and mammon, between faith and unbelief. God now calls individuals to repent and turn to Him and accept the salvation He has to offer. God is propitious. God demands nothing of you. He simply asks you to accept the grace and salvation gift that He offers freely. It is up to you and I to decide what we will/will not do with it. We must choose wisely for the consequences reach out into eternity.
This phrase "righteous man from the east" tends to be a strong expression. Some scholars feel that this refers to Cyrus. Indeed, Cyrus will be named very shortly, but this verse may refer to someone else, or to a quality. It could very well be a reference to the coming rule of righteousness which Christ will establish at His return to this earth of ours.
He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.
Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am He.
The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came (41:3-5).
This section does not speak of a ruler who only governs a part of our world, rather, it speaks of someone who rules the entire world. What mortal man has been able to call the generations of mankind from the beginning of time? To further solidate the thought that Christ is being referred to here is the phrase "the first, and with the last;" which is very close to being the same as used in the Book of Revelation in which Christ says that He is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega. Perhaps as we do further study in this book we shall gain some clarity on this concept.
They helped every one his neighbor; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage (41:6).
Since God is coming to right the wrongs and relieve injustices, individuals who are right with God can be of good courage. There is hope for the little man who trusts God. He does not have to worry about the future, it has been covered by God.
That is all for tonight, beloved. Next we shall look at an overture from God to Israel to trust Him and not themselves. God willing, we shall meet once more to open up the Word of God and gain some insights into how God desires us to live our lives.
Mon, Oct 5th - 12:42PM
Me and My Problems, Are They all gone?
It is time to begin a new study topic. This time it will be about me and my problems. No, I am not going to wash my dirty laundary in public. This topic is about us and our problems, whoever we might be, wherever we might be. The person who says, "Accept Christ and all of your problems will end, they will be no more," hasn't gotten that particular idea from out of the Bible! That one has come from within themselves, it is a personal interpretation of what they read in the Bible and it is taken out of context. All of us have problems; Christian or not. But there are ways to deal with those problems when they come along.
I frankly admit that I experience the same problems as does anyone else. Anger, depression, inferiority, loneliness, resentment, and others, are all issues that all of us have afflicting us at various points in our lives. The children of God are hassled by them just as are unbelievers. Chistians are not different because we are free of problems, but because we have a power within us that the world can't claim, which enables us to face our problems. So let's begin this study.
I encourage you to use a notebook of some kind to write down thoughts and answers to questions posed during this study. Include the bible passages cited so that connections may firmly be made between your thoughts/conclusions and the verses.
Too often men and women, in an effort to find a painless, problem-free life, flock to those who have told them, "Do this and your life will be made easy, more tolerable." All that this action does is to make those teachers rich by purchasing his potions and gizmos meant to cure every conceivable illness. "Medicine man" theology tends to arise frequently around the Body of Christ, claiming, "Come to Him and your problems will vanish, your life will become peaceful and prosperous." This sort of teaching is faulty, full of error. In order to buy such thought, one has to ignore the story of Job and the writings of Peter and John, not to mention the perspective of Christ Himself as expressed. Problems are inescapable for human beings infected by their sin nature. For those who cross by faith into Christ's family are met by God who does not remove their problems, but instead uses those problems to stimulate growth and maturity. God gives them the ability to cope properly, to face their struggles with a strength surpassing their own.
Our beginning text is Proverbs 1. Please read it through and find four types of people mentioned there. There is the Fool, the Simple, the Scoffer, and the Wise. Keep these types of people in mind as we study. We also ought to keep four very clear statements in mind, statements that set the stage for this entire study. Here they are:
1. It is incorrect to think that because one is a Christian, all of his/her problems will be solved.
2. It is incorrect to say that all problems are discussed in the Bible.
3. It is incorrect to believe that having a problem means one is unspiritual.
4. It is incorrect to assume that being exposed to Bible teaching automatically solves problems.
Look to Hebrews 5:11-14: "Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull of hearing. For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For evey one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righeousness: for he is a baby. But strong meat belongs to them that are of fullage, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Spiritual maturity results when one practices what they have heard. Practice trains the sense to discern good and evil. In the presence of irritation, temptation, or stress, we are to put into practice those ideas which we have absorbed through reading and studying the bible and from public instruction. In this experience of application we become wise. As long as a person needs to be reminded of the very basics of faith and cannot explain the basic things of faith in Christ they are "babies" spiritually. They have not exercised themselves to become stronger in faith. They will never be able to understand the more thought provoking concepts in the Bible. They will be disabled in attempting to see good and evil.
Turn to Proverbs 1:2-4: "To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion." Solomon wrote this book of the bible. He was a son of King David, raised with a rich heritage, he was a man of vast wealth and experience. As King of Israel, he was not only the wealthiest man to ever have lived, he was also the wisest, according to the Bible. But he was also a man of unsolved problems. In all of his problems Solomon still makes four statments regarding his proverbs' usefulness.
1. "To know wisdom and instruction." Wisdom is the application of truth to experience, looking at life from God's point of view and not from our point of view.
2. "To perceive the words of understanding." Understanding is responding to life from God's viewpoint. In that wisdom is an action, understanding is a reaction. Understanding is the way that we respond to those things which life brings our way.
3. "To receive instruction in wise behavior."
4. "To give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion." Anyone who is naive, innocent, can receive the ability to govern themselves by the use of reason. They can become well versed in the management of resources. They can become discreet, and aware of risk and danger in situations as they are presented to them. God implies to us that young people ought to move through this progression of being naive to possessing knowledge, discretion, and wisdom. Anyone who remains stuck in being naive has some maturity issues to address.
I think I will stop right here for now. Next time, God willing, I will continue by making four general observations about wisdom. Until then, grace and peace by yours.
Sat, Oct 3rd - 7:38PM
Book of Isaiah Study
We left off with verse 19 which told us about craftsmen who painstakingly create idols covered with gold and chains of silver on which to hang it. Now we see that even the poor strive to create idols:
He that is so impoverished that he has no oblation chooses a tree that will not rot; he seeks out a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved (40:20).
The poor are forced to rely upon fashioning crude images out of wood. They will carve themselves out a god from a piece of wood and then offer sacrifices to it and pray to it. How preposterous is that?
Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth (40:21)?
God points out that all people have no excuse to be worshipping idols. God has pointed out His existence via the very natural world that He created in six days.
It is He that sits upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in (40:22).
To all those who claim that Christians believe that the world is flat, here is my rebuttal. The Old Testament taught that the world was a circle, and in other places describes our planet as an orb indicating a non-flat object. We also see here that all of mankind when compared to God Almighty is as insects. God also lives out beyond the stars.
That brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth as vanity.
Yes, they shall not be planted; yes, they shall not be sown: yes, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and He shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.
To whom then will you liken Me, or shall I be equal? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these things, that brings out their host by number: He calls them all by names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not one fails (40:23-26).
This continues what was begun in verse 21 and speaks of the limitless power of God. Who alive upon this world can be compared to God? None. Who is even equal to God? None. Verse 26 says that He maintains all life because of His limitless power and might.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God (40:27)?
God does know about the difficulties and problems of His people. If I belong to Him, He is able to calm the storms of my life, but sometimes there are valuable lessons for me to learn in the storm. Therefore, I must go through the storm; I cannot ask God to remove the storm from happening to me. So when I find myself in the middle of a storm, instead of sitting and having a pity party, I must look around and find out what lesson God wants me to learn. I must pray for Him to give me eyes to discern the lesson to be learned. God does not allow us to go through storms unless there is something that He wants you to learn. Maybe the lesson is this:
Have you not known? Have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding (40:28).
Those of you who do not believe that God is limitless, guess again! You who place limitations upon Him are mistaken in your beliefs. You who place human capabilities upon Him act foolishly in your beliefs. Can you not conceive of that which is beyond you? You who think that God cannot possibly help you through your current problems have accepted a “little” God, not the God of Scripture. All things are possible with God, with Jehovah!
He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increases strength (40:29).
Are you feeling powerless in your current situation? Feeling a lack of strength? Then you need to lean all of your understanding upon Christ, let Him lead you along the paths of righteousness. Seek Him out early each morning, include Him in your life on an intimate basis, pray to Him often. Get plugged into the source of all power in this universe, Christ.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (40:30-31).
There can be seen three degrees of power here. Join verse 31 here with I John 2:12-14 and the three stages of growth are: (1) the young Christian shall mount up as an eagle; (2) the adult Christian shall run; and (3) the mature Christian shall walk.
My friends, no matter who you are, if you are going to move with God through this earth, it will cost you something. But God has said that He will furnish you with the strength whatever condition you are in. If you need strength to walk, He will give it to you. If you need strength to fly, He has the strength for that as well. Our God is a mighty God! He is our sustainer in everything.
That ends chapter 40 and we now prepare to enter into chapter 41. This next chapter continues the thought of the previous one. Here the emphasis is not upon God as Creator so much as upon His dealings with man. The greatness of God is revealed in both creation and human history.
There are also some other things in this chapter that are hard to understand or comprehend. They are enigmas. But above all of this is the message that comfort is here for the child of God.
That is for next time, beloved. God willing, we shall meet again to study His Word. Grace and peace be yours always.
Fri, Oct 2nd - 12:53PM
Now discipleship is not something just to be studied: it is to be practiced. It can not be simply a set of notes, neatly and properly filed under "D." This has to be a vital part of our Christian life, a natural function and outreach of our relationship to one another within a local congregation. It is part of what fellowship ought to be all about. It is all about involvement. Let's look at what Paul wrote in II Timothy 2:1-10 and see what principles can be found there that must be applied in our lives.
Principle: Be strong in grace. Verse 1 immediately points out that legalism, living by the letter of the law as laid out in Scripture, is not the "way" to go. By legalism I mean "that rigid attitude of strict conformity to someone's requirement, in order to be accepted and respected." Effective disciplers give disciples room to grow, to be whom God desires them to become. The word strong means "to be strengthened within" and thus refers to an inner attitude. If we set out to nurture another must already have this stable inner strength and must allow God to structure the life of the other individual. We dare not attempt to restructure their life ourselves, to do this leads to failure and loss. Instead of being strong in legalism we must be strong in grace, realizing that God has creatively put in the person the kind of personality He wants to bless. We must let God mold and frame the person so that he/she can grow according to God's plan, and not according to our own plan. This means, alas, that they may very well turn out to be completely different from us!
Principle: Consistently be investing in the lives of others. Verses 2-6 give us: "...The things which you have heard from Me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also." Obviously this can not be a one-time activity. It must be a habit of our daily lives. This word entrust of which Paul wrote down, it is a banking term meaning "to commit into a safe deposit." We deposit truth into the life of someone else, where it will be safely secured. According to Paul, deposits were not to be hoarded, but in turn passed on. How else may the Gospel be spread. This is the pattern of movement in discipleship: From Him, to me, to you, to someone else!" We see three pictures being given in this text, showing how it will be to "entrust." Soldier(verse 4) speaks of giving up your own rights and being different from the majority. Athlete (verse 5) demonstrates the exercise of great discipline and concentration, a commitment to the goal. Farmer (verse 6) depicts one who is hard at work and occasionally is able to live off of the crops he/she raised. This, incidentally, is one of the by-products of working with people. They can often provide us with much-needed assistance in crucial times.
Principle: Personalize the truths you have heard. II Timothy 2:7, "Consider what I say; and the Lord give you understanding in all things." The term consider means "to perceive in the mind, to make a mental picture." So we must perceive what the Lord is saying to us about discipleship. We must picture for ourselves, how we can make it a part of our daily living. Each of us must give serious thought to how God would have us build into other peoples' lives. If we seriously "consider" this we are told that God will give us understanding on how to do it.
Principle: Be ready to endure all things. II Timothy 2:8-10, we see that Paul made himself our example in these matters. He made it his determined purpose to endure all things. To disciple means to not have thin skin. Once determining to live for other people, we have to cultivate a tender spirit toward people, for often our patience will be tested to the maximum extent. For does Satan really desire us to be successful in this matter? No, he does not. We tread into areas where spiritual warfare wages constantly all around us, whether or not we are aware that it exists. It behooves us to clothe ourselves in spiritual armor in order to defend ourselves when we are attacked.
Summary: If you have decided to build into others' lives, you will find a wide variety of reasons to put that decision aside, to procrastinate. Remember: Discipleship is not optional; it is commanded in Matthew 28:18-20. Perhaps you are on the verge of making one of themost fulfilling discoveries of your entire Christian experience. My prayer is that Christ will motivate you to stretch beyond any obstacle you will confront so that you will know firsthand the joy of a reproductive life.
Every topic in this study has led us to this vital point...personal involvement. What we read and study in the Bible must be translated into practical living.
* How does one become strong in grace?
* How can I invest in others consistently?
* What types of things might I have to endure?
Take some time, my friends, and write down some answers to these three questions. It may help you to direct your time and energy more effectively in growing maturity-wise. It may help prepare you for what will inevitably come your way once you embark on a course of discipleship.
I hope and pray that this study opens up new paths of serving God to you. I know that it opened up my eyes to new possibilities when I considered discipleship several years ago. God willing, we will meet here again to open up the Book of Isaiah and continue our study of that prophet's inspired writings. Until then, determine to pursue God, to seek out a divine relationship with the Divine. It will change your life for ever!
Thu, Oct 1st - 1:23PM
B. The Essentials and some Enemies. Looking at that Old Testament analogy, if we extract anything from it, we must come to terms with three essentials for reproduction as well as their enemies or barriers.
1. Union - Read John 15:1-16. This particular text deals with bearing or reproducing fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. For the sake of illustrations, its principle may be applied to reproducing disciples. Apart from "abiding in Christ" we have no life...no reproduction capability. What is "abiding's" enemy? Independence!
2. Good health - Read Mark 4:4, 18-20. Just as physical impairment or poor health can cause reproductive failure in the physical realm, so can spiritual impairments in the spiritual realm (worldly worries, wealth's deceitfulness, or temporal desires). The enemy of "good health" is disease!
3. Maturity - Read I Corinthians 3:17. Without the development of faith, maturity cannot be reached spiritually. The dominance of the flesh blocks such development. One must grow up in faith if he/she is to reproduce additional followers in Christ who are strong, secure, and again capable of reproduction. The enemy of "maturity" is carnality!
The pattern here, when traced from its origin(command of Christ our Lord) to its conclusion (expression in the early Church), reveals two clear realities:
A. An unproductive life is an incomplete life.
B. A reproductive life is a fulfilled life.
What is a necessary factor in spiritual reproduction? A union of Christ and the believer. This must happen otherwise all else is futile action. Here we need to recall the Lord's analogy of the vine and the branches in John 15 which is the clearest illustration of this partnership.
Here is a study to gain further insight into this process. After carefully reading John 15, list some distinguishing characteristics of union and partnership. Then, jot down areas of your life that constantly must remain in balance. Where do you tend toward extremes? Now, how does all of this tell you what is really meant by "balanced Christian life"?
A last exercise that you can do is this: Name some elements of maturity. Contrast them with carnality. If necessary, refer to I Corinthians 3 for help.
Here are a few things gleaned: A spiritually mature believer in Christ fully realizes, and accepts, the fact that they no longer own themselves, they are owned by God. Their bodies are now the "Temple" and God's Holy Spirit resides within that "Temple." Subsequently, we must keep our bodies holy and pure. This person does not glory in themselves or others. They remain living in Christ and not themselves. They cleanse their minds daily through reading God's Word and studying it. They pray to Christ prior to attempting anything. They will keep Christ's commandments and remain in His love so that they will love each other in the same fashion. They will become willing to lay down their life for their fellow believer/s. They understand their relationship to Christ and do not struggle to gain more power and authority than what Christ gives to them. Finally, they constantly bear witness to the lost. The solidly mature believer witnesses all of the time, they do not even have to think about doing it, it just happens naturally. One more thought: the mature believer understands what is vitally important in God's Word and cannot be deviated from, as opposed to those things which are open to opinion and not worth fighting unceasingly over. An example: What day is the Sabbath Day? Hands down, it is Saturday which is the seventh day of the week. There can be no debate on that. Which day is the Lord's Day? Sunday is unsupported by Scripture, Saturday becomes the remaining option. Arguement can be put forward that this particular day is the day when Christ physically returns and begins His millennial reign on earth. I will not argue over any of these things, I know what God's Word says on these points, it is settled within my mind and that is that. If you do not believe, that is your choice and you live with that. I continually wrestled with which day was for worship for some ten years once I was saved. Until I finally read some verses that told me that any day of the week is appropriate for worshipping God and resting, as long as I have it settled within my mind that it is so. Doubt cannot be a part of the decision in these matters, either you are convinced and can do it, or if in doubt then do not do it. If you are in doubt as to whether all meat is clean for you to eat then you can not eat all meat without sin coming into the picture. If you are in doubt as to whether holy days can be unobserved without judgment then you had better continue observing them. You do not have enough faith in what Christ has commanded. I will not condemn anyone in this regard, I will not try to embarass them intentionally. Each of us must determine through our measure of faith what we must do daily. We cannot force others to do exactly the same things that we are doing, that is coercion and it is a sin. This also why we must always be on our guard, watchful, to make sure that our government never endorses a single religion as the "one" that everyone must observe. Or allow them to designate one day of the week for everyone to go to church or synagoge, whether or not you even believe. These are sinful acts. Government cannot prevent anyone from observing their faith, for this is wrong and is sinful. In America these last two or three items are also unConstitutional and need to be closely watched for today and in coming years. But that is another topic entirely!
God willing, next time I shall delve into some practicalities of discipleship. I hope to point out four principles that we must embrace if we wish to be the type of disciples Christ intends us to be. Until then, grace and peace of Christ be with you today!
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