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Is God inclusive or exclusive?


Exclusive Is God inclusive or exclusive?

The answer is a resounding ‘both!” He wants all to be saved but there are “steps of faith.”

Peter proclaimed the clear answer in 2 Peter 3: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Churches today are less and less likely to ask “What does the Bible say?” and more likely to ask, “What does the community want?” We need to be reminded that the church belongs to the Lord, not the community. The church is uniquely His and was designed to be His servant to take His gospel to a lost and dying world.

Truth has become trivial, irrelevant. Realize that 72% of Americans between the ages of 18-25 now believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth!

David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland, “We have turned to a God that we can use rather than to a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our needs rather than to a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction – not because we have learned to think of him in this way through Christ but because we have learned to think of him this way through the marketplace.
   “In the marketplace, everything is for us, for our pleasure, for our satisfaction, and we have come to assume that it must be so in the church as well. And so we transform the God of mercy into a God who is at our mercy.”

Jesus once asked regarding John the Baptizer, (Matthew 11:7) “As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?” A reed is a symbol of instability; it pictures that which yields to other forces.

On the other hand, Paul described the church as the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). The imagery here is that of a solid, immovable foundation. It is a question that the church of today must ask. Are we a “reed shaken in the wind,” or are we the “pillar and ground of the truth”?

Real Love – Real love doesn’t leave another person in error. Real love takes the time to show them the error of their way:  (Galatians 6:1) “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

(2 Timothy 2:24-26) “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. {25} Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, {26} and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

inclusion-wordle11Jesus was exclusive! (John 14:6) “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Unless you believe that I am He (John 8:24) “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.””

One Gospel  – (Galatians 1:6-9) “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– {7} which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. {8} But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! {9} As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2019 in God

 

God as Father is our model parent


Why does God give parents to children?

With family troubles intensifying, discipline problems increasing, and a growing corps of psychologi­cally handicapped people coming through the ranks of the traditional family circle, we wonder why God doesn’t come up with a different way of bringing children to maturity than using parents in a home environment.

And he keeps them there so long, nearly eigh­teen years on the average. Most birds and animals mature and move out on their own in a matter of weeks or months. But the frequent failures of teen‑age marriages dramatically illustrate that fif­teen, sixteen, or even seventeen years may not be enough to prepare humans to establish successful homes of their own. Why?

Because, among other things, life for an animal is a matter of instincts which are basically inborn. Life for humans goes far beyond that. It involves intellectual and emotional character, volitional choices, moral and aesthetic values. These things are not instinctive; they are developed, and that takes time. God gives parents to children to help build the qualities into them that will prepare them for a most useful and satisfying life.

Other organizations and agencies also contribute to molding the character and personality of children, but none has the same degree of influence as their parents. This is due not only to the uniqueness and intensity of the parent‑child relation­ship, but also to the sheer volume of time logged in the home.

Before entering school, nearly all of our children’s time is spent at home. Even during their school years, as many as 60 wak­ing hours per week are spent in or around the home, far exceed­ing the hours spent in any other single place. What transpires during those hours will largely determine the kind of adults our children become, and the mark of those years will be indel­ibly imprinted on their personalities.

God says a person’s ways later in life will be determined by his early experiences and training (Prov. 22:6). Modern psychologists, sociologists, and educators agree. Our children are what we make them. They are the sum total of what we contribute to their lives. The training we pro­vide will affect their ability to get along with other people, the genuineness of their Christian testimony and service, the caliber of work they do, the quality of home they establish, and almost every other area of their lives.

That’s a staggering thought. Raising a child successfully sounds like a superhuman task. As a matter of fact, it is. It demands more than human resources have to offer. It requires supernatural wisdom and strength. “But I’m not God,” you say. Right! Your children probably know that already. But God does promise to supply all your need (Phil. 4:19). And he knows exactly what you do need to be a good parent, because he himself is the Model Parent.

Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus prayed he addressed God as “our Father, who art in heaven.” God is a father. And the Psalmist exclaimed, “What a God he is! How perfect in every way!” (Psa. 18:30, TLB). The obvious conclusion is that God is a perfect father. By examining his Word and learning how he functions as a parent, we can learn what kind of parents we should be. Then when we commit ourselves completely to him and let him con­trol our lives, he is free to express through us his wisdom and strength as the Model Parent. He provides both the example and the encouragement, both the direction and the dynamic for us to be successful parents.

There are a number of Scripture passages that compare God’s parenthood to ours. For example, the Psalmist wrote, “He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic to those who rever­ence him” (Psa. 103:13, TLB).

Solomon made this wise observation which the writer to the Hebrews borrowed: “For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12, NASB; cf. Hebrews 12:6).

Jesus added his inspired testimony: “And if you hard‑hearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them?” (Matt. 7:11, TLB).

The point is well established in the Bible. God’s parenthood and our parenthood are a great deal alike–at least they should be. But did you notice that in all these verses the direction is from the human to the divine. Each verse uses human parents and the way they treat their children to teach us what God is like.

Christian counselors have discovered that it does indeed work that way. A person’s image of God is often patterned after his image of his own parents, especially his father.

  • If his par­ents were happy, loving, accepting, and forgiving, he finds it easier to experience a positive and satisfying relationship with God. But if his parents were cold and indifferent, he may feel that God is far away and disinterested in him personally.
  • If his parents were angry, hostile, and rejecting, he often feels that God can never accept him.
  • If his parents were hard to please, he usually has the nagging notion that God is not very happy with him either.

We need to meditate on that, Christian parent. What kind of God‑concept is our child cultivating by his relationship with us? Is he learning that God is loving, kind, patient, and forgiv­ing? Or are we unintentionally building a false image of God into his life, implying by our actions that God is harsh, short-­tempered, and critical, that he nags us, yells at us, or knocks us around when we get out of line?

Our children’s entire spiritual life is at stake here. It is imperative that we learn what kind of a parent God is, then follow his example in order that our chil­dren may see a living object lesson of the kind of God we have.

There is at least one passage in the Bible, however, that does move from the divine to the human, exhorting us to follow God’s example in raising our children: “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the dis­cipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, NASB).

Those three little words at the conclusion of this verse will set our course through the remainder of this book. The training we give our children must be the training “of the Lord.” The Lord must be the guiding principle of that training. It belongs to him and is to be ad­ministered by him. It is the same training he gives us, and we are to give it to our children by his direction, through his pow­er, under his authority, and answerable to him.

It is “of the Lord” in every sense of that phrase. When we get right down to specific principles of child‑training, the Bible does not have a great deal to say directly. But when we understand the great principle established in this verse, the Bible becomes an in­exhaustible source-book for successful child training.

It boils down simply to this–we deal with our children as the Lord deals with us. He is our model. And our understand­ing of how he deals with us does not necessarily come from our parents, for that understanding may be faulty, as we have seen. It must come from his Word. We need to search the Scriptures to find out how God deals with his children, then do the same with our children.

Paul uses two words in Ephesians 6:4 to sum up God’s method of rearing children–discipline and instruction. The first of these is a very general word for child‑training. It in­volves setting goals for our children, teaching them the goals, then patiently but persistently guiding them toward those goals. While the word did not originally mean correction, it came through usage to include that idea and is translated “chas­tening” in Hebrews 12:5‑7 (KJV). But discipline, contrary to popular opinion, is far more than correction. It is charting a course for our children, guiding them along that course, and firmly but lovingly bring them back to that course when they stray.

Think about charting the course for a moment. Have you ever prayerfully established goals for the training of your children? This might be a good time to do it. We cannot expect our children to turn out right if we’re not sure what “right” is. As one of my seminary profs used to say, “If you aim at nothing, that’s exactly what you’ll hit.” Since we can’t hit a target we don’t have, let’s build one right now. Your aims may be much more extensive than mine, but this may at least be a good place to begin. Here is a God The Fatherbasic list of biblical goals we want to ac­complish with our children.

1. To lead them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It must be in his own perfect time, but we cannot really expect them to be all that God wants them to be until they have a new nature imparted from above.

2. To lead them to a total commitment of their lives to Christ. We want them to make their decisions in accord with his will, share every detail of life with him in prayer, and learn to trust him in every experience they face. Asking first what God wants us to do is a habit pattern that must be cultivated. The time to begin is very early in a child’s life.

3. To build the Word of God into their lives. We will en­deavor to teach it to them faithfully, relate it to the cir­cumstances of life, and set an example of conformity to it.

4. To teach them prompt and cheerful obedience, and re­spect for authority. By developing their willing submission to our authority, we seek to instill a respect for all duly consti­tuted authority, such as public school, Sunday school, gov­ernment, and ultimately, the authority of God himself. Submis­sion to authority is the basis for a happy and peaceful life in our society.

5. To teach them self‑discipline. The happiest life is the con­trolled life, particularly in areas such as eating, sleeping, sex, care of the body, use of time and money, and desire for material things.

6. To teach them to accept responsibility–responsibility for happily and efficiently accomplishing the tasks assigned to them, responsibility for the proper care of their belongings, and responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

7. To teach them the basic traits of Christian character, such as honesty, diligence, truthfulness, righteousness, unselfish­ness, kindness, courtesy, consideration, friendliness, generosi­ty, justice, patience, and gratitude.

Now we know where we’re going. But remember, our pur­pose is not just to insist on these things while our children are under our care. It is to make this whole package such a part of their lives that when they leave our care it will continue to guide them.

That seems to be what Solomon had in mind when he wrote, “Young man, obey your father and your mother. Tie their instructions around your finger so you won’t forget. Take to heart all of their advice. Every day and all night long their counsel will lead you and save you from harm; when you wake up in the morning, let their instructions guide you into the new day. For their advice is a beam of light directed into the dark corners of your mind to warn you of danger and to give you a good life” (Prov. 6:20‑23, TLB).

Internalizing these standards, that is, making them an inte­gral part of the child’s life, seems to be indicated in the second word Paul used in Ephesians 6:4 to describe the training God gives which we are to emulate, the word instruction. This word means literally, “to place in the mind.” The emphasis is on verbal training–warning, admonishing, encouraging, instruct­ing, or reproving.

But it goes far beyond the famous parental lecture. It pictures the faithful parent tenderly planting the principles of God’s Word deep down in the very soul of the child so that they become a vital part of his being. The standard is no longer the parent’s alone. It now belongs to the child as well. He is ready to move out into the world, independent of his parent’s control, with the principles of God’s Word so woven into the fiber of his life that he finds delight and success in doing the will of God, even when nobody is watching him.

Maybe this explains why some parents are reluctant to let go of their children when they should. If parents suspect they have not successfully instilled God’s way of life into their children, they may hesitate to break their emotional ties with them, but seek to influence and manipulate them in various ways long after they have married and left home. God wants us to begin building toward independence from the time our children are born.

Parental rules, regulations, and restrictions are only tempo­rary. Their purpose is to prepare the child for freedom, the only kind of freedom that can bring him real satisfaction, the free­dom to live in harmony and happiness with his Maker and Lord. As he learns and matures, the restraints are decreased and the independence increased until he leaves our care to establish a home of his own, a self‑disciplined, Spirit‑directed adult, capable of assuming his God‑given responsibilities in life.

This whole process is beautifully illustrated by the way God has dealt with the human race through the ages of history. In the time of man’s spiritual childhood, God gave him the law– 613 commandments, ordinances, and judgments regulating nearly every detail of life. It isn’t the way most people would choose to live, but it certainly did the job.

Paul said, “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:24, 25, KJV, cf. Gal. 4:1‑7). He goes on to describe the fullness of faith, the freedom of life in Christ, and the joy of adult sonship. Who needs the bondage of all those external laws when we have the internal motivation of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14)?

That’s exactly what human parents should be doing. During the childhood years we regulate behavior while we inculcate biblical standards. As the child develops an inner discipline and control, more and more of the outward restrictions are removed until he has achieved the independence God intended him to have when he said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife . . .” (Gen. 2:24, KJV).

There are few joys in this world that excel the thrill of watch­ing our children live in fellowship with God of their own will­ing desire. The Apostle John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4, KJV). He was probably speaking of his spiritual children, but the idea is equally applicable to our physical children.

Old Jacob must have had that joy when he heard the story of his son’s encounter with Potiphar’s wife. She offered Joseph her body and nobody would have been the wiser. Dad was several hundred miles away and it was doubtful at that point whether Joseph would ever see him again. But the godly principles built into his soul through his early years kept him from sin (Gen. 39:7‑20).

Daniel’s parents experienced that same joy if they ever heard of their son’s steadfast devotion to God in Babylon. He was nearly six hundred miles from home. And all the other boys were gorging themselves with the sumptuous foods of the Babylonian king which had been dedicated to pagan idols. “Everybody else is doing it” and “Nobody will ever know” have been good enough excuses to send countless other kids into a spiritual tailspin. “But Daniel made up his mind not to eat the food and wine given to them by the king” (Dan. 1:8, TLB).

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know the joy of our children walking with God when they’re gone from our nest? With the example of the Model Parent to guide us and the power of his indwelling Spirit to strengthen us, we can help our children through their formative years and mold them into men and women of God, equipped to do his will. (Material comes from many sources).

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2019 in Family, God

 

God is a peacemaker. Jesus Christ is a peacemaker. We must strive to be peacemakers, too


God is a peacemaker. Jesus Christ is a peacemaker. So, if we want to be God’s children and Christ’s disciples, we must be peacemakers too. We should also diligently wish to work for peace in this world where peace is difficult to find. We might ask daily these questions:
1. Do I strive to live in harmony with others?
2. Do I strive to be sympathetic to the feelings of others?
3. Do I give the benefit to others I would give to myself?
4. Do I tend to insult or bless?
5 Do I spread goodwill with my conversation?
6. Do I pray for people to be in harmony with God and others?

You should pray when you’re in a praying mood, for it would be sinful to neglect such an opportunity. You should pray when you’re not in a praying mood, because it would be sinful to remain in such a condition.

Mark 4:39 (45 kb)Never let a day begin without it. “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Psalm 5:3

Never let a day end without it. “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and He shall hear my voice.” Psalm 55:17

Never face a situation/problem without it. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding..” Proverbs 3:5

Never neglect it when it seems unnecessary. A little boy when asked by minister if he prayed everyday, said, “Not everyday. Sometimes I don’t need anything.” That’s the response of an immature individual.

Keep submitting your heart to God. “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Colossians 3:15.

Peace is the deliberate adjustment of my life to the will of God.

Everything starts with your thought life. “If you sow a thought, you reap an attitude. If you sow an attitude, you reap an action. If you sow an action, you reap a habit.”

“… every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.” James 1:14-16

You can fill your mind with many different things. If you want peace, though, you must fill your mind with God. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Men and women of the 21st century are worn out, fatigued, and overcommitted. The man with a full resume always pays a price to get it. Something has to suffer when we are an elder, a businessman, a civic leader, and a sportsman. When we run in the fast lane, precious little time remains for God and our family. Wouldn’t you like to get out of the fast lane?

Prayerfully ask God to help you make the right choices. If you were speeding down the inside lane of a busy interstate highway at 80 miles an hour and decided to get off the road, you wouldn’t swerve sharply without warning. You would turn on your blinker and start to work your way over. Even then you would have to wait for an exit ramp.

God is not so much interested in your position as He is in your attitude, in where you are as in where you are going. When we make the decision to get out of the fast lane, God will help us, will bless the direction in which we are moving. He will empower us to make the adjustment, to find an exit.

Winston Churchill said “an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile — hoping it will eat him last.” I’m reminded of what happened just prior to World War II. Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, had a policy of appeasement in regards to Nazi Germany. Whatever Hitler wanted he gave in return for a guarantee of peace. As he got off the airplane he waved in the air the peace treaty signed by Hitler. He spoke bravely of “peace with honour” and “peace in our time.” Just two weeks later Hitler’s armies invaded Czechoslovakia.

We have our peace movements, and all we want is peace abroad and at home. But if by peace we mean appeasing tyranny, compromising with gangsters and being silent because we haven’t the moral fortitude to speak out against injustice, then this is not real peace. It is a false peace. It is a farce and it is a hoax.

Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. Herbert Hoover said, “Peace is not made at the council tables, or by treaties, but in the hearts of men.”

Peace does not mean the end of all our striving, Joy does not mean the drying of our tears;
Peace is the power that comes to souls arriving Up to the light where God himself appears.
Joy is the wine that God is ever pouring Into the hearts of those who strive with him,
Light’ning their eyes to vision and adoring, Strength’ning their arms to warfare glad and grim.

A young soldier was going off to fight in World War II against the Japanese. As his father put him on the train and waved good- bye, he turned with bitter tears and said, “If my son is killed, I hope every Jap in the world is killed!”

A year later the son was killed. Soon $10,000 in life insurance money arrived. The father did a most surprising thing with the money: he sent it to the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board and designated it for missions to the Japanese.

How could the father do this? Obviously, he got the peace, the shalom, that Jesus speaks of in our text.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2019 in God, Jesus Christ

 

Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God (can be discussed without using the Bible)


Through the years rational and philosophical arguments have been developed in support of belief in God. These complicated arguments involve philosophical principles unfamiliar to the average person. They will be briefly stated here so that some familiarity with them may be gained at least. (These can be discussed without using the Bible).

1. The Cosmological Argument. 

This argument approaches the issue of the existence of God from the viewpoint of the existence of the
reasons to believeworld. The very existence of the world argues a beginning and an actuating cause, which cause believers affirm is God. If the universe had an origin, there must have been some causative force behind it, for there is no such thing as an uncaused beginning. “God is the infinite and perfect Spirit in whom all things have their source, support, and end” (A.H. Strong). Herbert Spencer speaks of “the absolute certainty that we are ever in the presence of an infinite and eternal energy from which all things proceed.”

 2. The Teleological Argument.

The object of this argument is to demonstrate an end or purpose of all things that comprise the universe. Simply stated, this argument affirms that order and purpose require an intelligent cause, or that the design of anything in itself suggests a designer. The presence of a beautiful building argues the work of an architect, an engineer and a builder. The presence of the universe, therefore, wonderfully produced and precisely arranged, argues divine intelligence behind it. We have evidence all about us of marvelous design: man, the planetary system, flowers, animals, the chemical elements, principles of physics, and the like.

 3. The Moral Argument.

The fact that man possesses moral concepts of right and wrong, which are not of human origin, also argues the existence of a Supreme Being. The fact that these moral laws, unvarying from generation to generation, so frequently condemn man shows that man is not the author of them. Sophocles speaks of “the unwritten laws of God that know not change; they are not of today or yesterday, but live forever.” Immanuel Kant, the philosopher, was so strongly impressed with the strength of the moral argument that he was willing to rest the case of the existence of God on it.

4. The Ontological Argument.

The ontological argument asserts the existence of God from the fact that man has a concept of Him. Since man does possess a concept of a Supreme Being, from what source is this concept derived? The fact is that man’s concept of a Supreme Being is received through inspiration, and is of divine origin. Man also possesses ideas of the infinite and supernatural-a supernatural Being that possesses the attributes of infinite goodness, perfection, justice, holiness, power, wisdom, and authority. These attributes are the very ones that are distinct qualities of God.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2019 in God

 

Being Committed to God


Often we make a commitment to something that is not very important: A young man was very excited because he just won a ticket to the Super Bowl. His excitement lessened as he realized his seat was in the back of the stadium. As he searched the rows ahead of him for a better seat, he found an empty one right next to the field. He approached the man sitting next to the empty seat and asked if it was taken. The man replied, “No.”

Amazed the young man asked, “How could someone pass up a seat like this?” The older gentleman responded, “That’s my wife’s seat. We’ve been to every Super Bowl together since the day we were married but she has passed away.” “Oh, how sad,” the man said. “I’m sorry to hear that, but couldn’t you find a friend or relative to come with you?”

“No,” the man said, “They’re all at the funeral.”

Quality relationships are founded on the rock of commitment, not the shifting sand of feelings or emotions. God calls us to be people of commitment, first to him and then to others. As a great leader of Israel, Joshua’s entire life was marked by commitment. We even hear this in his final words:

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”

Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”

“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.

“Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”

And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”

On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord.

“See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.” — Joshua 24:14-27

Joshua told the people that even if they chose not to serve the Lord, they would still not be exempt from service. If we do not serve the Creator, we will unavoidably serve some part of the creation. But the gods of success, position and possessions are cruel taskmasters and never deliver the profound satisfaction they promise.

In the 1991 movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal plays Mitch – a confused, dissatisfied man with a vague sense that life is passing him by. Jack Palance plays the ancient sage Curly – “a saddlebag with eyes.” At a critical moment in the film, Curly asks Mitch if he would like to know the secret of life.

“It’s this,” Curly says, holding up his index finger.

“The secret of life is your finger?” asks Mitch.

“It’s one thing,” Curly replies. “The secret of life is pursuing one thing.”

Something about this strikes a chord deep within Mitch. His life is a mess; he feels pulled by his obligations to his family and his desire for fulfillment at his work – torn between his need for security and his longing for excitement. Like many men, Mitch is divided. His life is about too many different things. Thus, he feels it is about nothing.

He asks Curly to tell him what that one thing is, but the best Curly can do is to tell Mitch, “You have to find it for yourself.”

  • Many of those who followed Jesus were merely curious.
  • Others were convinced of the truth of what he was teaching, but only a few were fully and personally committed to him.
  • When his uncommitted followers began to leave him in response to his difficult sayings, Jesus turned to the 12 and asked if they wanted to leave with the others.
  • They realized that once having committed themselves to him, there was no turning back (John 6:60-69).  “You have the words of eternal life.”

François Fénelon wrote,  Woe to those weak and timid souls who are divided between God and their world! They want and they do not want. They are torn by desire and remorse at the same time…. They have a horror of evil and a shame of good. They have the pains of virtue without tasting its sweet consolations. O how wretched they are.[6]

Committing vs. Bargaining

How on earth do leaders establish and retain committed followers? How, in some cases, do we get ourselves committed enough to pay the high price of success? God knows how, and the prophet Habakkuk models an essential truth about God-focused commitment: Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. — Habakkuk 3:17-18

What a refreshing statement! Many leaders would love to have followers who are this committed to the cause. The key ingredient to Habakkuk’s statement is that it is unidirectional; he promised to maintain his attitude regardless of the payback.

The statement, “I will be committed if” isn’t commitment-making; it’s deal-making. It’s not committing; it’s bargaining.

No sane person will commit to things that don’t really matter. But when an organization’s goals and outcomes are properly related to the living God and its activities honor him, then commitment makes sense. Instead of asking, “How do we get commitment?” effective leaders will begin by asking, “To what (or whom) are we committed?”

The Rewards of Commitment

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? — Matthew 16:24-26

He said that unless one commits everything, one loses everything. For the Christian leader, that commitment must remain strong until the end of our earthly walk.

Inspirational and motivational speaker Og Mandino expands on the necessity of strong, long-term commitment.

Commitment and My Tomorrows

“I fear commitment because I am not really sure what the future holds for me.” “Things could change so easily!” “What if this or that happens?”

Thinking like this does not belong in the order of commitment. It simply doesn’t fit! This is a call for passivity—just drifting with the stream—moving with passing events.

But this kind of attitude, in reality, deprives an individual of inner stability and direction, as well as an opportunity to control the environment in a way that enables him to be where he would really like to be. (talk about talk with Gregory at age 22 when he was not sure of his future)

Let me try to describe what it means to be committed (talk about how it feels…my high school track days; athletes make great Christians).

1. This person or cause is supremely important in my life… almost a matter of life and death.

2. With an act of my will I make a commitment and the entire direction of my life is going to be turned toward it.

3. My inner life is reorganized at the core or heart to protect and enhance that commitment and fortify it against any enemy.

4. I will hang on with all my strength and life.

Winston Churchill once asked an enemy why an English bulldog’s nose slanted backward. Upon receiving no answer, he stated, “Because when he gets hold of you, he never lets go, and he still has to breathe.” Commitment is getting hold of something and never letting go.

Commitment and My Decision-Making

Commitment involves a mental attitude and an act of one’s volition. It is characteristic of commitment that one decides what is going to be his or what direction he is going to take.

Where are your commitments today? How committed are you to anything? Is only what brings you pleasure and self-gratification your true motivators? Are you “wishy-washy” and vague in what is truly important to you?

One day at a time!? 

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2019 in God

 

Beliefs Matter: It Really Does Matter What We Believe About: One God — Exodus 3:13-15


A mother asked her son to tell her what he learned in Sunday School.  The boy said, “We learned how Moses and all the people of Israel built a huge expansion bridge across the Red Sea, then crossed to the other side, set explosives on the bridge, and when the Egyptians started to cross, they blew it up! 

The mother was shocked and asked, “Is that really what your teacher said?”  “Well, no Mom,” her son replied, “But if I told you what really happened, you’d never believe it!” 

It’s true that God has done some absolutely remarkable things. And it’s also true that a lot of people in this county and state don’t believe most of it.

It’s our task today to learn a more about our amazing, awesome God!

Psalms 19:1: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (let some nature slides proceed)

About 1400 years ago, the pope was Gregory the 1st. Later he came to be referred to as Gregory the Great, a title I’m not sure he would have accepted personally, based on something he said about God: “Almost everything said of God is unworthy for the very reason that it is capable of being said.”

That’s a little bit extreme, yet it underscores the awesome challenge of seeing what God is like. This one is the most challenging. We’re wrapping up this study Beliefs Matter…we’re come to the final of the seven ones.

 (Deuteronomy 4:35 NIV)  You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.

(Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV)  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

 (Isaiah 46:9 NIV)  Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

God is over all. He is supreme, high above all material and sinful things. God says, “I dwell in the high and holy place” (Isaiah 57:15).

God is through all. He is so omnipotent and powerful that He can do all things. No barriers limit His power.

God is in all. His power energizes the atom of all creation. He dwells not only in the high and holy place, but also with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit:

(Isaiah 57:15 NIV)  For this is what the high and lofty One says– he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Ways We Can Know God – Avenues we can pursue later.

  1. That challenge is underscored by God’s very name, his name is one way we can know him. Often called God or Lord (Master), but also has a name LORD. It’s not Jehovah as translated in (Exodus 3:13-15 NIV) Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” {14} God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” {15} God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation..

Take a minute and look at the words closely.

Hebrew Word for God: ‏אֱלֹהִים‎  Transliteration: elōhîm

Hebrew Word for LORD (His Name): ‏יהוה‎  Transliteration: yhwh

Hebrew Word for I AM: ‏הָיָה‎   Transliteration: hāyâ 

Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary

Footnote in your study Bible at vs. 14: I AM WHO I AM is another way of saying: “I will be what I will be.”

Footnote in your study Bible at vs. 15: The Hebrew word for Lord sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for I Am in verse 14.

God is telling us that “You can’t put me in a box.”

I will do & be in surprising things. Let your mind go back to the Exodus; I don’t think anyone could have guessed that. Think of the creativity, the awesome power, the marvel of God in leading His  people out of Egypt.

His remarkable deeds in the past show us something of what He is, but at the same time they don’t limit Him. He will be what he will be. What an appropriate name for God!

One way you tell if we believe in the one God is by whether we try to put him in a box.

OLD TESTAMENT NAMES FOR GOD

JEHOVAH-MACCADDESHEM…….Exodus 31:13 meaning “The Lord thy sanctifier”

JEHOVAH-ROHI……Psalm 23:1  meaning “The Lord my shepherd”

JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH…….Ezekiel 48:35  meaning “The Lord who is present”

JEHOVAH-RAPHA………Exodus 15:26  meaning “The Lord our healer“

JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU……Jeremiah 23:6  meaning “The Lord our righteousness”

JEHOVAH-JIREH………Genesis 22:13-14  meaning “The Lord will provide”

JEHOVAH-NISSI………Exodus 17:15 meaning “The Lord our banner”

JEHOVAH-SHALOM……..Judges 6:24  meaning “The Lord is peace”

JEHOVAH-SABBAOTH……Isaiah 6:1-3  meaning “The Lord of Hosts”

EL-ELYON…………..Genesis 14:17-20,Isaiah 14:13-14  meaning “The most high God”

EL-ROI…………….Genesis 16:13  meaning “The strong one who sees”

EL-SHADDAI…………Genesis 17:1, Psalm 91:1  meaning “The God of the mountains or God Almighty”

EL-OLAM……………Isaiah 40:28-31  meaning “The everlasting God”

2. Another way we can know him is by his avatar (computer user’s representation of himself). What does God say about Himself? How does He represent Himself?

(Exodus 34:6-7 NIV)  And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, {7} maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

God is both merciful & just. I can’t tell you when or for how long he will be merciful or just, He will be what He will be, but I can tell you he will be both merciful and just. One way we can tell whether we believe in the one God is whether we strike a balance between justice and mercy.

Justice: we’ll take sin seriously! Mercy: we’ll take forgiveness seriously!

3.Another way we know him is by words others use to describe him.

(Isaiah 6:1-5 NIV)  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. {2} Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. {3} And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” {4} At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. {5} “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

When we see God, we are amazed, humbled, and we are made aware of our own sin. It changes us!

I am skeptical of those who speak of “God appearing to them” for a lot of reasons, but first of all they don’t talk about being flat on their face…they tend not to be humbled, but rather ‘puffed up’ in pride…they aren’t aware of their sins.

4. Another is refuge our place of safety & comfort.

 (Psalms 62:5-8 NIV)  Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. {6} He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. {7} My salvation and my honor depend on God ; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. {8} Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah

I believe God will take care of us, not always when or how we think He should—He will be what he will be—but He will take care of us.

Does your first choice when in need of refuge reflect your belief in the One God? More ways we can tell whether we believe in the one God are whether we worship him in his holiness and whether we find security & comfort in him as our refuge.

5.Another way we know him is by his commandments. He insists on our total devotion.

(Exodus 20:2-3 NIV)  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. {3} “You shall have no other gods before me.

Based on this act, He gives commandments.

(Colossians 3:5 NIV)  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

We might not literally bow down in worship before these items, but when we put them first by our actions and thoughts, they seek to replace the “One God.”

A very telling way we determine whether we believe in the one God is by whether there are other gods in our lives. We are monotheists: we only worship one God.

6.One of the very best ways we know him is through Jesus.

(John 1:1 NIV)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

(John 1:14 NIV)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(Colossians 1:15 NIV)  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

(Hebrews 1:1-3 NIV)  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, {2} but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. {3} The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

If you want to know what God is like, study Jesus closely. As you read the way he interacts with people, put yourself in the account & you’ll see how he feels toward you.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been saying that belief matters. Though we may not all agree on everything, there are some matters that are really important. Eph 4 tells us what some of those matters are.

I say again today what I’ve said enough in this series that you may be tired of hearing it: we don’t determine whether we really believe these things by inquiring whether we agree with them but rather by the way we live our lives.

For today’s message, we find out whether we believe in the One God by:

  • whether we try to control him & say what he will and won’t do or let him be what he will be
  • whether we take sin seriously & also take forgiveness seriously
  • whether we worship him and him alone
  • whether we make him our refuge
  • whether we have other gods in our lives

Faith is a journey, so if our lives indicate we don’t really believe all these things, that’s not surprising. But we do need to continue on the journey.

Because these seven beliefs mentioned in Eph. 4 really matter: One body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, & God. These hold us together as God’s people.

  • May we always be known as a church that believes something & is not afraid to say so.
  • May we always believe that these seven Ones matter.
  • And may we also be a church whose beliefs are apparent by the way we live our lives.
 
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Posted by on November 22, 2018 in God

 

Beliefs Matter: It Really Does Make A Difference What We Believe About the One Spirit Ephesians 4


One New Year’s Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, one of the more beautiful floats suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone was able to get some more gas for the float. Do you know which float it was? The one representing the Standard Oil Company. With its vast resources of oil, its truck sat there helpless.

We need to talk today about the One Spirit, which is our power supply? How has your power supply been working for you this past week?

It matters what we believe; it affects spiritual health.   Eph. 4:5 speaks on seven 1’s which serve to unite us. As we are One Body, we also possess One Spirit, which works in each of our lives.

 How do we begin? Obviously the Spirit is holy (divine) – God is Father, Son, & Spirit.

The Spirit is spirit. He is not flesh and blood, is not tangible. That makes for much of our difficulty in grasping a better understanding of him.

he Spirit is not the same as the word. The phrase “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17) says that the word is the Spirit’s sword, so the word cannot be identical with the Spirit.

If we say “the weapon of the soldier is a rifle,” that does not mean the soldier is a rifle. Rather, the rifle is distinct from him, it is his weapon, an entirely different entity. So if the sword of the Spirit is the word of God, then the word of God is a separate entity from the Spirit, it is his weapon.

  • The Spirit is personal – a he, not an it
  • The Spirit lives inside every Christian: (Romans 8:9 NIV) You, however, are controlled not by the [flesh] but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
  • (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NIV) The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. {13} For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
  • The Spirit is powerful: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
  • The Spirit living in us is a down payment on our future inheritance: (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV) Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, {22} set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
  • The Spirit living in us indicates we are God’s children: (Romans 8:16-17 NIV) The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. {17} Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
  • (Galatians 4:6-7 NIV) Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” {7} So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
  • The Spirit is involved in transforming us. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV) Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. {18} And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
  • He also intercedes for us in prayer; convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment; empowers us to speak boldly; and gives us gifts.

We can tell whether we really believe God’s truths by how we live our lives. Belief isn’t tested so much theoretically as practically. Again, the reason God wants us to believe his truths is not merely so we can pass a doctrinal test; rather, it is so that we will have healthy spiritual lives. If we examine our lives, that’s how we clarify what we really believe. So do you believe in the One Spirit?

One important way is to see whether we believe in One Spirit:

(Romans 7:6 NIV)  But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

What does that mean? How can we tell which way we are in fact approaching it?

Some characteristics of the old way of the written code:

  • Law, rules, focus on externals (attendance, conformity, concern over that which is outward and appearances)
  • Pride and superiority or guilt and inferiority
  • There’s comparison and concentration on human effort
  • And it is exhausting (Galatians 3:3 NIV) Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
  • If this is your pattern, Jesus wrote this: (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. {29} Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. {30} For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
  • Biting and devouring others (Galatians 5:15 NIV) If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
  • Being a control freak, “It is our determination to be independent by being in control that makes us unavailable to God” Richard Neuhaus.
  • “Those who are filled with the Spirit have died to that determination, surrendered their right to be in control, and made themselves radically dependent on and available to the Holy Spirit.” Stephen Seamands

Some characteristics of the new way of Spirit

  • Belong to Jesus as if married (Romans 7:1-4 NIV)  Do you not know, brothers–for I am speaking to men who know the law–that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? {2} For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. {3} So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. {4} So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
  • Is your relationship by marriage dominated by rules & regulations for your spouse???
  • Bear fruit to God (Galatians 5:22-26 NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. {24} Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. {25} Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. {26} Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
  • “Ministry, if it is to be fruitful—not merely productive—must be through the Holy Spirit,” Stephen Seamands. Productive: means it likely comes from us…from our effort.
  • Changed being (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV)  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. {18} And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (whole lot easier to act compassionately if we are in fact compassionate)
  • You know the love of God (Romans 5:5 NIV) And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
  • Choose to go along with the Spirit: (Galatians 5:25 NIV)  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

(Ephesians 4:30 NIV)  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

(1 Thessalonians 5:19 NIV)  Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;

How do you change to the “new way” of the Spirit

  • Deliberately stop thinking in terms of rules (cf. die to the law). Am I good enough? (of course not!). Is it a sin to…? God didn’t give us law, lists, etc. that was totally dominate our thinking…this isn’t the usual language of the new way in the Spirit.
  • It’s legalistic in its way of thinking
  • Instead, start thinking in terms of relationship, pleasing someone we love who is close to us.
  • Re-envision your Christianity in terms of being in a relationship with God. (remember, I will not leave you as orphans, children of God).
  • Talk to him respectfully but as in a real relationship, open yourself up to him, pour your heart out to him, greatest commandment is to love God w/ all our heart, soul, mind, & strength, what does that mean?
  • I’ve done this and that…”what else do you want me to do?”
  • What does it mean to love our spouses or our children or our friends? The idea of WWJD is pretty good, except that it has become pop religion and frequently doesn’t have much substance to it.
  • Can we really do WWJD or even know WWJD if we aren’t also doing what he did regularly in terms of spending time alone with God?
  • Give God opportunities to write his word on our hearts (pray, open, read, meditate)—this fits fruit-bearing. You must come to a personal understanding of what that means

 If we want the power of God to transform our lives, we need to do some work and also make ourselves available for God to do some work to transform us deep within by the power of his Spirit.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2018 in God

 
 
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