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Faithful Feelings: Doing Emotions God’s Way – In Search of a Standard


Every morning the man would pause in front of the watchmaker’s shop, gaze at the large clock in the window, set his watch by it and walk on. Every day at noon, the watchmaker would go to the big clock in his window, and set it precisely by the blowing of the noon whistle at the local factory.

After many years had passed, the watchmaker stopped the man one day and complimented him on his faithful commitment to the correct time. “Oh, I have to be correct,” said the man. “You see, I’m the one responsible for blowing the noon whistle at the local factory. Without knowing it, they had both been using the other as the standard.

Do we use the speech of the people around us as the standard for our communication? That can be risky business!

Malcolm Muggeridge asks us to imagine a collection of 21th century videos discovered in a cave somewhere in the centuries ahead…tapes of our TV shows, tapes of our music, our videos, our radio advertisements….what would they make of us? (Does that question depress you as much as it does me?)

Alvin Toffler has written that we are a society with “value vertigo,” morally out of balance. It’s been said that we have lost the noble quality of moral courage. Where do we look for absolutes – values that enable us to distinguish right from wrong?  If we look to one another as the standard, we’re in big trouble! We will almost always compound one another’s errors. Of course…the answer: God’s Word!

Ephesians 5:1-5: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children {2} and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. {3} But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. {4} Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. {5} For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. {2} Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The Challenge of Disappointment

How do Christians deal with disappointment created by other Christians? We live in a society filled with cynicism, ready to criticize anything or anyone. Our society tells us to think the worst and expect it to happen in every situation. A common response: “That is what I expected!” In our democracy, we do not fear finding fault with anyone.

A man or woman assembles with the congregation “every time the door is open.” However, he or she lives a double life–one being quite evil, and one being quite good. The details of the double life become common knowledge. A consequence: we interpret all difficult circumstances in all troubled members’ lives as evidence of double lives.

A Bible teacher yields to temptation. A consequence: we decide all Bible teachers are especially prone to temptation.

A deacon has an affair. A consequence: we think all deacons are looking for opportunities for affairs.

A treasurer financially defrauds a congregation. A consequence: we think a quality of all treasurers is a love for money that is greater than a love for people.

An elder abuses his position for personal benefit. A consequence: we assume all elders are elders for “the wrong reason.”

Thus, many Christians ask, “What is wrong with us? We seem to be like an army who aims its guns on itself. When we have no pressing enemy, we shoot ourselves. We seem well trained to destroy, but have far too little motive to encourage.

Is Christianity by nature destructive? Is it a part of Christianity’s character to find its joy in destroying instead of encouraging?”

There are many reasons for congregations to be internally destructive, not merely one. One of those reasons that cries out for understanding is this: humans are spiritually weak.

Trusting humans commonly will lead to disappointment. Our faith always must be in Jesus Christ (the Savior), not in congregations (the saved).

The New Testament constantly urges people to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

The examples are literally too numerous to list.

When Peter spoke to the council after his and John’s arrest, he said in Acts 4:8-12 (NIV)
8  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11  He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’. 12  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

This same man wrote this in Romans 7:24-8:1 (NIV)
24  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25  Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. 1  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV)
3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, 5  who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

The message of Revelation closes with these words in Revelation 22:16-17 (NIV)
16  “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” 17  The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

Only Jesus is:

  • The promised fulfillment of God’s determination to bring salvation to the world.
  • The only one through whom salvation is available.
  • The Son of God.
  • The only one in whom there is no condemnation.
  • The only sacrifice from God for the sins of all.
  • The only one in whom there is no favoritism.
  • The only one who can protect us through the living hope.
  • The only one who can grant us entrance into the eternal kingdom.
  • The real one sent from God to be Savior.
  • The only one who can give us the mercy we must have.
  • The only one who can take us to God.

We can be examples and encouragers who influence people to develop and cling to faith in Jesus Christ, but we can never be the Savior. 

Humans in Christ never stop being humans in this life.

As humans:

  • We always are able to be tempted.
  • We always have choices we must make.
  • We always are limited in our knowledge.
  • We always are capable of being emotional reactors instead of purposeful decision makers.
  • Humans make mistakes, and being in Christ does not eliminate our ability to make mistakes.

So we must set boundaries on humans, even humans in Christ.

  • We let humans in Christ encourage us, but we follow Jesus.
  • We let humans in Christ provide us examples, but we follow Jesus.
  • We let humans in Christ lift us up, but we follow Jesus.
  • We let humans in Christ warn us, but we follow Jesus.

Never give a Christian what belongs to Jesus Christ alone.

  • Never give a human the kind of loyalty that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of devotion that belongs only to Jesus.
  • Never give a human the kind of appreciation that belongs only to Jesus.

We exist as individuals and as congregations to serve Jesus, not to rival Jesus.

Thousands of years ago, God promised to send His Son. (See Genesis 12:3 with Galatians 3:16 and 29.)

  • Abraham’s fear in regard to Sarah did not turn God away.
  • Isaac’s impetuousness as an old man did not turn God away.
  • Jacob’s deceptiveness did not turn God away.
  • The slavery of Israel in Egypt did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • The utter faithlessness of the adults who left Egypt did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • Israel’s sins in the period of the Judges did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • The evil of the Israelite kings did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • Israel and Judah’s deaf ears in the period of the prophets did not prevent God from keeping His promise.
  • The rejection of Jesus and the death of Jesus did not prevent God from keeping His promise.

What about us?

  • Will we allow any person to be bigger than Jesus and make God’s efforts of no benefit in your life?
  • Will we let the mistakes of any human be bigger than God?
  • Will we let any human blind you to God’s persistence?
  • Will we let the failures of any human be bigger than the mercy and forgiveness of God?

Don’t let anyone outside of God’s will discourage you from doing God’s will.

No matter how hard we try, we will never be more than the saved. No matter what we know, only Jesus will be the Savior.

We must always let Jesus be our Savior as we seek to encourage the saved. Never let the saved appear to us as the one who saves.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2018 in counsel, Encouragement

 

Working for worth…“Life is a series of inspired follies.”


A mother overheard her son’s little six-year-old friend ask why babies are spanked when they are born. The youngster replied, “To get them 1526556_807300415953891_297388138_nused to it.”

From the human point of view, life appears futile; and it is easy for us to get pessimistic. The Jewish writer Sholom Aleichem once described life as “a blister on top of a tumor, and a boil on top of that.” You can almost feel that definition!

The American poet Carl Sandburg compared life to “an onion—you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.” And British playwright George Bernard Shaw said that life was “a series of inspired follies.”

What a relief to turn from these pessimistic views and hear Jesus Christ say, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Or to read Paul’s majestic declaration, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Do you have a dream? You need one. Dreams give hope. They display a powerful image of what life can be. Has your dream been shattered? Worse yet, has your dream turned into a nightmare and come true? For all of us dreamers, there is hope.

We need to find meaning and purpose! It gives us daily direction. It gives us worth.

Life is “not in vain” if it is lived according to the will of God! This mind-set makes all the difference! It gives us a focus as we wake each morning and begin pondering the new day. It makes calculation easier when we wonder what lies ahead – and helps erase those things past, over which we no longer have control.

A little girl was working very hard and could not be induced to stop and rest. This was before the day of electric lights. When asked, “Why do you not stop and rest?” she replied, “I have just one little candle, and it will soon be burned out. I wish to do what I can while the candle burns.” So it is with us. Our little day will soon be gone. May we do what we can while the candle burns.

Henri J. Nouwen is credited with a profound statement: Sometimes I think of life as a big wagon wheel with many spokes. In the middle is the hub. Often in ministry, it looks like we are running around
the rim trying to reach everybody. But God says, “Start in the hub; live in the hub. Then you will be connected with all the spokes, and you won’t have to run so fast.”
I want to accept the challenge offered by Mark Twain: “Let us so live that when we die even the undertaker will be sorry.”

If we make that choice, we might prefer to adopt the positive lifestyle of Jeanne Hendricks, who said that “Living is not a spectator sport.  No one, at any price, is privileged to sit in the stands and watch the action from a distance.  Being born means being a participant in the arena of life, where opposition is fierce and winning comes only to those who exert every ounce of energy. “

Or perhaps we like the Yiddish Proverb: “Life is the biggest bargain.  We get it for nothing.”

Abraham Lincoln had ten guidelines by which he lived and governed his life. He followed these guidelines until the day he died:

 1. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.

 2. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.

 3. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

 4. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

 5. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.

 6. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.

 7. You cannot further the brotherhood of men by inciting class hatred.

 8. You cannot establish security on borrowed money.

 9. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.

 10. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Encouragement

 

Where is God when we hurt?


“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

“…who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

1. WHEN YOUR REQUEST IS WRONG, GOD IS DENYING YOU

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:3

Psalm 69:6 (43 kb)2. WHEN YOUR TIMING IS WRONG, GOD IS DELAYING YOU

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1

3. WHEN YOUR COURSE IS WRONG, GOD IS DIRECTING YOU

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. Jonah 1:7

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. Jonah 2:1

4. WHEN YOUR LIFE IS WRONG, GOD IS DISCIPLINING YOU

Hebrews 12:4-11 (NIV)
4  In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
5  And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6  because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
7  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
8  If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
9  Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
10  Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.
11  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

5. THROUGH IT ALL, GOD IS DEVELOPING YOU

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2018 in God

 

“A Woman Worthy of Praise” – Proverbs 31:10-31  


We had the meanest mother in the whole world! While other kids ate candy for breakfast, we had to have cereal, eggs, and toast. When others had a Pepsi and a Twinkie for lunch, we had to eat sandwiches. And you can guess our mother fixed us a dinner that was different from other kids had, too.

Mother insisted on knowing where we were at all times. You’d think we were convicts in a prison. She had to know who our friends were, and what we were doing with them. She insisted that if we said we would be gone for an hour, we would be gone for an hour or less.

We were ashamed to admit it, but she had the nerve to break the Child Labor Laws by making us work. We had to wash the dishes, make the beds, learn to cook, vacuum the floor, do laundry, and all sorts of cruel jobs. I think she would lie awake at night thinking of more things for us to do. She always insisted on us telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

By the time we were teenagers, she could read our minds. Then, life was really tough! Mother wouldn’t let our friends just honk the horn when they drove up. They had to come up to the door so she could meet them. While everyone else could date when they were 12 or 13, we had to wait until we were 16.

Because of our mother, we missed out on lots of things other kids experienced. None of us have ever been caught shoplifting, vandalizing other’s property, or ever arrested for any crime. It was all her fault. We never got drunk, took up smoking, stayed out all night, or a million other things, other kids did. Sundays were reserved for church, and we never missed once. We knew better than to ask to spend the night with a friend on Saturdays.

Now that we have left home, we are all God-fearing, educated, honest adults. We are doing our best to be mean parents just like Mom was.

I think that’s what is wrong with the world today. It just doesn’t have enough mean moms anymore.

We’re calling upon a man whose name is mentioned only once in scripture, yet this choice portion of literature seems to last forever in our minds as we look for a godly woman.

His name was King Lemuel, and he had a good mother. Listen to the opening verses of this chapter: Proverbs 31:1-9: “The sayings of King Lemuel–an oracle his mother taught him: {2} “O my son, O son of my womb, O son of my vows, {3} do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings. {4} “It is not for kings, O Lemuel– not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, {5} lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. {6} Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; {7} let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. {8} “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. {9} Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.””

In verse 10, King Lemuel begins with both a question and a declaration:

Question: a wife of noble character, who can find?

Answer: she is worth far more than rubies!

Verse 30 sums it all up: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Many times these verses are presented in such a way that a great deal of guilt is brought forth on the part of the women and mothers listening. If you do not get up early and buy-and-sell land or provide your family with hand-sewn clothing…these verses are still for your encouragement.

Instead of listing items of activity which should be part of the Christian woman, it is listing characteristics which are then applied to the culture in which we walk and work. The idea: be this kind of woman in your character and your activities will be determined by the particular circumstances which do apply to your life.

She is diligent (vs. 13, 17-18, 27)

Proverbs 31:13: “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.”

Proverbs 31:17-18: “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. {18} She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.”

Proverbs 31:27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

   This trait seems to be mixed with a pleasant spirit and a good attitude. She seems to possess pride in what she does…she’s not happy just to “get by” but in doing a good job. She looks for the best buys, she realizes a profit, and works even into the night.

She’s industrious and efficient (vs. 14, 16, 24)

Proverbs 31:14: “She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.”

Proverbs 31:16: “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”

Proverbs 31:24: “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.”

    She’s a thinking individual. In the investment of her time, she looks for dividends and returns. Instead of focusing on the grind, she looks to the benefits her work will bring.

 She’s compassionate (vs. 20, 26).

Proverbs 31:20: “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”

Proverbs 31:26: “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”

   She has a soft heart that can be touched. And this makes her unique and distinct when contrasted to the man: an illustration….a child is hurt and the two responses: Mother: How are YOU doing? What can I do? (the caring one). Dad: Why were you running? You scratched the wall! Who’s fault was it? (the investigator).

 She has inner beauty (vs. 22, 25).

Proverbs 31:22: “She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.”

Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

 IF MARRIED: She’s a devoted wife:

She maintains her husband’s confidence (vs. 11a)

Proverbs 31:11a: “Her husband has full confidence in her….”

   He’s comfortable in being transparent with her. He can share his feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and disappointment and know she will keep them to herself.

 She meets his needs (vs. 11b).

Proverbs 31:11b: “…and lacks nothing of value.”

   She’s supportive and affectionate. She encourages his pursuits, and is committed to him and his efforts. Remember when God looked at Adam and said: “It is not good that man should be alone.” He made a help-meet that would make him complete. Woman was a special creation of God but also a “corresponding part.”

 She seeks his good (vs. 12)

Proverbs 31:12: “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

 She aids his influence (vs. 23)

Proverbs 31:23: “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”

 IF A PARENT: she’s a dependable mother.

She is disciplined (vs. 15, 18-19).

Proverbs 31:15: “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.”

Proverbs 31:18-19: “She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. {19} In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.”

  This is not a verse teaching you into hell if you don’t make homemade biscuits early in the morning, etc. But it is teaching a principle of taking charge of your time so you can meet the family needs. If the role of the husband or father in your house is for him to fix breakfast, then, obviously, the specifics would change.

 She’s organized (vs. 21).

Proverbs 31:21: “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.”

   This verse presents a sense of planning. She takes the challenge of a family as just that, a challenge, and seeks to meet it. It’s not just “a cross to bear.”

 She’s dedicated (vs. 27).

Proverbs 31:27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

 What will be the results of this kind of woman (28-31).

Proverbs 31:28-31“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: {29} “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” {30} Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. {31} Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

* Her children will bless her! * Her husband will praise her!

* Her peers will be challenged by her! * Her works will bring their own praise!

* Her Lord will be honored by her life!

A husband’s relationship to his excellent wife: (vs. 11-12, 28-29)

Proverbs 31:11-12: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. {12} She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

Proverbs 31:28-29: “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: {29} “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.””

He trusts her (vs. 11). He has no cause for suspicion for her. Deep within, he holds confidence in her.

He benefits from her (vs. 11).

He’s affirmed by her (vs. 12).

He’s impressed with her and sings her praises (vs. 28-29).

Young men – look for this kind of woman!

Young ladies – strive with God’s help to be this kind of woman!

Fathers and married men – Thank God if you have this kind of woman!

THE BEAUTY OF LOVE

A little girl came to her mother one day and said, “Mother, why do you always wear gloves?” The mother replied, “Because my hands are such ugly, unsightly hands.” “But,” said the daughter, “Mother, what is the matter with your hands?” “Please take off your gloves. I want to see your hands.” The mother did so, and as the little girl saw the burned, drawn hands, she said, “O, Mother, put the gloves back on.”

Then she said, “But, Mother, how came your hands so burned and drawn?” She said, “When you were a baby the house was on fire; your bed and  your clothes were on fire and in rescuing you I burned my hands.”

The little girl said, “Take off the gloves again, I do want to look at your hands.” She did so, and the little girl affectionately patted and kissed the unsightly hands and said, “These are the most beautiful hands I have ever seen.” Love beautifies. We need more of it. — By William Moses Tidwell, “Effective Illustrations.”

 

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2018 in Marriage

 

Get Your Priorities Straight – Exodus 20:1-3


Some suggest there’s not a lot to brag about when it comes to flying on Southwest Airlines. Southwest is all about no frills bargains. It’s the Wal-Mart of airlines. (I like the low cost, not paying fees for luggage, and no penalties if you need to make last minute changes!)

But Southwest Airlines has a way of making me feel great about flying on their planes. After the plane lands, a flight attendant grabs the mike and after announcing all the gates for connecting flights she will say, “We hope you enjoyed your flight today. We know that you have choices when you travel and we thank you for choosing Southwest Airlines.”

Southwest Airlines may not give me the greatest airline snacks, but they recognize that I have the power to choose and they respect that. They make me feel good for choosing them instead of Delta or American. Southwest knows that I am a customer and they are so thankful and appreciative of me.

In ancient times there were dozens of gods to choose from. Really neat gods and goddesses with cool names – they went on adventures and had magic powers.

God makes the following statement: Exodus 20:2-3 “I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me.”

How on earth can God make such a statement? People do have choices, right? So why does God have to be so absolute?  There’s a relationship here when God says: I AM the one who delivered you.

The Israelites who first heard these words at the base of Mount Sinai, had been slaves for four generations in Egypt. God had delivered them from slavery. No other god. No other power. God was the one who had saved them, fed them, nurtured them, and protected them.

God is still delivering people from enslavement. People are enslaved to fear, worry, hatred, addiction, pride, poverty, loneliness, and despair.

People are dehumanized and demeaned by oppressive powers of sin. But God is more powerful than the powers. What other God died for us and redeemed us? What other God made us into a people with purpose. What other God brings us hope? Before we ever thought about choosing God – He chose us!

Because of that relationship, there are certain claims established. God is our God and we are his people. It’s like a marriage. You have a choice in who you marry, but once you marry that relationship is exclusive. So God is all-inclusively exclusive.

God knows that there are choices. I suppose you can choose another god, but once you choose God, it’s exclusive.

Anyone can come to God. God can deliver anyone. But once you enter into the relationship – it’s you and God. It’s us and God. The relationship is established.

Greatest Commandments: Love God with all you heart, soul, strength, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.

The first commandment given to God’s chosen people…then and now…asserts the claim of God to absolute sovereignty over the lives of his people. Without this fundamental declaration of divine authority over human lives, there would be no basis for any other of the commandments to follow. This is the first commandment, then, not only in order of their statement but in order of their internal coherence. It has to do with fixing priorities in human affairs.

The fundamental decision that each of us must make in life can be put into words this way: What is going to be the most important thing in my life?

The Other Gods We Are Tempted to Follow

1 John 2:15-17 refers to an unholy trinity of pleasure, possessions, and position. John summarized all this when he wrote: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh [i.e., the Pleasure God] and the lust of the eyes [i.e., the Possession God] and the pride of life [i.e., the Position God], is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever” (I John 2:15-17).

These false gods are worshipped in many different forms, but everything that competes with the true God for first place in our lives comes under one of these three headings.

When pleasure becomes your god, work and duty become burdensome. Are we such a pleasure-mad people that we hate anything that smacks of work and duty? What starts as a legitimate diversion for an individual can enslave his time, money, and energy so as to become a sin for him. It may be fishing, hunting, playing tennis, playing or coaching baseball, or any number of things that are good within themselves. But when anyone of them becomes more important to you than your responsibilities as an adult, a provider, a human being, or a Christian, it has become a god to you.

When possessions become your god, money rules your thoughts and ambitions. You begin to neglect spiritual things and find yourself participating in things you would have never believed possible. You find yourself being devious and underhanded, and you begin to shade the truth in order to take unfair advantage in a business deal. What has happened? You have dethroned the Almighty God and put the Almighty Dollar in his place.

When position becomes your god, you begin taking yourself too seriously. You develop an over-inflated ego and think you are smarter and more important than you really are. Your “rights” become all-important to you, so the notion of humbling yourself to serve someone else or turning the other cheek when insulted becomes repulsive to you.

The man or woman who spends a lifetime in pursuit of these idols will lose both them and his or her own soul. The individual whose priorities are right gains and cannot lose. The false gods of human experience promise things they cannot deliver. Sensuality, wealth, and fame certainly don’t guarantee happiness.

The “unholy trinity” cannot get us out of trouble. Creature pleasures won’t chase away depression, money can’t buy love, and fame will not make a marriage happy. All these things together will not secure eternal life, fellowship with God, or heaven.

  • Live for pleasure and carnal satisfaction, and you will burn out and self-destruct! “For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption” (Galatians 6:8a).
  • Live for God, and your life will take on the special qualities of peace and fulfillment that can be experienced only by those close to deity. You will come to be able to “prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

So the first rule of a good life is this: Get your priorities right. Put God first in everything. Let things of the kingdom of God have precedence over every other concern. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon,” said the Lord Jesus (Matthew 6:24).

Paul took up this same theme of life priorities and put it this way: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3·1-3).

The Place of This Commandment for Us

If you understand now what God was asking of the Jews at Mt. Sinai, surely you see the relevance of this same command for us. If you are going to live by the rules, you will have to give God first place in your life and put the things of His kingdom first in your behavior.

Why are false doctrines ever taught among us? It is because somebody has not seen the Word of God alone as true and primary and has thought that his own superior knowledge and insight were as good as the commandments of God himself. Someone thought he could improve on the way God had ordered something done.

Why does sinful behavior ever get into your life or mine? It is because we get our priorities confused. We get our feeings hurt and decide we have the right to retaliate; we get depressed and decide it will be all right to reach for some forbidden pleasure as a palliative; we forget that God and his will are all that really matter in this world and begin to neglect the Bible, put off prayer, and place the work of Christ’s church on the back burner of life.

Whenever we put what we want above what we know is right, we have broken the first rule of right living.

Paul explained this under the analogy of a man in military service. “No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him” (2 Tim. 2:14).

When someone is serving in the army, military obligations have full claim on him. He cannot run two or three private businesses while on duty. He is on service to his country, and that service demands his full time and attention.

In the same way, those of us who wear the name of Christ are on service for him. Twenty-four hours per day and seven days per week, his concerns must occupy our attention. Someone on service for Christ cannot carry on two or three sideline flirtations with the world. Kingdom business has to come first.

How did the first century Christians do in those first weeks/months following Pentecost?

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV) Ac 42 (NIV)  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44  All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

How did it change within those first 50+ years?

Hebrews 2:1-4 (NIV)  We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2  For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3  how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4  God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Hebrews 3:7-12 (NIV) So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8  do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, 9  where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. 10  That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11  So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.'” 12  See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV) We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. (no thros: Hebrews 6:12: We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. -lazy) 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 10:25-31 (NIV)  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 26  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27  but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28  Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29  How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30  For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The pious Christian, imitating his Jewish counterpart of generations ago, would do well to repeat the words of the Shema frequently: “Hear, 0 Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

Conclusion — The God of the Bible is a jealous God. His jealousy is a moral excellence rather than flaw, because it is the jealousy of a husband who justly desires his wife’s exclusive affection.

It is not the sort of suspicious and accusing jealousy some husbands display toward their wives but the sort of holy jealousy a man and woman have over each other from love. A good man would be horrified if anyone else were to get any part of the devotion and affection that he alone has the right to receive from his wife.

In the same way, God will have first place or no place in your life. He will not share your loyalties and affections. If you will not give him the best and purest of your love, he will not take the leftovers.

Enthrone the true God in your heart, and keep that priority fixed forever.

 

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2018 in God

 

What I Owe God and My Local Congregation


The following anonymous statement sums up what I owe my local congregation: “To the church of my Lord in every locality, I am under solemn obligation to the extent of my ability; but unto my home congregation, I am under special obligation. I want my home congregation to radiate a wholesome influence in the community. Therefore, I owe it the example of a good life. For I must “live soberly, righteously, and godly.”

“I want the strangers who enter the door of the meeting house to feel at home, to learn to love us, to return from time to time. They are our guest: I must entertain them. I owe it to them, and to the church to show myself friendly. I must not stand back and wait for others to greet them: this I must do. No congregation can make progress without faithful and efficient leaders. To the end that our leaders may be stronger and more efficient, I must give my support, my prayers. As long as they are true men, I must not embarrass them in the work.

“My home congregation has financial obligations, which are due at regular intervals. Whether I give or do not give, these obligations must be paid. If it is right for my congregation to pay its obligations each week, it is right for me to give each week. Though circumstances may force me to be absent at times, my contributions should find their way to the treasury of the church. I should “give as I have prospered” and not give as it relates to ‘perceived needs.’

“I know that the very existence of my congregation depends upon the attendance of its members. In fact, the attendance is the life of the church. For this reason, I must attend the services…all service, if I can. For all that I have, I would not have it said my congregation perished because I would not attend the meetings.

“I want my home congregation to grow, to multiply in members. Therefore, I must set to the work of winning souls for Christ. This I do by preaching and persuading; this I can do by persistent effort; this I can do by bringing them to our assemblies.”

Accountability is one of the means God uses to bring about solid growth and maturity with the freedom to be what God has created us to be. Read some of his ‘accountability passages’ as we ponder this idea:

(Matthew 9:12-13)  On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. {13} But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

(Matthew 11:28-30)  “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.”

Christ is more than a tradition, or belief. He is a Person who knows our needs, feels our pain, and sympathizes with our weaknesses. In exchange for our trust, He offers to forgive our sins, to intercede for us, and to bring us to the Father. He cried for us, died for us, and rose from the dead to show that He was all He claimed to be. Conquering death, He showed us that He can save us from our sins, and bring us safely to heaven.

Matthew 10:28-31  “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. [29]  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. [30]  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. [31]  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

(Luke 12:6)  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies ? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.

The apostle Paul warns the Christian community against the evil of judging one another concerning certain doubtful or debatable practices where one Christian holds one opinion and another a different opinion. He then concludes this portion of his argument with a reminder of every Christian’s accountability at the Judgment Seat of God. He writes: But why do you judge your brother or sister? Or again, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  11 For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God.” 12 Therefore, each of us will give an account of himself to God (Rom 14:10-12)..

The stark reality of Scripture is that every person, Christian and non-Christian, is accountable before a sovereign God (see Rom. 3:9-19) and will one day have to bow before Christ (Phil. 2:9-11). Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked” (Luke 12:48b).

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2018 in Church

 

Our Life Together Series: The Meaning of Loyalty (1 Corinthians 12:26) 


“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

Most of the communities to which we belong are voluntary organizations. Because we share a common interest with others, we join them in forming a community based on that common interest. If we have children in school, we may join with others in forming a chapter of the P.T.A. If we are in business, we may join with others who share this particular interest. Our association with the group lasts as long as we share a common interest with it. When our situation changes, causing us no longer to share common goals with the group, our loyalty to it is likely to disappear. We enter voluntarily and leave voluntarily, because our loyalty and support depend on our shared common interests with the group.

We need only to take a cursory look at some texts of the New Testament to see that the church is quite unlike the voluntary association. When the New Testament speaks of the community, it has a rich and suggestive word in Greek for developing this idea. It is the word koinonia, which we translate as “fellowship” or “participation” or “partnership.” The church is not a voluntary association of like-minded people alone! It is a community of people who have first been called into fellowship with Jesus Christ. We belong to each other because we first belong to Jesus Christ.

Fellowship did not originate at our own initiative: We were called into fellowship: (1 Corinthians 1:9)  “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” Our fellowship with him is not the result of our own goodness. It is his gracious summons that has made us his partners.

See how these verses express this idea: The Lord’s Supper is a participation in the body and blood of Christ: (1 Corinthians 10:16)  “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?”

A disciple shares in his sufferings: (2 Corinthians 1:5-7)  “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. {6} If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. {7} And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

Paul described himself this way: (Philippians 3:10)  “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” We have been called as his people into a life of sharing his way, the way of the cross. To be in fellowship with Christ is to adopt his kind of life.

We are brought together as one body: (1 Corinthians 12:12)  “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.”

Paul’s words should help us realize that there is no relationship to Jesus without our being members of his body, the church! And fellowship is real only when every one of us, like parts of a body, contributes to the ongoing ministry. Even those members who seem not very gifted are vital to the fellowship, for the body cannot exist without the cooperation of its tiniest part.

Fellowship is never a reality unless the work is shared by all members. There is no justification for any church and its ministries to be carried out by staff members only. Christians within the body should not become spectators to the work of the church. Nor is their work to become simply that of financial benefactors.

Jesus established and loved the church. He commanded his people to be loyal to it and to always give it priority affection and faithful support. Loyalty has a martial ring to it. We think of our country and the nation’s flag. Loyalty stirs within us something high and holy. We like to think of ourselves as loyal, stalwart, and true.

The Place of Loyalty. Loyalty is the willing, practical devotion of self and substance to a person or a cause that is believed to be supremely worthwhile. It carries with it faithfulness, trust and confidence. I would suggest that church loyalty runs much deeper: it calls for devoted allegiance to a Person and a cause. It involves decision, devotion, faithfulness, trustworthiness, and sacrifice.

An individual without loyalty is like a ship without a compass. There may be much activity and much “going about” but it will often have little purpose and be unprofitable. Loyalty gives purpose, direction and drive to life. In any list of Christian virtues, loyalty ranks high…we recognize it in scripture as faithfulness:                            (over)

 (Mat 23:23) “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

(Rom 3:3) “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?”

(Gal 5:22) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”

(3 John 1:3) “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.”

(Rev 13:10) “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.”

In our daily lives, there are numerous ‘loyalties’ clamoring for devotion and interest. We must stand firm in our efforts to be loyal to God, to the faith, to the church, to friends and family, and to self!

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2018 in Our Life Together

 
 
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