Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Work in the Church?"

  Headed to work or to the office is a daily routine for many. The day is started with coffee or a favorite breakfast preparing for the busy day. Planning, business meetings and the such are common place. In this daily walk everything is run by time and money. Company policies are held to and put in the mind of the staff.
  There is another common site. Those who work with a larger workforce find gossip, back-stabbing, lying, deception and anything goes in order to get ahead of another. Hatred is stirred because of the actions of another. Some that are lazy get ahead while the hard workers continue with little recognition. There are those who seem to be hyper-critical of anything done. The business world has become a place of power and people wanting that power. People want control. And to top it all off, you are on a clock that you come in and you leave the workplace behind until the next appointed time!
  Looking closely at all this, we come to the church of our Lord. People that have been redeemed by His blood, beset with weaknesses and failures. But looking closely, how much of what is going on in the business world is going on in the church? Even though it is stated that Christ is the head of His church, people act as if they are the head. They try to control everything and everyone. You have elders who forget that they have a greater Shepherd over them but they run things with a lording and iron fist just as a corporation. Members try to rule over the elders forgetting they will have to give an account to the Head for their lack of submission.
  And we worship by the clock! We punch in at all different times but we MUST be finished on the hour or we are upset. It's like our walk with Jesus and our adoration of His name is limited, very limited by our time. Too many songs to praise His name! The prayers offered to our heavenly Father are too long! The preacher spoke too long! The Lord's Supper where we are fellowshiping Jesus is long! Leave as quickly as possible to get back to our homes so we can get back to life.
  Money, we need money to meet our budget. We need to get people to give, give and give as we run short of funds. Let's serve coffee and donuts so people will be comfortable. The preachers must have a high degree in order to serve in our congregation! They have been trained for that position!
  Let's make our decisions by democracy! The majority rules and they have to be right and the policies filter throughout the body of Christ. Sometimes people are upset so they leave. They will find another location (job) to worship.
  Do you see the common place in the work arena and the church? Yes, maybe we don't want to admit it is there but it is! And it's killing us!! We need to take a sincere inventory of ourselves, His church, and see if we are really living Jesus and Him crucified or clinging to the world's ideas and standards? 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Fear Of the Lord"

  God is not like us! Too many are making God like man. The Almighty is viewed as thinking like man, going about things the way man would and reasoning as man. Too many have taken Deity and made Him as 'one of the good ole' boys'! Preaching has becoming entertainment with lots of jokes and funny lines to describe the things of God and His Son while the fun continues with His word. Worship has been surrounded with a mentality of excitement and in many cases a "rock concert" atmosphere. God has simply been reduced to mans thinking and shaped by mans world. Because many enjoy this new emotional high, God is no longer the Almighty Jehovah who reigns in righteousness, holiness and justice but has become an idol. Simply an image formed by the thought of man.
  Take some time and read Scripture about the descriptions of God. You will find the encounters with God were nothing like practiced today. When God rescued, there was a bowing down of thankfulness. When God destroyed those in direct conflict with Him and His people, there was an awe inspiring humility of gratitude. When God confronted people in their sins, there was an earnest appeal in fear and trembling knowing it wasn't going to go well if He were ignored.
  The Hebrew writer explains to the Jewish Christian the difference between what Moses and the people encountered in Scripture and what they (we) possess today in the presence of God. In Hebrews 12:18-29 that description is given in detail. Even from the days of Moses coming to the mountain, we are told they were warned and could not bear "even if a beast touches a mountain, it will be stoned." (Heb. 12:20) The result was Moses spoke that he was "full of fear and trembling." (Heb. 12:21) Through Jesus we have been brought into the presence of this same Almighty God. It is much deeper because of the elements surrounding our God through the blood of Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.
  Then sounds the warnings: don't refuse Him who is speaking (Heb. 12:25)! The voice of God shook the earth at the mountain but there is coming a time when His voice will not only the earth but heaven too (Heb. 12:26)! God is going to remove the created things and only the 'unshakable' will remain. The conclusion? "Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire."  (Heb. 12:28-29) It's called fear of the Lord, not living in the presence of some cosmic Santa!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"The Holy Spirit"

  We are presently in a study of the Holy Spirit. In the process I have books (and articles) that have been given to me over the years that brethren have written about the Holy Spirit. We seem to be afraid (and I am speaking to those who know what I am talking about) to speak much about Him. One Sunday morning in years gone by, I was teaching on the Holy Spirit and as soon as our worship as a body concluded, a brother came directly to me and stated: "You didn't read that book I gave you written by...did you?" I asked why he asked me that? He continued, "Because if you had read his information, you wouldn't have preached what you preached!" Looking directly in his eyes I stated, "I read the book you gave me and there was only one thing that I agreed with. At the end of the book he placed what others have said about his writings and one fellow stated how he loved this author as a brother and respected him but didn't agree with his findings on the Holy Spirit." Nothing more was said. Sometimes we think that because some like a certain book that we are to allow that book to be the truth in all things. I have heard over the years elderships hold to books more closely than THE BOOK because they are fearful they won't understand something right but they trust the author of a man's book.
  We need not be afraid! A study of the Holy Spirit is so vital and so important. The Holy Spirit is God! The Holy Spirit is powerful! The Holy Spirit lives in and works in His children! The Holy Spirit lives in the church! The Holy Spirit IS NOT a feeling! The Holy Spirit was given as a promise to each person when they were united with Jesus in baptism. The promise of the Spirit sealed us as a pledge of the inheritance we have coming (Eph. 1:13-14). We need not be afraid of Him and His work. We need not to allow what the religious world has done to the teachings of the Spirit to affect our study and hearts. We need to trust God in His revealing to us the teachings of the Holy Spirit.
  I want to encourage you to set aside your book(s) and start learning from Scripture the Holy Spirit. Get a good concordance and take your time. You will be amazed at what you will learn. Seeking the truth from a sincere heart of faith will not lead you down a path of misconceptions. Trust God! The first thing you will find will be found in Gen. 1:1. The name "God" is plural and in Gen. 1:2 you find His Spirit moving over this formless, void and darkness awaiting to bring order and it happened. That was the Holy Spirit at work. From there the work of the Spirit becomes very evident in man's history. Just a final note: pay attention to the Spirit "upon" or "with" as that is not the same as "dwells in". This is a great study! May God enrich our lives and help us in our seeking His truth.

Monday, January 28, 2013

"Are We Helping Immorality?"

  The moral fabric of our nation is running as fast as it can away from God. It is not just a problem with the world but has also entered the arena of the church. People in immoral situations, unholy situations and no one seems to be bothered because of the attitude of the world around us. We speak of God losing His place in the school and other public places but it seems He is losing His place in the home and the church. The standard of holiness and righteousness are being depleted.
  The church at Thessalonica (and applies today) was told: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God." (I Thes. 4:3-5) Everyone seems to run around talking about doing the will of God, discovering the will of God in their lives and God's will be done! This is God's will: ABSTAIN FROM SEXUAL IMMORALITY!
  The other day as I was speaking with an individual, they were telling me how blessed their lives were and how God has been working. Out of nowhere they revealed themselves by telling me about her live-in boyfriend. She had a baby and they were just as happy as could be. Blessed by God? Immoral? Yes God sends His goodness on the righteous and unrighteous or man could not exist. But blessings from heaven in the home of immorality?  They are just words that are spoken to mask sinful and degrading passions!
  The immoral decline within God's people has come from the world. Paul was appalled at the church at Corinth because there was such an immorality that didn't even exist among the unbelievers (I Cor. 5:1-2)! What about us? What are you training and instructing your family toward? Does God's will make an impact on your life? "For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you." (I Thes. 4:7-8)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Heaven On My Mind"

  I've had heaven on my mind a lot recently. I ponder about it and wonder what is it really going to be like in the presence of God. I try to draw some comparisons but I can't. There is nothing that I have experienced or seen on this earth that will explain what the presence of God will be like. I know what the Holy Scriptures tell us in a very limited way but heaven, I just can't grasp it. I strive to be there!
  Time will die! I know that means there will be no schedules to keep. We are told one day with the Lord is like a thousand years (II Pet. 3:8). Will it be like an eternal vacation? No, that won't do either because that is putting the presence of God in what my experience presently is in this life. This life will be over. Maybe it will be fun and games we enjoy? No, that appeals to our fleshly desires and what we experience here too. 
  The bottom line: it's too grand and glorious to know. It must be something so spectacular, so wonderful, so grand and magnificent that Jesus would die in our place to get us there! My substitute, Jesus Christ. I know He is the only One that will stand between me and my sins in the presence of God to secure the covenant God made: "And their sins and lawless deeds I remember no more!" That's heaven! Heaven will be in the presence of God and it will stand apart from any unrighteous acts of man. There will be no sin present as sin will be impossible to enter and exist there. That is a marvel in itself.  
  So until that day, that hour that our last breath will be taken, long for heaven. Reach and strive each day giving thanks to the Father for the redemption we have in Christ Jesus. Worship God. Adore our Savior. The things of God are unsearchable but they belong to us in Christ Jesus. That tells me heaven will be out of sight...physically and spiritually!! Rejoice in the Lord!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"By Faith or Fear?"

  We hear it often. It's the religious thing to do. It's taught in our Bible studies, it's preached in our pulpits and it is written about who knows how many times. "Don't fear!" That's the way of life for the strong and those who have everything going well for them. Some live with broken homes, great illnesses that could lead to death, the loss of a child, unable able to find a job when looking diligently and financial ruin. These are real issues in life. What are we  to do with the words of Jesus: "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?"
  We seem to miss the reality of Jesus. Maybe our faith, what we call faith, isn't placed in Jesus where we trust and lean on Him with all our heart. Our fears run rampant and our thinking runs wild. The worst in a situation is always seen. We forget the Lord Jesus that He is Lord of heaven and earth. "But faith doesn't take away my mate walking out on me! Faith doesn't take away my sickness!" That's the point. It's not about something being taken away but who you trust to bring assurance and confidence within during a most difficult time. We embrace the problem rather than the Lord!
  How do we solve our fears? "But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts..." (I Pet. 3:14-15a) People or situations can attack us. If we are fearful people to start with it becomes hard not to fear. But when things are going well, that's when one needs to be making progress working on their faith and trust in Jesus. When people or situations try to create fears and doubts in us, what is the solution? "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart!" You will sanctify (set apart) something when you face troubles. You will sanctify the problem or sanctify the Lord. Your heart must settle an issue who is going to be Lord! If you allow the problem to be Lord, you will open your life to fears. If you set apart Christ as Lord, He will bring His rule within. We need to learn to let Christ rule in the heart. Let Jesus have the final say in all matters!! He is Lord. When He walked on this earth, all He did was speak and it happened. Before His return to the Father, all authority in heaven and earth was given to Him. He rules! The question for us do we believe He rules? If we believe with all our heart He rules, sanctify Him in your heart. That eliminates any room for fear! Are we living by faith or fear?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"To An Unknown God"

  As the news media waited in our nations capitol, the commentary from our leaders began revealing a nation full of idols. Prayers were offered to many gods. Our spirits are provoked with the lack of loving and understanding the holy and righteous God who rules from heaven. We speak: "Leaders of our nation, we know you are trying to look religious but while listening to your speeches and your new directions you want to take us, we heard an utterance, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD'. Therefore what you follow in ignorance, this we proclaim to you." "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and since He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determinded their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are His children.' Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the time of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whome He has appointed, having furnished proof to all me by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:24-31)
  We better start praying and seeking the Lord with all our heart because changes are coming. Changes are coming! Pray for our leaders. Our leaders are taking this nation to an unknown god and this nation is following their lead. We need to be seeking the Lord with all our heart.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Am I Really Faithful?"

  Have you ever sat down and asked yourself: "Am I really faithful to the Lord?" Has time eroded your commitment to His name and purpose? Do you find yourself feeling pressure to do things "for His name" because that's what is expected of us that wear the name 'Christian'? Do we find ourselves more concerned with bending to everyone that says go or feel obligated to do things because we feel as if we have to?
  I know all the verses that pop up in Scripture we use about faithfulness. We seem to have set faithfulness in attending worship and taking the Supper weekly. Are you faithful in assembling with the saints and fellowshipping Jesus in the Supper because you have this sense of God and wanting His fellowship at all cost? Are we following rules and expectations without understanding the heart that is involved in service to the Lord?
  Faithfulness to the Lord arises out of a conviction of faith and love for the Lord. It is not a sense of obligation but a sincere faith wanting to serve and help the Lord in His work. Faithfulness is doing things "for His name sake" and not for any other reason. Do you have that faithfulness to the Lord?
  Do you find yourself wanting to sit and listen to His voice in His word at home? Do you desire that or just accept the fact you get what you get from a sermon? And prayer, what about prayer? Are we really taking the time to prayer, wanting to pray because of our relationship to the Father? Do we have obedience "from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed" (Rom. 6:17)?
  These are a lot of questions I ask of myself. These are questions I ask of you. When was the last time you have been 'pruned' by the Lord to bear even greater fruit? Oh, you're not sure you have ever been pruned or at least don't know if you have? It's time to sit down and ask yourself: "Am I really faithful to the Lord?"

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"A Hurting Time"

  We live in perilous times! Sin is running rampant. People have little understanding at what is happening but there are many opinions floating around and heated debates as to why things are the way they are. In the process, the church of our Lord doesn't know what to do. Have we lost our way? Have we moved away from the primary purpose of the church and the Lord Jesus Christ? The church itself is in a difficulty in many places and dividing even more.
  There is little focus on Jesus and Him crucified. The result is the power and wisdom from God is lost! Within the church itself, home life is crashing. It is getting more and more difficult to find fathers bringing up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). What do we find instead? Fathers (and mothers) raising their children in the discipline and instruction of the world! If the church is being affected, why wouldn't the world? There seems to be less and less impact of the Lord and more and more direction from the world. It is amazing of the bad attitudes, the lack of desire from young people while the fathers sit idly watching instead of taking hold and leading their children upward into Christ.
  The world is hurting. The church is hurting. What are we to do? It comes down to one simply thing: Jesus Christ and Him crucified! Within Jesus we find peace, power and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Jesus changes people. We have a message of hope and salvation to teach to our lost friends and neighbors but if the church doesn't see the hope and salvation they possess, we look like another denomination, another religious group with the same empty message all other religions put out having little impact on the hearts and minds of this lost world. Maybe the real question we need to ask ourselves: what do we really believe? Do we really believe? What we teach in our homes and in our reaching out to a hurting world shows everything about what we believe!  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"According To Christ"

  It happens so easily. People are led here or there. Into someones idea of spirituality or what the Bible means. There is so much information flying about that it becomes difficult to discern what is really good and healthy spiritually and what is destructive.
  "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Col. 2:8) Do you want discernment? Do you want to make sure you aren't misled? Listen to Jesus and Him alone! Too many seem to run around looking for an earthly Jesus not realizing His purpose when He was on earth. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords and rules with all authority from heaven!
  Even though we know this, still people are taken captive through philosophy and empty deception. Philosophy and empty deception reach to control your thinking and how you approach life. Philosophy and empty deception turn your attention to ideas and thoughts that help one look away from Jesus as their teacher. Too many mix philosophy and empty deception with the word of the Lord and that's how it takes one captive. Just listen to all the advice on marriage. Yet in the teachings found in Jesus and His apostles, there are simple answers of conduct and godliness. In the philosophy and empty deception of marriage advice there are great details given, hours and money spent. What if we would just do according to Christ? Would we make much more progress and be better off time-wise and financially? Once people are convinced of other ideas, it is almost impossible for them to let them go because it enslaves them. It is the structure their faith is built on.
  The tradition of men and elementary principles of the world are so easily accessed. These two elements in life make things look as if they are from the Lord and are spiritual. The result is the tradition of men and these elementary principles take the heart and thinking captive! Jesus spoke directly to the Pharisees in Matt. 15 condemning them for following principles that looked like they were from God, teaching theses principles and traditions as faith in God. It was nothing more than ceremonial! These too take people captive.
  How do we stay sure? Always ask yourself: "Is it according to Christ?" Do you want to find your purpose in life? Do you want to have real insight? Listen to Paul's power and purpose driving His life: "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ." (Col. 1:28) Why are many losing their way? What are we turning from and turning to? Paul states life is about Jesus Christ. Jesus is the mystery that has been revealed and only in Him can one find their completeness. Jesus is the wisdom and power of God. In Jesus and Him alone are found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. No wonder people are captive, weak and hurting. If it's not according to Christ, it's powerless and unfruitful! If it's not according to Christ, your life will begin to reflect your power source in its weakness.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Remember Your Creator"

  Today's blog is the result of teaching a Bible study. Solomon spoke: "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil day come and the years draw near when you will say, 'I have no delight in them.'" (Eccl. 12:1)
  Let's make a few quick observances. First, "youth". The term used is not childhood. That's a completely different word. It fits those 20-40 years of age when one is strong and in the prime of their life (Eccl. 11:9-10). A teen does not look back on their childhood and wishes for those good old days. They look forward to greater freedoms and making their own decisions, sometimes out of spite or rebellion. The young adult generally doesn't look back to their teens but forward to new opportunities and advancement easily carried away in their pursuits. The older realize lost opportunities or things forfeited because of poor decisions wishing they had done some things differently.
   Secondly, "remember". It's not just a thought about God but in the word it has the idea of 'piercing or penetrating'. In other words, you need to let your Creator pierce or penetrate your being. Why are so many 'youth' unhappy and unsettled? Look at these as they age and you find little guidance and help within the Lord's body from them. There is a serious lacking of leadership in the church. There was Someone they didn't remember in their youth! 
  Finally, "Creator". Why was the term "Creator" used instead of another term? Why did he not say, "God" or "Lord" or "Father"? The idea of "Creator" draws to mind the most fundamental relationship between God and man! If he had said "God" He is someone man makes a choice to believe in or not. If he had used "Lord" that suggests a relationship in which submission is involved. If "Father" was used it brings an intimate relationship that should be fostered and cared for. In those three nouns, it calls on a choice or decision on our part. Creator has nothing to do with our choice or submission. Creator shows your place in this world is completely dependent upon Him! Your existence and every element about you is completely dependent upon your Creator!
  We need to allow our view of our "Creator" to penetrate into our lives and heart that we realize we cannot exist without Him. You are the only you your "Creator" made and there will not be another you ever to exist. We need to allow our "Creator" entrance in our youth because the days will come in age, where life will be difficult because of age. "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is; fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person." (Eccl. 12:13) You will find comfort and gentleness in your old age rather than mean and misery!! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Busy or Committed?"

  People are on the run. The Lord's body finds itself so busy and many think that busyness is the sign of life and love for the Lord. Just listen to people when things slow down and they say, "We aren't doing anything for the Lord!" Too many equate busyness as a sign of serving the Lord. What it really states is the sign of American lifestyles! What does America believe? Look busy even if you aren't!! We must be careful that we don't equate busyness with commitment!
  Too many are 'over-committed'. We have gotten ourselves into a state of mind that we just cannot say 'no'! We really want to slow down a little but because of our programmed lives, we feel as if we must stay busy and work or we feel lost or life becomes meaningless. In this process of overcommitment, it drains and takes its toll on marriages, relationships and ultimately the church. When this overcommitment reaches the church and someone doesn't do what we think we ought to be committed to doing, then starts the accusations that we aren't doing anything. Busy in our work, busy in our running around and busy in the church! Are we missing something?
  Overcommitment isn't a sign of laboring for Jesus! It can be a cover-up for the lack of faith or guilt. People feel guilty when they aren't busy. Why is that? When we have programs, we run the program into the ground until people are worn out and most of the time, it's the same people over and over. We can't give up the work because we would feel this guilt!
  When one is committed to the Lord and His work, you begin to work from faith knowing that the Lord will open the doors that need opening. Sometimes being "still and know that I am God" (Psa. 46:10) is what is needed. One committed to the Lord will make certain things are put in their proper priorities. We run everywhere and accomplish little. We allow people to rule over us by prodding us, making us feel guilty if we don't respond to their requests. We run our children to every event under heaven and all this busyness begins to take it toll on genuine faith. Lines become blurred. Jesus was committed to the work of His Father but He often slipped away into the wilderness (or mountains) to pray! That's commitment! 
  Maybe it's time we slow down and re-examine our lives and our faith. To work for the Lord is to trust the Lord to open up doors for His kingdom and good. In the process, families need to be strengthened spiritually, as that is working for the Lord. We need as individuals to sit and be recharged from the word of the Lord. That's committed to the Lord! Sometimes we need to reflect, "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." (Rom. 9:16) 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Seek the Truth"

  Recently a friend and brother of mine asked me to look at a link where a fellow, who was highly educated in the Greek and Hebrew language, was teaching Bible themes comparing them to how they are taught today. He had a great insight on how language is used, not only in the Greek and Hebrew but also English. He spent time diving into a particular word showing it's real meaning. He went to a few other words to show how they were used. I realized this sight was not for a beginner! To further drive home his point, he brought up a Greek scholar and quoted him as proving they both came up with the same definition and usage of this Greek word. It just so happened that my fellow co-laborer in the Lord had a copy of the book of this Greek scholar this man quoted from. We found the quote. But here's the interesting part. The Greek scholar's conclusion was not the same as this man said it was. He did make an accurate quote but it wasn't the conclusion of the Greek scholar.
  As I reflected upon this, I realized that if someone had a very limited or no knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew language (which is the majority), how could they refute this man's teachings? You couldn't but would have to accept it. His message starts getting passed around and people are being led to a conclusion of something other than what the Scriptures really teach. I was so thankful for this book to be able to search and see it for myself. This man with his great knowledge and insight to languages was misleading people with his great knowledge to a belief that he stood on and it was false teaching.
  Here's what I encourage each of us to. First, never be afraid of the word of the Lord. You don't need Greek or Hebrew to understand it! It was translated in English so that we could embrace the truth if it is the truth you are seeking. Find a good translation based on accuracy, not just some paraphrase. There are too many translations out there that are not true to the original text.
  Secondly, always allow context to determine how a word is used. Context is the most important factor in proper application of Scripture. Just because a word is used in one place one way does not mean it might be used every place in that same way. Context determines!
  Thirdly, seek the truth with all your heart and the Lord will open the door in your seeking. That's His promise. If we aren't seeking the truth or being honest with Scripture, you set yourself up to deception and the Lord will help you find that because that's what you seek (II Thes. 2:10-12).
  May God grant each us a heart of wisdom and seeking truth as we glean from His word. Be wise. Be honest. Seek the Lord with all your heart.

Monday, January 7, 2013

"How Committed Are You?"

  The Scriptures teach: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding." (Prov. 3:5) Yet we go through life seeking for why things happen the way they do only to end up frustrated!
   Jesus spoke plainly: "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters." (Matt. 12:30) "And you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30)
  Paul taught the Roman brethren that we are either slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:16-18). There are no other options. You can't be both!
  When we read Scriptures like this, it makes us realize that God is asking a 100% commitment from us. We can't be divided. We can't give God some of us. It's all or none. When things like this are taught, it scares people because people know they aren't giving 100%. That should alarm us. No wonder people are fearful of death and eternity. They know something about themselves. Then comes the statement, no one can give 100%! Really?
  The giving of your all, your complete being to the Lord and loving Him and Him alone can be accomplished. It is based on a heart and commitment with your heart. It is realizing that we "walk by faith, not by sight" commitment. To walk by faith is a trusting that the Lord will lead your path each day. The Lord will lead us away from our personal desires that cause us troubles and into His heart of grace and mercy. Too many times we follow what is convenient or easy. That's walking by sight. That's not committed 100%. To trust in the Lord with all your heart means you allow His will and word to take the highest place in your thinking and decisions. That's 100% committed. You know God will take care of you by supplying every need and what you are lacking. Saving faith takes the pressure off of you and allowing God to work through you (Phil. 2:12-14). No longer do you find yourself having to perform but trust! That's what giving your all the Lord really means. Are you really committed?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"Life After Death"

  It is simply amazing how we seem to approach life after death. I grew up with teachings that once we die, we go to this place of Paradise and await judgment. The teaching arose out of Luke 16 in dealing with the rich man and Lazarus. However, what seems to escape notice is Jesus is speaking of something before His death. Another thing is the term Paradise is never mentioned in the context but we have charts and books written about it using the idea of Paradise when Jesus never uses the term in this context.
  What happens once we die? If it were easy to put with a verse that simply states it, that would end it but it's not that simple. But yet it is that simple. How do we, people under the new covenant of God, come up with the idea that we will be judged? Where do we go (I am speaking only of those faithful in Christ) once we die?
  First, let's look at where we go. Paul states in Phil. 1:23 that he desires to depart and be with Christ. John wrote what he saw in the book of Revelation and in Rev. 6:9, the souls of those who had died because of the word of God, are seen as under the altar in heaven. Paul writes to the Thessalonians that at the coming of the Lord, He will bring with Him those who have died (I Thes. 4:14). I realize there are other elements involving the resurrection day, but we are simply looking at what happens to the saint when they die. In II Cor. 5:6-8, Paul speaks that while we are in our body, we are absent from the Lord and he preferred to be absent from the body and be with the Lord. In these few verses, we have a teaching that depicts when a saint dies, they go and be with the Lord. We need to believe that.
  Secondly, will we be judged? As one surveys the New Testament, it becomes evident that the unrighteous are the one who gain the wrath of God. Paul reminds the brethren in Rom. 2:1-5 that those who are stubborn and unrepentant are storing up God's wrath for themselves. The Hebrew writer points out that those who sin intentionally after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there is no longer a sacrifice for their sins but a terrifying expectation of judgment (Heb. 10:26-27). Paul reminds the Thessalonians that God has not destined us (the saint) for wrath but for obtaining salvation through Jesus Christ (I Thes. 5:9). The church at Rome was taught that Jesus would be our Savior from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:8-9). We are under a covenant with God. This covenant from heaven speaks: "For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." (Heb. 8:12) No sin. Nothing to be tried for if Jesus has forgiven us. Why do we teach we will have to give an account? Many pull from verses like II Cor. 5:10: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Many are quick to point out it says we will give an account for the deeds of the body but there is one word I want you to see: "Whether"! That word is a coordinating conjunction meaning "either, or". It's not both!!! Either the good or either the bad! We are under a covenant with the Lord. He made His promise to not remember our sins against us. What does that leave us with?
  Do some studying on your own. Think as you study. As Paul reminded the Thessalonians about those who were afflicting them and causing them suffering that the Lord will be revealed from heaven and He will deal out His punishment on those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel. They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord. What about the saint? He will be glorified in them!!! (II Thes. 1:6-10) This is such good news. Stop fearing eternity and embrace the covenant that you came under in Christ Jesus the Lord. Fear is for the impenitent and unbelieving!  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


  Only Jesus can give one life. Not human life but a life that comes only from God. It is a life of awakening. It a life of power and sustaining against evil. A life that reaches beyond the physical. It is a life that has nothing to do with one's circumstances and everything to do with God. Jesus said it was the Father who raises the dead and gives them life and the Son gives life to whom He wishes (John 5:21). Jesus taught that He came to give God's life in abundance (John 10:10). And how was that new life going to be accomplished? By laying down His life for the sheep (John 10:11).
  Jesus explains that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone. It's simply a grain of wheat with no life! But if it dies it bears much fruit (John 12:24). When we look closely at this, Jesus was speaking of Himself first and then about all those who want God's life from Him (John 12:25). Jesus knew His hour of death was quickly approaching but also was His resurrection of life!
  What does all this mean? It teaches us that our life with the Father and His Son begins at and is sustained in the cross of Christ! Life begins when one looks closely and embraces the death of Jesus because He alone has risen to fullness of life and it took the cross to bring that about. We need to realize that the cross is the way to life!! His cross must be the way to our life!! The cross is not about death but about life. Listen to Paul: "I've been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now life in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Gal. 2:20) Paul lives through the dying with Jesus. Jesus lives. Paul died and he lives with Jesus because Jesus alone possesses eternal life!
  Why do we struggle so? Why do we fail? Maybe our failure is because we haven't died with Jesus? Maybe we haven't given ourselves over completely, realizing we were immersed (baptized) into Christ and into His death (Rom. 6:3-4)? If you haven't died, you cannot have life. You remain alone producing in your life what you are by yourself! Jesus died and arose to life. He beat death and He alone possesses that life and will give that life to whom He wishes. And to whom does He wish to give that life? To those who have died with Him because there they find life and bear much fruit in His life.