Friday, May 27, 2016

"Wasting Our Spiritual Lives"

  Have you ever thought if you were wasting your spiritual growth? It could be. When things are going smoothly and we seem to be on top of the world, it takes no effort. Things fall into place and we are just having a great time at a great place in our lives. Look what happens to us...nothing! We simply do nothing. Do you find yourself giving thanks upon thanks when things are well? Do you rejoice each and every day in the Lord when things are well? Do you seek the Lord diligently at those times?
  One day it happens to us. It might be us personally or a family member and we are hit with something not so pleasant. Anxieties hit us. We find ourselves lost as we aren't sure what to do. Fear grips our hearts. It leads us down a road to speak to anyone who will listen as we feel over-whelmed with the situation. We hope things will improve but worry keeps us penned up. And there we have it. In the good times we do little and when the troubles hit we crumble with little power to help. Spiritual growth is wasted!
  Paul spoke: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8:28) For those who love, who are dedicated and serve the Lord with all their heart and have His purpose at heart, there is a power extended. "God causes" is a powerful statement to those who are dedicated! When we turn to the wrong source or make a wrong reaction we are wasting God's power toward us. "God causes all things to work together for good" even those times when we have a difficulty with another, pain in our own lives or tribulations that crop up. God is working them for good, our good. That's not something you do but the One you trust knowing what He is doing. His power is directed toward those who love Him and put His purpose first and foremost in our lives. When we fail to look to the Lord and follow through on His word, we begin to waste our spiritual lives. How can we grow unless we listen and follow when we face difficulties?
  "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulations bring about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character; and proven character hope; and hope does not disappoint..." (Rom. 5:3-5a) Exulting in tribulations? When was the last time you did that? What are tribulations for? To sit and fret wondering what will happen next? Tribulations help us persevere, to stay with the Lord under difficult circumstances and keep staying gaining more strength! Where does perseverance take you? Character! Character is where you will be trustworthy, hold to great integrity and continue to be a blessing to others. Character is what brings you to hope! Not a wish but a sure assurance that the Lord will do everything He said. How do we gain such strength? Through difficulties! When we encounter health issues, loss of job, unable to meet needs in our family or simply having trouble with another person, these things bring us to "God causes!" The power source, the help and stability for our lives. In all this, God is helping us arrive at the hope that never disappoints. Even in difficulties God is growing us and bringing to us His richness and His power. Too many times we are are wasting our spiritual lives by heading the wrong direction when encountering these situations. All in all, our circumstances should be fueling our lives to trustingly walk with our Lord, rejoicing in difficulties and let Him cause! The power of God and spiritual growth is right under our noses! Make certain you don't miss it. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"When I See the Blood"

  It was the night of the Passover. God had pronounced to Moses that on this night He would pass through the land of Egypt to strike down all the firstborn, both man and beast. The Lord told Moses what meal they were to prepare and the ingredients to use (Exodus 12). Then came the words from the Almighty: "And when I see the blood I will pass over you." (Exodus 12:13) What a night it must have been. The fear that came with it, as well as, a promise that your household would not be touched with death by the living God. That blood smeared doorposts and lintels saved each one from dying as the Destroyer did as He promised. This blood would be the very thing that drove home a point to those protected and those who were not part of it.
  "When I see the blood." There was not one word about their injustices, their bitterness, or sinful actions. "When I see the blood" was the only thing that stood between them and death because the blood was from a sacrifice. "When I see the blood" made the clear difference between the dying and living and it was not about their loyalty or upright living, but about the innocent sacrifice.
  "When I see the blood", pointed to the unity of them all, one people under one God involved in one unit. The meal eaten that night was a meal eaten in unity in which the whole nation was brought under the protection of the blood. The blood was the ransom price for a ransomed people. 
  What have we lost in all this today? Have we forgotten "When I see the blood?" How is your standing before the Lord? Your goodness? Some think because they are benevolent that gives them their standing before God. Others think that attending all the assemblies of the saints brings them boldly before the Lord. Our standing, our relationship, our lives are based on one thing: "When I see the blood." "But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Epheisans 2:13)
  When we assemble and partake in His Supper, what are we doing? Just as the nation of Israel was partaking in the Passover, we too are partaking in our Passover (I Corinthians 5:7) Many want to dramatize the Supper. But what should be happening? "When I see the blood" should be first and foremost in our faith and is being applied to our lives in this relationship. We renew that covenant, our standing, before the Lord in this Supper. His body. His blood. The blood of the covenant. What is that covenant? "For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." (Hebrews 8:12) We renew that each time we take His Supper and fellowship the Lord. It is about unity, one people, in Christ Jesus. It brings into focus for us the difference between the dying and the living. It points to our standing that the only way we stand is because He is the sacrifice (His body) and His blood of His covenant applied. "When I see the blood" speaks that our standing before the Lord is because the blood is applied to our lives. That is the only way we are going to live forever with Him. That alone is what creates a love and devotion. There is nothing we bring except a falling short, sinful people, under the blood that cleanses and staying under that blood. It's about Jesus and Him crucified. Our lives should be wrapped up in Him and under His blood daily. When you pray, work, and go about in your life, we should pause and think: "When I see the blood!"

Thursday, May 12, 2016

"You Can't Judge Me!"

  Too many are taking our faith into areas that the Lord did not speak. Taking a verse without looking at the context can be misleading many to believe in things that simply aren't true.
  One of such items is when we are criticized by someone and immediately we throw up a roadblock, "You can't judge. Only God can." That is a shut down in our growth. We are told we can't judge and many use that belief in stopping any further examining. It is stated from the religious world over and over, "You can't judge!" And listen to us tiptoe around a subject by stating: "I'm not trying to judge but..." We know something needs to be said, but we are fearful people might take us as judging. It creates a fear but the bigger thing is it creates a compromise to uphold sin.
  Of course we know where people get this mindset. "Do not judge so that you will not be judged." (Matthew 7:1) Jesus said that. But what did He mean? Many say He means what He said but the very next verse begins with the word for which explains what He meant. "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:2) It's the way one judges. It's the standard one uses to judge. That's what we have to be careful about because whatever standard you use, that will be the standard used on you. Some people are just critical and harsh. If that's their standard of measure, the Lord will use that same standard on them. But what if we use God's righteousness as the standard of our judgment? Jesus made sure those Jews who constantly excused themselves from following the Law for their own personal thoughts understood judging. "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with a righteous judgment." (John 7:24) Why do we say Jesus said not to judge, yet Jesus calls to judge with a righteous judgment? The standard is God and His purpose. It's always God and the truth of His word. Too many judge wanting to see others condemned and see their guilt carried to the fullest amount of punishment. That's not a righteous judgment. Many want to feel superior and that is the standard of their judgment. That's why Jesus brought up that many were looking at every little detail of wrong they could find in others and can't see anything about themselves (Matthew 7:3). When one is concerned for the righteousness of God, you will humbly clean things up in your life, so you can see how to help others (Matthew 7:5). That's a righteous judgment.
  When a brother or sister is caught in sin, you have to make a righteous judgment to help them out (Galatians 6:1). The judgment is they are in sin and the need is to bring them back to God. In the church, sin can abound as it did in Corinth (I Corinthians 5). No one was concerned or upset about the situation. Paul pronounces them guilty, as it is horrible for one claiming Christ to be acting this way. Paul points to the goal in this judgment: " that their spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (I Corinthians 5:5) To cut people off, to dismiss them from the church, it is all about saving, not harshness. The righteous judgment of God involves His mercy, wanting to see people saved. It's calling sin, sin, but there is a merciful tone to it.
  Aren't you glad the Lord didn't cut you off and condemn you the last time you sinned? We can judge others using God and His word as the standard. If someone steals, they are a thief. God says that and they need a heart change. If they refuse to listen to the message of God, go your way. It's time we stop fearing and responding to the call of the Lord. We can judge. Just do it with saving intent.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Preserving the Unity of the Spirit"

  In Ephesians 4:3, we are called "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." This is part of walking worthy of our calling, yet so many just overlook it or ignore it. We must be a people making every effort to hold to that which the Spirit already possesses. The unity of the Spirit is the doctrinal qualities that God has built into the church. The Holy Spirit Himself has laid it down and calls upon us to keep this unchanged. There can be no alteration of any kind and walk in a worthy manner of our calling. 
  In Ephesians 4:4-6, these patterns are established as the pattern by which the church must be identified. Wherever these qualities exist, there is the church. Wherever any one of these qualities is missing, that is not the church of the Lord Jesus. These qualities are the standards that have been imposed by the Holy Spirit. These seven elements that the Spirit has declared must be examined and held to as they are the very essence to the identity and existence as the church. Again, where these elements exist so does Christ's body. Where these elements are missing, they are not the church of the Lord and Scripture makes that very clear.
  This is the constitution of the church,if we might say. Man does not have the privilege of changing in any way the characteristics, the standards, or the platform upon which Jesus built His church. We cannot negotiate with the Holy Spirit. We did not establish these standards. We do not have any authority of establishing new ideas or ways. The Holy Spirit planted these in the constitution of the church and those who hold to these, preserve these, are identified as those "called out" to Jesus. 
  If we for any reason decide this is narrow mindedness, or some legalistic setting of rules and begin to stretch the seven elements laid down into other things, we have just begun a walk with Jesus in an unworthy manner. It violates the Lord and His Spirit in every way. This is so basic, yet it is being blasted by so many today. This isn't a new theory or some new idea and not even some old pattern of denominationalism. This is the calling of God, in Christ Jesus, through His Spirit to make certain we are diligent to preserve this unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Why is there so much disruption in harmony among those claiming the Lord? You don't have to look far.