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Luke 14:25-33 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
The Christian life is pictured in the Bible as a race to run; a course to finish. The Apostle Paul was determined not only finish his course, but to do it with joy (Acts 20:24). This is exactly what he did. Shortly before his death, he gave this testimony: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2Timothy 4:7). He finished his course. Each of us needs to be aware that God has a course for us, and He wants us to carry it out to the end; He wants us to finish our course.
Gods plan for each of us is specific to us. No one else can carry it out for us. It is ours. However, He will help us find and complete that plan. Still, many Christians never even find their plan, let alone finish it. In fact, they hardly even try.
The passage above speaks of one who intends to build a tower. Building this tower is like running a race and finishing a course. Yet, because of many pitfalls, the tower may never get built. By looking at the necessary ingredients for building this tower, we can see how to succeed as well as learn why so many people fail.
God wants us to finish our course
The first requirement of those who would build a tower is that they must be “intending to build” (vs. 28). If they do not at least intend to build, then nothing else can be accomplished. To “intend” means to “have in mind as a purpose.” When we intend to finish our course our vision of the race goes well beyond the starting line. It also allows a view of the finish line, or in this case, the placing of the final brick. Granted, the way to the end may not be understood but a vision of accomplishment is formed. You cannot go someplace if you don’t know where it it.
This intention or vision is also spoken of as our “purpose.” In 2 Timothy 3:10, Paul told Timothy, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience.” Probably the greatest number of Christians fail to finish their course because they have no purpose in their lives. Or, their purpose has been skewed by the Devil or self. So, we must have the right purpose.
It Must Be For God: We cannot finish our course by living our life for self. We must lose the life we want to live for the sake of Jesus Christ. Luke 9:24 says, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Jeremiah told the scribe Baruch, “And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not…” (Jer. 45:5). We must seek great things for the Lord. Jesus told His disciples, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” (Luke 22:25-26)
It Must Be From God: Many Christians try to serve God on their own terms. They choose what they want to do for the Lord and then expect Him to support them in their labors. But this will not work. It is not enough to be doing something for the Lord. The mission has to be the one He has given us. When Saul got saved, he began his Christian life by asking, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). As with Paul, we too must seriously asked the Lord what He would have us to do. Paul, when praying for the Colossians, asked the Lord that they “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9). In other words, to know and understand the course He had planned for them. Caleb claimed the promise of God when he said, “Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day” (Joshua 14:12). But note that he claimed only what God had already promised him.
To finish our course we must find God’s purpose for us and follow after that purpose. God may not tell us everything at once. He will at least give us a starting direction and will always show we the next step to take. But we need more than a purpose.
We need a plan: Good intentions are cheap. In fact, without some action behind them, they are worthless. But before we can act, we must know where we are going. Our passage in Luke tells about the builder who sits down before he begins to build and “counteth the cost” (vs. 28). That is what we do when we establish a plan and determine if we are willing to give the necessary effort to accomplish our purpose.
Why Do we Need a Plan? We need a plan to discover God’s way of accomplishing the purpose. He must be the source of the purpose and the plan as well. We seek His face through prayer and meditation and wait for Him to give us a plan. Proverbs 3:5-6 teaches us to, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
We need a plan to discover God’s timing. God’s timing is beautiful (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and He will make all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). But our timing may destroy the entire purpose and will certainly cause unnecessary delays and detours. We need God’s timing in order to determine several things:
- When to begin action.
- What steps to take.
- What our priorities are.
- What can be left for later.
How Do We Get This Plan? We seek God’s direction through prayer. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” If we seek God’s answer and wait for it, He will let us know what He wants us to do.
We develop the plan through meditation. The virtuous woman “considereth a field, and buyeth it” (Proverbs 31:16). God can and will work through our thought processes if we are submitted to Him. This is why Bible reading coupled with meditation upon His word is so important.
We gain wisdom through counsel. Others may counsel us personally or we may find help through published materials that can help us. God uses all of these ways. Proverbs 11:14 – “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”
Planning is crucial to finishing our course. But there are people who have spent their life making one plan after another and yet have accomplished very little. Planning must be coupled with action.
In Luke, the builder of the tower must get to the point where he has “laid the foundation” (14:29). For Christians to accomplish their purpose for the Lord, they must lay a solid foundation. Jesus told a story about two men who built houses (Matthew 7:24-27). He does not mention any difference in floor plan, or size, or exterior covering. He only mentions one difference: the foundation on which the houses were built. One was built on the sand and the other on the rock and when the storms came, only the house with the firm foundation stood. The type of foundations also told us something about the men who built the houses. The man who built on the rock was called a wise man. The one who built on sand was called a fool. What kind of builder are we?
The Baptist preacher and teacher, B. H. Carroll (1843-1914), said, “Only prepared men accomplish great things. And the greater the preparation, the less need for long time to do great things.”
Prepare For the Work: Proverbs 24:27 states, “Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.” Picture someone in early America who is homesteading in a new land. What is most important? Should they build a nice house first? Of course not! To make our work fit in the field would be to prepare for defense against any hostile Indians and to make sure that the crops get planted in time for harvest. A house is no good if we are killed or if we have no food to eat.
Many people want to put the cart before the horse in Christian service. Paul spoke of those who were, “desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm” (Titus 1:7). There are people who want to teach but do not want to do the study or get the training necessary to be a good teacher.
Any significant work for the Lord requires some form of preparation. More and more people want to skip this step. For us, it may mean BibleCollege or some special form of training. It may mean working under someone for several years and learning from them. It may mean getting our financial house in order. But, if we are ever to finish, our course, we must prepare.
Prepare for the Winter: Proverbs tells us that the ants are wise because “they prepare their meat in the summer” (Proverbs 30:25). They use summer as a window of opportunity to gather food so that when the winter comes and there is not food to gather, they can live off that which is in store. Preparation means that we use opportunities and do things at the best time to do them. If our purpose requires some form of learning that is easier to obtain before marriage, then we need to make a choice between the two. Attending school later may be necessary, but timing is important. We often want to skip the dull stuff but the dull stuff is often the key to success.
Okay, so we have discovered God’s purpose for our life. We have made plans and have laid the foundation through preparation. Now what? Now…it is time to push!
We Must Push with All our Might: The main thrust of our passage is that someone wants “to build a tower” (Luke 14:28). To build a tower we must do the work of a builder. We must put forth the effort. We must push. A worthy purpose requires a working servant. Many Christians fail to finish their course because they are lazy; they have no push. Solomon admonishes us, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Paul tells the Colossian servants, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (3:23). Doing a work for the Lord takes all we have…and then some. Are we working as if for the Lord?
We must be Persistant (vs. 29, 30): Yet, to finish the tower, one thing yet is needed. The builder must be “able to finish.” Some men start many things but finish none. Paul finished his course. Will we finish ours? Is so, we must refuse to faint (Proverbs 24:10; Galatians 6:9). We must finish by faith (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1Corinthians 15:58).
We have been looking at the Christian life as one in which we build a tower or finish a course. Another picture used in the Bible is that of sowing and reaping (Psalm 126:5-6). In order to reap, we must work the land, sow the seed, care for the plants and refuse to quit. God promises that those who refuse to faint will eventually, in due season, reap the harvest (Galatians 6:9). What would it take for us to fail? Why not just keep on going on for the sake of the Lord?
I was once a slave.
I was once a slave. Not in the sense that I was owned by any human master, but in the sense that I was a slave to vices that submitted to. The common masters of the human soul today are sex, drugs and booze. These things all draw you back to them. When we cling to them, they gain control bit by bit. Little by little they own us until we are completely taken in by their powerful draw. Then, the chains of addiction bind us until we cease to have any choice in how we live. We are hooked. We are owned.
In the USA where slavery was once an issue that divided the nation, it is no wonder we are sensitive to the word. Yet, we do not think it slavery to be enslaved by terrible, and deceitful vices? People have sold themselves into bondage for a little good feeling today. In doing so, they disregard any thoughts for the future. They would rather feel good for the moment at the expense of others future. Listen to the story of the present day slave and his liberation…
When I was on the auction block, naked and in chains, my thoughts ran wildly from anger to fear to humility and back again. Angered because selling one human being to another was wrong. But it was really no different than selling myself to a life enslaved to wicked vices. Fear because I was totally exposed to everyone. Being naked, there was nothing to hide behind. Humbled because there was nothing I could do to change anything. I was the lowest of all human beings; being bid on by the various slave owners looking for “new stock” to work their fields and breed their females.
I was poked, prodded and examined. Fingers picked through my hair and my mouth was pried open to expose my teeth for inspection. Finally it came time for the bidding to begin. I dreaded this, but my fears soared when no one bid on me. The auctioneer kept trying to persuade people to bid on me, but no one did. Amidst all of my shame, the worst, and most humiliating thing I had ever experienced was when I came to realize that I was unwanted by anyone. Didn’t I have any worth to anyone? Surely I was valuable for something. If no one bought me, what would be my end? Would I be put out to pasture?
The thoughts were interrupted when, when to the surprise of all present, I heard a voice say, “I’ll take him.” It was crowded, but when I looked in the direction of the sound of the voice, I saw a common man making the only bid for me. Encouraged by the bid for me, the auctioneer was renewed with enthusiasm to increase the bid and get more people involved. It was to no avail. No one else wanted me. The auctioneer had worked himself up into a sweat, but no one would make a bid for me.
“He’s yours,” the auctioneer told the man.
“Take off his chains. You can have them. I won’t need them.”
“He might be wild and attack you. You never can tell with these kind of people.”
I had never remembered a time in my life when I didn’t wear chains. It was strange and liberating. The weight of the chains literally lifted from me. I wondered why I had been treated this way. What was the catch? Surely nothing good was going to come from this. “Come with me,” my new master told me. I got down off the block and followed the customary 3 steps behind him. I didn’t mind being totally naked because it meant the chains I wore all of my life were gratefully gone.
We arrived at the bath house where my master told them he wanted me cleaned proper. That meant he wanted my beard trimmed, hair cut, nails and feet cleaned and scrubbed. I had never been cleaned this way before. As I wondered at the four people working on me, I realized that, in fact, I had never even been clean before. It was fresh and new. I knew then that I wanted to stay clean forever. “Please follow me,” my master asked more than demanded.
Out into the street once again this time brought a tingling of envy on my part. I knew I was naked, but I was clean. The chains were gone and I was clean. Into the clothing store he led me where he told the clerk, “Put on him the best suit of clothes you have in the house. Money is no object. I want him to have the best.”
I was being measured and prodded. Pins and needles and markers were all about me. Finally they brought out the clothes they had made for me. I had never had clothes like this before. The silk ran softly across my clean cool skin. There were no restrictions in movement anywhere. The best thing was—the color was blue.
I appreciated the coincidence of making my first new suit of clothing out of my favorite color–blue. This very thought was overwhelming as I had began the day as a slave, the lowest of low, being sold on an auction block where, nobody wanted me. I was totally worthless. Now I was standing on the street, unshackled, clean with a new suit of clothes made in my very favorite color.
All of this was new to me. I still could not comprehend it. There was a tint of joy mixed with cautious apprehension as my appreciation for my owner grew.
“Have you eaten today?” he asked. I had not, but I hesitated to tell him so. He had already done so much for me and I didn’t deserve any of it. How could I take him for granted? “Come on, you can tell me if you’ve eaten or not.” he coaxed.
As was the custom of slaves, I dare not look him in the eyes. I safely stared at the ground when he addressed me. I stammered, not knowing how to answer him. His rugged hands touched me under the chin and raised my head up. “You can look me in the eyes.”
Looking in his eyes, I could see something that I had not seen since I was a child. I first saw it from my mother. It was the look of deep compassion coupled with sincere concern. It was the look of someone who cared about me as a person and not an object. It enveloped a kind of friendship, but I could not accept that my master could ever be my friend. Those eyes looked deep into my soul in such a way that I knew everything about me was revealed. It was as if my whole life was laid out before Him there on that street.
My life did not have much true joy in it. It was filled with pain and suffering; things that I did not want to share with anyone because I did not want to confront them again. There were things that I put in a hidden compartment of my mind because the only thing I could do to overcome them was to bury them deep into the compartment of distant memory. His gaze seemed to open up all of those hidden compartments of my life and not only see the pain, but experience it himself. I was not really sure, but I think I saw a tear well up in the corners of his eyes as he said, “come on, lets get you a meal.”
Off we went down the street. Because he wanted to walk with me, it was impossible to walk three steps behind him. The slower he went, the slower I went until he beckoned me to walk with him. I was very uncomfortable with this because I knew people were looking at Him with disgust because of the way he treated me. their comments were not nice. They threw at him words that contained a terrible, hateful message. These were the kind of words I was accustomed to hearing, but he did not deserve anything like this. He was being punished for compassion and it made me feel defensive of him. I did not know this new master very well, but at least I knew I was His, and I didn’t like what they were doing to him.
We arrived at the boarding house with a following. The owners were not going to let me eat in the main dining hall because I was a slave. After some deliberation, we went into the back room where slaves could eat. He beckoned me to sit down, which I did. Then the biggest surprise of all was that he sat down at the table with me. The owners were trying to get him to go out into the main dining hall, but he would have none of it. “I eat with my friend”, he said with a tone of finality. “Master, you don’t have to do this,” I said. “You’ve already done too much. There is no need to embarrass yourself so.”
“It’s okay. I want to be here with you.”
“Master, I promise I will wait for you. I won’t run off.”
“I know you won’t. But I want to eat with you. I want to know you better. What’ll you have?”
“Whatever you want for me to eat Master. It’s not proper for me to choose for myself.”
“Waiter! We’ll take two of the finest steaks you have.”
When the steaks came, I looked at it without knowing what to do. He showed me how to use the knife and fork and cut it. I had never been allowed to hold a knife before. It was the first time I had ever held the cool steel in my hand. No one had ever trusted me with a knife, especially one sharp enough to cut a steak. With a little difficulty I cut the meat and put it in my mouth. The sensations were so active I could only think they were going to collapse in a type of fatigue.
Today was a day of firsts. I had never tasted meat like this before. It was the best meal I had ever had. I enjoyed it so much that I almost forgot who I was. When it was time to leave, I quickly remembered my place. As we went outside in the streets, there were people waiting to persecute my master. They didn’t like it that he ate with the slaves. They thought it showed a wrong message. They didn’t want to be held to His standards. They wanted him to digress to their standards, but my master was courageous. He stood up to them all and did the right thing.
Following him to the end of the street, the crowd thinned. this is where it happened. At the end of the street, he turned to me and told me something I will never forget. He said, “I bought you so you will never have to be in bondage again. You are free to do as you please. Here are your papers. I love you and I am sorry that you ever had to be in bondage in the first place.” I was stunned. Was I hearing correctly? Was I being set free? Did he really buy me, clean me, clothe me and feed me to set me free? I had long since lost hope of ever being free. It was so far out of reach that I had even refused to think about it. Now I was being set free by a master who loved me. I didn’t really know him, and now he was setting me free.
I hardly realized he was shaking my hand in a gesture of departure. I was trying to come to grips with my thoughts. By the time I came to myself, he had already turned and was walking away. Again I didn’t know what to do. I had no where to go. If I went back to the world, I would certainly be put in bondage again. I knew I didn’t want that, but what could I do? I had never been faced with making so many choices. I knew I couldn’t stand there forever. “Whatcha gonna do boy?”, a burly man watching with amusement asked. I was being pushed. People were beginning to surround me. It didn’t take long for the world to catch up to me and press in. They were mocking, pushing and demeaning. There was nothing I could do about it. Hands were tearing at my new set of clothing. They wanted it for themselves. They wanted me to return to my hopeless, naked, enslaved position.
It came to mind suddenly. When I had no thought of what to do, I wanted to cry out for my master, but he had gone on. If I really wanted him to be my master, why had I not followed him? I was so infatuated with my freedom, that I forgot Him. Pushing through the crowd, I went after Him. After a short time, I caught up with him. I had never wanted someone to be my master before. I had always despised those who were proud of the title. But this time was different. I knew I wanted him to be my master. “Master,” I cried. He turned to wait for me. “Can I come with you?”, I asked.
“You don’t need to. You’re free now.”
“I know. You gave me my papers.”
“You can go anywhere you want to go.”
“I know, but can I follow you? If it’s okay with you, can I be your slave?”
“I didn’t buy you because I wanted a slave. I bought you because I care.”
“I know that now. But I want to be your slave. I want to follow you. I want you to be my master.”
This is the attitude that a sinner who has been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ should have. There should be a deep desire for devotion to their master. Under grace, He has put no requirements on the sinner. The Lord bought us, cleaned us, fed us and clothed us; then He set us free. We are free to do as we wish. We can run off back to the world; we can follow selfish ambitions; or we can follow the master, not because He demands us to do so, but because we appreciate what He did for us.
Many Christians today have it all wrong. They approach a relationship with Jesus because they are looking for what He can do for them. Like those who demanded food from Jesus were disappointed when He would not give it to them (John 6:34-66), Christians today fall away when God doesn’t do exactly what they want. They are the master of the relationship instead of allowing Jesus to be the master. Yes, they may speak like He is the master, but their actions show a much different thing. They go to certain churches because they are looking for a certain: children’s program, support group, bible study, activities for the family, marriage counseling, etc. They are what is commonly know as “church shoppers.” They are looking for the perfect place where God can give them what they demand of Him. God may not ever give them what they want because it goes contrary to what He wants. He wants them to freely follow HIM!
Confused Christians have their masters. If they are not the vices of the day, they are the programs a church can offer. It is not the Creator. If He was their master, they would be willing to forego the programs and sit under good Godly preaching that would help them. Preaching that would show them where they are right as well as show them where they are wrong. They would not let personalities in the church dictate their attendance. They would not care if someone said something bad about them or not. They would only care about following the Saviour who rightfully bought them, cleaned them up, clothed them, fed them and set them free. They would give up their freedom for a devoted life of following Him no matter how difficult it would be.
I would that every Christian reading this article would be able to say, “I am glad to be His happy slave.” Why? Because He doesn’t demand it.~
Driving along the country road on the way home from work, a man spotted a most unusual sight. He had never seen it before, even though he had traveled the same road many times. On the side of Jim’s barn, there were ten freshly painted targets. It was obvious that someone had been trying to hit the “broadside of the barn” for target practice. But this was not the puzzling thing. What was odd was that all of the targets seemed to be randomly painted all over the side of the barn. Curious about the sight he just saw, he turned around and drove back, this time stopping on the side of the road next to the barn. On closer inspection, he saw that in the center of each target’s “bull’s-eye” someone had shot a hole. Someone had put a round through each target “dead center.” “Wow,” he thought to himself, “that’s pretty good shooting.” Not being able to satisfy his curiousity, he drove up to Jim’s house. “Hi Jim, I noticed your barn back there.”
“Yeah, I’ve been doing some shooting.”
“You did that shooting?”
“Yeah, it’s something isn’t it.” Jim shuffled back and forth nervously.
“Well, that’s pretty good marksmanship. I didn’t know you could shoot so well. How’d you do it?”
“Well, I just got tired of that old barn and started to shootin, and then I got embarrassed when I saw I could barely hit the broad side and stuff. So I took some paint and painted targets around each hole so it would look like I knew what I was a doin.”
This happens all the time to people in life. Oh, it isn’t taking out our gun and trying to hit the broad side of the barn. It is with other things, and just like Jim, we get too embarrassed to live up to our situations. One area of our life that this happens regularly is in the area of: adversity. When we come under adversity, we try to hide it because we get embarrassed for others to see how we reacted to it. We mask it with pride so others won’t see we did some dumb things that we are ashamed of. This usually comes prevalent when we begin to think, “You know, I wish I hadn’t done that.”
I knew a man who thought he was a “big, bad” lumberjack. Unfortunately for him, this image only resided in his own mind. One day he went out to his property to cut down some trees. Other (experienced) men went with him to help. He wouldn’t listen to their advice and proudly went up to the tree and cut some perfect notches in the trunk. The 90 foot fir tree began to come down and they all stepped back. The tree fell directly across his brand new ¾ ton pick up truck. It laid across the smashed cab in proud defiance for being disturbed. The man was running around beside himself. The helpers who advised him to cut the notches in different areas of the trunk just stood there quietly observing. It was easy to see what they were thinking: “If only he had listened to us.” It was at that moment that the adversity began. What were they going to do about getting home?
Adversity is common to all people, but particularly to the Christian. The Christian not only faces common adversity, but he faces spiritual adversity as well. Any Christian that is trying to live right for God will come under the crosshairs of Satan’s wicked sights. Not all Christians become one of his targets. Those who are not living for God, but living a worldly life, are of no concern to him. They are just like other people only they have attached to themselves a name and title. But to him, they are of no danger at all.
It is not easy to deal with adversity, especially when we bring it upon ourselves. But, God allows adversity (Isa. 45:7) in our life for a reason. Ultimately, it is to bring us closer to Him; to perfect us and prepare us for a closer relationship with Him. We cannot relate to God fully without understanding how to deal with adversity. Because we know that all things are easy for God because He is all-powerful, we lose sight of the fact that God has difficulties as well. If you think about it, it was not a “breeze” for God to come to this earth in the form of a man and be whipped, beaten, pummeled and crucified by His own people. That was not easy at all. His sweat was as great drops of blood (Luke 22:44) when He was in agony. That is not the sign of something being easy.
Now we deal with all kind of adversity: some health, some financial, some even trees crushing your own truck because you were full of pride and didn’t listen to wise counsel (Pro. 15:32).
- Adversity helps us to understand what is going on in life—how to understand God and understand others (Pro. 3:4-5).
- Adversity helps us to establish close relationships with others (Pro. 17:17).
- Adversity helps us to be strong, especially in the spirit (Pro. 24:10).
- Adversity helps us to know how to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:4).
- Adversity teaches us how to depend upon God’s grace (2 Cor. 4:8-9; 12:9).
- Adversity teaches us how to use Joy in our life (James 1:2-4).
“But what are some practical ways to deal with adversity? When things come into my life, I get all confused and before I know it, the adversity is in control of my life. I have lost control.”
Count all adversity as if it comes from God. If you understand and know that God has given you the adversity for a reason, then you can rest assured that God is in control of the adversity. This is good because, “…we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” If you know that adversity comes from God, then you will know there is a purpose and you can then look for it.
Pray to see the purpose for the adversity. God has a reason that he wants to perfect us, and He sometimes does it through adversity. Therefore, it is good to simply pray, “God, please allow me to see the purpose for this adversity that you have me going through so I can learn the lesson that you have for me.” Throughout history, whenever Christians have suffered adversity, they have become closer to God. When everything is alright, we tend to not need God as much. But when trouble comes, that is when we need God. You can see this by looking at the prayer list of any church. There are prayer upon prayer requesting God’s help or intervention because of adversity.
Submit your life to God (i.e. let Him be your master). When you throw up your hands and give up controlling your life, you are submitting to God. When you cease to proclaim: “I”, “my”, “mine”, “yours”, and such terms, and not only understand that God owns everything, but live it. That is when you are in submission to God.
Adversity will not last forever. Its purpose will come to an end. There will be no need to try to hide it with painted targets. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)
Contentment is not something you simply obtain.
You do not wake up one day and find that you are suddenly content. Neither do you just get old enough and that makes you content. Contentment is something that is learned.
Paul said, “…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Phil. 4:11). Paul admits that he had to learn contentment. It was not one of his personality traits, nor was it a special ability that he had. It was something that he had to learn from the time he was very young until the day that he wrote these words to the Philippians.
As a young man, Paul sought his fortune and fame, as do other young men. He thought he found it in the profession of a Pharisee. As a young Pharisee during the time of the first persecution of Christians, he excelled. He was poised for greatness because he was in on the movement from the “ground floor.” He had been recognized for his zeal and was commissioned to root out and destroy Christians wherever he could. But even though he made a name for himself, he still found no contentment.
He found no contentment when he finally met Jesus face to face on the road to Damascus, but this is where his lessons in contentment began. He was blinded after the encounter and did not know if he would ever get his sight back. He needed to learn to accept his blindness. He could either have felt pity on himself, or make use of his life as he could. But God had another plan. And so the trials, troubles, sufferings and persecutions began until one day, in a letter to his friends, he writes, “…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
Contentment begins with knowing God (Matt. 6:31-34.) A person will never be content living in this world if they do not first learn how to live a Godly life. If you come to the point in your relationship with God that you seek Him first, then you learn how to live Godly. But it doesn’t stop right there. You must learn not only how to seek Him first, but to depend on His love for you; that you will be okay under His leadership, love and care. In short, you must learn not only how to seek God first, but to give Him your problems and stop worrying over them; depend on Him being bigger than any problem you could ever have. These are hard lessons to learn. Oh, it is not so hard to take our troubles to God, but it is difficult for us to leave them with Him. We show this by worrying about our troubles. You can already see how to live a stress free, content life when you have nothing to worry about anymore.
Contentment benefits living in this world (1 Tim. 6:6-9). We must understand that we absolutely own nothing. We must have the higher view of our life; that we brought nothing into this world, and when we go, we will take nothing out. Even our legacy is not in our hands, it is in the hands of those left behind. It is a false understanding to think you have made a difference in the world because any difference you made or not, is in the hands of those you leave it with. It is not under your control. We are on a pilgrimage that is preparing us for heaven. Yes, God can miraculously make us prepared for entrance to heaven when the time comes, but in His infinite wisdom, He has seen fit to teach us about our upcoming life in heaven now. The sooner we see that life does not surround ambitions of the world, the sooner we will live a content life. This way, we can go to our jobs and places of work with joy and not stress. In fact, we can be happy all day long because we realize that the things now trivial, were once big things to us. You can easily see how contentment is learned by just having the proper perspective on life in general.
Contentment comes from seeking first a life with Jesus. (Heb. 13:5-6) It comes by understanding that He means what He says and says what He means. He says, “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” You cannot get any more content in life than to live a life understanding that the one who holds you in His arms is the Lord Jesus Christ, and He won’t drop you or let go. Babies trust their mothers all the way up to the time that mommy makes them do something that they don’t like. They are content in their mothers arms until mommy does something that they don’t like. It may be giving a bath, or changing a diaper, but whatever it is, this is where the trust is lost. When they realize that mommy just did something for their overall good, even though it was uncomfortable for a spell, then the trust is returned. The baby learns how to trust their mommy. Likewise, Christians should learn how to learn contentment by growing up in the Lord; communing with Him and learning how to trust Him. You can easily see that the closer and more often you are with the Lord, the easier it is to be content.
So Paul says that he had to learn contentment. He is no different than any other man. We all must learn how to be content. Is your life troubled? Do you feel so overwhelmed that you think you need to see a counselor to help you get your life back on track? Do you have the tendency to turn to drinking or drugs to give you peace? Then you are seeking an instant, microwave portion of contentment, but it does not exist. You must learn how to be content. God will make sure that, one way or another, you will learn how to be content with Him. The only question is: just how much tribulation, trials or suffering you must go through to learn contentment.
I was pleased and overjoyed when God’s people go out on the streets preaching His Word. I know that this really makes the Devil mad. He would like nothing better than to discourage the entire church from doing anything for the Lord, AND he knows that the best time to do that is now.
It is so easy to just go to church and receive all of the blessings of God, and not really do anything to get people saved. It takes a real love for the Lord to transcend from being a “taker” being a “giver” of the blessings of God. Jesus said, “if ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). It takes a love for Jesus to do what He says and the final thing He told us to do before ascending into heaven was, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:” If we are not actively engaged in trying to get people saved, then we are not following His commandment, and our love for Him should come under evaluation to see if it is appropriate.
I know that it encourages me to see others love the Lord so much so that they are really out there on the front lines doing something for Him. Likewise, I know that it discourages me to see people doing nothing for the Lord. I know one may say, “Well, I teach a Sunday school class. Isn’t that doing something for the Lord?” True, it is doing something for the Lord, but is it doing what He has commanded all Christians to do? Is it what He wrote down in His Word? Another might say, “Well, I have a family so I know that I already have a ministry; my first ministry is to my family and If I don’t take care of them, I am worse than an infidel. Isn’t that doing something for the Lord?” True, it is doing something for the Lord and He has made that clear in His Word that we are to take care of our family, but is that doing what he commanded regarding getting people saved?
I know that it is easy to get distracted with the cares and burdens of life. There is always something to do; some sickness to deal with; some appointment to keep. All of these things are necessary, but we must be careful to not get out of balance and one day find out we have replaced them for the endeavor of getting people saved. Why? Because people are watching.
Everyone is watching our lives to see how a Christian is supposed to act; what they are supposed to be doing. Our children are scrutinizing our life and learning by our actions how they are to approach living for the Lord. For example: are they learning that going to church is something you show up “just on time” for, or even show up late? Do they see you show up late for work? For appointments with the world? This is not to say that such things are not important, but what message are they getting when they compare those things of the world you are involved in with your relationship to God’s things? Do they see you staying up all night to prepare for work, but “throwing together” something to teach in the House of the Living God? What message do we think they might get? Perhaps you are more vocal and straightforward with your attack upon God’s work by gossiping; running down the church or badmouthing the preacher or other Christians with your mouth (James 1:26; 3:5, 6, 8). You are not doing anything to help God’s cause. You are intentionally hurting God’s cause and discouraging your brothers and sisters as well. Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth” (Luke 11:23). I would certainly not want to find myself in that situation. If I did, I would repent of that quickly.
It has been said that we cannot see the forest for the trees, likewise we cannot really see what message we are portraying by our actions because we are too close to the situation. But, others are seeing the situation of our “life message” from a much greater vantage point. They can “see the forest.”
Doing wrong things certainly preaches a message about how we really feel about something, but there is something more damaging: that is when we don’t do something right. Usually people think that: “if I just don’t do anything to hurt the cause, then I will be okay.” But, this is not true.
Doing something you choose to do can be even more destructive than doing nothing at all, for it may border on the line of hypocritical. That is to say, people may think that you are doing just fine, when all the time you are still not doing what the Lord commanded. You certainly don’t look like you are against the Lord, you look like you are doing what God said when all the time you are doing nothing. The message this preaches is: “How to look like you are doing what you should be doing, but not do it.” The Christian who is not doing anything to witness or get people saved, is undermining the Lord’s work because of his/her inconsistency. If they were actively witnessing (passing out tracts, holding signs, coming to visitation, etc), they would be inspiring and teaching others how a New Testament Saint is supposed to be acting. This is very important, especially in this Laodicean age in which the entire world is void of true gospel witnesses.
Maybe it has been so long since you passed out a tract that you have become frightened. Most people reason this down to one of the most popular lies of the Devil: “I don’t want to offend anyone.” How offended do you think they would feel at the Great White Throne Judgment being dragged away by the angels to be thrown into the Lake of fire as you watch on, knowing that you could have at least done something to give them a chance. I know I would wish you did something for me. In fact, I am glad that someone did do something for me.
Sometimes the Devil convinces us that we just need to wait for the right moment; the right opportunity. This is such a damaging lie that it is not even worth contemplating for the Child of God who loves His father. God said, “…now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Today is the day to tell someone about Jesus. Now is the time to say something to your friend.
Instead of offending somebody, we should be thinking about offending the Lord. He certainly would think highly of us if we were at least trying to get someone saved. Inversely, how do you think He feels about us when we are doing nothing? How will we really be able to stand before Him one day and give accounting for why we didn’t do what we were supposed to do? Will it not be a question of love?
I know that most people feel inside that they would like to do something for the Lord. In fact, they know that they should be witnessing, but they just don’t do it. It becomes like so many “ruts” we experience in our lives when we get to that stage. I would like to say I sympathize, but I really cannot, because I don’t want to endorse not doing what we should be doing. Like giving advice to a smoker who is trying to quit; I don’t really want to tell them “its okay” because I don’t want them to give up trying.
So, while the Devil gets mad and tries to keep us in our “rut,” the only way out is to “JUST DO IT!” The only way to change this situation is to just begin witnessing. You can write a letter to a stranger, send them a tract, give a word of testimony outside the church, or hold up a Scripture sign. There are many ways to “get onboard.” Best of all is to come to the visitation time on Saturday mornings, even if it is just for a little bit. You know there is strength in numbers, and if kids can do it, then we can too. I’ll be there, and for your own spiritual health, I pray you will be there too!
Luke 6:31-33 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
This passage of Scripture describes how we must treat each other during the Millennium if we are to remain in a “right” relationship with the Lord. Even though it is a millennium passage, it is still profitable for us today (2 Tim. 3:16).
There are some very good principles presented by the Lord Jesus Christ for us to use to navigate the pilgrims passage that we have before each of us. Although the keeping of these words does not determine our salvation, as it will in the Millennium, it will help us conform to a more likable image of Christ.
Treat others the way you wish to be treated.
Why is there not more of this happening in the church? Do people treat others the way the wish to be treated? There seems to be a great disparity between the way we are treated and the way we treat others. The two don’t always match. Should they, there would be less conflict.
People are not sensitive enough to observe how others are treating them. It is often overlooked because others are not looking for it. Face it, it is quite embarrassing to tell someone, “Now this is the way I wish to be treated…”. No one is likely to do that. There are self-help, sharing groups that are full of people saying how they wanted to be treated, but others could just not see it. It is expressed in statements like, “They knew I didn’t like that, but they did it anyway.” The answer is: they didn’t know you did not like it because they simply never paid attention to what you liked or not.
On the whole, people have a predetermined idea of how they wish to be treated, but seldom think of how they should treat others. Their focus is on “self” and not others. Once they come to that predetermined conclusion of how they wish to be treated, they do not broadcast it because it would not seem a right thing to do. Others are supposed to perceive it and if they don’t, then watch the sparks fly.
There is the story of Ted and Jane. Jane made herself up real pretty for her birthday so when Ted came home from work, he would notice something different about her and be reminded of her birthday. She didn’t feel right about saying to him, “Ted, you know it’s my birthday tomorrow.” It just felt too selfish of an act to do something like that. She opted for a more subtle way to help him remember.
Ted totally forgot about Jane’s birthday. He was completely oblivious to the matter. Coming home from work, he greeted her as always, with a kiss. They talked about their day and proceeded with their evening as usual. Not only had he completely forgot her birthday, he didn’t even notice that she had made herself up nice and pretty. Jane was deeply hurt inside. She had an expectation; he was supposed to notice and that would remind him of her special day, but that’s not what happened. He was not sensitive enough to observe how she was treating him. The result was pain and hurt. Had he observed how she was treating him, he would have noticed something different. The result would have been joy.
People don’t notice how others are treating them because they are more concerned with self; they are more concerned with the way others are treating “THEM.” This is purely a focus on self. We want others to notice us, but we don’t notice others. The Lord Jesus said, “…as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” That is not: “…as ye do unto men, they should do likewise unto you.” You treat others the way you expect to be treated, but you make the first step, AND have no expectation that they will treat you likewise. After some time, it will wear off on them and have an effect. But, you must take the first step. You must lead by example, treating them the way that you wish to be treated, all the while observing them so you can be sensitive to their expectations. There is no room for: “This is the way I am—take it or leave it!” This command by the Lord is not a goodie box of “what you get,” but rather “what you should give.”
Love those who do not love you.
This is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do as a child of God. It is difficult because when you love someone, you are laying your heart out before them and there is a risk that they will trample on it. Even though there is a risk, any attempt to master this precept will make you a much better person.
There is no doubt that the world is lacking in love. People love themselves (but they don’t know it), their family, and their friends. There is little room for anyone else. We hold back from helping others because we fear an obligation might develop, or they might take advantage of me. But we fall deeper and deeper into a selfish hole until we have no way for mankind to climb himself out.
To turn around this downward spiral we need to take the first step: love our enemies, remembering the weight of the enormous pressure our enemies can bring to bear. We need to adopt, and develop, a loving life to all. Yes, we may get bowled over by the world, but just as worldly living is infectious, so is love. You must not love your enemies looking for immediate results, but for long term solutions. This does not mean that there are no immediate results. Adopting this teaching into your life will help you immensely in your attitude towards others and your outlook on life. If you can do it long enough, it will become habit, and not only will it be easy, but it will make living for the Lord easier on the whole.
To love someone who loves you in return is easy, but to love your enemies is difficult. It is here where lies the true lessons of love. When you give out a good helping of your love and get some love in return, you have, in a sense, exchanged some love for some love. This is similar to purchasing something: you exchange something that is valuable to you so in return you may obtain something that is valuable to you. The Beatles sang, “Can’t buy me love.” The reality of the fact is we do it all the time when we love those who love us in return. We just don’t know we are doing it.
Do good to everyone
Too many people are doing bad things to others. Even Christians get drawn into the oppressive style of living, repaying evil for evil (1 Thess. 5:15). We like to “pay back” others who have wronged us. In fact, we are so good at it, we do it before we even know what we are doing. A wife says something mean to her husband. The husband responds with saying something mean back to his wife. We just react. So spontaneous is this exchange that we don’t even realize it happened. The proof is in the making up process when they say to each other, “I didn’t really mean what I said.” The question remains: “Then why did you say it?” The response is: they don’t know why, but they didn’t mean to do it. It is because we are so conditioned to live by such worldly standards that doing otherwise seems impossible, but it is not.
We must take the first step to do good to others. Although, the world as a whole may not appreciate such living, those whom we do good to will. When they in turn do the same to others, it begins to spread. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a society where everyone loved each other? This is what living in the kingdom will demand, and this is what heaven will be like as well. You won’t have to worry about someone having some kind of ulterior motive when they do something good for you.
The Lord Jesus lived by this guiding principle. Not only was it His nature to love (1 John 4:16), but it was to us—His great example.
I am so glad to see that the people of our church are in their Bible’s. I know that the Bible can change things in your life. It is not that it is magical, or mystical. It is miraculous. It is the words of the all mighty Creator; the God of the universe. How do I know that people are reading? When I teach the Bible studies, from time to time, I solicit questions; I like soliciting questions from the class. When I ask a question and the class is shooting back the answers, it indicates to me that they are paying attention and are interested in the subject. They are in their Bibles and are absorbing God’s word. I know when this happens two things will result:
1. God will be pleased. His word is forever settled in Heaven (Psa. 119:89) and no man can ever change one single word of it (Mat. 5:18; 24:35). They have tried, but the original copy is in Heaven and it is in the form of a person (John 1:1-3; Rev. 19:13). That person is the Lord Jesus Christ. God likes it when people study about His Son. He likes it when we learn how Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 17:14; 19:16). He has exalted His Son (Eph. 1:18) and likes us to know it.
2. People will find all of the answers of life (Rom. 1:16-20). These answers will excite them about their Creator and they will begin to see the greatness of who He is. Nothing can charge up a person; can excite a person like seeing the Bible come alive right before their face. Suddenly, life is not the life of a drone, fulfilling some purpose for the greater ones. It has meaning and definition and character. What the world has attacked as being a “fairy tale for the week minded” is revealed to be far superior in message and meaning than anything the world can offer as a substitute. Not only that, it proves itself to be truth: something that the world holds is low esteem.
I have seen many people during my life as a Christian have “the lights come on” in their Christian walk, and it is always related in some way to an insatiable desire to be in God’s Word. The read and the answers flow through their minds and they wonder, “Why didn’t someone tell me about this a long time ago?” This excites me: to see them grow in the Lord! But, I am saddened when I hear, “Why didn’t my other church even tell me about these things?” Of course, I have no answer for this. I cannot fathom a church that does not major on the Bible and minor on the programs of social assistance. And, this is what has happened in many cases. So, when God sees people getting into their Bible, He too is excited and more than willing to reveal Himself to those people.
I love talking about the Bible with people. I relish the doctrinal discourse with others. I like to see how the Lord has revealed things to them. Of the same story in the Bible, God almost always allows His creation to get a slightly different vision of how it happened. It is fun to explore the way others see it. No! I am not talking about changing the doctrine. I am talking about the slightly different vantage point from which people see the same thing. A good Biblical example of this is the gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all walked with Jesus. They lived with Him and they all had the same experiences, but they each saw it a little different. This is prevail ant in the slight differences in their writings of Christ’s life. This is what I am talking about. I like it because I can learn from others for “Iron sharpeneth Iron” (Pro. 27:17).
If I could encourage in one thing only during this brief moment where the paths of our life intersect, it would be to read your Bible. It will make a difference in your life like nothing else can. Nothing can be more important for the child of God than to learn about Him who saved you. Nothing is more necessary to walk a Christian walk, than to read it. This is why I think the Devil has put so much effort into altering it. If he can flood the world with alternate Bibles (Politically correct statement?), then he can discourage people from reading the Real, preserved, bible. Or, he can mislead them into reading a corrupt bible. I have never noticed the zeal of which I speak, mentioned over a false Bible. People duped by this corruption are more zealous over the feelings of, what they call: “worship” rather than the Word of the Living God. Now, worship is not bad, but it is important to know what you worship. To worship Jesus is to worship the Bible (John 1:1-3). To worship a false Bible is to worship a false Jesus. All of this to say: “Be sure you have the right Bible: The King James, 1611 Bible”. It can do mighty things. Or should I rather say, “He can do mighty things.
One thing which is true of all followers of Christ, eventually you will have your time on the spiritual battlefield. 2 Chronicles 32 covers the actions that King Hezekiah took in order to defend Jerusalem from the Assyrian army, and gives great examples of what we should do in order to win our own spiritual battles:
- Secure Godly support. In verse 3, Hezekiah first consulted with those he trusted. If you don’t have Christian friends who are growing, advancing and deepening their walk with Christ, PRAY for some. Proverbs 15:22 tells us, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
- Stop the flow of sin. Then, in verse 4, Hezekiah stopped the flow of water which would have given strength to the enemy. There are things which we sometimes allow into our lives which give strength to OUR enemy, the devil. One of the most important strategic moves in spiritual battle is to make sure that the flow of un-Godly, unrighteous, sinful “stuff” in our lives is stopped. It can come in many different forms, including television shows, movies, music, books or websites which contain material which is counter to what God’s word would have us consume.
- Repair, Restore and fortify. In verse 5, Hezekiah began making repairs to the wall around the city. The very nature of this undertaking required first examining the entire lower wall, to find the problem areas. Similarly, it is necessary that Christians examine their own lives often, to make sure there are no areas which make us easy prey for the enemy. Galatians 6:4-5 tells us, each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
- Weapons for battle. Verse 5 also mentions the weapons King Hezekiah made for his people. You and I are blessed to possess our own “armory”, prepared for us by our King. Read and study Ephesians 6:10-18 to learn more about the spiritual armor. If God’s people go into battle without these resources, we are defeated before we even begin.
The battle belongs to the Lord! Finally, verses 6 through 8 recount Hezekiah’s encouragement of the people for battle, as he reminded them that their enemies were simply fighting in the flesh, but the Israelites had the full power of God with them. He did not simply issue orders and edicts, and tell the people “We’re going to war! Get to your stations!” This king actually took the opportunity in what was a very tense time, to encourage the people, reminding them not of who THEY were, but of who their GOD was.
There are many different verses of encouragement in God’s word which remind us that God doesn’t just go into battle with us, but before us, preparing the way for victory. My wife recently reminded me of one, when she returned from a ministers’ wives retreat months ago. It was part of the short speech David gave to Goliath before he killed him in 1 Samuel 17. He said in verse 47, “the battle belongs to the LORD.”
God’s people will certainly find themselves involved in spiritual battles throughout their lives. However, as the people of God, not only do we need not fear defeat, but we can be assured of victory when we honor our Lord, and use the resources He has given us.
There are things that are important to us in life, but nothing is more important than the soul of a person. The soul is the part of man that lives forever. It is the part of man that feels pain or joy; happiness or sorrow. It is the center of the man.
Proverbs 11:30 says, “He that winneth souls is wise.” It is a wise and profitable thing to be a soul winner because it pleases God. He has a high evaluation of the soul winner. It is one of the dearest things to the heart of God. Consequently, it pays enormous eternal dividends. A man who turns people to righteousness is wise because he is laying up treasure in heaven. Conversely, a Christian who is occupied with trivial matters of life is unwise. Majoring on minors is foolish. Therefore, not to win souls is to be guilty of the sin of folly.
If we are to be wise, we should actively be involved in soul winning of some kind. If we don’t know how to win a soul to the Lord, we should learn how to do so.
When is the last time you led someone to the Lord? Have you ever won someone to the Lord? There is no shortage of people that need to hear the gospel. They are wondering aimlessly through life, believing a lie that is leading them to hell.
There is however, a shortage of Christians who are willing to tell the lost about salvation. There should not be, but there is. We need to be not so. Mason County is in great need for the Lord Jesus Christ—and who will tell our neighbors? The Devil will have them hear all of his doctrine, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by every means possible. The Lord left the job of spreading the gospel up to us.
Spreading the gospel is not doing good deeds for others. It is not living a right life or even helping the poor. Spreading the gospel is to actively tell people how they can be saved; how they can know for sure they are going to heaven.
These are the last days that we are living in. We live in a unique time. No other people have had so much at stake as we have. We are like the anchor runner in the relay race of life. Lets not drop the baton. Lets not run out of steam on the last lap. Lets give it all we have Got. Souls lie in the balance.
Does your young person feel like they don’t need God? I didn’t say church. I said, “GOD!” If you need God, then you know that you need church and you attend every chance you get.
Recently I have been asked why young people don’t go to church. Because churches seem to be filled with older people, the question is, “why are there not more younger people in church, and how do we reach this demographic?”
I have contemplated this question for a long time. Because I have been posed this question, I have begun thinking of it all over again. However, I don’t think that this question should be posed to this one group. It seems to me that all groups are affected, and there has been a broad moving away from church attendance.
I know that the mind, being quick to solve problems, will run the gamut of possible answers. We could site: The last days, The influence of the Devil and the world, the media, Exaltation of fantasy, The impact of socialistic programs, removal of the Bible from schools, etc. etc. All of these certainly contribute to the problem. But if you take a closer look back through history, most of these influences have been present for a very long time. The first century Christians lived in a time when similar things like these were present and they even had to deal with persecution unto death as well. Can you imagine where American Christianity would be today if present day Christians were killed for their faith? I dare say that the church would shrink to just a remnant. Very few American Christians today would be willing to actually die for their faith. Oh, I know that they might SAY they were willing to die for Jesus, but if it came right down to it, I don’t believe that many would actually do so. Why? Because the church today has been diluted with weak anemic Christians who are mostly apathetic regarding church because they don’t need God. They want to be entertained for their “buck;” or even worse, they want to be entertained for free. Any pastor that cannot meet this criteria can just be discarded because they can just move on to another church that can entertain. Christians today are looking for a program instead of God.
I think that the root reason that people in the USA today do not need the church is because they don’t need GOD. They see no need for God in their life. They cannot see any benefit for them by coming to God. If they ever get to the place where they finally do see what God can do for them, only then are they willing to approach Him. Otherwise, they keep Him at arms distance. I say this because time and time again, when people are in trouble; when things are not going well in their life, they suddenly need God. Then they come to church. Then they want the preacher to give them the magic pill that will make all of their problems go away. If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you know what I am talking about. Even those whom we would call “faithful saints” act the same way: They do not see any value to them by coming to, or supporting their church. They don’t need God, so they don’t need church. But when they need God, Oh, they are so drawn to church. Think about it.
So, I believe that the better question to be answered is: “How do we show people the value of having God in their life?” If people saw that it was valuable to them to have God in their life, then they would be in church, because God values church. Today, people value other things. It is not difficult to find something to value because the world has a never ending list of entertainment for people to value. All of it fun and valuable. Not many of the young culture value hard work, because they see no importance for it and have too many other distractions, each competing for a little piece of their minds. But when they suddenly need money to live, then they see the value of hard work and sweat. So the answer to the question should be associated with what people value and how to show the importance of it (easier said than done).
I believe the answer to this undaunting question lies in the area of relationship. Everybody recognizes the value of a relationship in some form or another. Once children see that they have to navigate this world on their own, the see the value of the relationship between the parents and themselves; they see how valuable it was for mom and dad to take care of everything for them. When there is a loss of a loved one, you immediately see the value of that relationship that you once had. So, if a person could be introduced to the value of a relationship with God (Gen. 2:18), then they would be interested in God, and therefore, church. But relationships too, have come under attack.
In the world today, there is a big attack upon relationships. Everybody can DIY (Do It Yourself). More and more, people are being deceived into thinking that they don’t need anybody. There are mom’s taking “momcations,” dads working long hours, and all of the overtime they can get, parents cut out of children’s lives and grandchildren growing up without really knowing their grandparents. Self-serve, Self-check out, Drive thru, ATM’s, mail order, Texting, cell phones, email, Home shopping network and Social Media (i.e. facebook), all contribute to the relationship problem. They are all attempts by the Devil to eradicate basic and necessary relationships from our life. Today we:
- Have, “friends” whom we have never even met face to face. These are our cyber friends who only tell us what they want us to know about them. We know this to be true because we only tell them the things we want them to know about ourselves. We’re not going to paint a bad picture about ourselves. We steer away from reality.
- Say things that we do not mean. People are much more bold from behind a computer or cell phone keyboard. We punch in, and send before we really think about it. We say things that we would not normally say to someone’s face.
- Do things that we would not normally do. We take photos of ourselves and only send off the good ones. At times, there are people who send inappropriate photos of themselves (or others) when they would never have done that in person.
All of these things would not be done if we valued the relationship with that person.
The fundamental relationship that exists on earth is that of the family. Everybody knows that the attack on the family has been going on for a long time. It is only successful because it has been relentless. The result is that not many young people of today see any value in their family relationships. I believe the way we fight back on this is to: “meet fire with fire.” Because the attack on the family is relentless, our tactic on preserving the family should be equally relentless. We do not need to take the role of “closet dwellers” yet. We are still free to voice our opinions.
The way that this untoward situation has “crept” up on us is because “grass roots” Christians have kept their faith in God under the rug. When the world demeans Christianity, we too should speak up and say something. When they promote “homosexuality”, we too should promote family. The open forum does not belong to them. When Christians do not speak, and act upon their faith openly, they give the platform to the enemy for the destruction of relationships, and show the younger generation the value we place on it. They are watching and looking for something real. If “grass roots” Christians, throughout their daily lives, do not speak up and “live” their relationship with Christ, they ultimately show that they don’t value it very much. If all they do is speak of Christ in their house or at church or amongst other known believers, they show that they don’t need God very much.
Herein is the answer to the question. Christians must not be ashamed of Jesus outside of the secure walls of any known Christian environment. In other words–practice what you believe in; when you value it, others will learn how to value it as well. If you don’t need God, then the younger generation will not need God as well. If you show a life that is walking with a need for God, then they will need God too! ~Pastor Coale
Jim Rigby (a proclaimed preacher) posted on Facebook the Ten Things I wish the church knew about homosexuality. His very questions display his ignorance of the Bible and the subject for which he claims to be an authority. So that his teachings (and the teachings of others like him) do not infect innocent and ignorant minds, I have responded to his teachings below:
1. If Jesus did not mention a subject, it cannot be essential to his teachings. WRONG—You should read your Bible. Jesus as the son of God is the author of the entire Bible and He mentions much about the sin of homosexuality.
2. You are not being persecuted when prevented from persecuting others. YOU are being persecuted when others are NOT PREVENTED from persecuting YOU. SO, it depends on who is on the RIGHT SIDE and God’s side is always right for He is your CREATOR.
3. Truth isn’t like wine that gets better with age. It’s more like manna you must recognize wherever you are and whoever you are with. WRONG—Truth is truth no matter who you are with or wherever you are. It is not relative to your opinion or position.
4. You cannot call it “special rights” when someone asks for the same rights you have. WRONG—It is “special rights” when their rights oppose or conflict the rights of truth.
5. It is no longer your personal religious view if you’re bothering someone else. WRONG—Your personal religious view is your personal religious view no matter who is bothered by it. AND, if it is based on “truth” then it really doesn’t matter what your view is or not. It only matters what the truth is.
6. Marriage is a civil ceremony, which means it’s a civil right. WRONG—marriage is a command given to humans by their Creator who designed humans to fulfill that command. It is not a right whatsoever.
7. If how someone stimulates the pubic nerve has become the needle to your moral compass, you are the one who is lost. WRONG—If your moral compass offends the A-moral, then you are on the right track.
8. To condemn homosexuality, you must use parts of the Bible you don’t yourself obey. Anyone who obeyed every part of Leviticus would rightly be put in prison. WRONG—If man had obeyed the Books of Leviticus all along instead of swaying from it, then it would be the standard of living now. (Note: regarding homosexuality, the book of Leviticus (written to the Levite Priests) is not the only book in the Bible condemning homosexuality. There are the books of Genesis, Exodus, Proverbs, Psalms, Romans, etc.). Also, Jesus does not hate the homosexual, He hates homosexuality. Jesus loves the people of the world and died for them so they could have forgiveness of their sins and a means of overcoming them.
9. If we do not do the right thing in our day, our grandchildren will look at us with same embarrassment we look at racist grandparents. WRONG—It is never permissible to do the wrong thing based on how our grandchildren will look at us. If they were taught right, they would have hero’s instead of villans.
10. When Jesus forbade judging, that included you. WRONG—Jesus did not forbid judging. In fact He command us to judge the righteous judgment (Isa. 1:17; John 7:24) just as He gave us example in doing (John 5:30; 16:11)
Right, wrong, or indifferent, he obviously has no idea about what the Bible says about the subject.
Proverbs 6:16-19 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
While God is a God of love, He is also a God of hate. We know that God loves His Son Jesus, and that He hates sin, but it doesn’t end right there. He loves many more things. As we read the Bible, we can see that He loves mercy, truth, humility and kindness to mention just a very few. But here, in this one passage of Scripture, He gives a concentrated list of some of the more important things that He hates. They are all self-explanatory and even the child can understand what they are. However, when God gets to sowing “discord” among the brethren, He is now dealing with the church only, for we in the church are: brethren.
Discord is any attempt to gender disagreement or difference of opinion. It is attempting to put at variance or opposition to the rest of the body. It win’s it’s evil victory when it produces angry passions of dispute or contest between persons. It’s method of attack is to clash; it does not disagree with a proper attitude of love and therefore seeks it’s own exaltation. This is what the Lord HATES–discord AMONG THE BRETHREN.
You cannot have a group of people where people do not talk about other members within the group. It is common and natural to do so because; well, they all have something in common–the group. Discord therefore, has nothing to do with talking about other members in the group. It has to do with talking about others with the intent to divide and hurt the group. God hates this very much and will not long abide it within the church He is trying to build. It is important to remember that because I will come back to that later.
The greatest example of attempting to sow discord amongst the group (other than the Devil himself) was Judas Iscariot. He thought he could sell out the Lord and divide the group. He was motivated by greed and self. He wanted to be and feel important. He could be up there with the big wigs setting the direction of actions for the nation, but in fact he was used. Yes, the Pharisees used him, but more so, he was used by the Devil to carry out his attack on God’s work. That is what people who sow discord amongst the brethren do today. They are being used by the Devil and they don’t even realize it. They are an instrument of his destruction, yet they cannot see it, and like Judas, the Lord will separate them from the group in His own time. Until that time, they will be continually frustrated that they are not able to gain foothold, because the Lord protects His flock.
Some might say, “Doesn’t the Bible say that we are supposed to divide the word of truth in 2 Timothy 2:15?” Well, not exactly. It says there that we are to “RIGHTLY DIVIDE” the WORD OF TRUTH. This is not for sowing discord, but in being able to interpret it properly. If you continue to verse 16, the next thing it says is that we are to “…shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” So, when a person is continually trying to sow discord amongst the brethren, God’s answer for this is to “shun”. This is not done in the old Quaker or Mennonite sense, but it means to don’t converse with them. Why? Because even if your guard is up, and even if you are determined to change the subject if you hear something divisive, the problem is that you still hear it. You can’t take it back. You can’t get it out of your mind. It is imbedded there and the Devil knows that. Your mind will ponder it, even if you don’t discuss it with anyone else, the seed is planted and it begins to grow into it’s evil work. So, the best thing to do is tell the person that you will not entertain any part of that subject, and if you persist, then I must leave. If there is no change on their part, and they persist in sowing discord, then it is best to not even fellowship with them. Love them, but don’t listen to someone who is saying things that are dividing up the brethren. Once it is in your mind, it will eat you up.
If you think you are unintentionally sowing discord amongst the brethren, then you need to ask the Lord for forgiveness. Then the best rule of thumb is to hold your tongue (James 3:5, 6, 8). Learn to be a good listener and not a talker. If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.
If you are not sure if you are saying divisive things or not, you need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to put His finger on that part of your life and identify it. You will know if the peace of God comes upon you. You will know if you are being true to yourself or not.
The vehicle of discord is GOSSIP. Gossip is a truly destructive thing. I am not talking about talking about each other. That is not gossip. Gossip is when you a person speaks idle tales; tattles; or tells destructive things about each other. You can always tell a gossip because they like to talk allot. They talk so much that it is difficult to end a conversation with them. They also like to say the same thing over and over. And, the subject of their conversation does not brag on or build another person up, it tears others down. Their conversations therefore, are usually filled with self exaltation at the expense of others. And this is where the discord comes in. To promote self, you must put down others, hence–discord.
Recently our church has come together with one common cause. The Devil does not like it when we are united. His attack will come in many forms, but all with the intention of sowing discord amongst the brethren. I trust this article will give you some insight on how to recognize it and what to do when you identify it. May God bless you richly as you serve the Lord.
Why do people go to church? There are many reasons and in this article I would like to explore a few. For some people church has always been a part of their life; for others it is a new experience. Either way, it doesn’t matter. At some point in their life, people begin making their own decision about going to church.
Recently I saw a character on TV who wanted his grandson to be baptized so he would go to heaven. Obviously, he didn’t understand the Bible and that baptism doesn’t save a person. But, he still had a respect for the church. He called it God’s house. Even the most adamant atheist still recognizes that church is related to God, and when they come to a point in their life that they seek spiritual help (and everyone does), they will seek it by coming to a church.
People go to church to feel good about themselves. At some point in their life, people begin to feel the effects of sin. They begin to feel dirty and seek redemption of some kind. So, they go to church seeking forgiveness for their sins. The sad thing is that when they feel comfortable in knowing that forgiveness has been provided, they have no need for church anymore. They fall away like the vapor of wind, never to come back unless they have the same need.
People go to church because they have always gone to church. It is habitual. They have always gone to church and cannot really give an answer for why they go. Oh, they can give the pat answer; the answer that they know is expected of them, but they cannot honestly tell why they go from deep down inside their soul.
People go to church for social connection. They seek relationships with people who are like minded to them and they don’t get that in the world with all of it’s worldliness. Sadly, they have little use for the church other than the pleasure of fellowship with their friends who attend. During the preaching or teaching they are bored to death, but during the singing or performing, they are enthusiast. They are “put out” by the time that the preaching or teaching takes out of their time to fellowship, and you often never see them attend Sunday School or other such learning events.
People go to church because they want to learn something about God. Altogether this is not a bad reason for going to church. One of the reasons that God provided the church to us is to equip the saints. This involves learning about the Bible and learning about God. There is no other designed method of God to learn about Him and His book except the church. God did not provide colleges, TV or radio programs, para-church organizations to teach about Him. He gave us the church!
People go to church because God commanded us to not forsake going to it. They honor God and try their best to do what He said they should do. They do this because they are driven by a love for Him. They trust in the fact that: He knows what is best for them, and since He told them to do it, then they are going to do it. They often reason that God must have His reasons for saying it in the Bible so, understand it or not, they go. Soon their often attendance begins to take root in their life and they begin to grow as a child of God.
I have often wondered why people don’t go to church. I think, “If they could just go long enough, then they would get what God is trying to do in their life.” God wants to develop Christians. That is difficult for the Him to do when His children are bombarded constantly by the world’s message and they are only getting one hour a week of input from Him. The many hours indoctrination of the world overshadows and chokes out almost everything that a person can get in just one hour a week of going to church. For this very reason, I put serious articles in the church bulletin so God’s people have something they can take with them to receive some spiritual refreshment and learning. I hope that you have found them useful. More than that, I trust that you will, no matter what, trust what God says to you about not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, and come to church. It would be good for you and your family. You see, God wants to establish a relationship with you and that is difficult to do when you only spend one hour a week with Him.
We do not live in a perfect world. This is very unfortunate for all of us. It would be wonderful if everything we tried to do was easy. But unfortunately it is not. It is difficult to find the right mate to create a family with. It is difficult to bare and rear children. It is difficult to make ends meet, to struggle in the never ending pursuit of money just so that we can pay our bills, put enough food on the table for our families and to be able to have a little bit to do something fun once in a while. Life certainly is not easy the world presses in on us with all sorts of external pressures that want us to fall not only physically but spiritually and mentally as well. There are pressures in relationships, pressures about finances, pressures about health, and pressures about being able to compete and keep up with the Jones–so to speak. However all of these pursuits are pursuits that are going to one day vanish in the wind and mean absolutely nothing. As a Christian I am sure that you know as well as I do that only the things that we do spiritually for God are what remains. All other endeavors are simply to take care of the immediate needs of our lives, and they will all one day, as a vapor, vanish in the wind floating softly out into nothingness, and they will mean absolutely nothing. They will neither be a repulsive smell unto the Lord or a sweet smelling savor unto him. They will mean nothing.
With that in mind I would like to challenge each and every one of you today to try to remember that we are all in the same boat. We all have the same difficulties, we all have the same problems, and we are all struggling with one thing or another. It doesn’t matter what it is we are struggling with, we are still all struggling. Each and every one of us know how difficult it is. We know it is difficult to deal with life, we know it is difficult to deal with the world, difficult to deal with self, we know it is difficult to deal with the future; especially when we know it is certainly holding for us nothing more promising than pain, distraught and trouble. I mean we know that we call it the uncertain future but it is really not uncertain. Men only perceive that it is uncertain but it is not.
Because we are all in the same boat, we ought to be hand in hand, interlocking arms, intertwined, supporting each other, helping each other, holding each other up in prayer. We ought to be tolerant of each other because we know that the trouble that we have others have as well. Unfortunately this does not always work and it doesn’t work because there is that silly thing that always comes into the picture called pride. Pride is when we are more interested in our self than we are in someone else. At times I might be able to say that there could be great justification for that, because it is wearisome to have someone constantly knit picking you. It is wearisome to have someone constantly comparing themselves to you or to demanding their rights based on their standards and trying to place that upon you. It is wearisome trying to obey the laws of the land and then when you travel into another country for example the laws are much different so you have a whole new set of things to learn. When you travel back you find that in your own country laws have changed. So it is hard to keep up with the times in such a dynamic world and dynamic place where things are changing all the time.
But let me comfort you with this, God’s word never changes despite what the world does to attack it and make it seem like it is constantly in motion, evolving toward temporary situations that are not true. There are the basic elements of man that never change. There is always going to be jealousy, there is always going to be pleasure, there is always going to be sin, there is always going to be envy, there is always going to be strife and so on and so forth. All of these things may take different forms as we deal with different people or different cultures or different times even, but the basic tendon’s of those things never change. As Christians we need to not live on the surface where things are changing and sand is shifting all the time. We need to do what the Bible calls stand on the rock, where we know that these things never change and that envy is envy whether it was for a chariot of old or for a BMW of contemporary times or maybe some space vehicle in the future. Who knows? But envy is still envy. It is a human nature that makes up what we call sin. Love will never change it is always going to be love. We may change our approach toward it but it is still there.
Now why is it that many Christians are wrapped up in the surface issues of life and the changing demands of time? I believe it is because they have not yet learned to be content in whatsoever state they are in as the apostle Paul said. Once you become content then those things don’t really upset you. You don’t need a whole bunch of surface things in your life to make you feel good about yourself or give you something where by you can judge yourself to see how you are doing in life or not. You know it all comes down to this one little statement. The statement that my mother always said as we were growing up, I don’t know if she realized it had such a Godly principle or not, but here it is: “Que sira sira”. Spanish for meaning: whatever will be will be. We are not going to change the avalanche of fate over-running this world. We can either go along with the flow; not meaning go along with the world, but go along with what God brings into our life, and look at it that way or we can allow it to bowl us over. It will either do one or the other. Now what will it be? In China they had a phrase called “Mei guan xi”. It means, “it doesn’t matter”. They would say that about everything, “it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter”. That is because when they’ve lived in such a poor state all of their lives, barely having a shack to live in with dirt floors. They were completely filled with joy just to have more from their harvest than they would need to be able to last them all through the winter. When they did, they were happy to share it with others. When you get to that state, things do not really matter too much. You learn to live within the state that God has you in.
So why don’t we pick up our boot straps and look at the world like this? Mei guan xi. That is not to say stick your head in the sand. It is not to pridefully shrug your shoulders and say it doesn’t matter, as if you don’t care. You should care but you should not let it upset you. Let things just go their course.
I have found out though my life that things just seem to work out. You do not have to get all upset about things. I use to get upset about many things, little things, stupid things, dumb things. Now that I have been thinking about this perhaps it is just that people get some kind of emotional high off of being upset. When they feel that adrenalin set in, it sparks anger or interest in their life and they feed off of it. Have you ever see two people argue and they just won’t let it go? They always have to “one up” the other person. You look at it from a distance and you say, “Why don’t they just give up? What are they going to gain by it?” Many times people argue just to argue. When they are doing that, they win an argument and walk away saying I won! But what does that mean? It means absolutely nothing. Mei guan xi, it doesn’t matter.
God said the principle thing is love. Love is letting the other person be right. Love is not letting your anger boil to the surface. When you feel it coming you just realize it and you side step the pitfall that will waste all of your energy and allow you to end up at the bottom of a big hole somewhere with every body looking down on you, and you feeling ashamed of yourself. Of course you will be able to walk away with pride, holding up your head saying, “I won.” But, what does it mean? It means nothing if the outcome doesn’t have some positive result. What is it worth?
I remember a time when a friend of mine went out to eat with his wife. He didn’t have much money so he took her to Subway. A third man walked in the door. He was all upset and was making a big scene, being angry, yelling at the girl behind the counter about his sandwich. Finally she had served him and he was leaving and as he was leaving my friend with his back to him the whole time didn’t know anything about what was going on but his wife could see it all. She kind of snickered, a slight snicker, slight smile thinking my goodness people sure are terrible. The guy picked up on that and he ran over and grabbed my friend by the shoulder and said you think that is funny? My friend was just shocked; he didn’t know what was going on. The guy turned around and punched him in the face. My friend was sitting there happily eating his sandwich one moment and the next moment laying there in the seat on the bench with a big shiner. Well the guy got all angry and he turned around and went to go out the door and as he went he flung the door open toward himself, and as he went storming out he hit his head on the door and gave himself a shiner. Walked out and got in his car real angry because he beat himself up with the door. Now what did it all accomplish? Not a thing. Probably made him feel better about himself and got down the road a little ways and thought that was a dumb thing to do. Maybe his pride was so strong that it just didn’t allow him to think it was a dumb thing to do. But guess what! It was a dumb thing to do.
We’re all in the same boat concerning love too! People need to love each other. They need to have a little patience, and give things a little time. Now there are those situations where it doesn’t matter how much you love someone, or how patient you are with them, people pick up on your love as a weakness and they begin to dominate you. You feel completely helpless in a situation like that. You think I can either fight back or I can just get out of the situation. My friend that is the best advice. Limit your time, distance and shielding. My mother said time heals all wounds. She was right about that. I have learned that if you keep distance you end up shielding yourself from the effects that cause you to want to fall and stumble for the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes you have to stay away from things. For example, it is not good for a diabetic to go into a candy store. Why tempt yourself on something you know is going to end up making you fall.
So I encourage you all lend a helping hand to each other, be patient to everyone and if you can’t and it ends up dragging you down, don’t go in the candy store. Shield yourself. Things will work out in the end. People have to be people and people have to learn to deal with each other for Jesus Christ. We’re all in the same boat!
All too often I am amazed at the so called “Christian Community” for their lack of understanding God. In fact, it has been perplexing. When I think of what God did in my life; how He saved me from the grip of death, cleansed me and set me in a noble place with Him, I feel like I owe Him my life. I am sure that others feel the same, but their sacrifice to Him seems to be so misguided.
When it came birthday time or Christmas, a time when I would be receiving gifts, I hoped I would get something I liked. In fact, I went a little beyond hoping and dropped hints to Mom and Dad in order to give them good ideas. I always loved it when they asked me, “What do you want for your birthday?” or “What do you want for Christmas?” Sometimes I got it, and sometimes I didn’t. But, I can tell you, when I got the thing that I wanted–the thing I asked for–I was happier than when I got something I didn’t ask for. Now that I am older and can look back on that, I wonder why that is? I think the answer lies in my present relationship with God. You see, as a born again child of God, I know that He has asked me for certain things–there are certain things that He would like from me. When He gets them, He is much happier than when He gets something He didn’t ask for. God greatest request of me; The thing that is on the top of His list of things He would like, is that I love Him more than anything else and that I love others as I love myself (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).
So, how do I accomplish this one request which contains two aspects? He told me how I could do that. He told me that I should win souls. This one activity encompasses loving God (Doing what He told me to do.) and loving others (showing them the way of life). It is by no accident that I use the phrase “showing them the way of life” because if I used the phrase “preaching the gospel” people might get confused. The phrase “preaching the gospel” has become so diluted that no one can really interpret it anymore. This is where my perplexity begins.
The gospel that we are to preach; the gospel that pleases God; the one that is at the top of His “wish list,” is the one that results in another soul being saved. If you have any merit as a Christian at all, then you know what I am speaking is true. You know it because you were once unsaved and someone told you how to accept Christ as the atonement for your sins. You know it! You might have been saved for so long that you have forgotten it; or, you might have backslid from it, but you know it. You know it because the Holy Spirit is in you and He is constantly urging you to tell someone about God’s substitute for their sins. You know it! You are either ignoring it or you are evading it, but you know it!
Some people think that “preaching the gospel” is:
- Having a nice social where they all get together and have tea and cookies and bring a guest.
- Sell Amway or other self-marketing items
- Help people with their chores (i.e. wash their car; cut their grass; do their shopping; etc….).
- Joining ecumenical “Christian” activities.
- Letting their kids go to church while they stay home.
- Singing in the choir.
- Talking with the preacher.
- Reading their Bible.
- Supporting para-church groups.
- Helping others in their churches.
- Being friendly to people of other churches.
- Not offending anyone.
- Living a good life.
- Supporting the Red Cross.
- Feeding the poor.
The list is practically endless. If you think about it, many of these things are really good things to do. In fact most of them are good things to do. But, the gospel is not good things–It is good news of a certain kind. It is the good news that Christ came and died and shed His blood so that you can be free from your punishment if you so choose to accept THAT THING HE DID FOR YOU!
There is another grossly misused phrase amongst the so called “Christian community”. It is the phrase “accepted Christ” or “accepted Jesus.” To be saved, a person does not need to accept Christ or Jesus as much as they need to accept what He did for them, and that He alone could do it because HE IS GOD! To be saved, you must accept what He did, and who He is. It is a little incomplete to ask someone, “Have you accepted Jesus?” You must accept who He is, what He did and how He did it.
So, we have an army of so called “Christians” who have taken salvation freely, but after that, they could care less for the rest of the world. They are saved. They are living out their Christian life, getting along with others, being good church members, helping the elderly, etc… but they are not giving to God what He asked for. At the top of His wish list is: souls to be saved. That is what He wants. But what He gets is a bunch of “good stuff”, but it is not what He asked for. Just like I would feel a little rejected by getting clothes, a new lunch pail, shoes, toothpaste, or patches for my old jeans, the Lord God gets from us–GOOD WORKS, and feels a little unloved.
Can you imagine how God would feel if you brought to Him some souls that you worked hard to get saved. Have you ever opened the gift and said, “WOW! Just what I asked for! Thank you so much!”? Wouldn’t that be great if God could say the same thing over your life? Or, do we keep giving to Him a bunch of good junk? He wants us to love Him and love others. How does Christian involvement in ecumenical groups do that? Think about it! You know! You know what He wants First! You know because He told you. If you are not on track with that, then you are either ignoring Him or you don’t care.
Many people today who are saved and love the Lord still don’t want to join a church. Their reasons are many and often true: most churches are messed up; there are many hypocrites; churches are just after your money; people do not love God like they ought to. Yet, although churches have always had problems (read the New Testament), the idea of staying out of any church is not a New Testament idea. In the first church in Jerusalem, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” These were the same people who had received God’s word and were baptized. So, from the beginning, the order was to receive God’s word, get baptized and join the church.
We would all like to think that we would always do the right thing even if no one ever knew what we did. Truly, doing the right thing when no one is looking is the test of character. Yet, in reality, we all often do the right thing because we don’t want to let others see us fail. This is the power of accountability. We do right so we will not have to explain to our friends or loved ones why we did wrong. This is a motivation that God Himself uses with us. In the context of the local church, we are “to consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb 10:24). Knowing that people at church care should help us to do what is right. It is a blessing to know that if I stray from God, my fellow church member may come and talk to me about my spiritual life.
God takes accountability one step further in His instructions concerning church discipline. Notice this passage (out of many that teach the principle). The people in the church in Thessalonica were to withdraw themselves “from every brother that walketh disorderly.” The purpose was “that he may be ashamed.” Yet, even then, he was not to be counted as an enemy but to be admonished “as a brother.” Consider what is happening. The people of the church were to withdraw from fellowship with the man who had strayed from truth. But the final purpose in his life was not to hurt him but to restore him (see Gal.6:1).
In our modern independence, we have created virtues that God’s word never teaches. One of these virtues is what we call ‘staying out of other people’s business’. Truly, God speaks against gossip of any kind. But He does not teach us to stay out of other people’s lives. Neither does He teach that people should always stay out of your life. God teaches us to confront those who are hurting themselves and to try to turn them in the right direction (Gal.6:1). He also teaches us to accept godly confrontation (Heb.10:24). Why then would people not want to belong to a church where loving people would confront them if they started down the path of immorality, idolatry or heresy? Church membership means that there are people who love you too much to let you destroy yourself without putting up a fight for your good. What should give us a sense of security has simply made us angry and rebellious. Instead of changing God’s plan, we are the ones who should change.
An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.
At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.
“I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”
The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”
Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You’ve just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.
So, to all of my crack pot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path!
1 Thess. 5:11-23 11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. 15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. 16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The SOLE business of the church is SOULS. The church is souls looking upward in praise; inward in penitence; outward in practice; and forward in promise. The church at Thessalonica was church born out of the storms of persecution (1:6; 2:14; 3:3-7). Paul gives this church a check-list for encouraging one another (5:11). How does he do this? By telling them to “Comfort” (vs. 11, 14) and “exhort” (vs. 14).
- Building up one another (5:11).
- Value and Love church leadership (5:12-13).
- Avoid Quarreling (5:13)
- Warn the undisciplined (5:14)
- Comfort the fearful (5:14; cf. Isa. 35:3-4)
- Care for the weak (5:14)
- Practice Patience (5:14)
- Do good to someone who treats you wrongly (5:15)
- Rejoice in everything (5:16; cf. Hab. 3:17-19)
- Stay in an attitude of prayer (5:17)
- Maintain an attitude of thanksgiving (5:18)
- Don’t smother the spirit’s working (5:19)
- Beware of a bad attitude towards preaching (5:20)
- Stay clear of compromising situations (5:22)
The Seattle Seahawks football team is renowned for its fans which have earned the title: “the Twelfth Man”. This is because there are normally eleven men on the playing field at any one time, but because of the “heart” of the fans, the team considers them to be with them in spirit as well. Therefore, they are “the Twelfth Man.”
The Seattle fans are extremely enthusiastic and supportive of their team. They are wild and even border on the edge of becoming lunatic in their support of the Seahawks. Before each home game in Seattle, there is the ceremonial raising of the blue flag sporting the large white numbers: “12”. One of the largest selling items of team clothing is the jersey sporting the large numbers “12” with the name displayed proudly on the back: “Fan”. Seattle fans fanatically love their Seahawks.
Jesus too had twelve men on His team. Of all of the disciples following Him, He only chose 12 men to be on His team. Of course, I am talking about the 12 who later became apostles. They were the only twelve who were on the field of play during His battle for victory over death.
In addition to them, there were huge crowds of others who followed Jesus as well. They were His fans. Although they were not in play as starters, they were very dedicated fans. Recognizing this is what drove the Pharisees crazy with jealousy and envy. Like the “Twelfth” man with the Seahawks, these extra followers of Jesus could be called His “thirteenth man.” They were not on the actual field of play, but they were such fans that they were there in heart.
It is funny though that Seattle fans can be called “the twelfth man” where we can call Jesus’ fans “the thirteenth man.” This is because numbers have meaning in the Bible and the number 13 indicates rebellion. There were 13 American colonies that “rebelled” from their king to form the United States of America. The first time the number appears in the Bible is in Genesis 14:4 telling us, “in the thirteenth year they rebelled…” We read about Judas Iscariot in John 13:13 whose name consists of thirteen letters. John 13:13 also has thirteen words in it and thirty nine letters, which is three times thirteen. The word “dragon” appears thirteen times in the book of Revelation. Nimrod, who is the thirteenth from Adam, is a type of Antichrist. The Book of Mark mentions Satan in the first chapter verse 13. And so on… Jesus’ fans were, and still are a rebellious lot.
The thirteenth man of the followers of Jesus are those who love Him for what He can do for them, but never take a thought for what they can do for Him. In other words, they are selfish. The worst type of these are pointed out in Acts 4:33 to 5:11. There we have the story of unity in the church. The “team” is on the field and they are winning. The “thirteenth man” is supporting the team. They are fanatically cheering them on. That is all except two rebellious fans. They are Ananias and Sapphira. They are cleaver. They are sneaky. They have observed the others and patiently learned what is to be expected of them. They have not responded from their heart. With their heads, they have formulated a very elaborate plan. They would bring in some of their support of the team, but would “ACT LIKE” they were a true, blue, 100% lover of the team. They would pretend to be a fanatic supporter of the battle being waged, when all the time, deep down in their hearts, they were laying back, pretending to support the team, but waiting to see just what the team could do for them. They were evil and wicked, and for their wickedness, they were relieved from their position of being a “thirteenth man”. They were kicked out of the Jesus fan club. God KILLED THEM!
Later on, more and more of these rebels began to pop up. Everywhere that Paul went to start a church work, we see problems of people feigning a good Christian life, but their hearts are not in it as a real “fan of Jesus.” They in fact are “fans of self”, but are pretending to be Christians so they can receive the benefits of Christian life. They are like those who talk about Christ inside the church, or in the presence of other known Christians, but rarely, if ever, talk about their “team” with others. It is not that way with the Seahawks fans. They don’t care if they know you or not when they lift their fist in the air and convincingly say, “GO HAWKS!” Strangers coming away from that type of encounter know one thing if nothing else, that person loves the Hawks. But not so with the rebellious “thirteenth man” on Jesus’ team. They are watching, conniving, waiting for a way to incorporate Jesus into their life, when all the time they are supposed to be incorporating themselves into His life.
There are many fake thirteenth man “fans” that have ruined peoples chances for ever accepting Christ. These so-called fans of Jesus are the most dangerous of all people as far as spreading the gospel. They are dangerous because; on the outside they look like the right thing. They sound like the right thing. They act like the right thing. But, all the while, they are like rebellious Judas Iscariot. They are waiting to see how being a Christian can help them instead of how they can help the team. They have taught people how to “get by” as a Christian instead of “get into” supporting the team. They are proudly wearing the jersey, but the lack of fanaticism is apparently lacking. They are content to observe instead of get involved and their actions have taught others to do so as well. Like Judas, they sit on the fence because they don’t want to ruin their chances of getting the Pharisees mad at them and they don’t want Jesus or the team to get mad at them as well. Their balancing act has been intricately conceived and expertly managed, but what they don’t realize is that, like Judas, it will come to an end when they don’t realize it. All of their “playing” church; their “playing” at being a true fan will come to a crashing halt. Unfortunately for that hypocrite, they will always fall on the side of self, pleasing the Pharisees, and engulfed by the world. And with them, will follow all of those who were influenced by them and their lessons on how to be a thirteenth man. This is why they are so very dangerous.
Fans of Jesus should be like the fans of the Seahawks—They should dress up, get ready, stand in lines to see the team play, buy season tickets as soon as they come available, get their jersey, scream to the top of their lungs, and make such an impression that the entire nation knows that, coming to play our team at home is going to be tough because our team has—“the thirteenth man.”
People often try to justify their desire to gamble by saying, “after all, life itself is risky.” Investing in the stock market, crossing the street, riding in an airplane, falling in love, getting married, even doing church work all carry with them an element of risk. People also try to justify gambling by pointing to the element of chance that was involved in the Old Testament use of lots or the Urim and Thummim, and in the New Testament method of choosing Judas’ successor. However, there is no legitimate point of comparison between the type of chance involved in these Scriptural practices and the type of chance involved in gambling. The Old Testament lots were specifically sanctioned and commanded by God (Lev. 1:8, Josh. 14:2, Ex. 28:30, Num. 27:21, Dt. 33:8). Gamblers today cannot produce such commands of God for the lots they cast! Likewise, in the choice of Matthias to succeed Judas no real risk was involved, Both candidates, Justus and Matthias, were fully qualified for the position, so the final choice was entrusted to the Lord in prayer.
The real crux of the problem of gambling is not the element of risk or chance, but the question of motivation. This is the real heart of the problem, for if the motivation involved is wrong, gambling is wrong even when the element of skill predominates over simple chance.
The basic purpose of most gambling is not to help and serve others, but to help ourselves at their expense. Luther observed: No one gambles with another in order to give away to the other what is his own (for he could do that without gambling), nor in order to lose what is his own, nor in order to seek the gain of the other man as though it were his own. This is why gambling is always contrary to love and is motivated by greed because a man seeks, to the harm of another, what does not belong to him.
The basic Christian objection to gambling is that it is an attempt to gain something from our neighbor without giving a fair service in return. If we really love our neighbor, will we wish to win at his expense? In gambling are we heeding the admonition of Scripture, Philippians 2:4 ‘Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.’ Christians must keep two facts in mind when seeking gain or profit from their activities. They must give fair labor in exchange for what they receive. They seek to earn for themselves, not from selfish motivation, but in order to be of service to others. Ephesians 4:28 “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”
A Christian’s life is to be devoted to serving others, not to serving self. In most games of gambling, part of the enjoyment is taking advantage of someone else’s loss. Gambling is nonproductive, and can be justified only by arguing its entertainment value or the good use made of a portion of the revenue. Since the end never justifies the means, gambling cannot be justified on these grounds if greed is involved. The fact that dishonesty and selfish motivation can be practiced in any form of business cannot be used as an excuse to justify gambling, if gain at the expense of another is part of the very nature of gambling. The common consent involved in gambling does not excuse the stealing involved in gambling anymore than common consent excuses the murder involved in dueling.
The Bible does not specifically forbid gambling, but there are several biblical principles that should make Christians hesitate to participate:
- God presents work as the normal way to get the money we need (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:12).
- When a person cannot work, the second choice is prayer (Phil. 4:6, 19).
All my income belongs to God, not me (Psalms 24:1), and I am not free to use it as I wish. I am a steward, who should use it for God’s purposes. Christians are called on to meet the needs of their family (1 Tim. 5:8), and share with others, particularly Christians who have needs (2 Cor 8-9; Gal. 6:6-10; 3 John).
Does God want me to use His money to buy a lottery ticket? God uses money to accomplish important purposes in my life:
Meet basic needs (Matt. 6:11; I Tim. 6:8).
Build character (Phil 4:10-13)
Give direction, by providing or withholding resources.
Helping others through me.
Show His power by providing miraculously.
Gambling does not accomplish any of these things. In fact, it hinders these things being accomplished in my life. So, a person must ask themselves, “Am I looking to God or to the lottery for my needs?”
The Bible says that it is required of a steward that a man be found faithful 1 Cor 4:3). Since we are to be stewards of everything we have, (not just our money), and we are to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7), gambling that which we have stewardship over is directly opposite of a life of faith.
Greed and covetousness are sin (Exo. 20:18; I Tim. 6:9; Heb. 13:5), and these are motives in most gambling. The book of Proverbs warns of disaster for people who want to get rich quickly (28:20, 22). Not only that, wealth that comes easily goes just as easily (Pro. 13:11). AND, if it is gained the wrong way it can even break up families (Pro. 15:27).
Psalm 116:17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
Recently, when I read this verse of scripture, the Lord grabbed my attention to the phrase: “the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” I have read the Bible through several times and never noticed this phrase. I guess I assumed that it was a common phrase so there was nothing exceptionable about it. It is amazing however, to read through the Bible continually and find one nugget that you always knew existed, yet you never noticed before. “Thanksgiving of sacrifice.” I wondered what it could mean. I saying “thank you” to the Lord considered a “sacrifice?”
When I teach others how to interpret the Bible, I always emphasize reading the verse in context as well as comparing scripture with scripture (1 Cor. 2:13). Comparing Scripture with Scripture is vital to understanding everything about a given truth. The things of God are best interpreted by the words of God, and the greatest interpreter of the Bible is the Bible itself.
The phrase “sacrifice of thanksgiving” is only mentioned in 6 verses of the entire Bible:
- Leviticus 7:12 If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried.
- Leviticus 7:13 Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings.
- Leviticus 22:29 And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will.
- Psalm 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
- Psalm 116:17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
- Amos 4:5 And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
Now we know that it is appropriate to be thankful to the Lord for what He has done for us. If your heart has been touched by the Lord at all, then you are truly thankful for you know the value of the gift He has given you freely, as well as knowing the price that He had to pay to purchase it. I mean, in the shadow of such understanding, only a truly touched person could be seriously thankful. The Lord likes such thanks. He does not give us gifts because His ego is tremendous and he relishes and lives for the thanks of our hearts, but He does enjoy knowing that we are thankful, for it demonstrates our complete understanding of what He is doing for us.
Every person of old who brought an offering to God was griping internally at the obligation. It was not easy to bring unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil. It took work to make cakes mingled with oil of fine flour and fry them. You had to put some time in to make unleavened bread in the middle of the wandering in the Sinai desert. It cut into your provisions to make all of that for the sacrifice. Every one of them fretted that he had lost something by giving up their food to the Lord, and for what? It more often than not resulted in every person who put something on the altar being inwardly consumed with anger that he had to give up something he wanted for himself. They all felt needy. They all felt like victims of religious tyranny. Because of their attitudes, God was outraged that they were all so busy worshiping themselves that they cannot find place to worship Him. God wanted one thing from them: he wanted them to stop worshiping themselves.
This is why He implements a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.” This is why he says that “those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me.” They are the people who recognize that “every wild animal of the forest is [God’s].” They are the people who know that they can’t give God anything; it all belongs to him already. They are the people who thank God for all his gifts and for his provision for their every need and for the animal that they put on the altar. The people who give thanks for the sacrificial animal also give thanks for God’s sovereignty. They don’t feel they have lost something when they give God what is his already.
Jesus talked about the same thing. Jesus, God in flesh, said that people who wanted to follow him had to deny self first. In other words, they had to stop worshiping themselves and feeling like victims every time there was some inconvenience or persecution or loss.
We all do it. It comes time to put money in the offering envelope, and it is hard to let go of that money, because the credit card bill is shockingly larger than expected this month. The church asks for volunteers to help serve food to homeless people on Saturday morning, and it seems like a great imposition on the only day you can sleep in. The youth director asks if you are willing to be a chaperon for the summer youth mission project, and you think, “But I only have two weeks of vacation a year. There goes one of them.” We all think we have rights, and we think we have ownership, and we think God asks too much.
God doesn’t ask much at all. All he really asks for is integrity and honesty. He wearies of never hearing a “Thank you” when every good gift we have in life is a gift from him.
The sacrifice of thanksgiving is not a barely audible “Thank you” choked out through clenched lips by a pouting child. We give the sacrifice of thanksgiving when we pray as we are taught by Christ, the one who sacrificed himself for us on the cross, “Thy will be done.”
It seems a bit disproportionate to read the detailed Law of Moses given by God at Sinai, and then to hear God say simply through Asaph, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.” But there is also a refreshing, unburdening confidence that washes over my soul when I consider that God is most pleased by simple, humble gratitude.
How quickly do we begin to think that God is most pleased with our rituals, our devotions, our meetings, and our offerings. We become the givers, and He becomes the recipient. We become the benefactors, He the beneficiary. We busy ourselves and run ourselves ragged attempting to please Him through activity and efficiency, sadly forgetting the sweetness of His grace and the simplicity of the gratitude that He desires.
The danger of sacrifices and rituals is that we are increasingly tempted to believe that we have something to offer God, when the sacrifice is actually meant to demonstrate that we are coming to God as His debtors. We start to assume that God needs what we’re presenting to him, an idea as offensive as it is ridiculous. We become like a convicted criminal congratulating himself on his morality as he offers his monetary fine to the judge who gave him a merciful sentence.
With incredible yet subtle audacity, we find ourselves believing that God is actually impressed. Not only is this blasphemous and horrifically backward, it is also binding. Once I believe that I have impressed God, I am bound to have to do it again. Like making a magical first impression that I can never live up to, I am enslaved to endless and exhausting efforts to win Him over.
This is why I am grateful for Asaph’s rich meditation in Psalm 50. Because he tells us that there are two simple ways to glorify God: to ask (v. 15) and to thank (v. 23). Better to come to God with no offering and a heart of gratitude than to come with the riches of a king and a spirit of self-sufficiency. Of course, better still to pour out offerings and sacrifices from a spirit of gratitude. Either way, may we always remember which one the Lord loves first, and loves best.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” This a precious admonition to the humble in heart, to those who tremble at God’s holiness and find themselves desperate before His perfect law. He is pleased most of all when we need Him, when we cry out to Him, when we call upon His name. In Psalm 50, God does not want my devotion. He wants my desperation, so that grace can overflow into gratitude.
Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High. (Psalm 50:14). What does God want from us? He does not want mere hymn singing, although that is fine. Nor does He want only prayer, although that too is fine. He does not simply want our attendance, although that is fine. What He wants, first, is a thankful heart. That is what He seeks, a thankful heart. Each one of us is to offer to Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving. A sacrifice is something into which we put effort; it costs us. Have you ever asked yourself why the Scriptures stress thanksgiving so much? Both the Old and New Testaments emphasize that above everything else, God wants thankfulness. Give thanks in all circumstances, says the apostle Paul, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Why is this? It is because thanksgiving only comes as a result of having received something. You do not give thanks until you have received something that comes from someone else. Therefore thanksgiving is the proper expression of Christianity, because Christianity is receiving something constantly from God.
Of course if you have not received anything from God, then you have nothing to thank Him for. Though you come to the service, you really have nothing to say. God is a realist. He does not want fake thanksgiving. I know there are certain people (and they are awfully hard to live with) who think that Christianity consists of pretending to be thankful. They think it means screwing a smile on your face and going around pretending that troubles do not bother you. That is a most painful form of Christianity. God does not want you to go around shouting, Hallelujah! I’ve got cancer! But there is something about having cancer to be thankful for. That is what He wants you to see. There are aspects of it that no one can possibly enjoy, but there are other aspects that reveal purpose, meaning, and reason. God wants you to see this–what He can do with that situation and how you can be thankful. Thanksgiving is the first thing He wants in worship.
The second thing is an obedient will. Fulfill your vows to the Most High. Notice the kind of obedience it is. It is not something forced upon you; it is something you have chosen for yourself. A vow is something you decide to give, a promise you make because of truth you have seen. You say, I never saw it like that before. I really ought to do something about it. God helping me, I’m going to do such and such. That is a vow. God says, I’m not asking you to do things you have not yet learned are important. But when you have vowed something, then do it. Act on it. Obey it.
Luke 22:31-34 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. 33And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. 34And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
A shipwrecked man managed to reach an uninhabited island. There, to protect himself against the elements and to safeguard the few possessions he had salvaged, he painstakingly built a little hut from which he constantly and prayerfully scanned the horizon for the approach of a ship. Returning one evening after a search for food, he was terrified to find the hut completely enveloped in flames. Yet by divine mercy this hard affliction was changed into a mighty advantage. Early the following morning he awoke to find a ship anchored off the island. When the captain stepped ashore, he explained, “We saw your smoke signal and came.” Everything the marooned man owned had to be destroyed before he could be rescued.
The trials and adversities of life are never pleasant, but in them we learn the secrets of His presence. None of us wishes for trials or adversity, but it is through them that God refines the metal of our lives and molds us into His image. Just as metal is placed in a furnace and heated to a white hot state so the dross can be removed, God allows us to enter the furnace of affliction so that He might refine and purify our lives.
In our text, Simon Peter is made to understand the fact that he is about to be tested. He is encouraged in this revelation by the fact that the Lord Himself will take an active part in his trial. I know people who are going through adversity. I know they face battles and trials that cannot be imagined. However, I also know there is hope! This passage lets us know that we do not have to fail in the attacks of life. We do not have to crawl away in defeat, never to be heard from again. Anyone can endure the trials, tests and adversities of life. Even if you have failed, you can still rise from the ashes and salvage what Satan has attempted to destroy. There is Help For Sifted Saints.
“Satan Is Determined To Destroy Your Life with trials!”
Jesus tells Peter that Satan has made a request to have “all” the disciples to test the reality of their faith. The word “desired” means “to demand, to ask for oneself.” The word “you” is plural in nature. It is a request for all the disciples. His demand is that he might “sift” them. This is an agricultural term that refers to the savage process of separating the husk of the wheat from the grain. The wheat was crushed under foot, then it was agitated, or thrown into the air. The chaff, or husk, was blown away by the wind and all that was left behind was the good grain. Satan wanted to tear at the heart of God by proving that there was no reality to the faith of the disciples. Satan believed that he could crush them, sift them and that nothing would be left but a lost heart. He had already done this with Judas! He believed that he could do it to the rest.
We battle a determined enemy. He wants nothing more than to cut the heart of God by sifting our lives. He wants to prove that we are phonies. He wants to show God and the world that there is nothing to our professions of faith. He wants to destroy everything of value in your life. The Bible tells us in 1 Pet. 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” He wants to ruin your testimony. He wants to destroy your home. He wants to wreck your influence. He wants to take away everything of value in your life and leave you with nothing but a devastated shell of what you had!
If he can get you to believe a false profession, he will. If he can get your eyes off Jesus, he will. If he can drive a wedge between you and the members of your family, he will. If he can drive a wedge between you and the members of your church, he will. He will do everything he can to cut the heart of God and ruin your life! He will use whatever tactic he deems necessary to get you to fall, just like he did to Adam and Eve in Gen. 3:1-6. He will never stop until you fall, or you die!
If the devil gets his way in your life and you succumb to his attacks, remember this: Your sin doesn’t just affect you, it affects everyone around you! It is the absolute height of selfishness to live just to please yourself, while having no regard to what your sin is doing to your family, your church and to others in your sphere of influence! Surely you will agree with the Bible where it says in Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”! David’s sin with Bathsheba, (2 Sam. 11), affected him, Bathsheba, their baby, Bathsheba’s husband, and the house of David for years to come! You never walk away clean when you choose to walk away in sin!
“The Saints Have A Powerful Ally In Their Corner during trials!”
While all the disciples were in Satan’s sights, Peter received the promise of intercession. Jesus was praying for them all, but He spoke especially to Peter, because He knew that Peter was about to take the biggest fall, v. 34. Sin isn’t a maybe in our lives, it is a given! The Bible tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10). All the disciples failed the Lord that night, Mark 14:50 “…they all forsook him, and fled.” But Peter went beyond simple failure into the realm of outright denial of any relationship to Jesus when he said in Luke 22:57, “…Woman, I know him not.”
The times of testing and failure will come in our lives, but in the midst of them, let us take courage in the fact that we have Someone pleading our case, taking our part, praying for us in Heaven:
- Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
- Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
- 1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
Satan may have his devices and his schemes to tempt us and try us, but he doesn’t have the last word! In the midst of his scheming and planning, Jesus “butts” in to stand by our side until the trial has passed! He will never leave us, regardless of the task or trial. He says, “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”, (Heb. 13:5.)
Just because a temptation is offered to you, that does not mean that you have to fall into sin. Jesus has equipped us with all the resources we will ever need to be able to withstand anything the devil throws at us:
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
- Hebrews 2:18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
- James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
“No Failure from trials Should Ever Be Considered Final!”
Jesus makes it clear that Peter will fall, “when thou art converted”, means “when you have repented, or come back to me”, but that his fall will not be the final statement of his life. He was going to be restored and he was going to be used of the Lord in a great way. His preaching at Pentecost, and the great acts of faith of his life are some of those ways.
People may come under this kind of attack someday and fall into sin. Some have fallen and have already come back. Others have fallen and are still in that fallen state. It is comforting to know that your fall does not have to define your life!
God has made provision for the cleansing and the restoration of those who fall into sin. Those provisions include Confession, Repentance and Forgiveness. When we come clean about our sins and turn from them, the Lord will forgive and restore the fallen one to a place of service and blessing. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This truth is illustrated in the life of the Prodigal Son and what happened when he returned to his father, Luke 15:11-24.
When a person walks away from the things of the Lord and goes into sin and stays there, it means that one of two things is true:
They were never really saved. 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would not doubt have continued with us: bur they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
They are in open rebellion and are subject to the wrath and chastisement of the Lord. Rev. 3:19 says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
Genuine faith will falter, but it will never utterly fail! Peter came back because he was saved. When he was sifted, it was proven that his profession was genuine. There was some chaff, but there was a grain of real faith too!
When a believer falls into sin, those who genuinely love them will seek to restore them, Gal. 6:1-2. They will not condone or support their sinful actions, but they will not abandon them completely either!
“Never Say Never during trials!”
When Peter hears this prediction he, in typical Peter style, boasts of his love and devotion to the Lord. He vows to go to prison or even to death to prove his allegiance to Jesus. Peter forgot a very important principle of life, “Never Say Never!” No one is above falling into the snare of the enemy. Only when you are in his sifter can you know exactly what you will do! It is a dangerous thing to rely upon yourself and your ability to withstand temptation and testing. The Bible says, “…let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12). We’ve all seen someone act in certain ways and we have said, “I would never do that!” Be careful!
You are weakest in the area of your greatest strength! That may sound like a contradiction or a paradox, but it is true nonetheless! When you begin to think you have an area of your life absolutely conquered and that sin cannot possibly occur there, you will tend to let your guard down. When that happens you can be sure that the enemy will target you for sifting! Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 28:26 says, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” If you have the feeling that “It can’t happen to me!”, you are in danger of falling today!
The way an Eskimo kills a wolf is grizzly, yet it offers fresh insight into the consuming, self-destructive nature of sin. First the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. Then he adds another layer of blood, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood. Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now, harder and harder, the wolf licks the blade in the Arctic night. So great becomes the craving for blood that the wolf does not notice the razor sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue nor does he recognize the instant at which his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood. His carnivorous appetite just craves more–until the dawn finds him dead in the snow!
Such is the power sin has to destroy our lives. Thankfully, it does not have to be that way. Jesus has done everything necessary to provide a plan of salvation that will work for all people. He has promised to pray for us and to see us through the times of temptation and sifting. He has promised to receive, forgive and restore us when we do fail. There is no need for anyone to allow sin to devastate their life. If you want help as you face the times of sifting in life, you will find it in Jesus, and in Him alone!
Everyone knows that this great country of which we live won it’s war for independence from England. Independence is the nature of the USA. If a country had blood coursing through it’s veins, then ours would run hot with independence. In many of the countries of Asia or Europe, when asked of it’s people, “In one word, how would you describe Americans?”, they would say, “Independent! Americans are very independent.” We pride ourselves on our independence. We know nothing else than to think that independence is something that everyone should enjoy, so much so, that we send our youth to rally it’s cause on their behalf.
It is a wonderful thing to be independent because it speaks of freedom, but it is not good to be independent from everything. There are two things from which we can never be independent: God and people! As much as a person might want to think they are independent from these two, they can never be. We are all created beings of the true and only God, and we are all conceived from, birthed, and raised by people.
The is a fine line between being independent and being rebellious. To be independent is to be free from an unrighteous cause, whereas to be rebellious is to be free from something that is good. When you are in an overbearing situation from which you are not morally or legally bound; to through off that overbearing situation and seek another more righteous is when you are gaining independence. But, rebellion is when you are already in a righteous situation and you pridefully and arbitrarily decide you are going to be independent from that situation, then you are rebellious. Think of it this way: to be independent is to rebel; to rebel from something good, or to rebel from something bad. You are rebellious when you rebel from something good, but independent when rebelling from something bad. AND, it depends on if you are the rebel or the rebelled from on how you will look at it.
There is no one more righteous and just than God. He is so righteous that He is called–HOLY. Any move for independence from Him is not only a rebellious act, but originates from a rebellious spirit as well. Because of His holiness, and our being created in His image, it is pure rebellion to desire to live independent of Him. As far as God is concerned, the whole world is full of rebellious people (“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” Isa. 1:2). Any person living independent of God has become a god to himself, because he rejects God’s position of authority over him. This is the sad state of the world that we see around us today. Man submits himself to things, this is true, but he will not submit to God. This is rebellion.
The anointed Cherub–Lucifer–was lifted up in pride and eventually rebelled from God (Eze. 28:14-16). So, rebellion begins with pride–pride in thinking that you are better than others; pride in thinking you can do better if you could do it your own way. This is how Satan deceives people into rebelling from the righteous and holy God. He begins by whispering little hints of prideful things into the conscience of man. Soon, man begins to see himself as being smarter and better than God. From there, rebellion takes its course. Rebellion in turn leads to independence of God. God’s created being, made in His very own image, is independent from Him and refuses to submit to what is right. All because Satan has worked to make man think prideful things. Anytime we realize we are thinking prideful things, we should take note that we are on the path of rebellion from God.
Of course, total rebellion from God does not happen all at once. It happens in increments until we are overcome with a rebellious spirit. Satan’s legions work on one thing at a time. The most common are an independence from Bible reading, church attendance, prayer, tithing, etc. Each of these is a chink in the armor of submission to God. We may think that we don’t need these things, but we do. We may think that we can do without one of these things “just this once”, but once leads to another. Soon, we are overcome and then the Devil concentrates on the next. It is all influenced by pride, which leads to rebellion, which leads to independence. Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, tithing and witnessing are all pillars which hold up our Christian life. When one crumbles, the others are soon to follow. You can tell if you are subject to these if you ever find yourself saying, “I used to read my Bible, pray, tithe, etc.” Or, “I remember when I…” Or, “I need to get back to …”. These are all signs of living a life of independence from God; the process has taken place and snuck up on you: Pride–Rebellion–Independence!
On this Independence day, as we celebrate our independence from a wicked heavy handed rule, which led to the establishment of this great country, let us reflect on this one thought: “Am I living independent from God? Am I a rebel from righteousness?”
In today’s world, when a person turns to God’s word, it is important that they find it. The Devil is a master deceiver. He can make you feel as though you are absolutely at peace being wrong. He can’t change dirt into ice cream, but he can make you think you are eating the most delicious ice cream when all the time you are eating dirt. Likewise, he can do the same with the Bible. He can make you think, beyond a shadow of doubt, that you have the right words of God when all the time you have a counterfeit. Martin Luther discovered this a long time ago and he was eventually killed for speaking out about it.
Psalm 12:6-7 says, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”
I trust as you look on the Bible Comparison charts included, that you will get some semblance of the deception that Satan has put in place as a policy to cause God’s people to become weak and anemic. I hope these will open your eyes.