Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Keeping Newness New

Keeping Newness New

“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).

We are challenged to remain excited about the things that have entered our life with a "new car” smell. New things always carry excitement to the one who receives them. But it seems like just as soon as they come new, they tend to become old. We seem to lose interest in things the longer they are in our lives. And once they become old, we seem to lose the zeal we once had for them.

Christians face that same challenge in their spiritual walk with the Lord that snatched “them from the fires” (Jude 23) that was once going to consume their souls. In our spiritual walk we face the greatest challenge of not allowing our physical habits to hinder our spiritual faithfulness. Our fleshly habit with new things is to grow tired of them quickly. How can we avoid this habit from infiltrating our spiritual zeal? We will look at God’s word to help us remain focused.

To the Christian, spiritual maturity is what is important and we must stay excited about reaching that goal. Like the football player in the NFL whose goal is to reach the Super Bowl, we must not allow temporary defeats to take our focus off the overall goal. Satan is like the opponent on the gridiron trying to defeat us in a game so we will be discouraged and lose focus on the overall season. He uses trials to try to discourage our faith, but proper focus helps us to overcome these attempts: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3).

The way to remain faithful to our goal is to remain joyful even during trials knowing God is using them to strengthen our faith. If we choose to focus on the trials and not the result we will get burned out and will one day lose the zeal these trials were designed to build in us. When Jesus faced the trial of the cross, His focus was on the result of the trial and not the trial itself. He didn’t allow Satan to discourage His focus. His Father promised to raise Him on the third day to reveal to man that eternal life had been made available to the faithful and that was the focus Jesus remained fixed on to persevere the most agonizing trial ever faced by man. His focus kept Him determined to accomplish His Father’s will and His faith revealed victory to all.

Satan tries to get us to focus on the temporary agonies of the trials we face so we will get discouraged and lose our zeal for the life that is offered through the Suffering Savior. But proper focus will keep us strong. Remaining focused on the victory of Christ will keep us from allowing fear to overcome us and steal our joy: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

God has called us to the life of His Son. It is a life of self-denial, sacrifice and suffering. To gain the goal of holiness that this life offers we must remain focused on the One who has overcome the temptations to give up. Don’t let Satan steal your life by causing you to lose focus. Persevere these trying times and prove to yourself and to those around you the powerful the life in Christ.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The "Un" Deceived

The “Un” Deceived
How many people are sitting in a proverbial peaceful state without actually knowing peace? God has sent peace to a world that has not accepted His peace because they strive to find their idea of peace. Sad part of this is that the world cannot know peace until they come to know God. Only His peace can bring the comfort of knowing that I am free from His wrath. Most people choose not to find this peace because they have already found comfort in a false pretense of what peace is:

"They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, 'Peace, peace,' But there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

Satan has a plan to confuse the world. His plan is executed by placing doubt in our minds about truth. God’s word is truth (John 17:17) and He has made sure we can know this by establishing the things that are written. Hebrews 5:3-4 gives irrefutable evidences to this proclamation of faith. In verse 2, the writer shows us that angels spoke the “LOGOS” of God. This is a Greek word meaning “the reasoning” or the way God thinks. John described Jesus as the “Word” revealing to us that Jesus came to unveil the mindset of our Creator. And although this was prophesied, the Jewish religious leaders would not accept Him as truth. They thought they had found salvation in their own beliefs, which was proven wrong as Paul reminded the Jewish people that they had been “cut off” and needed to be grafted back into the olive tree (Romans 11:24). God established his truth through His powerful miracles, signs and wonders.

God has proven His word as truth, and in His word there is the keys to His peace (Matthew 16:19). His truth has opened the door to the “peace of God that goes beyond all comprehension” (Philippians 4:7). The world does not know this peace because they have been deceived to think that knowing God doesn’t motivate change. They have been fooled to believe that God is forced to tolerate our worldliness because He created us this way. But noting can be further from the truth. God’s word has called us to die to our old ways and be born again into a new life (Romans 6:1-4). This is change.

You don’t have to be among the deceived. You can be like the Bereans and be “more noble-minded” (Acts 17:11). You can search “the Scriptures daily” to make sure what you are being taught is true. God has given us a way out of ignorance by sending His grace to this ungodly world (Titus 2:11-13). If we will learn from Jesus, we can choose to accept the wisdom that comes from above (James 3:17) and deny the “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). We have the opportunity to “know the truth” (John 8:32) and “test every spirit” (1 John 4:1) to make sure we are enjoying true peace and not the pseudo-peace Satan uses to deceive the world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Enduring Hardships

“But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Like many other families that enjoy the company of pets, our family once faced the trial of losing a dear friend we had in our dog, Krani. It was a trying time for us and we thank God for the comfort the church brought to our ailing hearts at that time. The compassion they showed touched us greatly and it also helped us to stay strong. Their love also helped us learn from this trial instead of ignoring the teachings that God provided in this tragedy. That is what church family is all about, strengthening one another and edifying us for growth (1 Corinthians 14:26).

All the trials we face must be handled in faith: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Handling trials in faith means that we not only make it through the trials, but that we maintain the attitude of Christ throughout the trial (Philippians 2:5). We must know how Christ would handle it and follow in His footsteps. It is easy to be like Christ in good times but the real test is to be like Him during trials.

One aspect of the attitude of Christ in trials is that He never missed an opportunity to learn. He used whatever situation God gave Him to learn of ways to accomplish His Father’s will. We should always be looking for lessons to be learned in trials. God has given us a promise to work thing in our favor (Romans 8:28). The way any situation could be worked for good is if we will handle it with our focus on God’s purpose. His purpose for us is to glorify His name (1 Peter 4:16) by denying the logic of flesh and live strictly by faith in what He can accomplish through our trial (2 Corinthians 5:7).

God doesn’t want to discourage us nor does He want us to fall away. He provides us with everything we need to handle every trial we face (1 Corinthians 10:13). In fact, He even strengthens us to use these trials to draw us nearer to Him: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3). Satan can use trials to defeat us if we choose to focus on the agony of the trial instead of the pleasure of victory provided through faithfulness.

Although trials are not fun, nor are we happy to face them, we can endure these trials with joy because it is an opportunity for us to reveal the strength of Christ to a weak and dying world. Christ used the trials He faced to glorify His Father’s name by not giving in to Satan’s temptation to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30). Not only will God strengthen us through trials, He also gives us an opportunity to use these trying times to grow in our faith as we continue to walk in His footsteps and gain victory over the trials we face.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Conformity

Conformity
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

Christians today face a wide variety of difficulties, challenges and even dangers. But one of the greatest dangers we face is being deceived to rest on the pseudo comfort of popularity. Satan uses the world’s influence to tempt us to become conformed to the ways of the world. He uses those who dwell on the earth to apply the pressure that squeezes comfort out of those who stand up against the ways of the world. But conforming to the comfort of the world is accepting the penalty of separation from God.

When Paul used the idea of foreknowledge, He didn’t mean anyone is forced into a certain destination. He taught that God has already set a predetermined plan for salvation and He knows who will choose that way of life before the choice is even made. Those that make the choice to live according to His plan are being conformed into the image of His Son. This transformation allows us to find comfort letting go of earthly acquirements we once saw as valuable to “gain Christ” and “know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:8, 10).

In the present state of existence, the Christian’s spirit is being transformed to be more and more like Christ: “[Christ] will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:21). The body of our humble state is our present physical bodies. These corruptible, dying bodies we now live in will be changed. As Christ rose from the dead, we also shall rise from the depths of the grave, and our bodies, like His, will be alive with Him for evermore (Romans 6:1-4).

But even this wonderful prospect is not the best of it, however. Not only will our bodies be incorruptible like His, but we shall be like Him in every way. The Bible reveals the Christian’s hope to someday be with Christ in heaven and be like Him. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). We will be like Him in holiness, in love, and also in wisdom because in passing into that realm we will fully understand Him in all His glory. The Bible does not tell us exactly what we will be like, but we can know there will be change: “It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). So, in the words of God, Christians are actually predestined to be conformed to the very image of His own Son (Romans 8:29). That’s true conformity!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Being Sharp

Being Sharp
“Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

We would be in trouble if God’s mind was limited by the boundaries of flesh like ours. But we can be grateful that He is different. He is omniscient which means He knows everything and all things before they happen. In His ultimate knowledge and wisdom, He established His church on this Earth to sharpen the minds of the world(Ephesians 3:10-12). For us to fulfill the purpose of building knowledge and saving souls, we must be willing to open our minds to the iron to be sharpened.

As Jesus taught the world about God and His love for them, they were amazed at His sharpness. They were fascinated at His understanding of the prophets and sacred writings of what we know today as the Old Testament (Luke 4:32). They were amazed at His willingness to teach truth even when so called religious leaders taught differently. It was obvious that those religious leaders were not as confident in what they thought they knew as Jesus was in what was known by Him. His love for God’s cause caught the ears and hearts of those who were seeking truth. The ones that wanted to be sharpened by truth became His disciples.

There are people in the church that have a desire to be sharpened. They have faith in what Paul told Timothy:

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

We have an opportunity to sharpen our knowledge of God to be approved by the One who sharpened Jesus. God’s word is the tool that He has authorized to sharpen the minds of the church.

The faithful people of the church want to be sharpened. They are not looking for fables, myths, or philosophies that fill their time, but are longing for truth that will fill their hearts with pure love for God and His cause. They desire Bible teachers who study diligently to bless the class with an opportunity to be sharpened:

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

There are enough false teachers in the world to confuse the minds of men with stories. In the church we need faithful teachers to keep our minds sharp and our hearts filled with sincere love.

The church’s struggle with ignorance is not something new: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (Hosea 4:6). God spoke to the prophets to keep ignorance from causing problems for His chosen vessel, Israel. But, as the Scriptures reveal, they didn’t desire God’s knowledge as much as they desired to be known. God has snatched us from the world of ignorance because we show Him a desire to be sharpened. Let us hold our Bible teachers to the standard of truth that God has assured will sharpen our minds in the ways of faithfulness. If we want to avoid being destroyed, we must make sure that Bible truth is being taught in our classes. Man’s philosophy and stories cause more problems than good:

“[N]or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:4).

Satan is out to destroy the church and ignorance is one of his most effective weapons. Stay sharp in your knowledge of God’s truth and defeat Satan’s plan to destroy. Allow your mind and heart to be sharpened by the iron of God's truth.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Searching

As Susan and I sit here and watch passing students go by, we are wondering how much time does the world give to thinking about or making plans for their salvation. Satan is the god of this world:

2Co 4:4
in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

and his plan is to make sure our lives are too filled up with worldliness to have time to give to God. But remember that Satan leads to death whereas God is leading the saints who give Him their lives, to life:

Joh 3:16
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

The choice is up to us but the choice should be easy, depending what our desires truly are.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

From Cub's Den: Too Important

Too Important
“…for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

Do you remember the Mercedes TV commercial a few years ago that showed a Mercedes crashing into a concrete wall during a safety test? An engineer in a white lab coat walks over after the crash and kneels down to examine the damage, which is minimal. A reporter then asks the engineer about Mercedes' energy-absorbing car body. After the engineer tells us all about the unique design, the reporter asks him why Mercedes doesn't enforce their patent on the design, a design evidently copied by several other companies because of its proven success. The engineer then replies matter-of-factly, “Because some things in life are too important not to share.”

Although there are many things in life that are important to share, none of them equal the importance of sharing your faith. Faith in Christ holds the key to eternal life. This fact alone is enough to share your faith with all those who are not partakers of it. Eternal life is too important not to tell others about. Jesus shows the importance of sharing your faith in His commissioning of the apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). The gospel of Christ is too important not to share because the Bible teaches that it is God’s power to save man from eternal death (Romans 1:16).

Sharing your faith in God is vitally important because of its power to heal. There was a woman living during the time of Jesus who was losing blood at an alarming rate. She did not know what to do, or even to whom she could turn. Then she heard of Jesus, and her faith in Him made her well. “But Jesus turning and seeing her said, ‘Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.’ At once the woman was made well” (Matthew 9:22). Today the miraculous power of healing has been done away with (1 Corinthians 13:9-10), but the spiritual healing is still available through faith. People cannot have faith unless we tell them about Jesus (Romans 10:14). Evangelism is vital to a dying world.

The joy you have found in God must be so great that even if you wanted to hold it in you couldn’t succeed. It must burn in you like an unquenchable fire, burning so badly you become “weary of holding it in”, and [you] cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9). What you have been taught through God’s word is a “treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14) by God Himself. His treasure is to be “guarded” by you, but it is also to be entrusted “to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). The word of God reveals His plan of salvation, and was presented to you for the purpose of sharing with others. The excitement of knowing God’s word is too important not to share.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

From Cub's Den: Effective Prayer

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Prayer is an effective tool provided for those who are faithful to God and His ways. God has chosen not only to give us the opportunity to approach His throne of grace, but to approach with confidence. The Greek word for confidence carries the idea of freedom of speech. When you submit to God’s will to be cleansed from your sin in baptism, you have “clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27) and have been given the authority to speak openly to God. Confidence to approach God is given in submission to His will.

But prayer is a privilege not a debt. In other words, God doesn’t owe us His attention. He is the authority of this world (Matthew 28:18) and His will is top priority. Even Jesus, who is our Savior, gave top priority to the Father’s will: “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work’” (John 4:34). This eaenest desire to please God at all costs was the foundation of the Father-Son relationship between Jesus and God. As Jesus set His mind on the will of the Father, God opened His ears to His prayers and He not only heard His prayers, but He answered them.

We want that same kind of attention when we offer prayers to the Almighty God. We know God hears all prayers, but what has priority when God answers them? The writer of the book of Proverbs helps us in this matter: “He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). If you want your prayers to be effective you must be willing to know God’s law. Even though we are under a new covenant (Hebrews 9:15), we are still under God’s law (1 Corinthians 9:21). God’s attention goes to those who prove themselves as “doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). Give your attention to God’s law so that He will direct His attention to your prayers and they will not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

Isaiah wrote that God’s ears are not too dull to hear prayers, but he also shows that God chooses not to hear those who serve sin: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). It is not that God desires not to hear, but sin causes a separation between the sinner and God and He cannot tolerate sin. He loves the sinner but hates the sin and those who choose to continue to serve sin rather than God do not love God. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15 NASU). Keeping God’s law is a result of love working in those who receive the greatness of His blessings.

God’s ears are attentive to those who choose to live a life of faith: “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). No man is righteous within himself (Romans 3:23), so the righteous man is made righteous through faith in Jesus (Romans 5:19). The prayers of a righteous man come from a man who knows God’s will as the ruling authority in his life (Matthew 7:21). His heart is set on things above rather than the temporary pleasures of this world (Colossians 3:1). If these words don’t describe your faith in God, make the proper adjustments so your prayers will be made effective.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

From Cub's Den: Spiritual Check-up

“Examine me, O LORD, and try me; test my mind and my heart” (Psalm 26:2).

To stay healthy we need to visit a physician on a regular basis to have our bodies examined. The doctor tells us how healthy we are and also what changes we need to make to stay healthy. If we are smart we will follow his instructions because we know that the doctor has our best interests in mind and his advice will prolong our life.

But the physical body is not the only body that needs examining. Our spiritual body, being the most important, also needs examining to remain healthy. It is the most important because it is the body that we will bring into heaven with us (1 Corinthians 15:50). But how serious are we when it comes to spiritual health? Do we keep our spiritual body in top shape to receive the reward of the “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10)? Remember, only the healthy receive the reward that God gives in eternity.

To remain healthy we must allow God to examine us. He is the ultimate Physician and He came to earth to make the sick well (Mark 2:17). Like our physical doctors, the Lord examines different parts of the body to make a proper diagnosis. When you go to the physical doctor he examines you by asking you to open your mouth. He can tell a lot about your health by examining your tongue. God can also make diagnosis from our open mouth: “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless” (James 1:26). God knows our hearts by the way we use our tongue. If our words are used in a derogatory manner then God sees our soul as sick and dying (Matthew 15:11). Are you concerned with your mouth? God is.

Sin destroys the heart of the soul and the heart is the main point of concern when it comes to God’s examination. His plan is to examine the hearts of people and provide the cure that will bring them into a covenant relationship with Him through His Son. Jesus is at the right hand of His Father (Rom 8:34) and His word is the tool He uses to examine us (John 12:48). His gospel is the “power of God” to cure the diseased heart (Romans 1:16). Knowing we are spiritually sick, we must desire healing. The only cure for spiritual ailment is the blood of Jesus, who gave His life that we may be healed (Isaiah 53:5).

We must remember that physical health is not all we should be concerned with. Our spiritual health is more valuable. Our response to the Physician’s remedy determines what state of health our spirit will remain in. We must be willing to follow the Physician’s method of cure to remain healthy. He is not only our Physician, He is our Father who loves and cares for us.

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