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.

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