Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Church Perception

“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

One of the most overlooked aspects of being a member of the Lord’s church is the fact that allowing God to add you to this group of the saved only occurs when one is willing to let go of the former way of life they once grasped. Many claim to be members of “the church,” but their life still resembles the world they continue to exist within, or the world that continues to exist within them. The Lord’s church is established within the person through a confession of faith that proclaims Jesus as Lord and this proclamation is going to make an impact in their lives so great that nothing will remain the same: “You shall know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:20).

Jesus came to this land with a vision of the will of God. He lived to leave a lasting impression of holiness on the people in whom He visited. He wanted to show them a life-changing love that would lead them out of the world of death and into the kingdom of life. He never forced anyone into this change, but when the people he visited decided to love Him, that decision demanded change to take place in their hearts. It is astonishing to see so many today make the claim to love Jesus, but are not willing to make Him Lord. What do they think when Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will Keep My commandments” (John 14:15)? When one loves Jesus they devote their walk of life to the guidance of His love. This desire to follow Christ is not fully revealed as the words “I love you” leave the mouth. True discipleship is fully revealed when our fleshly desires have left our heart. This is the circumcision of the heart revealed by Paul in Romans 2:25-29.

Jesus’ dream became reality in Acts 2 when His promise of the power of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. What we tend to miss in this wonderful section of Scripture is how the world was changed through the submission of authority and subjection to God’s power. In verse 38 we see Peter concluding his sermon with an invitation to change: “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” This is an amazing invitation to forgiveness, at least to the church. But to the world it has been an invitation to refuse, refute and even rebel. God has called the church out of their sin and into forgiveness through His Son’s blood. It is sad that many in the world do not have “ears that hear” because of an unwillingness to change.

Believe it or not, baptism is God’s way of washing away sin. And although there are many that believe that prayer is the way to salvation, there is not one Scripture that verifies that notion. Now, some may use Scripture out of context to prove their point, but they are seeing Scripture through eyes of flesh, and that causes great difficulties: “I know, O LORD, that a man's way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Satan uses our flesh to confuse us about the power of the Lord’s Spirit. But the church will always perceive God’s word through “the faith” that never questions the authority of God’s written word (2 Peter 3:16). The world remains unclear about the truth that God sent to set man free (John 8:32), but that is only because they are still in the grasp of the evil one that steals, kills and destroys the life that God prescribed (John 10:10). The church doesn’t believe because their names are written in the Book of Life, their names are written in the Book of Life because they believe (John 3:16).

In His Love,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Who You Looking At?

“Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God” (3 John 1:11).

When Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett both passed away the world had lost important icons. The world looked up to these two individuals for their success in the entertainm...ent business, and for good reason, as they were very successful. They saw in them great examples of how to be successful in the “material world.” But as God’s children, should we be so quick to follow examples like these?

When John wrote the passage in 3 John, there were some struggles going on in church leadership. John was writing to an individual by the common name of Gaius. From what John spoke of this man we can conclude that he was a very dedicated man to his walk with the Lord. John called him “beloved” that shows this man worthy of being loved. He was prosperous in his faith and he was dedicated to the truth that God sent to set us free. He was hospitable to those who were working in the Lord’s kingdom and the church recognized his efforts as being faithful to the Light. This was obviously a man to follow.

But John also mentions another name, Diotrephes, a man who is totally opposite of the character of Gaius. Notice the differences in this man and the quality of character God is trying to produce in His children. Diotrephes was a man that sought prominence. He obviously didn’t like second place. He had a nature that strove to be liked by his peers no matter what expense it was to his spiritual condition. Gaius was, by dying to himself, a servant of those around him, whereas Diotrephes felt he needed to be served. Jesus reminds us which one we are to follow: “But the greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). Servants are true disciples and worthy of our following.

Another character flaw in Diotrephes that was opposite of Gaius was his lack of love for truth. Gaius walked in truth (v.2) whereas Diotrephes wouldn’t accept the truth (v.9). Gaius died to his fleshly desires and let the word of God guide his thoughts and words. Diotrephes didn’t allow truth to mold him from the inside, which caused an ungodly man to emerge on the outside. As John expressed, a godly life is manifested in love for truth.

Unfortunately today there are still men of the spirit of Diotrephes. There are men that are too proud to let truth change their way of thinking. There are men that are easy to recognize as terrible leaders because they are not humble enough to change even when truth eradicates erroneous ways in them (James 1:22-24). There are men that think that their way is the only way and they allow this ungodly spirit to rule in their lives. This will cause them to be lacking in their hospitality as it did Diotrephes. But church members have a way to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). We have God’s word to show us such men as Gaius and Diotrephes. And although the world may long to follow such men as the likes of Diotrephes, members of the Lord’s church must make sure that the leaders we follow are being guided by the humble spirit of our Lord.

In His Love,

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Servant Life

“[W]e are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

Answering God’s call doesn’t bring t...he promise of an easy life. The reason for this is because it is a call to surrender the life we once knew and take on the life of a servant. Now if that doesn’t seem hard, then maybe it is because we are not understanding what all is entailed in the life of a servant. Jesus proclaimed His life to be lived as a servant: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus’ life is proof that living as a servant is a life that is appreciated by few. And although the people He served did not accept His service, Jesus continued through faith in serving the will of God.

When Paul wrote about his experience as a servant of the word of God, he used some words that might bring fear to the heart of the common man. But giving up is just what God’s adversary wants us to do. He makes our walk upon this earth as difficult as he can. Paul says he causes us “affliction.” This word is used to describe the work of a winepress. We are being pressed and squeezed as satan tries to steal the victory that is found in the life God has poured into us. He uses the weakness of our flesh to convince us that this life is not for us. But God has delivered His Spirit to lead us through the difficult times and sustain our walk by assuring us of the treasure that will be rewarded to those who overcome (Revelation 17:14). We are not “crushed” because we believe Paul’s inspired statement that Satan’s pressure is “not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Satan cannot steal a servant’s heart.

The fact that Satan never gives up and his attack is brutal is made evident in the word “perplexed.” Satan tries to make us feel like we have been deserted. He tries to confuse us by making us think we can never win. The world is relentless as they continually turn to their own ways instead of turning to God. And if that is not enough, they go out of their way to make the servant’s lifestyle the object of their mockery. As we strive to remain faithful to the call of Christianity, we are not always blessed with the physical luxuries that the world who mocks us is enjoying and physical satisfaction can be used to confuse us. God’s way out of the perplexity in the life of a servant is through faith. We serve God in love and His love cannot fail (1 Corinthians 13:8) and we do not despair because we have faith that God will give us victory (2 Corinthians 5:7). And we live in hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).

In summary, God’s servants are being put “through the mill” in an attempt to get us to give up. As you serve God in love, know His promise of life is being delivered in us as we walk this earth (John 10:10). Our steps are guided by our faith in His plan and His way is illuminated by truth. Do not let Satan’s invalid attempts to realign your focus be successful. Let your focus remain on God’s truth and not Satan’s lies. Let your heart be guided by God’s love and not Satan’s hate. Make it a habit to stay away from people who are not living according to the faith that assures us a place at His right hand (1 Corinthians 15:33). Satan is always going to persecute you as you are walking in faith. Keep focused on the life God offers by staying faithful to the call to being a servant of the Most High.

In His Love,
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Friday, June 10, 2011

Walking Tall

“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9).

The life of a Christian is different because it is a life of striving for a goal that requires faith to ...realize. It requires a willingness to place the interest of others around us at a higher priority than even our own desires. It is a difficult lifestyle because the things we are taught in the fleshly mindset are now regarded as stumbling blocks that cause problems reaching this new goal. It is holiness for which we strive, a goal that is mocked, ridiculed and even despised by our friends and even family. It is a goal that requires us to change our hearts so we can change our minds to let go of the things that are not allowing us to be made “complete in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). We know that God has a specific lifestyle of holiness for His children and to reach that goal we surrender our own will.

God’s ways are tremendously different from any way of human origin. To understand His mind we must open our minds to the Example He sent in Jesus, our Lord. We must let go of the instructions we once received about how to make it in this world because our goal is not to make it in this world but to make it out of this world (John 15:19). His love has changed our minds about what it is we want to become. We confessed Jesus as Lord because we decided to no longer follow the ways of the world. We turned our hearts back to God because we desired to be led to eternal life, not deceived into eternal judgment.

It is true that God is a complex being, but His mind is opened to us in a manner of simplicity. He presented the simplicity of His logic to mankind so we could know what He desires in His children (1 John 5:13). When it comes to understanding God’s desire for us, we need to recognize that He desires greater things for us than the world can know. He is using His love to mold us into the image of holiness. We are to be transformed into the image of His Son and not conformed to the image of the world in which we are visiting (Romans 12:2). Our relationship with Jesus will determine how we discern good and evil. If we love Jesus then our minds are set on following His steps to avoid having any resemblance to the ugliness that dresses the world.

Hosea wrote to a nation to instruct them to leave their carnal ways of pride, idolatry and spiritual adultery. But the people would not listen and continued to follow the unholy ways of the world. This eventually led the Hebrew nation into the captivity of an ungodly nation. The Lord’s unheeded instructions were to turn from their worldly ways and return to God and His cry is still heard from the pulpits today. We are God’s children and we have to turn away from the world and its ways if we are to remain in God’s grace. We must study His mind to be wise; we must sacrifice what we once held as knowledge to know Him, and we must strive to be like Christ to reveal what is “good, acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2) to the world by disregarding what is good to their carnality.

In His Love,

Monday, June 6, 2011

Believe It or Not! It's in the Bible -- 2011 VBS is here!

We will begin our VBS 2011 this evening at 7:00 PM at Maryville church of Christ. We will be looking at 1 Kings 18:17-40 and see why we should choose to serve God over any false gods that Satan uses to try to fill our lives. God has shown through the Bible that His power cannot be defeated (Almighty shows Him as undefeatable). He has proven throughout the lives of geat men and women that choosing His will over the will of self brings forth His promise of life abundant (Jn 10:10). It is a much better way of life because it is directed by God Himself as we as humans have no way of directing ourselves when it comes to a relationship with our God (Jer 10:23) because flesh doesn't desire godliness (Rom 8:6-7). He has opened the door to His love through Jesus and gives us the liberty to choose righteousness and godliness over worldliness. But the world we live in tries hard to win our devotion by making things that oppose the will of God seem so pleasurable, a lesson that came to Peter for all of our benefit:

"But He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's'" (Matt 16:23). All Peter desired was to protect Jesus. But protecting Jesus in this situation was just what Satan wanted. Without the death of Jesus ther could be no burial or resurrection to life.

Elijah was humble enough to receive God's commands and courageous enough to stand up for God even in the face of 450 prophets of Baal, and he was successful. We are challenged in the same way to stand up for godliness in the face of a world that lives in opposition to God's way, and like Elijah, we can be succesful if we will take our focus off the trial and set our goal on the victory that faith in Jesus provides (1 Jn 5:4). Are you courageous enough to receive the victory?? I pray that you are or will be as life depends on your decision.

In Him,