Monday, December 10, 2012

Discernment

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

The Bible is a book of contrasts revealing the benefits of being a child of God. It is a book of history that shows many people being made perfect through their faith in Jesus and His power to change the hearts of even the most difficult. It is God’s way of revealing His love as opposed to Satan trying to deceive us in his hatred. All the way through the inspired accounts of men and women going through transformation we can easily see that choosing God’s love is the only way.

The Bible begins with the creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Right away we must choose to believe God’s version or the many different illogical theories of man, such as the “Big Bang” theory. The choice was made possible by the human mind that seems to stumble when it must simply trust God for understanding of something that is too big for it to envelop. The finite human mind just cannot fathom the world coming into existence just from God speaking. It has to be able to physically see something to believe it, so it has come up with its own explanation, the world accidently being brought together as a result of a great explosion in the atmosphere. But this author dares to ask which one of these possibilities takes more faith to believe, God’s truth or man’s lies. We have been given a great opportunity to believe in God through his creation: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Denying God’s power will only cause one to be denied eternal life when judgment comes.

The Bible also contrasts good and evil. Since the beginning of time we have clearly seen this battle between what God is trying to produce in man and what Satan is trying to deceive man into becoming. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the “paradise” of His companionship but Satan appeared as a serpent to tempt them to surrender this relationship for one that he deceived them to believe would be better for them. He did this by manipulating the truth God gave Adam by adding one word. He added the word “not” to God’s statement, “…for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die" (Genesis 2:17) and said, “"You surely will not die!” (Genesis 3:3). By adding one word to God’s command he led Adam and Eve to surrender their relationship with God for a relationship with death.

We who are in a relationship with God through the covenant He established in His Son are being tempted everyday through the same trickery of Satan. He comes like a lamb in sheep’s clothing to “steal, kill and destroy” our relationship with God. He deceives us and tempts us to believe in something that is not true like he did in the Garden of Eden. But God’s grace has given us true food that, once digested, will make us defiant to Satan’s trickery: “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). The contrast here is mature and immature. We are tempted to be content with our knowledge of God’s truth so that we will not mature. This is Satan’s way of keeping us vulnerable to his evil scheme. So we must grow so our “love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9) so we will not stumble into making the wrong choice. God’s love will guide us into His abundant life if we will make the proper choice.

In His Grace,
Cub

Monday, November 26, 2012

Manner of Life

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).

For God’s chosen people there is a pattern set for life. Jesus said He “came to give life and give it abundantly” (John 10:10), so if we are going to receive that life we must be able to see the pattern of that life. And even though the rest of the world may not set their standards on this pattern, we as God’s children must devote our minds and hearts to the adhesion of this walk.

The pattern of the abundant life that the Bible refers to begins with faithfulness: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). God has promised a great future for those who will not allow the world to persuade them to give up. Hebrews is a book written to a group of Christians converted from the Jewish belief system and they were being pressured to return to their old ways. The writer encourages them to remain faithful to Jesus’ way because this is the way to the promises that are entailed in this life. And he reassures them that the One Who made these promises is faithful and would never lead them wrong. The lesson is our also that if we will hold fast to our confession that Jesus is Lord then we can be free from doubt or worry that God will not hold back on any of His promises to us.

This pattern for life begins with faithfulness that leads us to action. In verses 24 and 25 of Hebrews 10, the pattern for our new life in Christ has within its guidelines an unselfish connotation. We are to “consider” and “stimulate” our brothers and sisters to “love and good deeds.” Thayer’s Lexicon says that the word “consider” is a Greek word that means to “fix our minds upon.” In other words, our brethren’s spiritual welfare should be a priority for why we do what we do as an assembly. We are not in worship just for ourselves but we are there to consider the welfare of our brethren also. We are also shown that the pattern involves a desire to “stimulate” each other. Thayer says the Greek word for “stimulate” means an inciting and can be used in a negative sense, as to invoke anger in Acts 15:31. But here it is a positive format showing us that God wants us to gather as an assembly to motivate each other to love, which is a serving love, and good deeds, which are works that God created us in Christ to accomplish: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). The church’s pattern of life is much different than the world’s way of existing because we are patterned after our Lord.

There is one more piece of the puzzle of the pattern for the Christian life and that is reverence. This word sometimes confuses the majority because it entails fear. Some believe that we are not to fear God, but the Bible definitely reveals fear as part of our love for God. Not a too scared to see fear but a reverent and respectful fear that motivates us to action. In verses 26 and 27 of Hebrews 10 we see that if we do not have this fear for the Lord we will continue to willfully sin and this will bring judgment upon what God calls His adversaries. The Christian life is a pattern of sacrifice for Jesus’ cause, which is bringing the lost to Christ. The pattern of our lives lived faithfully reveals to the world that only through the wisdom of God can one find their way to His promises (Romans 12:1-2). If the church is going to be successful in what the Lord has set us apart to accomplish, then we must dedicate our live to the pattern of success He has revealed to us in His Son. If we will be faithful to His pattern He will be faithful to His promise.

In His Grace,
Cub

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Now?


“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

To many people of the world the outcome of this election turned out to be a great shock and it is unclear how the people of this country will react to another four years under this kind of authority. It is also unclear how they will let their feelings be revealed. But, what is clear in this situation is that God has given a clear picture of how He wants the people of His kingdom to react. In this trying time for a great country, a light from the church shining the confidence of Christ will be a welcomed sight. God has promised success for His people no matter what the result of the election was to be. This assured promise gives the church motivation to be the light of faith in the darkness of the world’s doubt. Our reaction will be of a godly nature because of our faith in God and not man. Our love for God will help us to overcome the temptation to sin.

Although many in this world will react to the results of the election with grumbling and complaining, the church will hold its tongue because we are to “do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14). Grumbling and complaining comes from minds that do not get their way. The church will show respect knowing that whoever is in the authoritative position is there because God has established this to be so: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1). The church has faith that hushes the mouth because we know God is much wiser than any man and He has promised to work all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). There is no doubt in the minds of God’s children that He is in complete control of this situation.

Also the church will pray for the governing authorities: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” 1 Timothy 2:1-2). If anyone needs prayers right now it is those who have been elected to lead this country. It has been said by a leading figure of our government that the United States is no longer a “Christian Nation” and the proof of this statement has never been so clear than what it is today. We have elected leaders that are leading us into immorality, mocking the Lord’s institution of marriage, legalizing drugs and even the murdering of helpless children. Like the old song says, we are “slip sliding away.” Our leaders need God’s love to fill their hearts and minds so we can get back to being a God-fearing nation that is not afraid to get on their knees and seek God.

Many times in the Bible God has used some discouraging situations to bring encouragement to His nation. And even then God’s chosen people were faced with circumstances that would cause them to return to the Lord for His power, protection and presence. Maybe this is what God is going to use the situation the United States is in now to accomplish. Maybe He is trying to get us to stop putting our faith in man and remember that He is Creator: “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). If God is trying to humble us as a nation, then His nation must be the light to His truth. We must remain humble with faith that God will lift us up at the proper time. Let the church be encouraged to be humble enough to not act like fools: “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Know that God has a plan that is in motion and it will be executed out of perfect love for mankind.

In His Grace,
Cub

Friday, October 26, 2012

Loving Response

“Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this" (Acts 17:32).

One of the greatest joys of doing physical work is being able to see the end result or the finished product. But when it comes to preaching the word of God seeing the end result is not always what we want to see. Although God is omnipotent He will not make us do what He desires. His word has the power to change the lives of those who hear, but only if we are willing to open our hearts and minds to its authority. Therefore, the end result of evangelism is not always the same.
But in actuality, the end result is known by God and we must be able to rely on His power and not falsely accuse ourselves for not winning the soul we tried to win to Christ.

Paul was a great preacher of truth, but even he could not win every soul he evangelized. Some people are just not willing to accept what God offers through His truth. As Paul preached his lesson on Mars Hill, we see three different responses to truth. First, there are those that will sneer. This is a Greek word meaning to deride or jeer. The power of truth can be so overwhelming to some that the only way they can respond is to make fun of something that they just don’t understand. This kind of reaction brings comfort to their minds for their inability to comprehend the depth of a subject, in this case the resurrection. Some people just cannot envelop the power of God’s will because it causes us to stretch our minds into faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Being clothed in flesh limits our ability to understand what we cannot see. This is why faith is so important.

Another response to truth seen after Paul’s sermon is doubt. Some of the listeners needed to hear more on the subject. This is not necessarily a bad response because it shows a willingness to seek truth. But for many it is just a way to put off their true response of rejection. When Jesus walked the earth searching for disciples, He sought men that were willing to immediately trust in His power and follow His lead. Peter, Andrew, James and John were among the first disciples of Christ and the Bible reveals their immediate response of submission. When we put off our response to Jesus we give Satan time to discourage us from following our Lord: "Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up” (Matthew 13:3-4). Many have not followed through because they waited to respond to Jesus and Satan used someone or something to snatch the word of God away from hearts.

So we can see that when the word of God is presented, people will respond in different ways. But we have yet to see the final response that Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, reveals to us. This response is seen in verse 34: “But some men joined him and believed.” Proper response to truth requires the proper heart. Some folks have the right heart for God: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). To reiterate what we said before, God will not make us respond in submission to His will. But He sent His love to earth in the form of a Man we know as Jesus to win our trust. God did not hold back when we needed a Savior. He did not send us a financial advisor or a military genius. He sent us His Son to pay the price for our mistakes. And when we come to know Jesus as Lord we respond to Him in love: "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). If you are visiting us today you are here because someone loves you enough to ask you to come to hear the word of God and they, as well as all of us, want you to respond to Jesus in love today.

In His Grace,
Cub

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Proper Fit

“But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Paul told Timothy that God has a desire for all mankind to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). But unfortunately not all mankind wants to be saved. Some people are just too filled with the world to be made fit for kingdom life. Sadly, many are not willing to change so their resemblance can be made into the Son of God. And the only reason for this is that they are unwilling to accept the calling to be transformed: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). God’s desire must become ours if we want to see rest.sus explained discipleship in a three step plan of surrendering your will for God’s (Matthew 16:24). Many will come to Christ but will not be able to stay because they still long for their old life. Coming to Christ requires a determined effort to be transformed. Satan tries to use our old life to draw us back into his regime. The problem is that God promised life, but not an easy life. It is a challenge to live for Christ and will call us to great faith. It seems easy when everything is going good, but when the road gets rough the temptation to go back to the old life becomes real. Surrendering your will for God’s requires an active faith, “for we walk by faith, not by sight,” (2 Corinthians 5:7) that requires us to deny our desires to bail when the old road seems to be easier.

Another reason many will not persist in their love for God is an unwillingness to let go of worldly ways. The Christian life will cause many to stumble because it doesn’t make sense to them. They cannot see how suffering, sorrow and shame can be the path to glory and this unbelief will cause them to let go of their confession: “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18). As Paul preached rulers persecuted and he was put into prison for proclaiming his faith in Jesus. Some saw this and were convinced that Paul was a fool and did not persevere in their faith. And as Paul went on to say, this caused them death, doom and destruction (19). God’s wisdom is much greater than any logic coming from the feeble mind of man. For this reason many of our opportunities as followers of Christ demand that we let go of our own way of thinking. Many of our brethren have given up because the flesh’s way seems to be easier and more entertaining.

Another reason some have left the faith is because they are not willing to separate themselves from the world to bond with the church. For this article’s purpose we are considering the world as anything not according to God’s will. Satan uses a plethora of devices to deceive us. Some will not let go of earthly relationships for the sake of strengthening the church. Many believe their earthly family is more important than their church family. But Jesus denounced this belief: “But He answered and said to them, ‘My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it’” (Luke 8:21). Jesus’ point here is not that family is not important but that the church family has top priority. The ones who dedicate their lives to His teaching are the ones he sees as His close family. This is divine logic and it is challenging to the fleshly mind.

Many will not get to see the rest of Jesus’ invitation (Matthew 11:29) because it is an invitation to surrender, sacrifice and selflessness. Do not be among the stubborn who will miss the greatest opportunity in life, but be among those who are humble, for they are the ones that find rest.

In His Grace,
Cub

Monday, October 1, 2012

Joy vs. Happiness

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

Paul’s heart was free to rejoice even though his body was locked up in prison. He had every reason to be depressed but he chose to be joyful because his happiness was not based on the circumstance in which he found himself, but in his Savior into whom he was baptized (Galatians 3:27). The reason for his joy cannot be understood from a physical mindset. The physical circumstance might make anyone depressed, but Paul didn’t focus on the physical circumstance. He chose to focus on the spiritual salvation that was his in Christ, His beloved Savior. His physical life was only a stepping stone to the spiritual rest waiting for him. He was sure that His Savior would rescue him from discouragement.

We are like Paul in our relationship to our surroundings. Paul revealed to us that we are all sinners in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23). We are all held in prison by Satan’s weapon, the weakness of flesh. He uses the weakness of flesh to tempt us to focus on the circumstance, knowing there is no rest for those whose focus is on the physical aspect of life. Paul also revealed that in Christ we have been given opportunity to see past physical life and rest on the eternal promises from our God (Romans 6:23). We can allow Satan to steal our joy by focusing on the physical situations of life that bind us to sinfulness, or we can be like Paul and look past the physical imprisonment of flesh to focus on God’s promises to make us free from the physical surroundings and deliver us into spiritual rest.

To find that joy that gave Paul the power to rejoice even while chained to guards we must find happiness in God’s faithfulness: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). This world continues to disappoint us by making promises it cannot keep, but God’s integrity assures us of the eternal joy that is found only through faith in the promises of life in His Son. His promises will always be fulfilled and we can be assured of our salvation because He “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). Because of this faith His promise of eternal life brings rest to the heart, mind and soul of anyone who will remain faithful to His will (Revelation 2:10).

Are you happy in your situation? You are if you are in Christ. He has been God’s plan for happiness for eternity: “This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him” (Ephesians 3:11-12). He died to transport us out of this physical world and into His eternal kingdom to bring you joy. He can only bring joy to you if you will focus on His wondrous work and not the negative surroundings of where we sojourn. The joy that is found in Christ is not the condition of being in Christ, it is the result. Christ died and was raised to bring this joy to anyone that will die to self and follow Him.

In His Grace,
Cub

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Guidelines for Church Seekers

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).

God is not human and that reason alone proves that His wisdom far outreaches what the human mind can conceive. His establishment of the world and everything created within it was completed without the opinion of man. With this in mind, it is hard for me to understand all the confusion when it comes to the acceptance of God’s description of His own church. The Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and how He details the church should satisfy the mind of faith. When we are searching for the church we must remember His “word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The Bible is a true beacon of light leading us to His church.

First off we must understand that the Bible shows us that the church was promised: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). We will do well to notice a couple of key points in this promise. First, Jesus promised to build one church. The choice of many churches was derived from the mind of man, not God. God only established one church. Also we need to notice that that His church was built on the rock of a confession. It was Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16) that the church was promised to be built on, not on the physical man of Peter. If it was built on Peter, wouldn’t it be Peter’s church and not God’s? Also we can see that the Lord’s church is eternal. He is not coming to establish a kingdom because the one He established while He was on this earth is eternal. See how the light works?

Secondly, the Bible reveals to us that the church was purchased at a special cost. Paul told the elders in Ephesus to “shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). The church was of utmost importance to the Almighty God. So much that He sent His only begotten Son to this world to pay the price of our redemption. This would prove to be very costly as even a limited study of the cross would reveal. Our decision to embrace sin caused us to be separated from God (Isaiah 59:2) and His love was willing to pay the price to purchase our souls back from the grips of the evil one of this world. Notice it took the blood of God and not the blood of man to purchase our souls back. Again, the light is shining from God’s truth.

Thirdly, the Bible reveals the church as a group of people with a purpose. We have been united into His body “so that the wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). Our goal as disciples of Christ is to die to the weakness of our own wisdom, which is foolishness to God (1 Corinthians 3:19), and to live as a light to the power of God’s wisdom. It is easy to see that there are many religious organizations in this world that are following the foolishness of man instead of the wisdom of God. That is why we must not “believe every spirit” but “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). There may be many different faiths and religions out there, but the light of truth has revealed the purpose of God’s true church and that is to reveal His wisdom and not man’s philosophies.

When you go looking for a church please remember that the Lord’s church is “added to” and never joined (Acts 2:47). You can join a fraternity or a social club but to enter the Lord’s church one must be added through faith in God’s power. These are good guidelines for your search.

In His Grace,
Cub

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Opened Book

“With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24).

The Bible tells us that “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” (2 Corinthians 4:4). As long as people allow their minds to be blinded, truth cannot penetrate their heart with the light of truth that God uses to give meaning to life. This allows Satan to use his power of darkness to remove hope, comfort and preservation from the unbelieving hearts.

In Psalm 119:49, David shows that Satan’s deceit and darkness keeps God’s hope hidden from the minds that fall prey to his scheme. David knew the hope of faithfulness, because he knew the demise of unfaithfulness also. His life was once filled with disappointment as he tried to keep his flesh satisfied, but now he has found the comfort of hope that does not disappoint by sacrificing his desires for the purpose of pleasing God. Living to please God will always fill us with hope.

The Psalmist also reveals to us that God’s word provides us with comfort in our afflictions (50a). Unfortunately there is one fact that applies to every living soul in which God has breathed life, and that is that all will face some kind of affliction. Without the application of God’s truth these afflictions tear away at our joy of living. It steals the vibrancy that should come with being created in the likeness of God Himself. But studying God’s word opens our hearts and minds to His comforting power. David obviously had some big problems going on in his life. And as he remembers the afflictions that caused him dismay, he remembers how he was able to overcome their power. He remembers God’s word as his comfort. The power of God’s comfort can be realized through faith. This comfort allows the faithful to rejoice instead of regress in their work for the Lord: “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). People without God’s comfort give in to the pressures of persecution because they do not know how to be comforted.

David reveals one more detail of God’s providence as he shows us the revival found in God’s truth (50b). Coming to a deep relationship with God’s truth gives life a vigorous meaning that adds a little pep to our step. Knowing God is faithful to His promises allows us to face the trials of life with confidence. It keeps us reminded of how the faithful disciples sacrificed their lives without regret. It reveals to us the integrity of the One who is providing and protecting His own. This gives us the power to overcome the adversities Satan throws at us to steal our faith (John 10:10). God has promised to keep His children safe by assuring them of the afterlife through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son (1 Peter 3:21-22). We can be assured death has no victory or sting when our faith is built on God’s truth. We have been preserved by God’s truth.

To appreciate these promises one must open the book that speaks of the life God offers. The words written in our Bibles originate in God’s breath, the same breath that brought life to dirt (Genesis 2:7). God breathed words that are printed on the pages of our Bibles need to be imprinted on our hearts so we can be recipients of the promises of God. Do not leave God’s word of truth lay dormant on the pages. Take these words of power off the pages of your Bible and make them your guide in life. Let them influence every aspect of your life so you “too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), newness that will bring hope, comfort and preservation.

In His Grace,
Cub

Friday, August 24, 2012

Renewed Mind

“…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

The world’s ways are opposite of the way of God. As we see in verse 2 of Romans 12, the world is out to influence the fruit of our desires. The human tendency is to please the flesh to find happiness. Most people in the world have been convinced, and wrongfully so, that they can live the Christian life without any changes at all in the way they act, think and talk. But if we are truly converted to the way of God then change is inevitable. Not because the Christian is a better person, but because his or her influence is now the power of God and not the weakness of the world. Coming to a realization of this fact is part of the transformation of the renewed mind.

Renewing of the mind begins with a renewed vision of self: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Living as a Christian causes us to look out for others as well as ourselves. It is a different life because it is driven by love and seeks the welfare of those around us. To have this kind of lifestyle requires a complete overhaul of the thinking process. It takes a renewed mind.

Renewing of the mind also gives a new vision of sin. Although most in the world see sin as bad, most have not gone through the renewing of the mind to see it as bad enough to change their lives. Some live in a way that shows God as obligated to forgive their sin without true repentance. But God has proven through the Scriptures that forgiveness is an opportunity not an obligation. He has offered us the way out of sin and the way is through repentance. When sin causes the heart to break we can look to the Scriptures to find the way to forgiveness: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Although baptism is essential to having sin washed away; the first part of Peter’s answer is to repent, to change the way we view sin and to see the severity of sin and the separation it causes between us and God (Isaiah 59:2). Once that realization sets in the desire to repent, or change, is overwhelming and causes one to seek the only way to salvation, God’s way (Ephesians 5:24-26). Love for God is not enough to enter salvation. One must also hate sin.

Renewing of the mind will also change how one views salvation. The biblical view of salvation is not something that comes through the wisdom of man. It has been delivered through God’s grace that teaches us to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). There are some that believe salvation is accepting the Lord in their hearts, but without the washing away of sin through the water, one cannot enter salvation. Salvation from the biblical standpoint is having been forgiven of sin. And since it is God who must do the forgiving, submission to His plan is essential. When we study the idea of salvation we can only come to the conclusion that forgiveness only comes to those who have died to self, died to sin and now live through the serenity of God’s forgiveness. The Ethiopian Eunuch went away rejoicing after he was baptized because he knew his sins had been washed away. He knew this because it was shown to him through the suffering Savior of Isaiah 53 (Acts 8:36-36). Obviously this man’s vision of salvation had changed because when he saw water, he saw the way to forgiveness and salvation. You can rejoice also with a renewed mind.

In His Grace,
Cub

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Godly Leadership

“The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).

Every congregation of the Lord’s church will have to face a time in which they will have to “select from among you… men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge…” (Acts 6:3). This passage is dealing with selecting qualified servants to accomplish a specific task, but this is the same principles we will face in selecting elders. As sure as the sun moves across the sky, time will affect our lives. Every day brings change in many different ways. When elders are chosen we all know these men will not hold that office forever. Such is the case here in Maryville as one of our elders is retiring from his secular position and will relocate to a place where he and his wife can be closer to their physical families. We have been blessed by their service and we will miss them dearly, but now we must face the challenge of selecting a godly man, or men, to step up and serve in the eldership, a task worthy of prayer.

When selecting elders discretion must be used because not every man is qualified to carry out the responsibilities of an elder. We must be careful not to allow our feelings to hinder our decision because our feelings can and will sometimes deceive us: “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Just because we like someone doesn’t qualify them for the eldership. We must examine the fruit of his life and make a decision based on what is revealed. Jesus said, “So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:20). Taking the time to make sure of the men we are choosing will benefit the church for years to come. We must trust God’s word to guide our hearts and minds in this decision.

Using Joshua as an example, we can see some godly characteristics of a true leader. First, we can see a good leader is strong and courageous (Joshua 1:8). A godly leader knows his strength comes from God and he is courageous because he has faith in God’s promises. He is able to overcome enemies and their attempts to discourage his faith because he believes in the success promised by God. He will not allow fear to prevent him from being faithful. He will not be intimidated by those who oppose the church because his focus is on the Lord.

Also we can see that a godly leader is a man whose life is built on the word of God: "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Joshua 1:8). The church needs leaders who trust in God’s word to bring them the success God has promised. They will not get impatient for results but will “wait on the Lord” (Isaiah 40:31) to give them the power, purpose and privilege of being a leader of God’s chosen people. He will be someone whose life reveals the words he speaks.

Finally, we see from Joshua that godly leaders are men who will encourage others to serve God (Judges 2:7). Getting people to follow you is a tough task because sometimes God calls us to some undesirable places such as suffering and sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). But elders will face these obstacles in faith and will assist others in their journey also. And if the need arises, they will not be timid in admonishing those who are not staying in step with the Lord’s will. They will not be afraid to confront the disobedient, yet compassionate enough to encourage the weak. These are some characteristics we should seek in the men we are choosing to lead us.

In His Grace,
Cub

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Disciplined Disciples

“[B]ut I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Living in a world that has no concern for disciplined living makes it hard to be a Christian. And this difficulty is only compounded by people who call themselves Christians embracing this undisciplined philosophy. The Bible is a book of truth (John 17:17) written to reveal God’s purpose for ones He has drawn near to Him sojourning through this wilderness we call Earth. A worldly view of this inspired book will only lead one away from God and not draw them nearer.

Like anything in life in which we want to be good at, we must discipline our minds to focus on the things that bring success. It is the same with our spiritual life. Satan is in opposition to anything that leads us to God’s reward. God’s truth has illuminated His path of righteousness (Proverbs 6:23), but Satan uses our weakness in the flesh to lure us away from the path that is illuminated through truth. The result is the battle going on for our soul: “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Abstaining from fleshly lusts will take every bit of self-control we can muster, and even when we find ourselves ready to give in, we have God with us to strengthen us for success.

Without discipline being a disciple of Christ would be impossible: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). These are the three steps of discipleship with each one of them requiring a disciplined mind to embrace. If Jesus wanted us to believe in an undisciplined theology then this statement could and would have been stricken from the Scriptures. Jesus knows this decision to follow Him will be extremely difficult. But He also knows that God will always be there to assist us in our times of trouble: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). The trials we face are meant to strengthen our faith in God (4). God wants us to rely on His power through obedient faith so He can give us victory to show the world that is failing in their own ability. To ignore the flesh and trust in God requires a disciplined mind.

Satan uses our weakness in the flesh to get us to grab onto something that will separate us from God. It will take a disciplined mind to let go of the ways we are comfortable with and grab onto God’s way which is not a popular decision: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The author of Hebrews goes on to show that we do this by disciplining our minds to remain focused on Jesus. He also shows us that through this self-control we will find the same victory that Jesus found as He humbled Himself under the authority of God. He now sits and awaits our entrance.

An element of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23). Fruit of the Spirit means proof that God is working in us. God sent His Spirit to guide us in a disciplined mind. Jesus left us an example of the treasure of living in submission to God’s will. To live in submission to God one must be humble and this requires discipline. Without self-control we are slaves to our flesh and not servants of God. We must make a daily decision to follow God at all costs and Satan is out to make this decision tough by tempting us with our own desires. Resist his efforts.

In His Grace,
Cub

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Being Taught

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

One of the greatest attributes of God is His faithfulness (1 Corinthians 1:9). He promises us many things that we can be fully assured of because of His integrity. But there is one thing that can hinder His promise of eternal life, and that is our own stubbornness. We are promised rest if we will come to Christ for His guidance (Matthew 11:28-29). We are blessed people because He is faithful to His promise and gives us rest when we respond to His plea.

The three promises in the Scripture above are based upon our desire for truth. Jesus taught, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). The Greek words used here show a deep hunger and thirst, even to the point of death. In other words, if we don’t eat and drink we will die. But it also shows that only a certain “food” and “water” can satisfy these needs. Jesus shows us the food required to satisfy spiritual hunger: “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work’” (John 4:34). The sustenance of our spiritual life is the same as our Savior’s and that is living to fulfill the will of God.

David was a man devoted to God and His teachings. He knew that his life depended on the commands of God: “Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths” (Psalm 25:4). God’s paths are truth, faith and salvation, along which our feet must be guided (Psalm 119:105). As hard as we try and as bad as we want to be able to, we cannot direct our own steps in God’s path of righteousness (Jeremiah 10:23). Our own efforts will always fall short because of weakness in the flesh: “[F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). If we are truly seeking God’s paths then we must recognize His voice and allow His words to change our heart and minds.

Many are in this world with a desire to find God’s salvation. But there are many who believe they have found it but have been deceived by Satan. They have accepted the opinions of men instead of “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). God is not “a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). He has a desire for all man to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and He has never “forsaken those who seek” His ways (Psalm 9:10). His way is truth (John 14:6) and He has sent His truth to the world that the world might trust in Him and follow His lead.

There are also some in this world that have obeyed the gospel and have had their sins washed away. But it is there that they stop being obedient to the Lord’s love. They have forgotten how to die to self, to sin and to the old ways that only lead to death, doom and destruction. They have fallen back into the trap of self-abasement. They believe they are self-sufficient and do not deny fleshly pride. They forget about being humble enough to only listen to His word and come up with a “better plan” than what God’s truth offers. The difference is that those who are truly seeking His salvation can only be satisfied by the voice of God (John 10:27) because they know He is the only One that can lead them to the reward of His promises. They are looking to God to teach them His ways only.

In His Grace,
Cub

Monday, June 25, 2012

What’s That Smell?

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

One day a wise grandmother was spending the day with her young grandson. The little boy asked his grandmother about the tooth fairy. He said, “Grandma, is there such a thing as a tooth fairy?” Not wanting to disgruntle the young lad, she replied, “Well, when you lose a tooth there is always money under your pillow, isn’t there?” “Yes,” the smiling young boy said, “but the money still smells like Daddy’s billfold.”

The world has many different ways of defining the church, but God’s word is very definite about her description. In fact, in opposition to what the world believes, Paul wrote, “There is one body…” (Eph 4:4). In another passage he explains that Jesus is “head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). The world’s acceptance doesn’t define truth. It is God Himself that defines truth (John 17:17). If one is going to be faithful to God’s truth they must belong to God’s church which is clearly defined in the Bible.

But with all the different choices in the religious world how do we know the church? The church, like the father’s billfold, has a distinct smell and true Christians will “smell” like their Father. His work in their hearts will reveal God-like characteristics. They will bear distinctive traces of His goodness, reveal marks of His transformation and they will reflect the pureness of His love. All these are reminders that the church smells like God.

The church has been separated from the world and its practices and they smell like God when they react to evil differently than the world (Romans 12:21). Relying on God’s truth to deliver His people is a unique distinction only shared by those of the faith. The world reeks of perverseness and immorality but Christians smell of the holiness of obedient children (1 Peter 1:15). Christians live a life of holiness so that the world may recognize them as people who have been bought and sent by God to tell of His glory.

Christians also have a distinct smell of godly love: "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The context of this passage is the completeness of God’s love. People will surely recognize the church by the completeness of their love for one another and those still in held in sin’s grip. Their lives are clearly defined by the sacrificial love God sent down through His grace to lead the church out of the captivity of sin. They share the same love that separated them from sin’s demise with those who are lost to help them find their way out of sin and its wages of death.

No matter what people may think, the world will always smell like the world, but the church will have a different aroma. The Christian’s character will be a reflection of the Father’s love because it originates in God. Their words and deeds will have a beautiful aroma. Their message will smell like the most beautiful incense, yet be clear and strong. The saints have been marked with the presence of God and the church will always smell like the One who called them out of the stench that is affixed to the soul without Christ.

In His Grace,
Cub

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Placing Proper Value

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

We have seen many times where someone has something of great value, but for some reason or another miss out on the worth of ownership because he or she is not willing to place proper value on it. There was an episode of “Survivor” where one person held an immunity idol, which is protection from being voted off, but because he was misled into believing he was safe, refused to use it and was voted off the show. How sad it was for this person to miss out on the opportunity to win a million dollars because of his improper perspective of the seriousness of his situation.

God has poured His blessings out on us, but if we choose not to put them to use in our lives, we run the risk of missing out on the value of their rewards. The apostle Paul gives us some insight on how we can avoid this kind of demise. First, we must be able to properly prioritize. When it comes to our worldly achievements we must recognize them as loss. Paul is not saying that gaining knowledge is wrong, but when it comes to a relationship with God, everything we can gain from the world is of no value. The world has no way of understanding God nor His way of thinking, therefore anything gained through studying their logic in spiritual matters will only hinder our search for truth: “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Giving God control of how we think opens the door to life.

Paul also shows us the importance of proper value placing. Unlike the worldly investor who places value in earthly treasures, the Christian places the highest value on “knowing Christ.” God has delivered salvation to mankind by sending His grace to this world (Titus 2:11). If we are misled to think that this is not the most valuable gift in life, then we are bankrupt. Many in this world place more value in their earthly life than in their spiritual destiny because “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving” and they cannot see the value of knowing Christ and the power of His gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). God gave us the treasure of a relationship with Him through the “way, the truth and the life” of His Son (John 14:6). The Christian places the highest value conceivable on this blessing of truth and nothing can be seen as more valuable.

Finally, Paul reveals to us the importance of counting. What he once held as gain, in this case his understanding of the Old Law, he now counts as loss compared to gaining Christ. What an example for us to follow. He uses the graphic Greek word, “skubalon,” for “rubbish”, showing the worthlessness of knowledge without relationship. The excrement of an animal is what Paul used to illustrate what once was gain has now become. Paul, like the rest of the faithful people of the Jewish traditions, knew the Scriptures inside and out, but knowing what God says without knowing Who God is leaves one out of His grace (Galatians 5:4). We must be able to count our relationship with Christ as the most valuable treasure anyone can seek. And what is great about this blessing is that it is offered freely through faith in Christ (Romans 6:23). From the opinion of this author, the misunderstanding of this life being free is part of the reason many will not count it as valuable as they should. Many believe there is no need to change, but that God will just overlook their sin and give them this free gift. But what makes this gift worthy of being counted as the greatest blessing in life is that it is the power of God to change us from the inside out. When we count this blessing properly, we will seek the transformation of God’s amazing grace.

In His Grace,
Cub

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Come and See

“Nathanael said to him, ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see’” (John 1:46).

The power of the invitation is one of the most underrated tools of evangelism. The thrill of being given the opportunity to approach God’s throne in worship can never be contained within the heart that has fully received the salvation that Christ died to manifest in us on the cross. The fire of enthusiasm should be so strong that we grow “weary of holding it in” (Jeremiah 20:9). But we need to make sure that what we are inviting others to see is authentic. Last thing we want people to see in us is hypocrisy. When we invite others to join us in we want them to see Christ in us.

When we invite others to come join us in worship we want them to see people convicted. There are enough people in the world that come to worship just for the outward appearance. When they come to the Lord’s church, we want them to see hearts that have been pierced by the truth of the “two-edged sword” (Hebrew 4:12). We want them to know they are in the presence of the Lord’s blood bought souls (Acts 20:28). We want them to see people who are “doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). The church is made up of souls that are truly convicted by the sin that separates and the Savior that suffered to fill that void. We are to be the example to the world of the “true worshipers” that the Father seeks (John 4:23).

When we invite others to come join us in worship we also want them to see people cleansed. Many say they have been saved but still live in sin. God did not send His Son to shed His blood so we can continue in sin, but that we can be cleansed from the stain of sin (1 John 1:7) and walk in a newness of life (Romans 6:4). When people are looking for salvation they do not need to be fooled by the fa├žade of false religion. They need to see people who have died to sin. They need to see people who desire the pleasure of God’s presence, which is life, and not the pollution of sin’s reward, which is death (Romans 6:23). When we invite others to come see the Lord’s church in worship they need to be able to see hearts that are made pure through faith in God.

When we invite others to come join us in worship we also want them to see celebration. It is a blessing to come and worship our Lord, not a burden. David said, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (Psalm 122:1). This is what people need to see in us while we are worshiping, people who are honored to be with God and not people wanting to be somewhere else. Many are being deceived by satan’s trickery to believe that their bodies in the pew is sufficient for worship, even though their hearts and minds are already at the restaurant or home taking the roast out of the oven. When our hearts are convicted and cleansed then we should be expressing our joy to God for His work in the sanctification of our souls for His purpose. This is only shown through an attitude of gratitude. Our worship should be offered in a way that the people we invite can see our joy. They should see an eagerness in us that proves to them that there is nowhere else we would rather be on Sunday that in the Lord’s presence with His chosen people celebrating his power in our lives. Remember that we were once alienated from the hope that Christ died to bring to our lives. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). We celebrate victories in the physical world all the time. The world needs to see God’s children celebrating the victory of the faith as we come before God in worship if we want to win their souls to Christ.

In His Grace,
Cub

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Peculiar Disciples

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…” (1 Peter 2:9 KJV).

It takes a special kind of person to be a disciple because of what the meaning of the word entails. If being a disciple was something as easy as simply believing many would rush at the chance to become one. But many will not become one, not because they do not want to, but because they choose not to fulfill all the requirements of being one. Many would like to be a disciple of Christ, but not many are willing to wear the robe of the One they want to follow. Denying the wardrobe of a disciple causes many to be denied: "For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). To be a disciple, one must be willing to embrace the manners associated with the mentor.

Being a disciple of Christ means more than a simple acknowledgement of His being. It requires a heart-felt decision to allow God to mold you into His image. When God put out the call to mankind through His gospel, His desire was for all mankind to answer and become a Christian (1 Timothy 2:4). But His desire must penetrate the heart of the hearer so he or she will respond in a manner worthy of the call (1 Thessalonians 2:12). His desire is for the disciple to change mentors. Before we become a disciple of Christ we must be willing to relinquish our rights as a human to receive the blessings of being a spiritual follower of Jesus: “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:8-9). Paul makes it clear that a disciple gives up being pulled around by the flesh so they can be led by the Spirit of God.

Being a disciple of Jesus means to become more than a follower, it opens the door to becoming part of His family: “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). Discipleship is a decision to sacrifice, suffer and surrender to the will of God and these are the ones Jesus calls His family. Many would like to be His disciple, but not many are willing to suffer through the surrender and sacrifice associated with the decision: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27). Jesus did not say it would be hard to be His disciple if one is not willing to commit to His call, but that this person cannot be His disciple. The desire to be a disciple alone is not enough to become one, it takes devotion, determination and yes, even death to self.

Many folks would like to become many things in life. I know many people that would like to become a doctor or a lawyer because of the wealth that goes with these careers. But not many of these folks are willing to go through the suffering or make the sacrifices that are needed to achieve these lofty goals. And although their desire for these professions may be great, without making the sacrifices required to attain these wealthy occupations, they cannot wear either of these titles. And so it is with becoming a disciple of the Christ, Who has come into this world to show us what it means to be a servant of God. But without embracing the lifestyle of the Mentor, a person, no matter how bad he or she desires it, cannot be made His disciple. Being a disciple of Christ means to be willing to die to the power of self, die to the power of sin and also to die to the power of satan to be made alive through the power of God (Romans 1:16). These three deaths cannot come into realization without the decision to surrender, suffer, and sacrifice your life for the will of God. This is what Christ did (John 4:34), and true disciples follow the Lord at all cost.

In His Grace,
Cub

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Energized Christianity

 “[A]nd I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ's sake” (Philemon 1:6).

How often do we feel that the church has no motivation? People just seem to be here physically, but spiritually they are far away. Jesus discussed this matter when He said, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me” (Matthew 15:8). In context, Jesus speaks of worshipping God with the wrong heart, but the principle applies to our subject today. Sometimes we are here for worship physically but there seems to be no motivation in the spirit. What are we to do about this unfortunate dilemma? Where should we seek help? This writer will suggest the Bible for answers.

Every one of us needs motivation to get things going. Some might even wake in the morning to a cup of coffee to get the “juices flowing.” We understand that everything we do must be motivated by some kind of energy, especially in association with the physical aspect of life. But what motivates us in the spirit? Philemon 1:6 sheds some light as the word translated “effective” comes from the Greek word we get our word “energy” from.

Our faith is energized by the knowledge of all the good things that come to us in Christ such as our fellowship. When Christians assemble and love each other the way God has taught us to, we energize each other’s faith by uplifting and encouraging one another to “love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Worshiping our Lord is done through the energy our love for God generates within us. People know we are disciples of the Lord because we are fully energized by His love flowing throughout the congregation and out to others.

In the church we can sometimes forget how to care for one another. Jesus showed us how to care for one another through love: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ’s love is displayed by His willingness to lay His life aside for us. The brethren’s willingness to lay their lives aside for each other energizes the faith that Christ instilled in each one of us. It is our responsibility to share this kind of love so that the church will remain excited about the good things in Christ. If our love is evident to others their spirit is motivated in worship. They become more energized in the things they pray for, in the songs they sing and also their ears are motivated to hear the word of God, and this benefits our worship.

So if the church doesn’t seem motivated or excited we need to look within ourselves to make sure we are providing the “energy” for action. Let us gather around one another and love each other the way God loves us. Sometimes we love the way we are taught by the world and that is not agape love. Worldly love falls short of the love God wants us to have for the brethren (John 15:13). Sacrificial love for each other energizes our faith and energized faith holds nothing back as it offers up worship to God.

In His Grace,
Cub

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Gospel Meeting

May 6th 6:00 p.m.
May 7th-9th  7:00 p.m.

The Maryville church of Christ is hosting a Gospel Meeting at its building at 217 E. 6th Street, Maryville, Missouri.  Everyone is welcome to attend.

The speaker is Jason Zaiger from Atlantic, Iowa. 

A link to the audio recording of each day's lesson is shown at the right.  If you have any difficulty in opening or downloading the file, please let us know right away.  We hope you find the lessons encouraging and edifying. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Godliness is Power

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

People who are bound by the limits of flesh miss out on so much that God offers. He has given us a whole new meaning in life. He has taken the element of fear out of the equation as He has replaced our timidity with His boldness and He has poured His Spirit of victory into those who have trusted in His power. He has given His victory to whosoever should believe (John 3:16). When we believe in God we cannot believe in defeat. Yes, there will be troubles, trials and temptations, but faith in God removes the fear of defeat that these obstacles place before us.

The Bible teaches us that God has given us the Spirit of power. This is power of great proportions that does not have the will to give up or give in, but will give all for the cause of Christ. Timothy was not going to battle limited by his own power. He was going to the battle with the power to be victorious. Does that mean everyone would listen to what he said, or even change their ways? No, but is the power to stand firm in the faith that God “once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3). What an encouragement to know that once you have entered the battle you have the power to win. When you fight the good fight of faith, you are fighting with power that can and will not be defeated, no matter what the enemy tries to use against you.

God has also poured His love into each and every Christian. God loves us so that we may know what love is and then how to offer that love back to Him and those around us. He has given us the ability to love even when we are hated and persecuted. When Jesus hung on that cross, He did not ask for the lives of His killers to be ended. In fact, it was just the opposite. He asked for their lives to be extended through forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:34). God has poured that same Spirit that cried out for forgiveness from the cross into His children of faith. He has enabled us, through His love, to be strong enough to pray for those who persecute us, to ask for their forgiveness, and even want the best for them, even though they may be out to destroy us. The battle in which we are engaged as Christians is not against flesh and blood, but against the evil forces that oppose God’s truth (Ephesians 6:12). And because it not a fleshly battle, we need to be taught how, to quote a country song, to “love them through it.”

Another aspect of the Spirit God has poured into His children is discipline. We are like a soldier fighting for his life in a battle zone, like an athlete training to win the greatest race of his life and like a farmer who planted a seed and will work to see it produce fruit (2 Timothy 2:3-6). We are in a battle for souls and we must be disciplined to win. Jesus came as God’s love in the flesh, and His faith in God is our victory over the world. We have been given the ability to deny our fleshly tendencies to enter into suffering knowing maintaining the attitude of Christ throughout our trials is what glorifies our Lord. Our discipline is derived from the faith that sees Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, victorious. Like Timothy, we must allow this faith in God’s power to remove any doubt we once may have owned. This is the spirit of discipline God has delivered to His children. This is the Spirit He wants to guide our hearts, minds and hands to show the world that we are His: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). Let God’s Spirit reign in you and show the world that you are truly led by His Spirit.

In Him,
Cub

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kingdom Success

"You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth" (Revelation 5:10).

If we are going to be as successful as Christ in seeking and saving the lost” (Luke 19:10), then we need to take our commission seriously. The world we live in is as dangerous to the untaught soul as a bear is to an unarmed hunter. The soul that is not in Christ has no hope (Ephesians 2:12). But that is just an opinion to those without conviction of the seriousness of being lost. God has called His church together to care about the tragedy of this situation and He sent His Son to reveal a true example of deep concern for the lost.

One thing about our Example is His concern was not just a thought, it was motivation. He didn’t just care; He acted on His concern by sacrificing His life to provide the way to be saved. He gave His life to the cause He was sent to fulfill. We must look to His example and see the seriousness He illustrated about being separated from God eternally. That fact should pierce the toughest heart like an armor piercing round pierces the side of a Howitzer. This kind of concern for the lost makes Jesus and His disciples successful.

Another aspect of success in evangelism is seen in how Jesus sought out the truth seekers. He never ignored someone who was diligently seeking truth. Sometimes He was crowded by many, most of who were not serious about the life He offers, but He always found the soul that was seeking true life. Not only did He seek them out, He shepherded them. By shepherd we mean He cared enough to lay His life down to lead them to safety: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Our goal in life as the Lord’s church is to lay our lives aside to provide the truth about salvation to anyone who is diligently seeking Jesus.

There is a serious problem with the church’s evangelistic efforts and that is how few are willing to take this work seriously. Granted, there are many sitting in the pews on Sunday morning, but you might be surprised when you see how few of these “pew packers” are true workers in the Lord’s kingdom. It is amazing how many people think that “going to church” is all that it takes to be “approved to God as a workman” (2 Timothy 2:15). The key word in this phrase is “workman,” not “pew warmer.” God has shown us the danger of being deluded by false securities (James 1:22). Jesus spoke harshly to His disciples about a lack of motivation and commitment to the work: “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few’” (Matthew 9:37).

If the church is going to be successful in the cause God has established in us then we must be dedicated to the work. His desire is for all mankind to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and His desire is carried out through the church. Lets make sure we see the lost and fallen away as serious as our Lord sees them. Let’s make sure we are not just filling the pews, but that we are filling the word with the gospel that can save their souls. Let’s make sure we are not simply sitting on the premises, but that we are standing on the promises that cannot fail. If we will see the church’s work in this manner, we will be successful.

In His Grace,
Cub

Friday, February 24, 2012

What Matters

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

What if we lived in a world that had no opposition? For that to happen we would have to live without rules, without a moral standard of what is right and what is wrong. It would be a world of mind over matter; “I don’t mind and it don’t matter.” And the sadness of this situation is that there would be a group of people that would want it that way. And with certainty we can assume that this is what our adversary, the devil, would want. Satan, who the Bible says is the god of this world, loves it when we decide not to stand for something, especially for something that is morally right. He loves it when we live like there is no truth, but everything is circumstantial.

Fortunately for the Christian, this is a made up scenario and not the way we live. Jesus came to give us a foundation in which we who are morally structured can stand: “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). Jesus came to reveal the mind of our Creator so that we can know for sure that truth does matter and that we can take a stand for that which is right: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). We have been set apart from the indifferent world to defend God’s truth. So, it is easy to conclude that there is a war going on outside the boundaries of Iraq and Afghanistan, a spiritual war, not one of flesh. It is a war with higher stakes than physical life. It is for the destiny of our souls. It is a war with which our souls are either won or lost by our decision to stand for truth or let the adversary’s mindset lead us to the “it don’t matter” mindset of indifference.

Any student of the Bible knows that it does matter to God. It matters to Him where we place our faith. The Hebrew writer shows us that “it is impossible to please” God without putting our faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6). We must deny our flesh’s desire to look for what pleases us in matters of truth and seek to please God, knowing He rewards those who accomplish this task. Even though you will have trouble finding many who will go with you in this decision, the fact remains that there is only “one faith.” That faith denies the mindset of man and is obedient to the will of God at all costs. And we know the toils of this walk are never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The truth of the Bible also proves that the church matters to God. The church matters to God in the sense that He only established one: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). Man has built many denominations, but God only established one church, which He vividly outlined in the Scriptures. The church He built assembles faithfully on the first day of every week (Acts 20:7). His church is made up of people that put their faith in His doctrine and will not allow the opinions of man to dictate their steps. His church is made up of people that have made the decision to dedicate their lives to truth even if it costs them their own family (Matthew 8:22). His church realizes how important truth is to God and have made their stand in faith in the battle for His glory. They put Christ first in all aspects of life and never look back (Luke 9:63).

There are things in life that matter, and your soul matters to God. So much that His love reached down from heaven to set you free from Satan’s deceit of indifference. Be someone who knows what to stand for. Stand for God and His truth and you will never fall (Isaiah 40:31).

In HIs Grace,
Cub

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Don’t Panic

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).

There are times in our lives when it feels like the whole world is about to collapse around us. In times of trials and troubles our hearts seem to beat faster, we begin to feel a surge of heat going through our bodies and ultimately we go into a great panic. This is a natural reaction of flesh in horrifying moments such as these. But we are different people because we have died to the flesh and now have been given the opportunity of a renewed mind (Romans 12:2) that has adjusted the way it receives logic. It is no longer held captive by the limits of flesh but is now led by faith. When the church in Corinth was challenged in their faith in the resurrection, Paul reminded them that through faith they have been freed from the limits of fleshly logic: “[F]or we walk by faith, not by sight”(2 Corinthians 5:7). Our faith in the Almighty God will expand our capabilities.

Samuel reminded the Israelites the power of trusting God, even when fleshly desires led them away from His grace, a mistake that Israel fell into quite often. And although we have their example to remind us how tragic this is to our relationship with God, we still make the same mistake. So, what can we do when this happens? Should we go into panic mode looking like an Ostrich ducking his head into the sand? May it never be. We must remember how great our God truly is and how powerful His promises are. He has promised to never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and to remember our sins “no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). Just as we can learn from the mistakes of our forefathers, we can also learn how to stay strong in our faith when we stumble.

Instead of panicking we can make the decision to “serve the Lord with all your hearts” (1 Samuel 12:20). We do this by not turning aside to chase futile things (v.21). Turning away from God to pursue fleshly desires it will leave us in chaos. The same Hebrew word used for “futile” here is the same word used to describe the earth as “formless” (Genesis 1:2). Life is “formless” when lived outside the eternal purpose of our Father. But God sent His Son to this earth to give form to our once formless lives. So, instead of panicking, we can choose to serve Him eternally.

Another alternative to panic is obedience. Samuel said he would instruct them in the good and right way (v.23). But Israel had to make the decision to obey his instructions. This seems like it would be easy because he showed that he would pray for God’s guidance in the instructions he was going to give them. But just because flesh has instructions in the way that pleases God does not mean it will make the choice to follow. Paul was an inspired man yet he had a battle going on within himself (Romans 7:15-20). Paul had to make the decision to follow the Lord’s instruction just as we do today: “…but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). It takes a disciplined mind to achieve greatness in anything we choose to pursue. If we are going to be great in the kingdom of our Lord then we must discipline our minds to obey His reasoning.

Many in this world say they love God, but their lives are lived outside His eternal purpose. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). True love for God is shown in faith. When we trust God enough to deny our fleshly desires and pursue the things that bring glory to His name, then we can honestly say we love Him. We will do well to learn how to love so we can learn how to accept His love that will prevent us from panicking.

In His Grace,
Cub

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Treasure Worth the Effort

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

Being born height-challenged helped me become a person that does things with great diligence. I was taught to never be satisfied with anything less than the best of what you are striving to achieve. This strengthened me in menial things such as crossword puzzles and mowing grass. It also enabled me to break the barriers of my physical limitations to attain the things that were out of reach for me, such as the cookie jar on the highest shelf in the cupboard or the soda pop that was placed on the top shelf in the refrigerator. Giving up without victory was never an option.

Jesus explained to His disciples the importance of diligence when it came to understanding Him and the cause of His presence in their lives. He wanted them to know that the light He came to deliver deserved their deepest interest and demanded their diligence to understand. If they were half-hearted seekers they would be left ignorant to the depth of His teaching. When He taught in parables the lessons He offered could only be grasped with a diligent desire to know: “Jesus answered them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted’” (Matthew 13:11). Some people do not have the desire to know.

Our application is the same now as it was then. If we want to know the depth of Jesus and the truth He delivered to the world we must be willing to be diligent in our effort to understand His teachings. Any other effort will leave us with only a partial understanding of His truth and will leave us vulnerable to the deceit of the Deceiver. And we live in a world that has been easily led astray because they lack diligence in their effort to know Jesus. Although God did not come to confuse the world, there are many things He teaches that just a little effort to learn will leave us empty. Peter, when speaking of Paul’s letters, said, “…as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:11). Peter’s point was that the world is full of false teachers that do not understand the Scriptures because they are too full of themselves to be filled with God’s truth and they mislead others also.

In an effort to use as little diligence as possible, some will let the “untaught and unstable” teach them what God’s word says about salvation. Unfortunately, like Peter said, it will only lead them “to their own destruction.” They live by the false pretense that ignorance is bliss. In other words, there are many that believe the less they know, the less they will be held accountable for. But Paul reminds us how far off this logic truly is: "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). Further in that same passage, Paul shows that God has appointed His Son to come again to judge the world for their lack of diligence in efforts to know Him and His truth that can set them free.

We have been given the opportunity to be “more noble minded” like the Bereans and “search the Scriptures daily to see whether these things” are so (Acts 17:11). In Jesus prayer for unity, He reminds us what truth is: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Stay diligent in your effort to know the truth about Jesus and the life He offers to keep yourselves protected from the destruction of false teachers. A diligent search for God’s truth is worth every ounce of effort we can muster, and will set us free from the demise of the ignorance of the world.

In His Grace,
Cub

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sinful Pride

“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10).

Satan has always had a strong cache of artillery he uses to keep those who are striving to be faithful from reaching their goal. This is exactly what the Greek word for “sin” means, to miss the mark (or goal). He has always known our weakness as human beings and his strategy calls for an attack on ou...r weakest points. Pride is one of our greatest weaknesses and one of his strongest temptations to attack our souls. His sin of pride began his own demise. His pride caused judgment to fall on him and his aggravation from God’s judgment motivated his assault on mankind. He went right to work on God’s creation by tempting them with pride: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Satan used Eve’s weakness of pride to cause doubt in God’s word and he will use it against us also.

Satan’s attack on our souls is always in opposition to God’s word. His desire is to plant doubt in us because doubt is the opposite of faith. Faith is what God uses to credit righteousness in the accounts of His followers: “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5). Paul’s inspired point here is that faith depends on God’s power to save and never relies on our own abilities to earn salvation. When we try to earn salvation we find ourselves removed from the pattern of faith that pleases God. If we could earn salvation then the glory of success would go to us and cause us to doubt God. This is the tragic result of pride, a self-glorifying attempt to be right with our Creator. This philosophy always leads us away from God as pride is in opposition to God’s will. Solomon wrote, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18).

We allow pride to take us away from faith in many ways. We become prideful people when we think we know how to be saved without going to God for His instructions. Whenever we put man’s “I think so” before God’s “I say so” we become prideful people headed for a fall. Make sure you stay on your feet walking in the way of righteousness by being humble before God and receiving His counsel. God isn’t looking for people who are not humble. He looks for those humble enough to lay aside the deception of their own wisdom so they can be made wise through the understanding of His grace. Whatever we think we know about God can only be confirmed through faith in His word. To walk with the Lord, you must humble yourself to be led in the way of His righteousness (John 14:6).

In His Grace,
Cub

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Proper Invitation

“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:1

Can you believe that God would entrust the treasure of His truth to imperfect people like us? Well, believe it or not that is what He has done: “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14). His truth is the pillar of His church (1 Timothy 3:15), and the foundation in which the church was established (John 17:17). Truth is important to God’s church and the world around us needs to be able to see that conviction in us. It is through truth that the church can teach others how to be set free (John 8:32). So it is easy to conclude that when we invite others to come to worship services, we are inviting them to hear truth. But how are we going about inviting them? The psalmist shows us how we can be effective in our invitation.

First, we need to make sure we are asking them with joy. David said he was “glad” when they invited him to come. I have seen gladness from people who have just bought a new car or won the lottery. How much more glad should we be knowing we have been redeemed by our loving Savior? In the beatitudes, Jesus taught that faithful followers are “blessed,” a Greek word showing a gladness that is continually present in the inner being. It is present because of the work being done in them, not by them. Being a member of God’s church should always give us reason to rejoice (Philippians 4:4), and others need to see that gladness that comes from deep inside on the outside. They need to see how glad we are to be God’s children. They need to smell the smoke of a fire burning inside.

Also, we need to make sure we are inviting them to come “with us.” David said, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Anyone that has been to some place new knows how important it is to have someone there you know. If we ask someone to come with us, we need to make sure we are there for them. Although it is a familiar place to us, to others it may not be so familiar, and when people feel uncomfortable going somewhere they have a tendency to quit going. We are people of integrity and the ones we invite need to know they can count on us. We will be more effective in our invitation if we will make sure that those we invite know we are not going to leave them alone but will be there for them.

Thirdly, we need to make sure to ask them to come to Christ, not just “the church.” David was invited to go “into the house of the Lord.” Visitors to the assembly need to realize Whose assembly we are attending. It is not “our” assembly but an assembly of those who have been purchased by God’s own blood (Acts 20:28). They need to know they are not coming to a house of opinions, but a house built and sustained by God’s truth. We are not asking them to join us in a social club or political campaign. We are asking them to come to an assembly that the Lord Himself has put together, a place where the Lord is present. They need to know they will be attending a worship service that will look to serve God in spirit and truth (John 4:24). God’s house is a house of worship and the people we invite need to know how important God’s purpose truly is to us. They need to see in our hearts the conviction of the importance of the Lord’s house. These things will make our invitations more effective, and in turn will make our services more visitor friendly.

In His Grace,
Cub

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Godly Decisions

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

The world is ignorant to God’s reasoning and this does not allow them to relate to Paul’s teaching in the passage above. We live in an “anything goes” kind of world that has lost its desire for godliness and the riches of the moral values of being right with God. The world is becoming a people who forget the great teachings of our descendants who lived here before us, even ones as close as our own parents. Most of them taught decent moral values and ethics, yet many in the world today still choose to live in opposition to their teachings because society now embraces ungodliness and even rewards the ungodly.

Children of God are different than those of the world because they still base their beliefs on what the Bible teaches. If God says not to do it, His children obey His voice because they demonstrate their love for Him through their desire to be like Him. Even though society may accept some disobedient ways, followers of God choose to be different and maintain a close relationship with Him. They value His teachings and guard His words in their heart: “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14). Paul knew the value of God’s truth and demanded that Timothy, as a preacher of truth, have the same regard for its value. The world is lost in ignorance because they see the world’s standards as more profitable than God’s truth.

So how do we discern what is good and what is not? First, we must know what is beneficial. James tells us God’s word is beneficial to salvation: “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). We must be spiritual minded to understand the true value of God’s salvation. God’s Spirit has revealed a plan that cannot fail. When God’s word is implanted in our hearts, He is working within us to bring us to an understanding of His ways. We can then begin to remove the ugliness that remains in our hearts, even though the world may not view certain things as being ungodly. Because God sees ugliness in the world’s ways, those who are His also see it that way. Only when we see the world’s ways as opposition to God can we see the value of God’s truth.

Secondly, children of God do not let the ways of the world control them. Flesh desires the ways of the world, so we must make a godly decision to deny our flesh and its evil desires to allow God’s Spirit to control our hearts and minds: “[F]or if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:13). Following the mindset of flesh will lead us right into Satan’s power of death. Giving God control assures the child of God’s eternal life.

We will always be faced with tough decisions that will try to pull us away from the foundation of our faith. Conquer the power of Satan’s pull by asking God to show you things in your life that are not beneficial to you or that are controlling you (James 1:5). Trust in His word knowing only His truth is our way out of the world of bad decisions.

In His Grace,
Cub