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Battleground or Playground
2 Corinthians 10: 3-5
There is no greater or grosser misrepresentation of the Christian message than one which portrays it as offering a life of ease with no battles or struggles. This is an unrealistic picture of the Christian life and walk. Sooner or later, more than likely sooner, every follower of Christ discovers that the Christian life is a battleground and not a playground.
As Christians we are called not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). We are not called into battle with a pat on the back, a hearty “good luck”, and then sent off to fight. Instead, when we say yes to Christ, and report for duty, we are armed with the weapons to defeat the enemy.
Paul states, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” (2 Corinthians 10: 3-4).
Many have read this passage and thought, Wow! I have been given the weapons to destroy enemy strongholds, and then go on the attack without knowing what these weapons are or how to use them. Without proper training in the arena of combat you will be ineffective or minimally effective.
What are these weapons and how do we use them?
2) The Gospel
When the people were jealous of Moses and Aaron, and then sinned God intended to destroy them all, and would have, had Moses not been a well-trained, wielder of the sword of prayer (Psalm 106: 16, 23). “When they became envious of Moses in the camp, and of Aaron, the holy one of the Lord, the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and engulfed the company of Abiram. And a fire blazed up in their company; The flame consumed the wicked. They made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped a molten image. Thus they exchanged their glory for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wonders in the land of Ham, and awesome things by the Red Sea. Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breech before Him, to turn away His wrath from destroying them”.
Moses did what we are called to do, stand in the gap or breach and pray.
Prayer changed history (Exodus 32: 11-14).
Become someone who stands in the gap, who fills the breach by praying for others, by striking the enemies stronghold. Become a master swordsman with the sword of prayer.
Next, the Gospel. By spending time in God’s Word, strengthening our minds and hearts we become skilled warriors of the Word. Have you ever heard the old saying, “An idle mind is the devils playground?” It might be more accurately said “battleground” instead of “playground”. The enemy starts in the mind, with a thought that comes, that we begin to entertain. Then, if un-battled, it becomes an action. This is a daily battle that we must be ready and prepared for to be a victorious warrior. (v.5, 6)
By planting the Gospel in our hearts, we can stand and fight. By knowing the enemies tactics we are able to recognize his attacks on the mind and stop him.
By keeping our minds fixed on Christ, we stay in a state of preparedness. Always on the alert, able to respond with prayer and power. Battleground or Playground?
A Father’s Responsibility
Gen. 18: 17-19
Have you ever noticed that on Mother’s day we tell mother’s how great they are and on Father’s day we tell father’s what they need to do to be great fathers? It’s almost as if a mother “automatically” becomes great while a father must continually work at it. There are a number of descriptions given for a father. A father is: -a person who growls when he feels good and laughs when he is scared. –a person who gets upset when the school grades aren’t as good as he thinks they should be. –a person who hurries away from the breakfast table to the arena, sometimes called an office, where, with calloused, practiced hands he tackles the three headed dragon named, weariness, work and monotony. –a person who gives his daughter to a man who is not nearly good enough, so he can have grandchildren that are better than anyone else’s.
A dad is a guy who has replaced the currency in his wallet with pictures of his family. Someone has said that “A boy loves his mother, but he follows his father”. That places a load of responsibility on fathers. Responsibility’s such as: He is the leader, he is to teach his children, he is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, to name a few.
The Provider: The father is charged with providing for the family. Paul said that if a man will not provide for his own, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel. He told the Thessalonians that if a man would not work neither should he eat. It is the responsibility of the father to provide food and shelter for his family. The entrance of sin into life meant that man had to earn his living by the sweat of his brow. This turned work into a JOB instead of a JOY. But then God gave us a “Two edged sword” to allow us to turn our labor into joy again. A) The Privilege of Providing for a Family- This meets some inner need of man and makes him feel complete. B) The New Birth- It is the presence of Christ in a mans heart that changes work from wearisome to wonderful. Matt. 11: 28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light”.
The Protector: Families need an authority figure. The lack of such a figure can be seen in today’s society. Suicide, drug abuse, alcoholism and sexual promiscuity are epidemic among teenagers. An estimated 20 teens attempt to end their lives every 30 minutes. Approximately 685 teens become drug users every 30 minutes. Some 23 teenage girls have abortions every 30 minutes. More than 3 million American teenagers have been treated for alcoholism since 1980. Around 9000 teenagers are killed every year from driving drunk. A) Fathers have to be worthy of and accept that responsibility. A man inherits some respect, but most of it has to be earned by consistent living. B) Wives are commanded by God to give this respect to their husband, (Ephesians 5:22, 33) “Wives be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband”.
The Punisher: (Pro. 13; 24) “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently”. Never punish your child when you’re angry, you’re not punishing them to satisfy your pride but for their good. Compliment and criticize your child’s behavior, not the child.
The Pattern: A man was crossing a field to a bar one day when he looked behind him and saw his son. “Look dad”, the boy exclaimed, “I’m following in your footsteps”. The dad immediately turned around and went back home. One study found that where both parents were faithful to the Lord, 93% of the kids remain faithful. If one parent was faithful the figure dropped to 73%. When both parents were only moderately faithful only 53% of the children remained faithful. And where both parents were only occasional attendee’s the figure dropped to 6%. These statistics speak loud and clear, your children will follow your lead.
The Priest: (Deut. 6: 4-9) “Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorpost of your house and on your gates.”
Fathers, you have a great responsibility and you need help. The Heavenly Father wants to enable you to be the father you should be. It requires being totally committed to Him.
For years I have carried a card in my wallet to remind me of this responsibility of being a father and the eyes of my children that watch my walk, this is what it says.
Walk a Little Plainer Daddy
Walk a little plainer daddy, said a little child so frail. I’m following in your footsteps and I don’t want to fail. Sometimes your steps are very plain, sometimes they are hard to see. So walk a little plainer daddy, for you are leading me. I know that once you walked this way, many years ago. And what you did along the way, I’d really like to know. For sometimes when I am tempted, I don’t know what to do, so walk a little plainer daddy, for I must follow you. Some day when I’m grown up, you are like I want to be. Then I will have a little child, who will want to follow me. And I would want to lead them right and help them to be true, so walk a little plainer daddy, for we must follow you.
Fathers, whose watching you? Are your steps plain and clear? Are they the steps you want them to follow? Choose your path wisely, for one day, they will follow you!
What Will You Choose?
Joshua 24: 14-16
Joshua Had served as Israels leader for many years and was coming to the end of his life. In the beginning of this same chapter, he gives a recap of Israel's history, all the way back to the fathr of Abraham. He reminds them of the victories God had given them, the enemies defeated, the lands that now belong to them because of God's promises and faithfulness to fulfill them. He reminds them of the orchards and the harvest they enjoy, orchards they did not plant nor tend. Homes they enjoy, that they did not build. In the 23rd. chapter he reminds them of all the good words that God had spoken to and over them, and how not one of them had failed. He also told them that when they transgress or break the covenant of the Lord, that they would perish from off the good land that God had given them. You notice he said "when", not "if"?
After gathering all the tribes together, he told them it was time to put awaw any and all other gods and with a sincere heart serve God. He went on to tell them that the choice was theirs. He told them that if they prefered the gods of the the land they were delivered from, then serve them. Or, if you prefer the gods of the land that you now have possession of, the land that the God of Israel has given you, then serve them. He then made a very clear and concise statement as to where he stood. He said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord".
Was Joshua trying to get the people to serve other gods? No! He had been there from the beginning, and had seen how each time something didn't go the way they thought it should, they quickly turned away from God and began complaining and grumbling about life. Things like, O that we were back in Egypt, where life was sooo! good. Or, we're tired of this amazing manna from heaven that we don't have to prepare, just get up each mornig, gather, eat and be satisfied. We don't have to worry about having enough tupper ware bowels because there will be enough for the day again tomorrow. What he was telling them was, It's time to get real and either serve God or not.
After his speech, the people cried out with a loud voice saying, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods". And they lived happily ever after! Wishful thinking. Just one generation after the death of Joshua, the children of Israel were serving Baals. Joshua knew the importance of making a real, from the heart choice to serve and follow God. He knew that without that heart, mind and soul kind of decision, they would fall away, and they did. That call to make a choice still rings loud and clear for us today. Will we serve the gods of this world, or will we stand as Joshua, and proclaim, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord".
Can Salvation be Lost?
05/31 / 2019
Salvation is and should be a topic that is taught, studied and ministered on in churches weekly. Some look at salvation as, that moment when a sinner is saved. Some say salvation is what was done at Calvary. Some say salvation is a once and forever thing, while others say it must be guarded and cherished. To a degree each of these are correct, while being incomplete. When one places his or her faith in Jesus and the finished work He did at the cross their salvation is secured. Also true, salvation was provided at the cross when Jesus said “It is finished”. Salvation is also something that has no need for additions or improvements, “It is finished”. While on the other hand, salvation is a gift that is to be cherished and guarded. So which is it, can salvation be lost or not? Yes and No.
I believe that over the years salvation has become a topic that many have skirted or teach only as a bi-product. For many Christians today if you were to ask them to define “salvation”, you would receive the generic answer of “I’ve been saved”. While this is true, salvation is so much more than just being saved. Salvation in its definition is being delivered from sin and its consequences, a deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss. Through the salvation provided us by Christ at the cross, came so much more than sin forgiven and deliverance. With it came “Redemption”, the regaining of a possession lost or stolen. Payment of great price being paid by One who did not owe, for one who could not pay, the clearing or cancelation of debt on our behalf. When God created man and placed him in the garden, He gave him ownership over earth. When man chose to defy God and follow satin, he gave over ownership, ushering in sin and further separation from God. The price to “redeem” man back to God was higher than any of us could ever afford or dream to afford. It was God’s only Son, Jesus.
So to the question of, “can salvation be lost?” Yes, because it is a gift, something that can be neglected, ignored and finally lost. No, in that it was paid for by Christ, in full, nothing lacking, “It is finished”. We must never cease to hold the salvation of Christ close and value its cost lest we find ourselves drifting away (He. 2:1-3). Salvation comes by faith in Christ and His work at the cross, it is a gift from God (Ep. 2:8), and don’t you think if God is going to give a gift of such great value, it should be cherished and guarded? Pertaining to is it “once and forever”, Yes, meaning that the debt has been satisfied in full, “It is finished” (Jn. 19-30). But with receipt of that gift, comes responsibility on our part. We have a free will and can neglect and walk away from the gift of salvation, at a very high cost. (Heb. 6:4-6) makes it clear that the price of walking away from God’s gift of salvation has repercussions. It cannot be lost, in that it is incomplete or taken from you. It can only be lost, in that “we fall or walk away”, (Heb. 6:4-6).
I Know that I Know, Do You Know?
2 Timothy 1: 6-14
Paul wrote, “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you.” What did he mean to “kindle?” If you have ever dealt with a wood stove or built a camp fire then you know what Paul was saying. To get a camp fire or wood stove going good, you start with kindling, small pieces of wood that will catch fire quickly and generate heat. As the flame begins to burn, you fan it to cause it to spread and grow, as you add larger pieces of wood to it, until you have a fire to cook with or provide heat.
As Christians, we are to kindle that gift that is within us. We sometimes need to fan the dying embers until they become a flame again. It is the “flame of God” burning within us that causes us to be bold for Christ. Verse 7 says, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity or a fragile spirit, but one of power and love and discipline.” We are to be bold in our lives for God. Unashamed of who we are and whose we are. (Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
If we claim to be followers of Jesus, then we need to start acting like followers of Jesus. When we witness to someone or the subject of God comes up, do we get timid and have the attitude, “I don’t want to offend or come off as pushy” or do we proclaim, “Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation for the lost?” I’ve often used the acronym, P.U.S.H., which means, “Pray Until Something Happens.” As people who love God, hate sin, and grieve for the lost and hurting we need to ‘push’ the subject.
Verse 9 says that God has called us with a ‘holy calling’, one that will fulfill ‘His purpose’. A calling that was giving to us through God’s Son Jesus. We have a reason to shout, a reason to be joyous. We have been given eternal life, and it is available to all. If someone you loved or cared about was dying and no one seemed to be able to help, and you were given the cure that would give them life, would you hold back out of fear you might offend them or upset them. Or would you sheepishly approach them (stutter, fumble around, make small talk, etc.) or would you boldly proclaim I have the answer for life? Well, we have been given the answer for life and the cure for eternal death, separated from God for a lost and dying world, and we need to boldly proclaim it.
Will you be accepted every time? No! Some will laugh at you, some will make fun of you. Some may even reject you and curse you. But we do not share the good news to be popular or accepted. We share it because we know it is the only cure for a dying world.
Again in verse 12, Paul says, “I am not ashamed.” He goes on to say, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” What had Paul entrusted to Him? His life, his future, his hope. Paul knew that the One he had met on the road to Damascus, was the Savior of the world. And because he knew, he had a boldness that kept him from shying away or holding back, even when he knew doing so would be easier and safer.
He finished the 14th verse with a call to ‘guard’ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the treasure that has been entrusted to us. God has given each one of His children a treasure worthy of guarding. Not a treasure to hid and keep only for ourselves, but one to share with others.
Paul could proclaim, “I know that I know!” Can you?
What Shall ISay?
What shall I say? This is a question we should ask ourselves often, with some people, every time before they open their mouth. It is so easy for us to voice the negative without thinking about the consequences first. We are quick to speak and slow to listen, when it should be the other way around. We say things in response to questions presented to us, situations we face, things we see or hear, and often times in conversations way too quickly. I have often had to remind myself, “That it is better to remain silent and thought a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt”. Words of wisdom, probably inspired by someone who was quicker at putting their tongue in gear then they were at putting their brain in gear first.
Our words are powerful. There can be blessing or cursing in them (Jeremiah 9: 8, Romans 12: 14), they can bring strife or they can bring peace. There is life and death in the tongue. The words we speak can build a person up or tear a person down. The spoken Word of God has power to heal, to restore and mend broken hearts and lives. When we speak or act, it should bring honor to God, not cause people to want to pull away from Him. This does not mean that we only talk about the Bible or what’s going on at church, or that our conversations are only and always about God. It means that whatever we do, whatever we say, we do and say with a mind and heart fixed on Jesus. If our words and actions are a reflection of the love we have for Christ, what does that reflection look like? (John 13: 15). When people see and hear us what do they see and hear? Is there compassion, concern, love for others and their struggles and needs? Or is it mainly about us and what we need or can get out of it? Do our actions line up with what we are speaking? If I say I love you, yet neglect you, my words are nothing more than hollow mumblings. There are times when we need to be firm and our words seem harsh. But a rebuke or advice given in true love, God’s love, from a heart that is concerned and cares for others, can melt walls of resistance (2Timothy 4: 2).
Most of us do not like being told we are wrong or that we have made a mistake. If we are truly honest, we like to believe we are in the right most, if not all the time. We love the praise and welcome it with a smile and a little wave of “ah, it was nothing, I’m just good at that”. As long as things are the way we think they should be, “life is good”, but the moment things turn and we are not at the receiving end of the praise we get upset. We will lash out with the tongue with words that destroy, then turn around and ask God with the same tongue to bless us. God’s Word says these thing ought not to be (James 3: 9-10). Our words and actions should never be used to break a spirit, but instead to build, strengthen and draw one closer to God. So the next time you find yourself in a position to give advice or simply feel the need to comment on a given situation, stop, listen to the heart of the conversation, ask God to give you wisdom, then follow that wisdom and respond with truth and honesty and most importantly, with love. What you say may not be what a person wants to hear at the moment, but it is truth, spoken in love and the rest is up to God. What Shall I Say?