Overtaken with Blessings or
Overtaken with Curses, it’s a Choice
I was studying this morning and reading God’s Word. The passage I read struck me as to how simple God’s Word is to understand, if we are truly willing to listen and heed. I have found that over the years of listening to, and talking with people that the biggest problem is, we complicate God’s Word. We read it and don’t completely like what something says, so we flip the page and look for something else. Or we just say, that’s for someone else, not for me. Or, I don’t really understand this so I’ll just skip it. Or things have changed over time, and that passage was for back then.
The Scripture is called the living word, because it’s alive, and is applicable to our lives today. God sent the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us understanding of His word. He gave us standards to live by that will, if followed, enrich our lives. But ultimately, we have the final choice of following or rejecting His word. Deuteronomy 28 explains in a simple, concise way. That like it or not, is God’s Word. I have heard a lot of people use the old saying, ‘God said it, I believe it and that settles it’. When in all actuality, they should be saying, ‘God said it, that settles it’. God’s Word isn’t dependent upon me or anyone else believing it to be true. It’s true, because God said it!
Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord you God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God: “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways. The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hands to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you. The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways”.
Pretty simple to understand and follow. But the choice is still ours. If you continue to read this passage of Scripture through the 14th verse, you get a very clear picture of all the blessings God has in store for you, and what it takes to receive them.
But what if I choose to not, follow ALL, that God has said and kind of pick and choose? Well, starting in the 15th verse of the same chapter God gives a very clear and simple description.
“But it shall come about, if you do not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: “Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out…”
I think it’s pretty easy to figure out what lies in store when we obey, as well as when we don’t. If you finish reading this chapter in Deuteronomy, all the things we suffer are spelled out in a simple, understanding way that still applies to our lives.
Did you notice that in both the blessings portion and the curses portion some key words were used? In the ‘Blessings’ portion, ‘Diligently, Obey, Careful, and All’. In the ‘Curses’ portion, if you, ‘Do Not Obey’, ‘Observe’, ‘All’.
God made it very clear what He expects, because He is a Righteous God, He expects our very best, because He is a loving God, He offers forgiveness. There is no, ‘part way’ with God, it’s ALL, or nothing. If you, and I, are honest, are we giving our all? Are we diligently, carefully obeying all? Or are we settling and only putting in some effort?
If today, were our last day on this earth, how would we live?
Boatload of Hope
Mark 4: 35-41
A few weeks back my wife made a comment in church about hope. She said something to the effect, that we need a boatload of hope. Looking at the world we live in and the chaos around us, it can be easy to sometimes feel like there’s no hope.
The disciples at the time were feeling pretty hopeless. Here they are in a boat being tossed around by the wind and the waves, the boats filling up with water and sinking and Jesus is asleep. (Do you ever feel like maybe Jesus is sleeping through your storm?) Your baling water as fast as you can but the boats still sinking and your hope is sinking with it.
These are the same men that witnessed just a couple of chapters earlier, the healings of the paralytic and another with a withered hand. And we’ve been in similar situations. We’ve seen God move in mighty, miraculous ways, only to around and find ourselves struggling down the road to cope with a new situation.
We find ourselves searching, grasping for hope to just get through. Some put their hope in jobs, or the economy. In their contacts of friends and family. Many put their hope in government leaders, which most of the time is the cause for the lack of hope. But all of these are temporary and flawed, and offer no true, lasting peace.
True hope only comes from a relationship with Christ. A relationship that regardless of the situation or circumstances, provides a hope that is fixed, firm and unshakeable. (Hebrews 6:19) tells us this, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil”. A hope that is an anchor for the soul. With a good anchor a vessel is held secure during the storm. Christ is our anchor that holds us safe during the storms of life, no matter how fierce the storm may be.
The disciples were afraid, all they could see were the circumstances. They saw the waves and the boat filling with water. They felt the power of the wind and their hope was fading. When all along, they had a boatload of hope.
When they cried out to Jesus, “don’t you care that we’re about to go down?” They were crying out to a boatload of hope. Now you have to remember, these were professional fishermen, they had been in rough waters before, but this one caused them to cry out. The waves and the wind had captured their focus, all they could see was the storm, and it stripped them of hope.
Things haven’t changed a whole lot over time, so often we find ourselves fixated on the storm instead of fixing our hope on the storm maker. We get so focused on the wind and the noise that we forget about the One who says, “Hush, be still” and the wind and waves obeys. We forget that we have a boatload of hope. And like the disciples, too often when we call on Him and He causes the storm to cease, we are amazed and question how. I believe that God wants us to live in an excitement of what He does, can and will do, if we will just anchor our hope in Him.
We have a world watching to see where we turn when the wind begins blowing and the waves begin pounding. Do we scramble in fear or do we face the storm with a confidence that causes others to ask, “How do you have hope?” Our response should be, “We don’t just have hope, we have a boatload of hope”
Christianity or Islam?
This is a topic that has been debated for years. Can Christians and Islamist, true Islamist, live in unity with each other with peace and harmony? I’ll let you decide. Recently, I read a piece on the subject, and here it is. After you have read it, you decide what Scripture (the Bible) says.
Now we know the Bible tells us to seek peace with all men, if possible. And unity and tolerance bumper stickers may look cool and fashionable, and give you a warm fuzzy feeling, because you’re letting everyone know, ‘can’t we just be friends?’ But can you, with all your pretty stickers and catchy phrases make someone who believes you are, as a Christian, the ‘Great Satan’, worthy of destruction, accept you?
The Holy Bible, the ONLY! True source of God’s Word, is the only source we can turn to for guidance. I am only going to list a couple of passages, as there are too many to place in this writing. My prayer and hope is, that you will open God’s Word, seek the direction and understanding of the Holy Spirit and allow Him, not man or pre-conceived ideas to lead you.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12;18), “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14), “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” (2 Timothy 3:5), “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.” (Romans 16:17).
By Mark W. Swarbrik
Ever wonder why so many Muslims hate America, hate Israel and hate Christianity? Why do Muslims become Jihadist that murder and maim? Muslims have a law called “Al-taqiyya.” It gives them permission to lie for the sake of their religion. The politically correct position is that true Islam is a religion of peace, but is that the truth? Muslims that are peaceable are not following their prophet Muhammed or their own scriptures. Those who want to be sincere Muslims will become killers. Ask any Jihadist and they will tell you the same.
They hate Christians because the Muslim scripture tells them to hate and kill Christians. They kill because Muhammed was a killer. Whoever they cannot convert, they kill, as Muhammed did. The following quotes are from the Islamic scriptures. Bear in mind that what they say is considered by Muslims to be God’s Word. These are just a few of their scriptures that show their intent towards Christians, Jews and any who do not adhere to their belief.
“Verily they are disbelievers and infidels who say, “the Messiah, son of Mary, is God.” (Qur’an 5:17)
“Killing disbelievers is a small matter to us.” (Tabari IX:69)
“Believers, take not Jews and Christians for your friends.” (Qur’an 5:51)
“Allah said, ‘Jesus, I will take you and raise you to myself and rid you of the infidels who have forged the lie that you are my son…those who are infidels will surely receive severe torment in this world and the next.” (Qur’an 3:55).
The next time you hear that Islam is the religion of peace, that true Muslims are peace loving, you will know that you are hearing the Muslim lie of “Al-taqiyya.”
Muslims hate because their prophet was demon possessed and taught doctrines of demons. The hate is a supernatural hate inspired by Satan, the dragon. “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 12:17).
As a Christian, you should be praying for all, who do not have a real relationship with Jesus Christ that they would come to know Him. All while remembering, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16).
Living Like Jesus
Treat others the way Jesus would treat them. One of the best ways to share Jesus is to live like Him. But that's easier said than done. Living like Jesus is hard, mainly because it involves loving people like Jesus. And loving people sounds easy, but it's hard to do. Because if we're going to love people like Jesus, that means every person like Jesus, including the people you don't like.
Jesus didn't say to only love people who are kind to you. He said to love everyone.
When you were a kid, you may have heard about The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. It's a great idea. Jesus' own idea, in fact! But what about when we think they don't deserve it? Even when they're being unkind to us? Even when they're just so annoying you can't even? The Golden Rule still holds. When we're rude, annoying, or undeserving, don't we want others to forgive us and show us grace? Yup. You know it's true. And Jesus asks us to show the same forgiveness and grace we want others to show us, even though it can feel almost impossibly difficult to do.
In fact, Jesus said the greatest law was to love God and to love people. It's really important to Jesus, no loopholes or getting out of it.
So, how can we love others when it doesn't come naturally to us? We've got to change the way we see them. First, we've got to realize that we're all made in the image of our Creator. Think about that for a second. You, and every person you know, was hand crafted in His image. Isn't that mind blowing?
Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we're God's masterpieces. So, first, believe that about yourself. God created you exactly the way He wanted you. And when you believe that, it's easier to extend that kind of love and acceptance to others. Secondly, if everyone is a masterpiece, that means every time you say something negative to someone, you're insulting God's creation. It stops you cold, right?
James, the brother of Jesus, had some powerful words about this, too. He wrote the book of James in the Bible, and he said that with our mouths we worship God and then with those same mouths, we curse people around us who are made in God's likeness. Ouch! When you worship God on Sunday, are you turning around and tearing people down on Monday?
Let's change the way we see the "others" in our lives. let's start seeing them as significant. And then let's start treating them the way Jesus would treat them. So, the next time you're tempted to speak or act harshly to someone around you, consider this: How would Jesus treat this person? Then do that.
(This was from a Bible study I recently did and was blessed and challenged to examine my own life and actions. I hope it blesses you as well)
Reignite Your Faith
(The following is from a morning Bible study I read)
I once heard a story about an incredible sermon that changed a man’s life, yet the pastor who gave the sermon never uttered a word.
A man who had been attending a particular church suddenly stopped going to services. After several weeks of noticing the man was not there, the pastor decided to pay him a visit. Upon arriving, the pastor knocked on the door and the man welcomed him in. Knowing why the pastor had come to visit him, the man felt a little embarrassed and wasn’t quite sure what to say. So, he gestured for the pastor to take a seat in front of the fire. The two men sat down and stared at the dancing flames.
After a few minutes of awkward silence, the pastor bent down and picked up the fire tongs, and poked the burning logs. A small ember fell off into the ashes, and he used the tongs to pick it up. But instead of placing the ember back in the fire, he placed it off to the side, away from the flames. Then he sat back in his chair, leaving the man to wonder what he was doing.
The ember’s flame began to diminish until it died completely. Its glow was gone, and within minutes it had grown cold. The pastor leaned in, picked up the cold ember with the tongs, and placed it back in the flames. Immediately the ember began to glow again. The pastor then rose to leave and thanked the man for allowing him in.
The man smiled and shook the pastor’s hand. Then he said, “Thank you for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday.”
This devotion shows the importance of having a passionate faith and an intimate relationship with God. If you don’t remember anything else, please remember this: if you truly want to love your life again, you have to love Jesus first.
To keep your faith alive, you must stay in touch with Jesus, through conversation with Him and through His word, and you must stay in community with other believers who will motivate you to grow and mature in your faith.
Here are three things you can do to reignite your faith and keep His fire burning brightly.
Admit you feel distant from God. Invite God to reignite the fire in your heart, just as He did for some followers of Jesus. Three days after Jesus’ crucifixion, two of His followers were walking down a road, mourning His death and talking about all that had happened, including the mystery of His missing body. Jesus appeared and began walking beside them, but they didn’t recognize Him because He kept them from doing so.
They said, “We had hoped He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel” (Luke 24:21).
Jesus preached the truths of the Old Testament to them and lit a spark in their hearts to burn within them (Luke 24:32). Jesus taught them all about Himself, and it changed them.
Spend time learning all about God by reading His Word. Believers often talk about having a quiet time with God, but not everyone understands what a “quiet time” really is. A quiet time is sitting down with God’s Word, just you and Him, letting Him speak to you through it. In other words, don’t simply read the Bible as you would a novel you’re trying to finish. Read it with great anticipation of how God will speak to you through it.
If we don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, our hearts are like that cold ember left on the hearth. The good news is, when we spend time studying Scripture, we scoot in a little closer to Jesus and to the fire that warms us from the inside out and can keep our hearts ablaze. Spend time in conversation with Jesus every day. Fan that flame and watch it grow. It’s time to “Reignite Your Faith.”
As I was reading and studying this morning, I read a passage of Scripture that fit very well with our current society and times. The Scripture was Ezekiel 33. This passage explains the duty and responsibility of a "Watchman". God had spoken to Ezekiel and instructed him to speak to the people and give them instruction on how to live. God said, "If He brings a sword on the land, and if the people select a man to be a 'Watchman' and he sees the sword that is coming, and he sounds the alarm (the TRUMPet) and warns the people, and they don't respond, then their fate is on themselves". I believe that for the first time in a long time, we have a leader that is sounding the trumpet, calling us to wake up and seek God and renounce the evil that is being pushed upon us. "But if they hear and respond, they would be saved". God went on to say, that if the 'Watchman' sees the sword (or threat) coming and does nothing and harm comes to the people, then the 'Watchman' will be held responsible. He goes on to say in verse 7, "Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; (this applies to us in America today) so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me". "When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you will surely die,' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you on your part warn the wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life". We as men and women of Christ, have a calling to warn of evil and wickedness. Now please understand, not everyone who claims the title 'Christian', is one. I've spent a lot of time in the garage where my Harley is, but it doesn't make me a Harley. If your life does not line up with God's Word, then you can call yourself anything you want, but it doesn't change the facts. It's not about what you think about yourself or claim, it's about God's Word and what He says. I just recently watched a message where the speaker discussed our obligation to vote. He said we should be voting for someone who supports marriage between one man and woman (per Scripture), for someone who believes in the sanctity of life. Someone who supports law and order, justice and our justice system (Judges).
My wife has heard me say for years, that if you vote for a party that two of their primary issues that they push and endorse, are the murder of our nations unborn and the sanction of the homosexual lifestyle, you cannot call yourself a Christian. (1 Corinthians 6:9).
I know that this statement is going to cause me a lot of flak, but this is God's standard, His Word, His law, He wrote it, not me. And I firmly believe His Word to be the ultimate and absolute truth, and I want my hands clean. God does not hate the sinner, regardless the sin, but He does hate and will not tolerate or wink at sin. He is a Righteous Judge and 'All Lives Matter'.
As a Christian, I believe we are called to be 'Watchmen', we are to be willing and in fact are responsible to sound the alarm against danger and sin. We may not always be popular with people, but we can be pleasers of men, or pleasers of God! Watchmen and women, it's time to stand up, take a stand against sin and the evil that we see being forced upon us in our nation, and be willing to sound the alarm. We are called to action.
America is going through some tough times right now. We have been hit with the worst pandemic this country has seen since 1918. We see people living in fear, afraid to live life. We have spoken with so many people who have no hope for the future or thought of what the future holds. We see evil people rioting, burning, looting and destroying life with no thought of anything except their own greedy, evil desires. As a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ, I don't have to know what the future holds or what lies in wait. Because I know who holds the future and I know He has plans for my life. (Jeremiah 29: 11), "For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope". Being a Christian doesn't mean we live life in a bubble, unaware of sickness, calamity, hardships and evil around us. It means, we know God is in control, and our responsibility is to fix our eyes on Him. We are to love those around us, we are to be and show compassion to the lost, fearful and hurting. As we move into the future, let us do it with a confidence and strength in the One who holds the future. If you are one of the ones living in fear, with a sense of no-hope. If you are unsure about the future and what it holds, then let us at Chariots for Christ Ministries introduce you to the holder of the future, the giver of peace, the restorer of life. The God who loves you and has a plan for you to succeed. When you contact us, we will get back with you. We will pray with and for you. May you come to know the 'Lover of my soul'.
So What Next?
Right now our nation is in a state of fear and panic. As the media pulls out all the stops to spread the fear, we see people afraid to go outside their homes. Now, before you say I am taking the COVID19 virus lightly, continue reading. I have no problem with taking precautions and being safe, but how do we determine when the precautions or restrictions have gone too far? Businesses have shut down, schools have shut down, travel has been extremely limited to name just a few. I understand most, if not all of these. But what about when the state tells you that you cannot gather to worship.
For years I have heard Minister after Minister, church after church and Christian after Christian as well as the secular society proclaim “Separation of Church and State”. When it’s politically convenient or fits an agenda, it’s used like a tool, and both sides love to boast about their willingness to “stand firm” on the issue. Yet now, in this time of fear and panic, we see churches across the country, succeeding to the orders and mandates of the state. We hear things like, “we are to be in compliance and subject to the authority over us”. I have heard this from both sides. That by doing so, we show ourselves to be good citizens and good Christians.
But what happens when the orders or mandates conflict with God’s word? In the past, during times of trouble or sickness, the one place you could count on to be open, a safe port in the midst of the worst storm, a place of hope and assurance, that no matter the situation, offered comfort and peace to the weary. Today that is no longer the case.
The state made their list of “relevant” businesses and or places of gathering that could and needed to stay open. Places such as Hospitals, Police, Fire and rescue, banks and yes, Wal-Mart.
Soon the list of Churches closing their doors went from some to most, and then almost all (I’m sure there are some that refuse to close their doors). The very organizations that claimed to be “light houses” and “beacons of hope”, quickly jumped on the wagon of compliance and followed suit. Quoting Scripture to justify their actions. Scripture such as Romans 13:1, while ignoring or explaining away Scripture such as Hebrews 10:25. But again, I ask the question, what happens when the dictates of the governing authority are in conflict with God’s authority? Which do we obey? Are we required to obey man’s law when it is in opposition to God’s law?
I think about the people in China, who are told they can gather for church, as long as they follow the “state approved, church guidelines”. Yet under threat of imprisonment, torture and even death, they meet in secret to worship God. I recall the Bible account of three young men, who under the threat of a fiery death, refused to bow to a false god, and instead trusted in the one true God. Or another young man, who after the law came out, that he could no longer pray to God, continued to do so, and was thrown into the lion’s den.
I believe we are to be good citizens, but I also believe that what makes us good citizens, is our faith in God and our unwavering commitment to Him. And our willingness to stand, even when it may cost us. Earlier I mentioned Wal-Mart as one of the “essential” places allowed to stay open. I was in our local Wal-Mart this afternoon, and there was more than a hundred people moving about as normal. I saw bicyclist enjoying the sunshine and beautiful country. Yet as I made my way home, I saw church after church with closed doors and empty lots. How sad that the very places of hope, so quickly abandon those they are called to serve. My thoughts are, what will be the next order of closing, by the governing authority be, that the church will quickly obey? Maybe, certain socially acceptable behaviors, that the Bible clearly defines as sin? Behaviors that are listed as a hate crime just for speaking against.
Our freedoms are not destroyed all at once, but little by little. It’s the little foxes that destroy the vine. At one point or another, we will, have to draw the line in the sand and take a stand. Possibly at great cost. What will your stand be? Are you willing to say, and put into action, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord?”
Either we trust God to deliver and protect us or we don’t. There is no middle ground. We’re either the state church, or the church of the living God. I’ll let you decide where you stand.
Standing firm. To some this means, “Inflexible, rigid, unmovable, or just plain stubborn”. I’m sure that’s not the description of anyone here or probably of anyone you know. Paul was not talking about this type of “standing firm”, when this was written.
Paul was speaking to the followers in Ephesus about their unity in Christ with one another. About their walk with Christ in troubling and hard times. He was saying to them, and to us to, “Stand Firm” in Christ, don’t let your faith be shaken by the things around you. When you hear of dread, don’t allow fear to overtake you. Don’t give the enemy a foothold in your life.
Right now all over the news we hear the topic of the “Corona Virus”, how many affected, how many quarantined, how many have died and on and on. Fear is being spread like wild fire and people are panicked. But we either serve a God who is able, or He is not. A God who holds us in the palm of His hand, or lets us hang in the wind. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”.
As parents, have you ever told your children to do, or not do something, and they do the exact opposite of what their told? Well, we sometimes do the exact same thing with God. He says go, we stay. He says stay, we go. When I was first saved, I was a little upset at God for referring to us as sheep. Because sheep are kind of dumb and helpless. I thought, couldn’t You (God) come up with a better pick than sheep to compare us to? Then I got older and a little wiser, and realized, God was right, we are like sheep. We stray off, we ignore and we are helpless.
The last part of verse 13, and the first part of 14 says, “and having done everything to stand firm. STAND FIRM therefore”. In other words, when God says “get in the fight”, then, get in the fight. And when He says, “stand and watch”, then stand and watch.
The book of Judges, chapter 7, gives a great example of “Standing Firm”. Gideon and three hundred (300) men got a victory over more than a hundred thousand (100,000) men by being obedient to God. God whittled Gideon’s army down from over thirty thousand (30,000) to three hundred (300), and then instructed him to do something that seemed absolutely insane, “Stand”. Through his obedience, Gideon gained a great victory, and we serve the same God today.
Sometimes, we just need to, “Stand Firm”.
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Where Would I Go?
John 6: 52-58, 66-69
Has the Word of God ever hit you in such a way that you found it hard to accept? You found yourself looking, searching, to see if maybe you heard it wrong or perhaps it was delivered incorrectly. Or maybe, deep down you just didn’t like what it said or how it made you feel. Perhaps it left you a little shaken or down right irritated. Regardless, after praying and reading, you realized, no matter how you looked at it or reasoned, it was God’s Word. At this point, we can accept God’s Word for what it is and what it says, or we can reject it, the choice is ours.
Jesus had just finished telling the disciples something that was very hard to understand and accept. They were questioning amongst themselves the meaning. And when they could not comprehend it, they left Him and went back to their old lives. There are times, that we struggle so hard to understand something, or to, figure things out, that we miss what is being said. Jesus was not talking about the “physical” here, He was talking about that part that lives for eternity, the soul of man. That “spirit man” which hungers and thirst for Him, that can only be satisfied by Him (John 6: 35) “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not be hungry, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”. I don’t know about anyone else, but I get hungry for physical food every day. And I get thirsty, every day, and I have to eat to satisfy that hunger and drink to quench the thirst. But my soul is satisfied.
Because so many could not hear beyond their ears, they could not take what He was saying, so they abandoned Him. He said in (John 8: 43) “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word”. Jesus responded to the twelve by asking them, “You do not want to go away also do you?” (John 6: 67). And good ol’ Peter, the one Jesus had changed his name from Simon (which means to hear) to Peter (which means stone or rock, Matt. 5: 6) answered Him with “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 16:68). It wasn’t that Peter was the brightest bulb in the box, it was because Peter wanted his hunger satisfied and his thirst quenched.
When those times come that you, “just don’t understand”, do you turn to Him for strength and direction, or do you throw in the towel and walk away? When the enemy of our souls scream, “you can’t do this, or this isn’t what you signed up for, or maybe you should just walk away”, that’s when you spoil the enemies plans, and turn to “the lover of your soul” and cry out, “where would I go?).
Which Group are You?
Romans 1: 28-32
Galatians 5: 22-23
Philippians 4: 8-9
Most people consider themselves to be “good people”. I’ve not met to many that if you asked them, would respond with, “I’m not a good person, I’m untrustworthy, sneaky, corrupt, and just down right mean”. We tend to, at times look at others and see their problems and comment, “I’m sure glad I’m not like that”. Because with most of us, we can see clearly into someone else, better than we can ourselves. But in reality, there are really only two types of people, and Scripture list the attributes of both.
The first is found in Romans 1: 28-32. This is the group that I pray, God, please help me to serve You, and live for You in a way that keeps me out of this group. This group refuses to acknowledge God, except to blame Him when things don’t go the way they like or they don’t get their way. Their list includes, Unrighteousness, Wickedness, Greed, Evil, Envy, Murder, Strife, Deceit, Malice, Gossips, Slanders, Haters of God, Insolent, Arrogant, Boastful, Inventors of Evil, Disobedient to Parents, no Understanding, Untrustworthy, Unloving, Unmerciful. And then the crowning achievement, not only do they know the things they do are wrong, but they take pleasure when others do them.
Some may say, “I’ve never committed murder, or hated God, so I’m okay”. But Scripture tells us “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). Ouch! You mean I can’t cheat on my taxes but pay my tithe and everything’s okay? It goes on to say in verse 11, that if we keep one and break another, we become a transgressor of the law. So how do we do it? How do we live without ever crossing the line? We don’t. We all makes mistakes, we all fail at times. The person that tells you they never do, ask them to meet you out at the lake, so you can watch them walk on water! We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ. When we fail, when we stumble His Word says, (1 John 1:9),“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. You see, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being forgiven.
Now let’s take a look at the second group, the one I know we all want to be associated with. This group has something different. Something that makes them stand out, that makes them different. These are the kind of people you want to be around. Sometimes you just can’t explain it, but just being around them makes you feel better. Makes the trials you’re going through somehow seem a little less intimidating. (Galatians 5: 22-23), “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”.
So how do we do it? How do we live with those things showing and being presented without being phony? Only by Christ. Before an engine can run it has to have fuel, good fuel. If you’ve ever put bad fuel in your car, then you have felt that sluggish, clatter, no power feeling. For the engine to operate smoothly, correctly, it must have quality fuel. The same is true for us. To operate correctly, the way God intends for us to, it requires we put in only the best. (Philippians 4: 8) says, “Finally breathren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things”.
When we put the things of God on the inside, the joy of God will show on the outside, and we will be a part of the group that draws people to be near.
Worthy of Our Praise
Psalms 150: 1-6
1 Peter 2:9
Usually when we hear someone say praise and worship, we think music and singing. We associate the term ‘praise and worship’ with songs. But praise and worship is so much more than music and singing. True praise and worship is any time we lift our hearts and voices to God. Rather it be in song, with or without music, God is worthy of our praise.
We are quick to give praise to people for their accomplishments, or status in life and there is nothing wrong with recognizing and honoring someone. But just as quickly as we deal out praise to people, we withhold it from God because He has not answered a prayer or performed in a matter the way we believe He should. Or we just flat take for granted that God alone is worthy of our praise, and hold to an attitude that He is God and he has to love us. But we are to give God praise in all things, at all times.
Hebrews 13:15, say’s “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of the lips that give thanks to His name.” Continually! We should offer praise. Most people live life feeling good about themselves because they go to church a couple of times a week and pray over their meals. But real, heaven moving praise comes from a desire to be closer to God.
In 1 Peter 2:9, we read. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We see in this verse four (4) reasons to praise God.
1) We are a ‘Chosen Race’.
2) We are a ‘Royal Priesthood’.
3) We are a ‘Holy Nation’.
4) We are a ‘People for God’s own Possession’.
If we are not giving God the praise He is worthy of, and instead giving excuses, then our prayer should be, “O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Thy praise” (Psalms 51:15)
He is Worthy of our praise. Is He getting it?
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?