"Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Tag: Christianity

What are Your Plans

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2)

I just checked indeed.com and found that there over 1,500 jobs available in my state with the word “planner” in the job title. Many of those offer a six-figure salary. We seem to be obsessed with planning our future time. We buy special designed notebooks specifically to write down our plans. Our cell phones come with a planning calendar app already installed and many of those are linked to a calendar on our work computer.

Inevitably though, our plans often get quickly changed by unexpected circumstances. As much as we’d like to believe we have everything under control and know how our day will play out, truthfully, we have no idea. Our life can be turned upside down in the blink of an eye.

After Paul explains the events that will take place when Jesus returns to take us with Him, he goes on to say that we do not need to concern ourselves with when it will happen but reaffirms the fact that we need to be ready, keeping in mind it will happen. Given that no one knows the day nor hour when Jesus will return, it’s pointless to dwell on it. Instead, we need to simply be ready and continue living each day in faith and love and the steadfast hope of our salvation, edifying and comforting one another.

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matthew 24:36)

 

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Break the Perfume Jar

My favorite comedian of all time is Jerry Clower. He often spun outlandish tales revolving around his fictitious family, the Ledbetters and the predicaments they got into. As if the stories weren’t enough to draw you in, his southern Mississippi accent and snorting laugh could keep you laughing ‘til it hurt. Jerry would find ways to weave in his Christian upbringing in many of his stories, making them relatable to anyone in his audience.

I recall one story in particular, about Uncle Versie Ledbetter, who happened to be the oldest deacon in the church. He didn’t attend many of their meetings though. He preferred to let the younger men, those in their 50’s and 60’s take care of the church business. But Uncle Versie heard that the deacons were going to vote on spending some money, so he made sure he was at that meeting. The deacons were voting to buy a chandelier. Uncle Versie spoke up in protest. “Nobody in church has enough education to spell it on the Sears order form. If they got it nobody in church knew how to play it. We shouldn’t spend money on a chandelier as bad as we need lights in the church.” I guess we can say Uncle Versie was a practical man and saw no need for extravagances.

Websters defines extravagance this way.

  • a going beyond reasonable or proper limits in conduct or speech; unreasonable excess
  • a spending of more than is reasonable or necessary; excessive expenditure; wastefulness
  • an instance of excess in spending, behavior, or speech

I remember the church budget discussions we had around the time of the 2010 recession and how some things were seen as necessary by some but seen as not as important to others. I think that time was good for us as a church because it gave us an opportunity to reaffirm God’s will for each of us individually. We had to ask, is the ministry path I’m on really God’s will or is it what I want to do? Sometimes we get our mind set as to what the church ought to be doing without really asking the One in charge. Jesus Christ is still our chief cornerstone.

Our scripture text reference is Matthew 26:6-13.

Verse 6 begins, “Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,” Bethany is about two miles east of Jerusalem near the Mount of Olives. It is where Jesus resided his last few weeks before His crucifixion. This Simon is believed to be the one of the ten Jesus healed that returned to thank him. Note he is still called “the leper”. Even though our sins are forgiven, the world’s view of our past deeds doesn’t necessarily change. Jesus’ blood paid the price for our eternal soul, not this corruptible body. The parallel story in John 12 tells us that Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, sat at the table and that Martha, Lazarus’ sister, was serving supper, and Mary, the other sister, is the one we read about in verse 7. This takes place just before the last supper with the disciples. So, this was sort of a last supper with those that were closest friends, those outside the circle of disciples who knew Jesus not only as their savior but as a human friend.

Photo credit to Lena Glukhova

In verse 7 we read, “There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.” As the gospels of John and Mark relate this same event, they describe the ointment as a pound of spikenard and its worth about a year’s wages at that time. It’s still used by some practicing herbal and natural healers, but the cost is significantly lower. It’s in the same family as the Valerian plant which is a more widely known herbal remedy. The oil or ointment is made from the roots of the spikenard plant. It has several medicinal properties but the one I found most interesting is that it is used in palliative care to help ease the transition from life to death. Remember Jesus has told in verse 2 that He is about to be crucified. So, Mary here is wasting no time. She even interrupts the men here at mealtime. Do we sometimes hold back our worship, our praise, for a more convenient time? Can we even know what we may be missing by waiting?

In verses 8-9 we see the Uncle Versie attitude come out in the disciples. “But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.”
Indignation here means contempt, disgust, even angry. John names Judas as the one who voices this indignation, but Mark infers that it was not just Judas, but others had indignation within themselves. The reference here is to one of the Jewish laws given by Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 15 that the poor should be taken care of by those that had the means to do it. Just back one chapter Jesus had told them they were to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned. So maybe to them in their misunderstanding of the intents of her heart, it seemed she was doing the opposite of what Jesus had just told them.

Verse 10 says, “When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.” Aren’t you glad Jesus understands? Commentaries interpret this as Jesus understanding the men’s indignation, but I believe that He also understood Mary’s desire to show her love for her savior, to worship and praise Him. If it had been Pharisees speaking against her, I don’t think she would have been troubled in the least, but this was Jesus’ disciples, the ones closest to Him who should have understood her worship. Imagine how she must have felt when they became angry at her for worshiping with her whole heart the One they call Lord. Jesus goes on to say she had done a “good work”. It was done to honor and glorify Him and it came from a real and sincere love.

In verse 11, Jesus continues For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” referring to the earthly physical body, for we know that Jesus said he would never leave us or forsake us. Sometimes we are so intent on sticking to the plan that we miss out on the great opportunities. We need to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Many opportunities to serve have been passed over because they didn’t fit our plan and many of those will never be presented to us again.

Jesus explains in verses 12-13 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.”

 I don’t think that Mary fully understood what she had done. She was obedient to the Holy Spirit in love and worship for the Messiah, but I don’t think she realized that she was as Jesus said, preparing His body for burial. She certainly didn’t think that this event would be recorded and handed down through the ages to instruct us to be extravagant in worship. God’s will is accomplished through our obedience. God’s plans and intentions are not always fully revealed to us when He asks us to do something. Think about the impact this had on Mary’s life. The transition from being hurt and broken by the opinions of men, to the joy and peace she must felt from the words of Christ, that this simple act of obedience would be told for a memorial of her whenever the gospel was preached throughout the whole world.

One of this lesson’s aims is to “break the perfume jar” for Jesus this year. These seven verses tell the story of one woman’s act of worship, seen by some as extravagant, but ordained by Christ himself to be told throughout the generations as a memorial of her. We cannot know how many lives have been changed from hearing or reading this story. How many lives will be changed if you step out on faith, in simple obedience to the Holy Spirit, and show your love for Jesus in ways the world doesn’t understand?

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When the Path Isn’t Clear – Keep Going

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, (2) Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (3) And this will we do, if God permit.
Hebrews 6:1-3 

Every young child while visiting with aunts or uncles or other extended family is inevitably asked the question which he probably doesn’t have a clue as to the real answer. What do you want to be when you grow up? I had my definitive answer sometime around the year 1970. I was going to be a fighter pilot in the US Air Force. Now that decision may have been influenced by the odor of Testor’s plastic model glue while assembling my 1/64th scale model of the F14 Tomcat. I spent many hours in the library reading all I could find about my newly chosen career. But alas all my plans were soon dashed to pieces when I read that one of the requirements for fighter pilots was having 20/20 vision. And so it was that my half blind right eye crushed my dreams and pushed me back into the same position as the rest of the nine year old kids I knew; not a clue.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels

Eventually I did settle into a career path, one that I have enjoyed for the most part. Being a bit rebellious in my younger days while choosing the starting point of my path I encountered many twists and turns which probably made the journey more difficult than it needed to be. “Learn by doing” was my philosophy. With each step of the way I learned new things and found ways to use what I had learned from my experiences to boldly accept and conquer new challenges. The difficult experiences quickly gave me opportunities to lead and teach those coming up behind me. While leading and teaching presents its own set of challenges it is also provides the most satisfaction.

Our Christian journey, like our career path, can take many unexpected turns and run into difficulties. Those turns and difficulties, and the times we just don’t know which way to go, can stagnate us. We think God isn’t speaking or giving us direction so we just sit down and wait. At the end of the day how much reward, how much fruit, will be there if we just wait? Nothing. On our workplace job we are usually expected to keep doing what we are told until we are told to do something different. We can’t expect to clock in each morning and expect someone to come retrain us for some unknown task. Our Christian path is no different. “Learn by doing” should be the way of life for every Christian.

In chapter 6 of Hebrews the writer tells us to leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ and go on to perfection. That doesn’t mean abandon or turn from the doctrine of the gospel of Christ. It means we have all we need to serve Christ the moment we receive Him as our Lord and Savior. We cannot sit down to learn all we think we need before we put our hand to the task. The word perfection in verse 1 means equipped for duty. We are given that perfection the day the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. We still need a quiet time each day to read and meditate on God’s Word but waiting cannot be an option. Time is short and the fields are white unto harvest.

Learn by doing. “And this will we do, if God permit.”

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Looking Forward to Our Rest

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”

Hebrews 4:9 KJV

Webster’s defines rest in several ways. A few of them are freedom from activity or labor, peace of mind or spirit, to be free from anxiety or disturbance, and a rhythmic silence in music.

Hebrews 4:9
Hebrews 4:9

We can see examples of all these definitions in God’s Word. God rested on the seventh day after His six days of work of creation, (Gen. 2:2). We can have peace of mind and be free from anxiety when we “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him”, (Psa. 37:7a). Jesus is resting at the right hand of the His Father, a brief rhythmic quiet intermission between His finished work on the cross and His triumphant return to claim His church bride and destroy the enemy, (Psa. 110:1).

But for us, those who are the people of God, we have a rest that “remaineth”, one to look forward to. How do get to that rest? A work must be done, and energy must be exhausted for a rest to be applicable. It cannot be called rest if no work has been done beforehand.

What is this work? Jesus said “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19). All nations means all countries around the globe, but it also includes our next-door neighbor, our family members, our co-workers and classmates. Nations are made up of people. All nations means ALL people.

How long must we work before we reach our rest? Jesus also said, “And the gospel must first be published among all nations.” (Mar. 13:10). Man’s life is but a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. We must work tirelessly to publish the gospel to all people while we still have breath. Only then will our work be complete, and we may enter into our rest.

Gracious Father, thank you for the promise of rest when my work is complete. Give me strength today for the tasks You have planned for me. In Jesus’ name I humbly pray. Amen.

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Honoring God Through Adversity – Part 2

Christine Gorman, a noted medical science writer said this in an article in Time Magazine, in the July 28, 2003 edition, Perhaps because their brains are wired differently, dyslexics are often skilled problem solvers, coming at solutions from novel or surprising angles and making conceptual leaps. … It may also be that their early struggle with reading better prepares them for dealing with adversity in a volatile, fast-changing world.”

Just as the dyslexic’s analytic skills are strengthened through his early struggles, the Christian’s faith is strengthened through adversities. God prepares us for the greater trials by teaching us to look to Him in the smaller problems. Can you name one biblical character that did not go through some sort of trial or adversity?

God uses His Word to prepare us for each day and for what lies ahead. The Bible is full of examples of people serving God through various trials. God simply calls us to obedience. Nowhere did God say “do this but wait until it’s safer” or “do this but wait until they stop the persecution” or “do this but wait for a more convenient time.”

Did God tell Moses to go bring His people out of Egypt, but first wait and watch for Pharaoh to be in a good mood? No, of course not. When God gives a commandment He means now–no matter what we have to face to accomplish it.

There are many important reasons to stay steadfast in honoring God through adversity but let us focus on the three primary ones based on different biblical scenarios.

Photo by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash

1.) Faithfulness during an adversity prepares us for what lies ahead.

In the book of Daniel, chapter 6 we find the familiar story of Daniel and the lion’s den.Daniel was held captive in Babylon. He no longer had the freedom he enjoyed in Israel. He, no doubt, was in adverse circumstances, through no fault of his own. But Daniel never gave up what God had called him to do. He still prayed three times per day just as he did before he was taken prisoner, and he made no secret of it. God blessed him for his faithfulness by moving him to the highest position in Babylon, just below the king. That didn’t sit too well with the Babylonian princes and governors who were under his authority. They conspired together to trick king Darius into signing a decree which would certainly have Daniel sentenced to death for simply continuing in his faith.

Daniel 6:10
“Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”

 Continuing to serve through adverse or even dangerous circumstances requires us to spend more time in prayer and meditation in God’s word. We need to allow our Father to draw us into a closer relationship with Him. That’s where we find peace and contentment that only He can give us, and the greater level of faith we need to be a steadfast servant in times of trials. That greater faith gave Daniel the boldness to remain unwavering even in the face of almost certain death. God rewarded Daniel’s persevering faith by keeping the lion’s mouths closed that night. His endurance not only kept him safe that night, but God also used Daniel’s faithfulness to turn the heart of King Darius.

Daniel 6:25-27
“Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

2.)Faithfulness during the trial gives confidence to other Christians around us.

Simply put, we need each other. We need God to watch over us, we need Jesus to save us, we need the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us, but we also need our church body to encourage and build us up. God’s word tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11; “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”
What better way is there to encourage one another than by being a steadfast example of faith during our adversities?

Paul wrote in Philippians 1:13-14 “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
Young’s Literal Translation says it this way; “more abundantly bold—fearlessly to speak the word”

Paul was in prison when he wrote this, preaching to whoever he came in contact with. He was writing letters to the churches he started, to give them encouragement, instruction, and even admonishment. Wherever he was, he committed himself to be a godly example to those that looked to him for guidance.

One example that I can look back on was a Sunday School teacher I had years ago. He made a powerful impact on me by his faithfulness during a difficult time. His infant grandson had passed away unexpectedly and the funeral was on a Saturday afternoon. It was certainly a heart-breaking circumstance for him and his daughter. He would not have been questioned by anyone in the class if had asked someone to fill in and teach for him the next morning. But no, he was there, and delivered a well prepared lesson as always. My respect for him was greatly multiplied that day. I was challenged that day to strive for a higher level of steadfastness in my own faith.

3.) Faithfulness during the trial will manifest our trust in the sovereignty of God to unbelievers.

This one is the most critical reason to honor God during the adversity.

(Ezekiel 24:1-2) “Again in the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.”

God set up King Nebuchadnezzar to put Jerusalem under siege as a punishment for their rebellion against Him. In verse three, the parable begins of the boiling pot to describe the state of Jerusalem and the impending judgment they were about to receive for their rebellion against God. At one point He compares them to the bloody scum that rises to the top of the boiling pot of meat that was not properly cleaned. The pot is then emptied of the good meat and set back in the fire to burn off the filthy scum, a way of cleansing the pot. The pot here represents the city of Jerusalem and the improperly prepared meat is the rebellious and sinful people.

As God prepares Ezekiel to deliver His message, He also puts him in a trial as well. The key verse in this chapter here though is verse 16 – “Son of man, lo, I am taking from thee the desire of thine eyes by a stroke, and thou dost not mourn, nor weep, nor let thy tear come.” (Ezekiel 24:16)

You may have lost a spouse or someone else very dear to you and know firsthand how difficult it would have been for Ezekiel to keep his emotions hidden. Ezekiel was to be an example to the people by showing his trust in God’s wisdom and sovereignty, no matter the circumstance.

Ezekiel 24:24-27 Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign: according to all that he hath done shall ye do: and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD. (25) Also, thou son of man, shall it not be in the day when I take from them their strength, the joy of their glory, the desire of their eyes, and that whereupon they set their minds, their sons and their daughters, (26) That he that escapeth in that day shall come unto thee, to cause thee to hear it with thine ears? (27) In that day shall thy mouth be opened to him which is escaped, and thou shalt speak, and be no more dumb: and thou shalt be a sign unto them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.

If we are always complaining about our circumstances or what is going on in the world then we can’t be a believable witness for Christ. Our job is to manifest the hope we have in Christ, to let our light shine. We make Christ attractive to those around us by staying steadfast in our faith during the adversities and trials that most people would find hopeless. When we commit ourselves to honor God, He will use us to bring hope to a lost and dying world.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

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Honoring God Through Adversity – Part 1

Merriam Webster defines adversity this way;

“a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune” 

It is further derived then from the Middle English adversite, which means “opposition, hostility, misfortune, hardship”  

I think we all understand what adversity is after what we have seen in the world during the last few years. We have either lived it or felt it through someone we love. Adversities can either make us get serious about our prayer life or drive us further away from God depending on our attitude. We all go through trials sometime in our life. Some folks it seems have much more than others. But we can be assured that God is able to use each trial we go through to increase our faith and ultimately bring glory to His son, Jesus.  

“Why do we even have these trials?” you may ask. Adversity comes about in our life from three different sources.

 

Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

Firstly, God sometimes creates a trial to test our faith, such as when He commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. I can’t imagine placing any child on an altar to take its life as a willing sacrifice. Thankfully, God does not put trials on us greater than we are able to bear without providing a means of escape.1 God provided a substitute sacrifice for Abraham, a way to escape this trial, because he was obedient to God’s command. And because of Abraham’s faith and obedience during this trial, we are still blessed today.  

Genesis 22:17-18 (17) That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; (18) And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. 
“all the nations of the earth” That’s us today. When we get to heaven we need to tell Abraham how grateful we are that he was obedient in that trial.

Secondly, adversities can come our way from attacks by someone else or even Satan himself, through no fault of our own. Job is a well known example of this type of adversity. Poor old Job probably never knew while he was here on earth what caused his horrible trial. He also didn’t know that his story would be told for thousands of years to come. How often have we been comforted by Job’s story when we face things we don’t understand? Through his story we can see the sovereignty of God. He reminds us that God is not taken by surprise by the circumstances that so easily upset us. God is fully in control of the situation and already has a plan for how He will use it to strenghten our faith, if we simply stay steadfast in our obedience to Him. 

The third way that adversities attack us is where I think we see God’s great mercy and grace most clearly. Sometimes we just bring on the adversities ourselves. We know that disobedience or rebellion will get us in trouble. But sometimes, we get a little to comfortable with our abilities and start making decisions, big and small, without seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. We may be okay for a while, but eventually we’ll make a wrong decision that gets us in trouble.  Thankfully, God knew before the foundations of the world about our times of rebellion, our times of disobedience, our times of simply ignoring His divine guidance. Therefore He made a plan to bring us through those times of self-inflicted adversities and make something beautiful out of the messes we make. The story of Jonah is an example of God using a rebellious and disobedient servant to show His power over the sea and a big fish. Even with Jonah’s bad attitude God still used him to bring a wicked city to repentance.  

Adverse circumstances can sometimes make us want to throw up our hands and quit. If we allow them, struggles and trials can move us away from God. Many times when problems arise our instinct is to try to fix them. As Christians though, we know that we need to allow God to fix our problems. But then our sinful nature comes out  again,  and we tend to try to figure out how a problem should be fixed and then we pray for God to fix it our way. Anyone else besides me guilty on that one? That doesn’t ever really work out does it? The problem with that way of thinking is that when we can’t see any way to fix a problem then we don’t bother asking God because we don’t know how to tell Him how to fix it. That puts us in dangerous territory. Even if we do continue praying, we aren’t surrendering our all to Him and any prayer is hindered because we aren’t dealing with the trial. I know from painful experience that God will let us just wallow there until we’re ready to surrender the problem to Him and trust Him to do whatever He wants to with it. When we do finally surrender, God first works on our heart to root out our rebellious and prideful nature. Then He might change our circumstances, or more likely He makes us realize that we are safe with Him no matter what trial we are in. The size of our adversity is insignificant compared to the size of our God.  

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 

James 1:2-3 (English Standard Version)

Next week in Part 2 we will look at three benefits from the adversities we endure. 

 

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The Consecrated Body – Part 2

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Last week we discussed the power we hold in one of our smallest body members, the tongue. We saw how dangerous it can be if left uncontrolled and ruled by our sinful nature. We also saw how profitable it can be for God’s kingdom if we allow the Holy Spirit to guide its use. This week we will look at the body member that has the most influence on our mind, the ears. In the King James Version of the Bible the word ear or ears is used 271 times. I’m pretty sure that means God wants to make sure we listen. Some of those are referring to ears of corn but most relate to hearing. As powerful as our tongue is, our ear is just as essential. Without hearing the tongue has no power.

My wife often tells me that I can’t hear, usually when she’s trying to tell me something. My hearing is not as acute as it once was due to years of working in noisy environments, however my hearing isn’t necessarily the problem. It’s the listening that I sometimes have trouble with. Listening to her requires that I focus on what she is saying. If I am reading or listening intently to a television program or simply lost in thought it can be difficult to instantly shift my focus to what she is saying and I have to ask her to repeat what she just said. Fortunately, asking her to repeat something is not normally a major problem, other than being a bit frustrating for her. But what if she is in trouble and needs my help? What if what she just said is a sensitive matter that she had to muster up the courage to say even once and can’t bear to repeat? Because she is my wife, there should always be at least a small part of my brain that is attentive to her and when a need arises should signal the rest of my being to fully focus on her and call me to action. The same goes for her. That’s the best part of a marriage, having contentment in knowing you have one person who will always be there for you.

In the same manner, Christians should always be ready to hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. God is always ready to hear us when we call on Him. By His amazing grace He allows us to be His voice, hands, and feet here in this world, but that can’t happen if we do not allow Him to consecrate our ears to hear Him. When we fail in our readiness to hear what He says there can be eternal consequences. I know I have failed in that regard many times but one instance in particular still haunts my memory from time to time. The Spirit once nudged me to call a former coworker that I hadn’t seen in a few years. Although I knew he was not a believer, that day I was “too busy”. Months went by and the thought of him never entered my mind. When I finally tried to call he didn’t answer. When I began tracking him down I discovered that he had committed suicide about the same time that I was urged to call him. Maybe I was the one who could have talked him out of that decision, maybe I could have led him to Jesus. Maybe not. I’ll never know for sure. I do know I am forgiven, but it was a harsh lesson to show me how crucial it is to keep my ears ready to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice. It’s a lesson that will stay with me the rest of my life.

As Christians we need to be careful what we allow our ears to hear. If we constantly listen to the ungodliness and hate that is prevalent in our world we will become bitter and callous and therefore useless to God. Our ears should be tuned to always hear the cries for help, knowing that sometimes, most times, those cries are not verbal. We can hear them clearly through the voice of urging from the Holy Spirit. Just as we should always have a part of our hearing attentive to our spouse, another part should always be listening for directions from God. We must spend time each day not only in reading and studying God’s word but in prayer. The Bible teaches us to “Pray without ceasing” (1Th. 5:17). When we abide in Christ then His voice becomes familiar to us and we can quickly respond when He calls. I can hear my wife’s voice across a crowded room because I am familiar with her voice from our daily communication. We must have that same familiarity with the voice of our Saviour.

This week, find someone who will listen and tell them about Jesus.

(Revelation 13:9) If any man have an ear, let him hear.
(Romans 10:17) So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

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The Consecrated Body – Part 1

What does the word “consecrated” mean? Webster’s defines it this way; “to declare to be sacred or holy : set apart for a sacred purpose”. When God saves us He declares us sacred and holy for His purposes. We are chosen to be His “peculiar people”. (1 Peter 2:9)

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

When we accept Christ as the Saviour of our soul our physical body also then belongs to Him. Jesus purchased us with His blood on the cross. Just as the church is the body of Christ and each member of the church body is consecrated to specific services for Christ, so should each member of our individual bodies be consecrated to the work of the Holy Spirit which lives within us. Over the next five weeks we will look at different parts of our body and see what God says about their specific use.

The Consecrated Tongue

James had much to say about the importance of controlling our tongue in. In chapter three he compares the tongue to a horse’s bit and a ship’s rudder, each relatively small parts but when kept under vigilant care are able to turn about the whole body or ship. Likewise when the tongue is carefully guarded and directed by the power of the Holy Spirit it is capable of comforting, encouraging, enlightening, and convincing lost souls to surrender to Christ. James also compares the tongue to a little fire, which when under control gives warmth and comfort. However if left unencumbered to our sinful nature the tongue will kindle a fire that affects the course of nature and way of life for generations to come, fueled only by the forces of hell.

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.
(Proverbs 21:23 ESV)
The Christian does well in keeping or guarding his words. Our natural tendency is to speak as quickly as we think. We know that seldom works to our advantage, especially in moments of anger. Our thoughts need to be weighed out, carefully meditated upon, scrutinized to make sure they align with God’s word. Even then we should take counsel of the Holy Spirit to know if our thoughts when turned into words will bring honor to God. Our quietness often brings more honor than volumes of our words. Therefore our daily prayer should be as Psalms 141:3 “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)
A wholesome tongue is one that edifies and benefits the hearer. The word wholesome here means healing. The speech of a wholesome or healing tongue gives truths and pardons. It gives instruction and counsel in the gospel message of Jesus Christ, the path of righteousness to the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of all nations. A perverse tongue however brings the opposite, corrupting the hearts of men bringing distress and despair and wounds that will never heal, grieving the spirit of God.

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. (Proverbs 31:26)
Proverbs 31 is the well known description of a virtuous woman, one that fears the Lord. When she speaks it is with discretion and prudence. Her gentle words are given for instruction in the wisdom of godly living. With a heart of grace and mercy her kind words are spoken to exhort and edify those in her care.

By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone. (Proverbs 25:15)
Words spoken in anger and arrogance rarely accomplish anything but bitterness and contempt. A patient man however carefully considers not only his words but the timing of his speech. Having patience to wait for the right opportunity to present our thoughts may persuade the hearer to use sound reasoning in contemplating an idea that may be adverse to his beliefs. Harsh words usually are met strong resistance, a resistance that instinctively protects the bones from harm. Soft words however, find their way through the thinnest crevices to touch the heart of a man, breaking the strongholds of resistance to bring about peaceful resolutions.

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. (James 1:26)
Probably the most dangerous and certainly unconsecrated use of the tongue is that of the man who seems to be religious, even to the point of believing he is righteous, but then is boastful of his own works. Rather than words of exhortation he inclines to criticize and tear down the character of others in order to appear righteous. He is the Pharisee, confident that his own works and words will bring about his salvation. The Christian can easily discern his godless character but to the unsaved his enticing words only lead them ever closer to hell. All his religion is useless. Jesus warned us that such men would arise and told us to take heed, (reference Mark 13:22).

In John 14:6 we read “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Allow God to consecrate your tongue to tell His truth today.

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Spiritual Maturity

I’ve spent the last few days in Myrtle Beach with a group of senior saints from my church attending the Springtime Jubilee. We had a wonderful time of fellowship and worshiping together with gospel music and preaching. I think my wife and I were the youngest ones on the bus except for our associate pastor and his wife. Our church classifies anyone fifty-five and up as seniors so we qualify by just a few years. We can learn a lot by hanging around with the older church folk. They’ve lived through much in their lifetime and have learned to lean on the only One they can trust whatever the circumstance may be. You will never hear a sweeter sound than the prayers of some of these dear ladies, even if it’s a simple prayer of blessing the food. Sadly I don’t recall ever hearing my grandmother pray. She was a quiet, humble person but she was quick to let anyone know that she trusted in the Lord. Her fruits could be seen in the character of the three godly children she raised.

Like my grandmother I’ve never been very outspoken. You typically won’t find me engaging strangers in conversation. That seemingly minor character trait puts me at a bit of a disadvantage in following Jesus’ command to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations”, so it is something I pray about sometimes. The quiet nature that God gave me does however have it’s advantages. It gives me opportunities to listen and reflect on what I hear. Everyone needs someone to just listen sometimes. Listening attentively is a good way to learn, and learning along with experiences brings about wisdom. I think humans have a natural inclination to strive for knowledge and wisdom. We want to at least appear as if we’re smarter than those around us. I’m amazed at the outrageous sums of money people will spend trying to become wise. If they would only consider God’s promise we find in James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” No, God’s not going to print a doctoral certificate with your name on it, but if that’s His plan for your life, He will make a way.

True wisdom from God comes with a second gift, that of discernment. Old King Solomon understood that when he recorded in the book of Ecclesiastes, “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” (1:18) Wisdom and discernment gives us just a bit of insight in seeing people as God sees them. Some, like that praying grandmother, fill our heart with joy. But then sadly, there are so many, that when we try to look on them through God’s eyes, brings us brokenheartedness. Although we can’t fully know the condition of someone’s heart, we can have discernment from God’s word. “(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)” (Ephesians 5:9) When these fruits are missing we can be almost certain that Christ is not in their heart.

My career started out by working in the machine shop. It was a job shop and the primary customer was the Department of Defense. I loved the work and was always eager to learn. My supervisor took notice of that and I was given increasingly complex parts to make. Some of them made me scratch my head a little but I never refused those opportunities. I made some mistakes, scrapped some valuable parts sometimes, but I didn’t give up. Soon I was moved up into a shop leadership position and eventually into a technical office position. The advancement opportunities were there for anyone but not everyone was willing to step out and take advantage of them. There were a few older men who had worked in that same shop their whole life and were still doing the most basic tasks. They were good workers, ones you could count on being there, and they could see the rewards of putting forth just a little more effort, but they just didn’t want the added responsibility.

There were about one thousand people at the Springtime Jubilee, mostly senior adults. Most had probably been in church since nine months before they were born. This is the Amen crowd, the hand raisers, the shouters. They buy the gospel music CD’s and read the Christian books. Surely these are all mature Christians. But as I mingled in the crowd, not really engaging anyone I didn’t know, not eavesdropping, but just picking up snippets of conversations, I begin to realize that there is indeed a lacking of spiritual maturity within the church body. Amongst the excitement and joyful sounds of praise and exhortations, I also heard bits of ungodly criticism and bitterness. Although we are blessed to have many senior adults who have faithfully served the Lord, those who stepped out, striving to be Christ-like, it appears some have been satisfied to sit on the sideline. Just like those old men in that machine shop who shun any added responsibility, they are missing out on so many heavenly rewards. Like the steward that for fear hid the one talent he was given instead of using it to gain maybe just one more and for his slothfulness received punishment, although the idle Christian will not lose his salvation, he will lose the rewards that God had planned for him.

Are these “sideline Christians” really a problem that the church should address? They are really only hurting themselves right? The answers are definitely yes and definitely no. Being slack in service is a strong indicator that they are slack in reading and studying God’s word, not to mention their prayer life. Failing to personally study the Bible results in having only a weak second hand understanding of the doctrine of the gospel. Satan is always looking for a weakness that he can jump into with both feet to create havoc and division within the church body. Paul addressed this problem in his letter to the church in Corinth.
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1Co 3:1-3)

So how do we address the problem of spiritual immaturity within the church? Do our teachers need more training? Nothing wrong with that but they have the Bible which is sufficient. Do we need to start some new program? Heavens no! Then what?

As I began to find the words to answer this question I just realized that God inspired me to write these thoughts to teach me. I need to trust Him enough to get out of my comfort zone and engage those strangers in conversation to make sure they know Jesus, then to encourage those on the sideline Christians to get in the game. When we continually hear those critical or bitter words we need to recognize that is our prompt to reach out to that person with love and meekness. Encouraging that person to serve along beside you puts them in a position of accountability and takes them on a sure footed journey to spiritual maturity. We can be the difference that allows them to enjoy the eternal rewards God has planned for them.

The topic of Christian maturity first brought these verses to mind from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phi 3:12-14). As a Christian for the last fifty years now I know that I fall far short in the level of maturity that I should have, still, “I press towards the mark”.

I leave you with a positive note and a couple challenges. At the end of the Springtime Jubilee the pastor gave an invitation. After the final prayer, a dozen hands went up proclaiming they had trusted Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Angels were rejoicing in heaven! I challenge you first to pray for God to surround those new believers with mature Christians who won’t let them sit on the sideline. Challenge number two gets personal. Be the one who reaches out, asking those on the sideline to serve along side you. Strike up a conversation with that stranger and tell them what Jesus has done for you. Allow Christ to work through you to disciple the new and sideline Christians. Be Blessed!

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Christianity and Controversy

A transition occurred in our world in the late 70’s to early 80’s when we moved from the industrial age to the information age. There was a time not so long ago that if you wanted your opinion heard you could write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. If your letter was deemed “appropriate” for readers, (yes, editors once had a moral conscience about what was published) it would be edited simply for grammar, spelling, and punctuation and printed. Your opinion then might be the topic of the day at the local breakfast and lunch cafes. Maybe something would be accomplished to make the community a better place to live or maybe the idea would be dropped in favor of the one in the next day’s newspaper.

The explosion of the internet changed all that. Virtually eliminating restrictions to communication has given every person the ability to project their opinion to a global audience within a fraction of a second. What a remarkable concept. What great things we can now accomplish. Except for this, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

Turn on your television or access the internet and you’ll likely be bombarded with controversial opinions. Opinions that, because our heart is naturally evil, are inclined to promote division. Division then brings destruction and decay to our society. This rapid decay has brought on anxieties, hopelessness and depression at a staggering rate. We see Christians, even some deeply rooted in their faith, fall into the snares of the division that is being loudly proclaimed. We live in an “I am right, you are wrong” world and so we respond to the controversial ideology by claiming our “God given rights” cannot be taken away.

“God given rights.” Can we make a list? Sorry, it’s not technically a list when we only have two. We have the right to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Number two, we have the right to reject Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Anything else we have is through God’s grace and mercy and therefore subject to His sovereignty. When we fully surrender to Christ and accept this fact then we can enjoy the peace from God instead of suffering the anxieties of the world.

So, you ask, does this mean Christians must refrain from involvement in the world’s controversies? Do we not take a stand against what we know to be wrong? Absolutely we need to take a stand. However we must be careful to keep our emotions and feelings, not mention our language, in check. Our activities against injustices of the world must be prompted and guided by the Holy Spirit and our position must be in accordance with God’s word. Our priorities must follow the words that Jesus gave His disciples, “Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”
(Matthew 25:44-45)

Jesus allowed His anger to be known when He overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple. Imagine arriving at your church for Sunday morning worship and finding someone sitting at the entrance charging an admission fee. Would you follow Christ’s example by stopping such an ungodly activity? I know that may be an unlikely scenario, but consider carefully, are there activities going on in your church that are disrespectful or irreverent toward God? I pray not, but as the body of Christ we must keep a watchful eye on ourselves to ensure we are in God’s will before we can challenge the injustices in the world. In Jesus’ words, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13)

We can face the world’s controversies if we meet them with compassion, driven by the Holy Spirit within us. Our first priority however is always to teach the gospel of the salvation through Jesus Christ. Each soul we win for Christ is one more that is not against us. For if we are together with Christ we should be in harmony with each other.

Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
(Jude 1:21-23)



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