Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Value Of Being Together

"And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV)

Growing up in Wisconsin, every year in the Fall different birds could be seen overhead migrating to some destination in the southern part of the USA.  There they would spend the cold Winter months before returning to Wisconsin or some other part of the northern USA.  One thing you can see with migration is that birds migrate in flocks and you usually don't see birds migrating on their own, they normally travel together.  There are several reasons for this, but it basically comes down to the fact that there is a value in being together that is not enjoyed being alone. 

People, even Christians, sometimes ask, "What is the point of going to church?  I can be a good Christian by myself at home".  Unfortunately, while this question deserves an answer, when someone asks it, they show that they don't understand the value of the local church.  There is a value in being together that we cannot enjoy if we are alone.  Our relationship with God is a personal thing, but we were not meant to live our life alone.  Believers make us the Body of Christ and every part of the Body of Christ is important and needs the rest of the Body to function properly.

Hebrews 10 talks about stirring up and encouraging one another, this is one reason it is important to meet together with other believers.  You can't encourage someone you never met and don't know.  You can't give something to someone you never meet or tell them something if you never see them. Through building relationships with other believers we put ourselves in position to be a help to them and them to be a help to us.  Going into a church building on a certain day of the week is not what makes you a Christian, but going to a church on a regular basis can greatly help you in your life as a Christian.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Precheck For Life

"However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come."
John 16:13 (NKJV)

Many airports in the United States use something called Precheck.  If you are given Precheck status when you are at the airport then you are able to go through a different security line than other people and the security check itself is different.  With Precheck you don't have to do the same type of security check as everyone else and the whole process is much simpler and easier.  Because someone did some work for you ahead of time, the trip was made smoother.  All you had to do was take advantage of what was done for you previously to enjoy the benefits.

There have been times when I thought how nice it would be to have Precheck in my everyday life.  Someone could check into my journey through life ahead of time, grant me special status, and then give me the information about how to go through everything simpler and easier than what might normally happen.  What I found out is that as a Christian the Holy Spirit lives in me and Jesus said the Holy Spirit would show me things to come.  The Holy Spirit knows what is coming into my life and He can help me be prepared for it so that I can have a sort of Precheck for life!

If we follow the direction God gives us in His Word and we learn to be led by the Holy Spirit then we can be ready before we face challenges or run into difficulties in our life.  Just like the Precheck program allows someone to go through a different line than other people and makes things easier, the Holy Spirit has "prechecked" things, so to speak, to be able to guide us in our life and prepare us for things ahead.  He will help us go through whatever we deal with in life in an easier way than if we tried to do things ourselves.  We don't have to go through life like the rest of the world; with the Holy Spirit helping to prepare us we can be ready for anything that comes!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Automatic Blessings?

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."
Joshua 1:8 (NKJV)

There are many things that can be set up so that they take place automatically without anyone being involved.  For example, computer programs can be set up to run on a regular basis.  Things like backing up the files in a computer, running a scan for viruses or checking for updates can be done automatically.  Once something is set up to run automatically you usually don't give much thought to it.  But even though something is set up to run automatically it should still be checked on from time to time to be sure it is running correctly.  Failure to do this could lead to problems.

In the Old Testament, people were required to follow the Law and obey what God had said in order to be blessed.  Blessings came because of obedience and being cursed was the result of disobedience.  Jesus came to fulfill the Law and to bring grace and truth.  Because of Jesus, we are now blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places.  What God did through the death and resurrection of Jesus qualifies us to have everything we need to live the life He has called us to live.  The problem comes when we just expect these blessings to automatically come to us without any involvement on our part.

As God told Joshua, there is something we must do to make our way prosperous and have good success.  In James 1 it tells us that it is the person who hears the Word and does what the Word says who is blessed.  We often make the mistake of thinking that all of the good things that God has for us will just come to us and be a part of our life automatically because of what Jesus did.  We place all of the responsibility on God and ignore our part of acting on what God has promised us.  We need to know what belongs to us and then act in faith on what God has told us belongs to us to have those things as a part of our life.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

That's Not The Gift I Wanted

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variation or shadow of turning."
James 1:17 (NKJV)

Did you ever have the experience at Christmas or on your birthday where you were hoping to get some great gift, but you didn't?  Your hopes were high and you may have made plans about what to do with your amazing gift once you received it.  And then, when you opened your gifts, the thing you really wanted was not there.  All of your expectations came crashing down as the reality set in that you would not get the gift you really wanted.  You may have received something, but it was not what you were looking for.  This may have led to some disappointment, or even some negative feeling towards someone, but hopefully that did not last long.

The Bible tells us what God is like and what He does and does not do.  In James 1:17, we are told that every good gift and every perfect gift comes from God.  We are not told that some good and some bad things come from God or that some perfect and some imperfect gifts come from God.  People sometimes have the idea that we might get some good things from God and then we might get disappointed and receive something we did not need or want, which leads to some people having negative feelings towards God.  However, this is not how God operates and not what we see in the Bible.

In Matthew 7 Jesus said that if a son asked for bread, a good father would not give him a stone, and if the son asked for a fish, no good father would give him a snake instead.  God is better than any earthly father, and the Bible says God even knows what we need before we ask, but we still have to ask.  One reason we sometimes do not have what we want is because we don't ask, and sometimes things happen because we live in a fallen world that is corrupted by sin where the devil is working.  But God is a good God who wants us to have good things and He is not withholding what is good and giving us something bad instead.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Gift Exchange

"For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established - 
that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith of both you and me."
Romans 1:11-12 (NKJV)

Most people like gifts, especially when they receive a gift.  But it is also nice when someone gives you a gift and you are able to give them a gift as well.  Sometimes around Christmas people have gift exchange parties where everyone gives a gift and receives a gift.  These types of parties can be a lot of fun because everyone there is involved in giving and receiving something.  No one person has all the gifts to give because everyone has something to contribute and everyone goes away happy that they were able to give and receive something.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome he had not been there yet .  Paul was planning to visit Rome at some time in the future and he said that he wanted to see the people there so that he could give them a spiritual gift.  But Paul also said that he believed that he and the Christians in Rome could be encouraged together through their mutual faith.  What was Paul saying?  Paul knew that the best situation was one in which everyone has something to contribute and everything is not just coming from one person, Paul knew that everyone has something to give.

One thing that is clearly taught in the New Testament is that each believer has received a gift from God (1 Peter 4:10) and each member of the Body of Christ has something to contribute (Ephesians 4:16).  Our situation as Christians is not that there are just a select few who have all the spiritual gifts, wisdom, and knowledge, but all of us have something to give.  Exactly how that happens can differ according to the situation, but it starts with people realizing that they have something to give.  When Christians come together there can and should be a mutual exchange where each person is able to give and receive something.  What gift do you have to give?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Maintaining Your Balance

"For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God."
Acts 20:27 (NKJV)

Whether it is because we have tripped over something and started to fall, inner ear problems, or some other cause, a loss of balance can be a serious problem.  Sometimes balance problems can be corrected and sometimes just being careful is a good way maintain proper balance.  It would be very foolish to have some kind of balance problem and just ignore it, even when it results in falling down and possibly getting hurt.  If there is a problem and there is a solution to the problem then the wise thing to do would be to solve the problem and avoid the negative results.

In the same way that there can be many reasons people might lose their balance physically, there are several reasons that people can lose their balances spiritually.  Some believers have problems because they only focus on one spiritual truth and they ignore others, this leads to their being out of balance spiritually.  Some Christians do not know some spiritual truths and because of their lack of knowledge they are out of balance spiritually.  If we are out of balance spiritually we are in danger of being taken advantage of in the areas where we are unlearned.

In Acts 20, Paul told the leaders from the church in Ephesus that he had not failed to teach them the whole counsel of God.  Paul knew that there were many spiritual truths that people needed to hear and he taught them all.  Paul may have emphasized one topic at one time more than another, but Paul knew people needed to hear many topics to have a well-balanced spiritual life.  If we are overemphasizing one spiritual truth at the expense of other truths, or lacking biblical knowledge in some areas, we can easily get out of balance spiritually.  We all need the whole counsel of God, the whole Word of God, to lead a balanced, mature Christian life. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Sore Foot, Sore Body

"And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it."
1 Corinthians 12:26 (NKJV)

For most of my life I have been a runner.  Several years ago, I stubbed my little left toe pretty badly, it was painful and made me stop running for a while.  When my toe improved, I started running again.  As I ran, I noticed some pain in my toe, but I also noticed some pain in my left calf, my left knee, and in my left hip.  I thought this was very strange and had to slow down because of it.  Then I realized what was happening; my body was trying to compensate for my injured toe.  But, because of trying to compensate for one problem it was actually creating other problems.  The solution was that I had to just rest my toe until it healed so I could start running again.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul compares the Body of Christ to the natural body.  Paul shows how the entire body needs to work together and that what affects one part of the body will have an impact on the rest of the body; this is true of our natural body and the Body of Christ.  In Ephesians 4:16, Paul talks about how every part of the Body of Christ has a supply that it should give to the Body.  The problem is that when one part of the Body of Christ is not functioning properly or is hurt, like my little toe was, then the whole Body will suffer because of it. 

Just like the physical body, the Body of Christ will try to compensate for the injured part, which is good and should happen.  We are interconnected as believers and need to support one another.  But, like with the physical body, if other parts of the Body of Christ are trying to compensate for another part then more problems can develop.  Every part of the Body of Christ, world-wide and locally, needs to be healthy and strong, doing its part in fulfilling the will of God.  Our goal as believers should be to find our place in the Body, stay connected to our local church and give our supply; that way the whole Body will be strong and do great things for God!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Separated Or Connected?

"who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
2 Corinthians 3:6 (NKJV)

Connections are important and without the right connections we can have problems.  Our phones have a connection to the telephone company, computers are connected to the Internet, and appliances need to be connected to electricity to function properly.  If our phones, computers, and appliances get separated from what they need to be connected to we miss out on all the benefits we can have from those things when they are connected.  There are times when something can hinder the connections we should have, so we need to be sure that we keep everything properly connected.

When God created man, He was connected to them and had a relationship with them.  God told them they should not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; He said if they did they would die.  As we know from the story, Adam and Eve did eat from the tree.  But, while they were sent out of the Garden of Eden, they did not instantly die.  What happened?  The first thing we need to realize is that death does not talk about an end but it refers to a separation.  When Adam and Eve sinned they were separated from God, which caused them to lose the benefits they had in their relationship with God.

Today we have a new covenant with God based on what Jesus did for us.  Paul says that this covenant is not of the letter but the Spirit; the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.  Paul was saying that today we live in this new covenant that is based on the grace of God and not the letter of the law of the old covenant.  The only way to maintain a proper connection to God is through the Spirit, not the law; we maintain our connection with God spiritually, not by following rules.  If we try to base our relationship with God on living by laws, we are really separating ourselves from God and it will cause us to miss out on the blessings and benefits we should have in our relationship with Him.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Whose Will Wins?

"Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
Ephesians 5:17 (NKJV)

Have you ever been in the situation where you were going out to eat with some friends or maybe traveling to some place and there was a difference of opinion?  Maybe there were different ideas about what restaurant to go to, or it could have been that you were traveling somewhere and there was more than one route that could be used to get there.  It might also be true that someone knows something about a restaurant or route that would make their idea the best.  But if you ever want to eat or arrive at your destination a decision has to be made where someone's idea is accepted and someone's idea is rejected. 

Everyone has ideas and a will of their own, but if we are wise, we will always find out what the best thing to do is in every situation.  For Christians, our goal should be to find and follow the will of God.  But this often means that for us to follow the will of God we have to put what we want, our will, to the side.  As it tells us in Ephesians 5:17, we need to be wise and understand the will of the Lord.  This would mean more than just having the knowledge of what God's will is.  If it is wise to know the will of the Lord then we should pursue the will of God in our life.

In 2 Peter 2:10 it talks about people who live their life according to their natural desires, the flesh, saying that those people are "self-willed".  Paul told Titus that one of the requirements for an overseer was that they could not be self-willed (Titus 1:7).  In both of these cases it is talking about people following their own will, not the will of God.   For us to do the will of God we must submit our will to God's will and allow His plan to be our plan.  God's will and plan for our life will always be the best thing for us, but we must allow His will to win over our will.  That is the true path to happiness and success in life.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

What World Will You Create?

"By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible."
Hebrews 11:3 (NKJV)

When I was in high school, I took several art classes where I learned to draw, paint, and sculpt things.  When I wanted to do one of these things I would get the proper materials and then begin my work.  If I was going to paint a picture, I would get a canvas, some brushes, and some paint.  If I was going to create some sculpture I would get some clay, and possibly some tool to use to shape the clay.  It would have been foolish of me to attempt to create a painting with some clay or to make a sculpture with some paint or drawing materials.  To create the right thing I had to use the right materials.

In Hebrews 11:3 it tells us that God framed, which literally means to complete thoroughly, the worlds with His words.  Through the words that He spoke, God created the world.  In Genesis 1 we see the phrase "God said" repeatedly as God created the world and everything that was in it.  In a similar way, the words that we speak will create the world we live in.  If we talk about fear, failure, problems, and other negative things then it will be difficult to have a life that is free of those things.  If, on the other hand, we talk about what God has said in His Word we will create a different type of world.

The Bible shows us over and over that our words are very important.  The things we say will have an impact in our life, positively or negatively.  The more we talk about something, the greater it will become in our life.  We can talk about the natural situation we find ourselves in or we can look to what God has said in His Word and talk about that.  We will never achieve the success we desire or fulfill the will of God for our lives if we do not speak the right kind of words.  It is our choice as to what we talk about, and whatever choice we make, those words will create the kind of world we live in.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Where's The Trouble?

"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet."
Matthew 24:6 (NKJV)

If you have a problem with a car, and it is not something you can easily fix by yourself, you will have to take it somewhere to fix it.  Very often what will happen is that the mechanic will connect your car to a computer that will diagnose the problem to see where the trouble is.  It would be foolish to have a car problem and then just randomly try to fix different things without knowing where the actual trouble was in the car.  If the engine is not running correctly you would not just change the tires and if you did have a problem with you tires you would not replace the steering wheel.

In Matthew 24 Jesus talked to His disciples about some things that would happen before He returned again.  Jesus said that the disciples would hear about wars and rumors of wars.  Jesus did not specifically say that the disciples themselves would be in these wars or that they would even be somehow affected by them.  But Jesus still told the disciples not to be troubled.  Jesus was not telling them there was a physical or even spiritual threat to be dealt with, the trouble would be located somewhere else.  Jesus said that things like this would happen but the disciples should not allow these types of things to cause them to be distressed. 

Often when we have problems in our life, whether it is something big or small, we will have questions about what to do and even thoughts about what might go wrong or how things might not work out.  Even if we are not facing a problem, we could still have similar negative thoughts.  This is very much like what Jesus talked to His disciples about, not being troubled in our mind.  We do not have to be troubled by things we experience or even hear about.  By filling our mind with God's thoughts, His Word, we can successfully deal with wrong thoughts that would trouble us and not allow them to distress us.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Put Your Own Mask On First

"Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.  Continue in them, for in doing this you will both save both yourself and those who hear you."
1 Timothy 4:16 (NKJV)

When you are on an airplane they will go over the safety procedures to make sure everyone knows what to do if there should be an emergency.  One of the things they talk about is the air mask that will drop down from above you if there should be a sudden drop in the pressure of the airplane cabin.  But, when they talk about the air mask, the flight crew will always tell you to put your own mask on first before trying to help someone else.  The reason for this is simple, if you are unable to breathe properly you will not be able to help someone else, so you first have to put on your own air mask before you can really help someone else. 

The Apostle Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, who was a young minister.  Paul gave Timothy advice on ways that Timothy could be successful in ministry and Paul also reminded Timothy that Paul himself gave Timothy a good example to follow.  One very important thing that Paul told Timothy was to pay attention to himself and the right kind of teaching.  Paul said that if Timothy did this then Timothy would not only save himself, but he would also save those who heard him.  If Timothy had focused on trying to help others first he would not have been as successful as he could have or should have been.

If you take care of yourself and what you know and believe first, then you can help others.  But, if you don't take care of yourself and the things you know and believe, then you will not only have problems yourself, but you will not be able to help others.  Paul encouraged Timothy to continue with and stay in this pattern because it is the way to really make a difference in the lives of others.  If someone has problems in their own life and does not really know what the Bible says then that person is not going to be very effective in helping others.  Just like Paul told Timothy, we all need to first take care of ourselves and know the truth so we can help others.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Other Side Of The Gospel

"Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel."
Philippians 1:27 (NKJV)

It has been said that if you climb a mountain from one side you have one view, but if you climb a mountain from the other side you will have a completely different view.  Also, two people can tell a story from two different perspectives and while they are talking about the same thing they might emphasize different aspects of that same story.  Someone who has only seen one side of a mountain or knows just one part of a story may say that they have the correct view.  But, neither side of the mountain or story is the right or wrong side necessarily, but to have a complete understanding of the mountain or story you usually need both sides. 

If you ask Christians what the Gospel is, many would talk about how Jesus came from heaven to take our place and die on the cross for our sin.  Some would say that the Gospel is good news and that through Christ we have been made right with God.  Others would talk about how Jesus came to give us an abundant life or about our future hope of being with God for eternity and not going to hell.  All of these things are true, but they mainly focus on one side of the story, the aspect of our benefits because of the Gospel.  The Gospel is indeed good news for man, but it is also much more.

We often look at the benefits we have received from God through Jesus, and there are benefits, but we fail to see the responsibilities we have also been given.  As Paul mentioned to the Philippians, we have a responsibility to live in a way that pleases God and promotes the Gospel.  We are not just told to go and live a happy life of our own making, we see that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives and we must focus on fulfilling that: being a good representative of Jesus Christ, walking in love, spreading the Gospel around the world, and living a life worthy of the One who saved us.  Get both sides of the Gospel and you will have a complete picture of what it means to be a Christian. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Wasted Motion

"But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless."
Titus 3:9 (NKJV)

Over the years I have been a member of a few health clubs and I have also owned some exercise equipment.  One thing that I did before getting involved in a health club and using any exercise equipment was to familiarize myself with what exercises I could do and the proper way to do them.  But, I have noticed over the years that there are some people in health clubs, and who exercise on their own, who do not really know how to exercise correctly so that what they are doing is not helping them, in fact what they are doing is just wasted motion.  While they are doing something, what they are doing will have no real, lasting benefit. 

God gave us His Word to help us learn His will and to see how to live the kind of life that pleases Him.  God knows the challenges we face in life and His Word gives us the guidelines we need to know what to do in every situation.  The Holy Spirit will direct us as to how we can do the things we need to do and help us as we step out in faith to act on God's Word.  But, if we are putting our focus on and efforts into something that God has not said in His Word then we will not have the results in our life that God has promised and we are seeking.  If what we do is not based on the Bible it is just wasted motion.

The Apostle Paul talked about avoiding some things because they were unprofitable and useless.  Too often Christians are doing things that may seem nice and look good, but they bring no real benefits because these things are not based on the Bible.  People are sometimes taught to do certain things in a certain way as a method for success, but if these things are not in agreement with the Bible they are unprofitable and useless.  We need to get into God's Word to have a thorough understanding of it so that we are sure what we are doing is in line with the Word and not just wasted motion.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Greatest Validation

"For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."
2 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV)

When we do something good, it is always nice if someone notices and says something positive about it, especially if the person who notices what we have done and compliments us is someone we look up to in some way.  While we normally do not do things just to earn someone's praise, we all would have to admit that we like to hear people say something positive about us and the things we do.  It is a natural thing to enjoy someone recognizing our efforts, but it can be a trap for us to pursue these types of complements as way to validate what we do and not just recognize the value of doing something simply because it is the right thing to do. 

When we have something to do, especially when it is something we are doing for God, we need to do that thing no matter who sees it or notices what we are doing.  If God is leading us to do something, if He has directed us through His Word or by the Holy Spirit to do something, then we need to do it no matter who recognizes us for our efforts; we will not always have praise and recognition from others for the things that we do when we follow God's plans.  If we look for someone to validate what we are doing before we are willing to do it, then we may never really fulfill God's plan in our life. 

Paul talked about people who wanted some kind of letters of commendation to show who he was and to validate what he was doing.  However, Paul realized that the greatest validation of his efforts was not going to come from men but from God.  In the same way that Paul understood that seeking the compliments and accolades of others was not a wise way to judge the value of what he did, we too must understand that God's plan and the gifts and abilities He has given us do not need to be validated by other people to be significant.  We all need to recognize the value of God's plan in our life, no matter who does or does not validate it for us.