Thursday, March 21, 2019

Gerbil Wheel Christians

"Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: "Consider your ways!
You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but you do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.
Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Consider your ways!"
Haggai 1:5-7 (NKJV)

Have you ever seen a pet gerbil and the little wheel that people have for the gerbil to run on?  The wheel is there for the gerbil to use and supposedly get some exercise.  The gerbil can get on that wheel whenever they like and run, and run, and run.  The only thing is, even though the gerbil is doing a lot of running, they are not going anywhere.  There is action taking place, the gerbil is moving their legs, and energy is being used, but nothing is really happening.  And even though this could happen day, after day, after day, the gerbil will still get on the wheel and run some more.

Even though no one really has a giant human wheel that they run on like the gerbil wheel, there are a lot of people, including Christians, who are doing the same thing as the gerbil.  These people have a lot of activity going on, they are busy, and they are using a lot of energy but they are going nowhere in their life.  In the case of a Christian, they go to church, they even read their Bible and pray, but their spiritual life is stagnant.  One reason for this is the same thing that God spoke to Israel through Haggai about, that Israel had been spending time building things in their own life without building what God desired. 

Haggai compared the lives of these people of Israel to a person who did a lot of things that brought no real results, all because their priorities were out of order.  In the same way today, some believers have seemingly been doing all the right things but seeing no real results because their first priority is always what they want and not what God wants.  We can have all the right activity, but will not get the right results if we have the wrong priorities.  To really move forward in life, we not only have to do the right things but we must be sure that what we are doing is a part of God's plan for our life and not just our own goals and desires.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

It's Just A Book

"Sanctify then by Your truth: Your word is truth."
John 17:17 (NKJV)

Over the years I have had many people talk to me about some book they read or heard about, some movie that is being released, or some current thing going on in society that is ungodly, unbiblical, or that mocks God and His Word.  Often these people are upset and they first ask me if I have heard about this thing and then they want to know what I think about it and what should be done.  Usually I don't pay much attention to these kinds of things so I don't always know what the people are referring to.  But once I do know what they are talking about I usually give them the same answer: "It is just a book", or movie, or whatever.

While I do realize that we need to take a stand for the truth of God's Word, and that there will always be some unbiblical things that come around, we can't allow ourselves to get so concerned about them; it is just a book, movie, or whatever and it does not change God's Word.  We need to know the truth of God's Word, live according to the truth, and be ready to share the truth with others.  But we must be careful that we are not dragged into debates and arguments about some false teaching.  When some wrong teaching or thing comes along remember that is it just a book, it is no comparison to the truth of God's Word.

When Jesus prayed for His disciples in John 17, He did not pray that God would give them wisdom to root out all the false teaching and be able to debate well with others.  Jesus prayed that His followers would be sanctified, set apart to God, by the truth of God's Word.  It is the application of the truth of God's Word in our life that will build us up spiritually, give us the answers we need for ourselves and others, guide us in our life, and help us do whatever we need to do for God.  The most important thing we can do is to be firmly established in the truth and not allow ourselves to be swayed by the latest ungodly thing that comes around.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Glancing Or Searching?

"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
Acts 17:11 (NKJV)

There are different ways you can look at something, you can take a long, hard look or you can just glance at something.  Recently I was in a museum where there was a lot of art work.  As I passed through the museum, I noticed a person who was sitting in front of a certain painting just looking at it.  While I had seen the painting and appreciated the work that the artist had done, this other person was taking a much longer and more in depth look at the same painting.  By doing so, this person was going to be able to notice more things than I had and have a better overall understanding of the painting than what I had.

There are different ways we can "look" at God's Word.  We can read and even study it to get a basic view of it.  By doing this we learn more about who God is, what He is like, and how He wants us to live.  But, as with the story of the people in Acts 17:11, we can also search through the Scriptures to get a thorough view and an even better understanding of what God has said to us.  Too many people take a more casual approach to the Bible and they do more glancing at it than searching through it.  But rather than just taking a glance at God's Word we need to spend the time searching through it.

In the same way that someone can take a few moments to get a general appreciation of a picture, we too can have a general view of God's Word as we take a little time to read over it occasionally.  But, in the same way that someone could take a longer time to view and study a picture, by having a more regular time to read and study the Bible in depth we will not only gain a greater knowledge and understanding of God and His Word but we will be better prepared for the things we deal with in our life.  We need to become skilled in searching God's Word and have a thorough comprehension of it. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Lack Of Knowledge

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge ..."
Hosea 4:6 (NKJV)

Recently, I took a flight to an airport where I planned to take a bus to another city and then a train to my final destination.  I decided to buy a ticket from the machine and not wait in line to buy the ticket at the counter.  As I went through the process of buying my ticket, I pushed the button for the city I was traveling to.  But I was surprised a while later when my bus arrived in a different part of the town than where I had planned, so I had to take another bus to the train station.  Because I did not really know the bus routes my trip took an extra hour and cost me more money, all because of what I did not know.

God has given us a wonderful, supernatural book that we call the Bible.  The Bible is God's Word to us and it is filled with many, many things that we need to know about so that we can have a great relationship with God and know how to live a successful, fulfilling life following the plan that God has for us.  But, as wonderful and marvelous as all of this is, if we don't know what God's Word has to say, we are not only at a disadvantage but we can have some serious problems due to our lack of knowledge and understanding of what God has said.

Too often Christians have problems and it is not the devil that is hindering them, it is their lack of knowledge of God's Word.  Yes, there can be times that we are in a storm or trail while we are completely in the will of God, but this is not always the case.  Over, and over again, I have talked to people who were having problems and suffering in their life because they did not know what God had already said, so they were not acting on it in their life.  The solution to a lack of knowledge is a simple one, take time to read and study God's Word; that is the best way to be sure that we are not struggling simply because we do not know what the Bible says.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

A Seed Needs Water

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase."
1 Corinthians 3:6 (NKJV)

Most people have planted something at some time in their life.  One thing that everyone who has planted something knows is that the seed you planted needs to be watered.  Watering a seed is not a one-time thing, it is something that is done over a period of time.  You don't water the seed you planted just once, it is a continual process that can use a lot of water.  If you only plant a seed but you never water it, then the seed you have planted will never grow; without water the seed will die and your efforts will be wasted.  A seed that is planted needs water.

Paul preached the Gospel he had received by revelation from God (Galatians 1:11-12), of how we are saved by grace through faith and not through our works (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We need to learn about and fully understand these Bible truths, as well as many others, which is why we need to have things repeated and hear them again and again.  This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 3:6 when he said that he planted and Apollos watered.  Paul himself traveled to some of the same places more than once to further help the people he had already taught, he was watering the seeds he had sown. 

In 2 Peter 1:12, Peter said he was reminding the people about something, even though they were already established in that truth.  There was something that they already knew about, but Peter said it was important for him to remind them of it, Peter was watering the seed that had been planted.  Peter, just like Paul, knew that we all need a continual reminder, a continual process of hearing the truth, the watering of the Word of God, to grow and develop in our faith.  We need to see to it that we have a regular time of reading and studying God's Word to plant it in our heart and continually water it so that it grows and develops.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Wishing Well

"And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."
Matthew 21:22 (NKJV)

A "Wishing Well" is something that was probably seen more in the past than it is today.  A Wishing Well was some type of a well and the idea was if there was something you desired, some wish you had that you wanted to come true, you could go to the Wishing Well and toss in a coin while you made your wish.  Supposedly by doing this it became more likely that you would be able to have your wish fulfilled.  Most, if not all, people knew this was not a way to actually bring a wish into reality, but it was a nice way for people to dream and wish for something in their life.

For some Christians, prayer and faith are like the experience of a Wishing Well.  There is something they need or desire in their life and all they have is a wish that someday, somehow, that wish might come true.  Because some believers do not know what God has said in His Word, they have no basis for faith and they really do not believe that what they are asking for will actually come to pass.  It can be a very sad thing to see someone in their time of need only wishing for a solution to their problem and the answer that they need.  But this is not faith or how a Christian should behave.

We need to learn through the Word of God all about what Jesus did for us and what God has provided for us through Jesus and then put our trust and confidence, our faith, in that.  When we face a challenge in our life, when we have a need that must be met, when we have questions about what to do in our life, God has an answer and will help us as we ask in faith.  As we take a stand in faith on God's Word, we can know that we will have the answer that we need.  We can do more than just wish for our needs to be met, by faith we can believe and receive the things that we need.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

"X" Marks The Spot

"So they said to Him, Where do You want us to prepare?  
And He said to them, Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters.  
Then you will say to the master of the house, "The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"  
Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready."
Luke 22:9-12 (NKJV)

Did you ever see a movie where someone was looking for something of value using a "treasure map" of some kind?  Often the map had an "X" on it to mark the spot where the treasure was hidden.  But what also often happened was that the person had to follow a series of clues or directions that led them to the spot where the treasure was.  While the "X" may have marked the spot, its location was not always so obvious or easy to find for any casual observer.  The treasure could only to be revealed to the person who followed the directions to the right location.

The story in Luke 22 of where Jesus had the Passover meal is one that I find to be very interesting.  It starts with the disciples asking Jesus where they should prepare for the Passover.  Jesus did not just tell them to go to a certain address in a certain city; Jesus did not directly identify the place that they needed to go to, but He told them how to get there.  It would seem like Jesus should have just told them exactly where to go instead of running them around in circles.  But there are some valuable lessons we can learn here about how God will guide us.

God knows exactly what we need, where it is, and what we need to do to have what belong to us because of Jesus.  So why doesn't He always just give us a straight path to what we need?   The answer is faith, we live a life of faith and if everything we needed was just laid out for us we would not be living a life of faith we would just live by our senses.  We need to develop in our relationship with God and learn to trust Him and follow His direction.  This will not only lead us to the answers we need today but it will also help us develop a greater trust in our heavenly Father to take bigger and bolder steps of faith in the future.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement."
John 7:24 (NKJV)

So many things in life are based on what we see, know, and understand by our physical senses.   But, if something is not perceived by our senses, does that make it any less real?  For example, you can't see a Wi-Fi signal even though your phone, tablet, and computer use it to access the Internet.  You can't feel the air, but you breathe air all day long.  You can't hear sunlight, but it brightens the daytime hours for us.  The thing is, if we base everything on what we see, know, and understand just from our physical sense there are many things we could misinterpret and miss out on.

The Bible has a great deal to say about faith and one of the main things is that faith and physical evidence are not the same thing.  Faith is not based on what we see, hear, feel, taste, touch, or smell.  But while we may not have any physical evidence of faith in operation it can still be working.  As Jesus said in John 7:24, we cannot make a judgement about something based only on appearance.  How something looks can actually be deceiving.  When we put our faith into action things are set into motion in the spiritual realm, but that does not always instantly appear in the natural realm.

If we only focus on what we know from the natural perspective we can draw back from our stand in faith and then fail to see the manifestation of what have been believing God for.  We need to see what God's Word says, believe it regardless of physical evidence, and keep on standing in faith.  Just because we don't see something happening does not mean that things are not happening.  When we take a stand on God's Word and believe what it says, no matter the physical evidence, or lack of it, we can be sure that God is at work, watching over His Word to see that it will come to pass. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Do You Have A Clear View?

"The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inner depths of his heart."
Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV)

Sometimes in the Winter you have to scrape ice or snow, or both, off of your car windows before you can start driving.  It could be that you are leaving for work in the morning and you are in a hurry so you just clean as much as you think is necessary before you start to drive.  But if you don't scrape off all of the ice or snow you can't really see clearly and you could have an accident.  You may think that just cleaning your windows a little bit is enough, but you are really just starting your journey without a clear view of everything you should see and that is never a good thing to do. 

Proverbs 20:27 tells us that our spirit, the inner man, is where God will give us light.  Our spirit is compared to a lamp and in Psalm 18:28 it says that God will light our lamp and enlighten our darkness.  This is showing us that God is not going to lead us with external or physical things but inwardly.  We may have an idea about a ministry or business we want to start or we have a sense in our heart about a change in our life or our geographic location.  But trouble can develop if we start moving forward with only the general idea about these things without having a complete understanding of how to accomplish them.

God wants us to know and understand His will, but there is also a way He wants us to carry it out and there is a right time to do it.  As Paul wrote in Colossians 1:9, we need to be filled with the knowledge of God's will along with having wisdom and spiritual understanding.  God will reveal His will to us through His Word and by the Holy Spirit so that we have knowledge of His plans and purposes for us.  This usually comes to us step by step and as we take the steps He gives us things will become clearer and clearer.  Make sure you get the whole plan from God to see things clearly to be able to successfully fulfill the will of God.

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.