Thursday, September 17, 2020

Spending Time With It

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life."
1 John 1:1 (NKJV)

Several years ago, there was a commercial about the upcoming World Cup.  People were seen using a soccer ball and then passing it to other people.  These people kicked the ball with their feet, they bounced it off of their knees and their head, and sometimes did little tricks with the ball, it was amazing to watch.  If you saw that ad you may have been like me and wondered how those people could use the ball so well.  The answer is that they could do those things because they had spent so much time with it. 

In 1 John 1:1, John wrote about "the Word of life".  Most people agree that John is referring to Jesus, the living Word of God, and this could also apply to the message of the Word of life, the Gospel.  John did not just state a fact about something that has been around since the beginning, or even that he had just heard about it.  John says that he saw it, and looked upon it, and handled it.  Not only did he hear about it, but he did something with it.  Not only did John see it, but he spent time looking at it. 

John is telling us about something that he had a personal experience with.  Too often people have a merely casual relationship to God and His Word, but we need to be like John and have a deep relationship.  This takes time to develop, and we can only develop in it by spending time with the living and written Word of God.  John had an intimate, personal experience with Jesus the living Word as well as with God's written Word, and that is what we should have too.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Follow Through

"Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 
But be ye doers of the word, and not hears only, deceiving yourselves."
James 1:21-22 (NKJV)

There are several sports that use a ball, such as tennis and golf.  One thing that these sports have in common is that there needs to be a follow through of the swing made to hit the ball.  If you would only hit the ball and then somehow stop your swing, then you are not hitting the ball correctly and you will not have the best and maximum result from what you are doing.  Having a proper follow through is necessary to correctly hitting the ball the way that you need to.

In the same way that there needs to be a follow through when hitting a ball, as Christians, there needs to be a "follow through" of what we learn from God's Word, the Bible.  In James 1:21, we see how we need to receive God's Word, and James 1:22 shows us the "follow through" of then doing what we learn from the Word.  We need to receive God's Word, which then of course means we need to spend time with God's Word, in order to then become a doer of the Word.

If we are only hearing the Word and not doing the Word, we are deceiving ourselves and denying ourselves the positive benefits that come through the obedience of putting God's Word into practice in our life.  It is one thing to hear God's Word, to memorize what we have heard, tell others about what we have heard, and even get excited about it; but that does not mean we are actually putting the Word into practice in our life.  We need to hear God's Word, receive the Word, and do what the Word says.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Getting Into The Ministry

"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, let us prophecy in proportion to our faith;
or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;
he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."
Romans 12:6-8 

When I first moved to Germany, I remember thinking how the driving methods there were so different than in the USA. While the basics of driving are the same in both nations, there were some things that seemed confusing to me, and because of that I was not too eager to drive.  But, when I started to actually do some driving, I realized that it was not really so hard to do, once I started to do it. Some of the original ideas I had were proven wrong, once I understood things and started to take some action.

When people think about “ministry”, they often have ideas about what ministry is that are not based on what the Bible actually teaches.  When we see the word “ministry” in the Bible, it is basically just talking about serving.  Every believer has been called to serve, to minister, but people don’t always understand that.  In Romans 12, it talks about different gifts, different graces that people may have.  What people often focus on with ministry and serving is the part about teaching and leading.  But there are more things listed in Romans 12 than just those two things.

What is interesting about the list in Romans 12, is that there are things given there that almost anyone can do, right now.  You don’t have to have a special assignment from God to serve others, to encourage someone, to give, or to show mercy.  In fact, when people ask about getting into the ministry, I suggest that they start doing some of these things.  Anyone can serve, encourage, give, and show mercy.  Then, as we do some of these things, we may find that it really is something we are gifted, graced, to do.  We can all get into the ministry and serve right where we are today, it is not that hard, once we actually start doing it.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Walking in Love – All And Nothing

"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."
1 Corinthians 13:2 (NKJV) 

When I travel in Europe, one thing I pay attention to is the currency that I need to use.  This is not too difficult in Europe, because many nations there use the Euro as their currency.  But, in some countries, like Norway and Denmark, they do not accept the Euro.  There have been times that I was in one of those nations, and I have had some Euros in my possession, but I have not been able to use them.  No matter how many Euros I had, I was not able to purchase anything, so despite all the Euros that I had, it really amounted to nothing.

In writing about the love of God, in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul talks about what love is and he also gives some examples about how valuable love is.  In 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul says that someone could be able to prophesy, understand all mysteries, have all knowledge, and all the faith necessary to move a mountain, but without love it would be nothing!  Love is so valuable, and so important, that no matter how much you have of anything else, without love those things are worthless; all you would have amounts to nothing.

The really wonderful thing is that as Christians we do have the God kind of love in us (Romans 5:5), and so we should do all that we can to let God’s love work in us and through us.  No matter how much we have of anything else, without the love of God operating in our lives, it is all for nothing!  We all need to be sure that our emphasis is not on just knowing a lot or even having vast amounts of faith, but our focus is on developing in the love of God.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Do You See It?

"while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:18 (NKJV) 

There have been several times where I was with someone looking at a historic site or some natural wonder.  Sometimes, the other person would direct my attention to a specific thing in the direction we were looking and say, “Do you see it?” hoping that I too noticed the thing they were pointing out.  At first, I still did not really see the thing that they were trying to show me.  Then, once I did eventually see it, it was easy to see it, whereas before I could not seem to pick that thing out from the rest of the scenery.

In 2 Corinthians 4:18, Paul gives us an unusual statement, “we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen”.  That sounds strange, because how can you look at something you cannot see?  Paul is not talking about natural things here, Paul is referring to spiritual things, spiritual truth.  While it is true that there are natural things around us, we want to look past the natural to the spiritual. We don’t’ want to focus our attention on what we see in the natural world, we want to keep our attention on spiritual things.

Spiritual truth can change natural facts.  The natural fact may be that your body has a problem, the spiritual truth is that Jesus paid for our healing on the cross (Isaiah 53:5).  The natural fact may be that we have a financial challenge, but the spiritual truth is that God will supply whatever we need (Philippians 4:19).  The natural fact is that we may not know at the moment what we need to do, but God said He will give us wisdom when we need it (James 1:5).  Rather than just acknowledge the natural fact, we need to keep our focus on the spiritual truth; can you see it?

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Truth Here, There, And Everywhere

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

There are many different countries in the world, with many different people groups, and many different languages.  But, even with all of the differences, and all of the unique ways that people do things, there are some things that are the same everywhere.  Gravity still works everywhere, basic math works the same in every place, and every person on earth still needs to breathe air.  These things are true no matter where you might be; none of these things change from location to location, they are always true.

While there are many basic truths in the world, the most basic of all truth, and the most valid truth is what God has said.  The great thing about God’s Word is that it is just as true in one place as it is anywhere else.  God’s Word is not truer for one group of people than it is for another, the Bible is equally valid from country to country, and what God has said works the same for anyone who will put it into practice, because God’s Word is the truth!

There are many people today who echo the words of Pilate in John 18:38 when he asked, “What is truth?”; the answer is God’s Word.  People are looking for truth and not opinion today and we need to direct them to what God has said.  We all need to have the solid foundation of the Word of God in our life, because the truth of the Bible is what we need to base our life on.  God’s Word is the truth that we all need and that will always work; it is the truth, here, there, and everywhere.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Do I Know You?

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
 
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NKJV) 

Have you ever been in the situation where you see someone, and they look somewhat familiar, but you are not sure if you really know them?  You see them, and you think to yourself, “Do I know you?”, because you are not sure who that person might be.  Then, suddenly, you recognize that person as someone you do know, but you are seeing them in a completely different situation than you are used to seeing them.  Your first reaction is that you don’t recognize them, but you then realize you do know them and you are just seeing them in a different way than you usually see them. 

One thing that many Christians struggle with is their identity in Christ.  Once we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have a new identity, a spiritual identity in Christ.  We are often so familiar with ourselves in our natural setting of life, and the way we have lived for so many years, that learning about our new identity in Christ can take some time.  When we start to learn about who we are in Christ, we are really seeing ourselves in a setting that is different from how we usually see ourselves. 

When we first learn about who we are as a new creation in Christ, it seems as if this somehow familiar to us, but we don’t recognize ourselves in that way.  Paul gives us a key in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17; from now on we don’t want to pay so much attention to who we are naturally, in the flesh, we want to know who we are in Christ.  We need to realize that our old identity is gone and we are now a new creation in Christ Jesus.  We need to get to know ourselves in Christ and recognize that as our true identity.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Last Word

"And the devil said to Him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."
But Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God.'"
Luke 4:3-4 (NKJV) 

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where it seemed that they were determined to have the last word?  You may have even done this yourself and been that person who always had something that they wanted to say after the other person was done speaking.  Usually this is a negative thing, and just trying to be the person who has the final word for the sake of having the last word is not good, but it could very well be that it was necessary for you or the other person to have that last word to finish the conversation in the right way.

In Luke 4:1-13 we see Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by the devil.  The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted in the same ways that we are tempted and Jesus did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).  Jesus successfully dealt with the devil and temptation, so if we want to overcome when we are tempted and face difficult situations, what Jesus did should be the pattern that we follow.  Why was Jesus successful in dealing with the devil?  Jesus was successful because He spoke God’s Word and made sure that it was the last word in the situation.

When we see the devil coming to Jesus with a temptation, like in Luke 4:4, it says “Jesus answered him”.  Every time the devil came against Him with something, Jesus always had an answer, Jesus always had the last word, and Jesus always spoke God’s Word.  Obviously, Jesus knew the Scriptures, and He must have known them quite well, or else Jesus would not have had an answer for what the devil said.  We too need to be sure we know the Word of God so that no matter what temptation or situation comes our way we know what the last word from God’s Word needs to be.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Singing The Same Song?

"Then the messenger who had gone to call Micaiah spoke to him, saying, "Now listen, the words of the prophets with one accord encourage the king.  Therefore please let your words be like the word of one of them, and speak encouragement."
And Micaiah said, "As the Lord lives, whatever my God says, that I will speak."
2 Chronicles 18:12-13 (NKJV) 

If there is a group of some people singing, the most basic requirement is that they all sing the same song.  If they were all singing different songs, the result would be musical chaos.  But what if there was a group of fifty people with forty-nine of them singing the same song, but it was the wrong song?   What if there was only one person who was actually singing the song that was supposed to be sung?  Should the one person change their song?  No, the person singing the right song should continue singing that song and do what they can to help get the other singers to sing that correct song.

In the Old Testament there is a story about the King of Israel and the King of Judah planning to go into battle together.  There were many so called prophets who “prophesied” exactly what the King of Israel wanted to hear.  This group of four hundred prophets all “sang the same song”, so to speak.  But, the King of Judah asked for a prophet of God to come.  As this prophet of God, Micaiah, came to the two kings, he was urged say what everyone else was saying.  Micaiah’s reply was that he would only say what God wanted him to say.

There are many people who believe that if a lot people say the same thing it must be the right thing.  This happens inside and outside of the Church.  It is nice when everyone agrees on the same thing, but if that thing is wrong, and contrary to what God has said in His Word, then we should not be saying it.  People will sometimes do their best to try and fit in, but this is not always the best thing to do.  While we want to do what we can to live at peace with all men (Romans 12:18), there are times we will need to take a stand and say what God says, no matter what others may say or do.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Missing Parts

"For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God,
night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?"
1 Thessalonians 3:9-10 (NKJV) 

One of the first jobs I had was working in a store that sold auto parts.  Our store would be contacted by someone who was repairing a car, because they were missing something that was needed to complete their work.  These people that needed the parts were usually auto mechanics, and they called us to bring the necessary parts to them.  My job was to then deliver those parts to the mechanics so they would be able to do their job and finish their work.

In 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10, Paul said the Thessalonians needed something to “perfect”, or “complete thoroughly”, their faith, and Paul said he would bring what they lacked.  This is similar to what he said in Romans 1:11, where Paul said he wanted to impart to the people in Rome a spiritual gift so they would be established.  This shows us that there can be areas in our life and relationship with God where we can be missing some things.  This also shows us that God can use someone to bring to others what they may be missing in their faith.

If something is complete it is not missing anything, but if something necessary is missing, then that part needs to be found and put into its proper place.  God wants mature believers who are not lacking the things that they need to do the work He has planned for them to do.  We should all look for opportunities to take the abilities, knowledge, and wisdom that we have from God and bring that to others to help provide them with whatever they may be lacking in their faith.  Whatever it is that God has given us can be used to help others.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Keep On Sowing, Keep On Going

"There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham.  And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar.
Then the Lord appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you.
Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father."

"Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him."
Genesis 26:1-3, 12 (NKJV) 

If you have ever been on a farm, or even planted a garden, you know that to reap a crop you first have to sow some seed.  But, when you sow seed in a field or plant something in a garden, you can’t just do that anywhere or any way you want.  There are certain places where things need to be planted and where seed should be sown.  Then, once you plant something in the right place, you have to take care of what was planted so it will grow.  You won’t reap a harvest overnight, but if you plant correctly you will reap a crop.

The story about Isaac in the time of famine as seen in Genesis 26 is sometimes used by people to talk about giving money and having a “hundredfold” return on that financial giving.  In my view, that is missing the point of what God talked to Isaac about.  In Genesis 26:1-3, we not only see that there was a famine in the land, but we also see that God told Isaac what to do and where to live.  During this famine, Egypt may have looked like a good place to go, but God told Isaac not to go to Egypt.

What I see as the most important lesson from the story about Isaac is that as Isaac was careful to follow God's direction and do what God told him to do, Isaac prospered.  In our own life, it may look like there are some good alternatives to what we are supposed to do, or it may look like things are not working the way that we think that they should, but we need to trust God.  If we are faithful to follow God's direction and do what He tells us to do, in His Word and by the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will reap a harvest of success in doing the will of God in our life.