Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chasing Waves

"that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,"
Ephesians 4:14 (NKJV)

Waves can be created by different things like the wind or a boat.  For many years I lived by the Rhine River in Germany and every day barges and boats would go up and down the river, as they passed by they would create waves.  One day, I was down by the river and I noticed a woman walking her dog.  This dog was running up and down the bank of the river chasing the waves that had been created by a passing barge.  When one wave would crest and disappear the dog would see another wave and start chasing after that one.  The dog was very busy chasing all those waves, but he never had an effect on any of them.

Instability, impatience, and difficulty paying attention are all characteristics of childhood.  Paul, and other writers of the New Testament, compare spiritual growth to natural growth.  God has a place and purpose for each Christian, and God's plan is for His children to grow and develop into spiritual maturity and take their place in the Body of Christ.  However, to find that place and to fully carry out that purpose requires mature, stable believers.  But, Christians are often running here and there, naturally and spiritually, chasing the latest wave that they see, and there are many winds the blow in life that can create waves.

Sometimes Christians are caught up in the latest popular wind of doctrine and they spend time pursuing those seemingly new, and exciting teachings.  On the other hand, some Christians go from one crisis and difficulty to the next and they never get fully established in the truth of God's Word because they are constantly running around putting out the latest fire that has broken out in their life.  We all need to continually develop ourselves in the truth of God's Word and to learn to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  By doing this we will not only be stable, mature Christians but we will avoid the trap of just chasing every wave that we see.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Are You Waiting For Perfect Conditions?

"He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap."
Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NKJV)

We all like things to go smooth and easy and to have everything fall into place for us.  Sometimes we want to wait for everything to be just right before we do something, but this does not always happen.  Sometimes people don't do things because they are always finding a reason not to do it, rather than finding a reason to do something no matter what. There may never be a perfect time to start a business or start a new job, and farmers plant and harvest crops when it is time to do so, not just on nice, sunny days.  If we always wait for perfect conditions we may never get started on anything!

The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that we walk by faith, not by sight.  This means we act, we sow, we do things, based on what God says in His Word and by the leading of the Holy Spirit.  If we are waiting, looking at the natural circumstances, economic conditions, what others are saying, or how we feel about something, we might never do anything.  While it is always good to plan ahead, use wisdom, and get advice on the best way to do things, sometimes we have to be bold and take a step and not wait for perfect conditions that may or may not ever exist.   If we know God is leading us to do something that is in line with His Word then we know it is time to act.

Sometimes we do not take action because we are seeking perfect conditions, which really means that we are looking too much at the natural side of life.  The Bible is filled with examples of people who, naturally speaking, did not have such perfect conditions, but did something anyway and saw great results.  Paul's ministry is an example of this.  Paul faced many difficulties but he never quit and he kept moving forward with God's plan for his life, no matter what conditions he faced.  If we wait for the perfect conditions we may never act, but, as we step out in faith on God's Word and at His direction we will achieve great things for God!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Take Two

"Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry."
2 Timothy 4:11 (NKJV)

Most people enjoy music, movies, and television programs.  Of course, not every kind of music, movie, or television show is good, but generally speaking these are things that people enjoy.  The music we listen to and the movies or television shows we watch are the result of people working to get everything just right.  The majority of the time things do not work as well as they should the first time around, so they will usually try again, or as they say, "Take Two", in an effort to get a better result.  This same principle holds true in other areas of life, things don't always work right the first time so we need a second attempt to get it right.

There is a great example of this principle in the New Testament.  In Acts 13:5 we see that Mark went with Paul on Paul's first journey to preach the Gospel.  But, after just a short time, Mark left Paul's group and returned to Jerusalem.  People have many ideas about why this may have happened, but the Scripture does not really tell us.  Later, as Paul was about to take another trip, in Acts 15, Paul refused to have Mark travel with him again because Mark had not continued on with the group on the first trip.  Mark had a bad reputation at this point, but the good thing is that this is not the end of the story of Mark.

Paul did not approve of Mark leaving the group on the first journey.  But, in 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him because Mark is "useful to me for ministry".  That is quite a change from what happened previously.  The lesson we can all learn is that no matter how things start we can have a "Take Two".  God, and godly people, will not give up on us.  God will help us to get past the mistakes and problems of our past to be people that are useful to Him in His Kingdom.  How about you?  Do you need a second chance, a Take Two?  If so, God is ready to help you turn things around and bring you to the place of being a significant part of His work on the earth today!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Doors And Opportunities

"Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord,"
2 Corinthians 2:12 (NKJV)

Opportunities are like doors, they give us access into places that we were previously not able to enter into.  But, just like every time you see an open door you know it does not mean that you are supposed to enter in, every opportunity that we find is not necessarily a good opportunity.  There are different kinds of doors just as there are different kinds of opportunities.  Some doors look very different from others and if we are not careful we may mistake a door for something else.  If we pass up a door or miss an opportunity we could lose out on something very important.

In 2 Corinthians 2:12 Paul said a door had been opened for him to preach the Gospel.  In Colossians 4:3 he asked the people of Colosse to pray for him to have an open door to be able to speak the Word of God as he should.  Paul knew that God was the only One who could open some doors and bring him the opportunities he needed to do what God had called him to do.  But, just because a door opens it does not mean that everything is going to work out perfectly for us.  As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 16:9, a door of opportunity had opened to him but there were some adversaries.

God will open doors and bring us opportunities that no man ever could.  But, do we always recognize those opportunities?  And, when a door opens, are we ready and able to go through that door?  God could have given Paul many opportunities to preach, but if Paul had not recognized or taken advantage of them nothing would have happened.  If Paul had not properly prepared himself he would not have been ready to preach the Gospel or he may not had been able to deal with the adversaries that opposed him.  God will bring us the opportunities we need to do His will, but it is up to us to recognize them and step through the doors that He opens for us. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

God Will Reveal It To You

"I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this in mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you."
Philippians 3:14-15 (NKJV)

Over my years in ministry, and even personally, I have traveled to many different places in different countries.  No matter where I go, there is always a destination I am headed towards.  It would not make much sense to take trip with no idea about where to go, and it would make even less sense to start a trip with absolutely no plan of how to reach the destination.  If there is a journey to make, then there must be a goal in mind and to reach the goal you have to have a plan about how to get there, which normally would include taking the best route possible.

God wants us to know His will and to fulfill His plan for our lives.  Some people get very concerned about whether or not God really wants to show us what to do, especially if we make some mistakes or go off course at some point.  But, we are His children and He wants the best for us, and this includes knowing and understanding His will.  In Colossians 1:9 Paul told of how he was praying for those believers to be filled with the knowledge of God's will with all wisdom and spiritual understanding.  God does not just want us to know what to do, but He also wants us to know when to do it, and the best way to do it.

In Philippians 3 Paul talked about leaving the past behind and pressing toward the goal that God had for him.  He went on to say that this is how mature believers should think.  But, Paul also said that if we are not having the right goal in mind then God will reveal that to us.  We don't have to live in fear of missing God's plan because, as Paul said, God will reveal to us what we need to know.  As long as we are not in complete rebellion to God and refusing to listen to Him, God will guide us and direct us by the Holy Spirit into His plan and purpose for our lives.  God's wants us to know and fulfill His will and He will help us and guide us to be able to do that.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Connections Are Important

"from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
Ephesians 4:16 (NKJV)

Connections are important.  Without the right connections, you can have some big problems.  We have machines that would not function if they were not connected to the proper power source.  We have pipes that transport water, gas, and oil that would be unable to do so if the connection was broken at some point.  Our bodies are filled with connections; our nervous system, our blood supply, and the different parts of our body must be properly connected or we could die.  It is vital to have the right connections for things to continue to operate the way that they should.

God created us to have relationships and connections with other people.  God Himself said it was not good for man to be alone.  We need to make the right connections with the right people.  There are people we need to be connected to for us to help them, and there are people we need to be connected to so that they can help us.  We cannot help someone, and they cannot help us, if we are not connected to them in some way.  The right connections will help us and build us up, while the wrong connections will hinder us in our relationship with God and in fulfilling His will for our lives.

Ephesians 4:16 says that every part of the body has something to give to help the whole body.  But, if some part of the body is disconnected how can it give the supply that it has?  This is what we see so often in the body of Christ, the Church.  Too many believers are disconnected, or if they are connected they are not involved anywhere so they are not giving their supply.  Every one of us is an important part of the body of Christ and we need to give our supply to the other parts.  As we all do our part the body of Christ will grow, but it can only grow if the right connections are maintained.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Follow Him

"And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.
Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
Going on from there, He saw two brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them,
and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him."
Matthew 4:18-22 (NKJV)

Any type of journey means traveling from one place to another.  If you never move from where you are you will never get to where you want to go.  Also, when traveling to some other place you have to have some directions and then follow those directions to reach your destination.  Sometimes, depending on the journey, you not only have to leave your current location but you may have to leave some other things behind as well, and if you don't you won't be able to take the trip.  For example, to travel by airplane there are restrictions to the amount of luggage you can bring with you.

We don't really know every story of how all the disciples met Jesus, but in Matthew 4 we can see how Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him and we can learn some important lessons.  For example, these disciples were not some unemployed, homeless people who had no purpose in life.  These four disciples were part of a business, and in the case of James and John it was a family business.   But, when Jesus called them to follow Him they left everything to do so, everything!  Think what they would have missed if they had stayed where they were with what they had.

The point is not that Jesus wants us to forsake our possessions or our family.  But, to truly follow Jesus and go where the Holy Spirit will lead us, there are some things we may have to leave behind.  If we try to hang on to what we have and where we are we may have a hard time following God's direction.  Does God want us to have a great life and nice things?  Yes!  Does God have a wonderful success filled plan for our life?  Yes!  But, if we put our goals, our possessions, and our plans ahead of God's we can have problems.  We need to be like the disciples who were ready to leave everything behind to follow Jesus, that leads to true success and satisfaction.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Your Own Personal Trainer And Assistant

"And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - 
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you."
John 14:16-17 (NKJV)

If you were interested in getting physically fit you could start an exercise routine at home or you could go to some fitness center.  But, no matter where you exercise you have to do the right kind of exercises in the right way to achieve your desired goals.  Some people choose to get a personal trainer to help them know what to do and how to do it, which makes it more likely for them to succeed in reaching their fitness goals than if they just did things on their own without really knowing what they were doing.  Some celebrities have personal trainers and assistants who will help them make the right choices about what to wear, where to go, and even how to invest their money.

When Jesus was on the earth He led His disciples, taught them, and showed them how to do things.  Whatever help the disciples needed Jesus was able to provide.  Then, in John 14, Jesus talked about sending the Helper, the Holy Spirit.  One interesting thing Jesus said here is that He was going to send "another" Helper.  That word "another" in the Greek language means another of the same kind, not something different.  Jesus was telling the disciples that while He was going to leave, Someone just like Him was going to come to help them.  Once we are born again we have the Holy Spirit in us and with us to direct us and help us.

In the same way that Jesus helped and guided His disciples, the Holy Spirit is now here to help and guide us.  We can look at how Jesus worked with His disciples to learn how the Holy Spirit will work with us.  We could hire a personal trainer and assistants to help us in the different areas of our life, but the Holy Spirit is better than any personal trainer or assistant, because He knows everything!  No matter what situation we may find ourselves in, the Holy Spirit is there to help us.  What assistance and help do you need today?  Look to the direction and help that the Holy Spirit will give you about what to do and how to do it successfully!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Start Small, Finish Big

"Though your beginning was small, yet your latter end would increase abundantly."
Job 8:7 (NKJV)

Normally, the way something starts is not the best indication of how it will end or what the final result will be.  One brick can be the beginning of a huge cathedral, one small seed can be the start of a large tree, and one dollar in the bank can be the first step towards financial stability.  If we judge the future of things just by the beginning we can have a wrong perspective that can hinder the development of that very thing.  If we think one brick is not enough for a building we may never start the construction, one seed may look too small to plant, and one dollar can be spent as easily as it is saved or invested.

One thing that is great about God is that no matter where we are now there is room for improvement.  No matter what things look like now, no matter how dark things may seem, and no matter how far away we may be from our goal, with God on our side all things are possible.  God's plan for us is to have a bright future.  But, if we try to judge our future by our present circumstances we could lose all hope for a successful outcome in our situation.  We may be in a place that is nowhere near where we should be or where we want to be, but, we don't have to stay where we are forever.

Job 8:7 says that while we may have a small beginning things can increase before the end.  Even if what we have now and where we are seems too small, God can bring an increase.  In Zechariah 4:10 it asks a question about who has despised the day of small things.   The answer is that probably all of us have done this at one point or another.  But, we need to change our focus from our current position to the possibility that only God can give.  If we partner with God He can help us increase from where we are, just as if we leave God out of our life we can be sure things will not improve.  God can make something big out of something small!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Greatest Show On Earth

"and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power
which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come"
Ephesians 1:19-21 (NKJV)

The phrase "The Greatest Show On Earth" has been used as the title of a film, a slogan for more than one circus, the name of several songs, as well as in a few other contexts.  The idea of the phrase is to describe some amazing event that is at the top of its field, an event so incredible that no matter where you look in the rest of the world you cannot find anything that will top it.  But, as with most slogans and advertisements the actual event does not always live up to the hype.  Anyone can say that something is the greatest whatever and be completely wrong.

There is one event that took place in history that could truly be called the greatest show on earth, something that happened that cannot be topped or even repeated because of its immense magnitude.  When the Bible talks about the resurrection of Jesus, we are told of how this happened by the working of the mighty power of God.  The Bible shows us that when Jesus rose from the dead it was not just an act whereby He overcame natural death, but He overcame sin and spiritual death as well.  We also learn that Jesus was exalted to the position of honor and authority at the right hand of God. 

The power that raised Jesus from the dead is not something that only worked in that one situation.  God did not focus all of His power on resurrecting Jesus and then somehow turn that power off or decide to never use it again.  That same power that worked in Jesus is available for us today to not only save us and deliver us from spiritual death and the work of the devil, but the power of God is available to us for healing, deliverance, and preservation. The power of God raised up Jesus in what could truly be called the greatest show that ever took place on the earth.  The best part of the story is that this power is still available and working for us today!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Resurrection Authority

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,"
Ephesians 2:4-6 (NKJV)

Several years ago, I went to a lawyer to have the necessary papers drawn up to give my mother power of attorney for me.  The main reason I did this was because there are times when I am in Europe that something needs to be done for me in the USA.  With the power of attorney, my mother can sign documents for me and take care of things that concern me while I am in Europe as if I were present in the USA.  Although I may not be physically located where the work needs to be done, my mother can do those things for me because of the authority granted her through the power of attorney.

When we talk about what we celebrate at Easter, most people know about Jesus being crucified, placed in a tomb, and then resurrected on the third day by the power of God.  But what most people don't realize is that just as Jesus was taken up and placed at the right hand of God, we too were spiritually placed in the same position with Him.  What does this mean for us?  To put it simply, Jesus defeated the devil and gave us the right and ability to enforce the devil's defeat.  Because of the resurrection of Jesus, Satan no longer has any right to hold us down in life and to defeat us.

Because Adam disobeyed God, sin entered the world and sin separates man from God.  Until the death and resurrection of Jesus, Satan had a legal right, because of Adam's disobedience, to enforce the penalty of sin on mankind.  But Jesus raised us up above all that by paying the ultimate price for our sin and by being the perfect sacrifice.  This means that we can live victoriously in every area of our lives.  Sadly, most Christians never grasp this concept and live defeated lives.  But thank God, through Jesus, we have authority and we are more than conquerors; today we have resurrection authority!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A "Must Have"

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
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.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NKJV)

There are some things that are considered so necessary that they are often called a "must have", something you can't do without.  These are things that are absolutely essential to the situation.  For example, if you are interested in traveling to another country you must have a passport, without a passport you are not even allowed to leave your country.  Another example would be having fuel in your car.  You can have the nicest, newest car around but if you don't have the necessary fuel your car will not move.  Or you could have the latest telephone with the latest technology, but without a network connection it is useless.

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul talked about something that is a must have for success in the life of a believer, love in everything we say and do.  When Paul wrote about love, he was not talking about what most people commonly refer to as love, Paul was writing about the love of God, not some emotion.  In Romans 5:5 we learn that the love of God is in us and because of this we can, and should, operate in God's love.  Anything that we do or say that is outside of the love of God will not really benefit us, or anyone else.  No matter what we do, if we do it outside of love it will not have the results it should have.

Paul talked about having the ability to speak the most wonderful words, but without love it would all be just noise.  Paul said we could have knowledge, understanding, and faith, but without love it would still amount to nothing.  Paul also told us how we could do the greatest acts of kindness and charity, but without love there is no benefit to us.  There are many things that we can do that are good, but without the right motive behind it, without love, those things would mean nothing.  Love is something that is "must have" for Christians, it is essential for everything that we say and do.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Living In A New Location

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

There have been several times in my life that I have moved from one place to another.  Overall, I have lived in many different places, in different states, and in different countries.  Moving from one place to another was not just a simple process that ended when I began living in my new home.  Once I had found a place and moved into it I then had to go through the process of learning to live in my new location.  Moving into a new home may also mean that we have to leave some things behind, change some things, or begin some new routines because of the new location.

When we are born again, it is like moving into a new home; we have gone from one spiritual location to another.  There are some things from the past that we will have to leave behind, we will have to change some things, and we will have to begin some new routines as we learn to live in our new spiritual location.  If we try to live the same way in our new natural location like we did in our former home, it could, and probably would, create some problems.  If we try to live as a Christian the same way that we did before we were Christians we will definitely have some problems.

Paul writes that the way he lived his new life in Christ was to live by faith in Jesus, the Son of God.  As believers, we must learn to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), we need to access the grace of God by faith (Romans 5:2), we use our faith to overcome the world (1 John 5:4), and we now fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).  What does all that mean?  It means that because of our spiritual relocation that we can't focus on natural things anymore and we can't just follow our old ways of talking, thinking, and living as we did before.  Our new life in Christ is lived by faith in all that Jesus did for us.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Living Stones

"Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious,
you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
1 Peter 2:4-5 (NKJV)

Recently I was watching some workmen build a wall that was made up of individual stones rather than bricks.  The reason I noticed how this wall was being put together was that one of the workmen was looking at each individual rock and examining its size and shape to see where it would fit into the wall.  No stone was being rejected, but each had a place somewhere in the wall.  Although some stones were placed in the wall sooner than others, and some rocks had a more prominent place in the wall than others, the wall became bigger and bigger and today those stones make up a large wall.

When someone becomes a Christian, the Bible calls them a new creation, a child of God, and even His (God's) workmanship.  In 1 Peter 2, believers are also referred to as living stones.  God is the Master builder who knows all about us and knows where we fit best into His Kingdom and His plan.  It may look to others, and maybe even to ourselves, that we don't necessarily fit in, but God has a place for each one of us and together we are being built up into a spiritual building that God will use.  Just like the workman took each smaller stone and used it to build a larger wall, God is using us to build something bigger than ourselves.

Where do we fit into God's plan?  One thing is certain, God knows this better than we do, so we cannot try to figure out for ourselves how God will use us and we can't just try to make a place for ourselves.  We all have a place in God's master plan and He puts us where we belong.  He knows our talents and abilities and where they can best be used.  It is interesting to note how just a few verses earlier it talks about how we need the Word to grow.  The Word helps us to grow and it helps us get to know who we really are and to see how God can use us.  We are God's living stones that He is preparing for a place in His plan.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Any Acceptable Substitutes?

"And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."
Mark 7:7 (NKJV)

A substitute is something that is used in the place of another thing, something that is in some way equal to or the equivalent of something else.  For example, if you are baking something you will need certain ingredients.  But, it could be that you realize you are missing something you need.  It may be that you have to have butter, or eggs, or something else that at the moment is not available.  In this situation, you can often find an acceptable substitute to use in place of what you were supposed to have, and this substitute will work just as well as what you were originally going to use.

While there may be some acceptable substitutes for some baking ingredients, some things have no substitute; God's Word has no substitute, it has no equal.  In Mark 7, Jesus pointed out a problem that the Pharisees had that many people still have today.  Jesus told the Pharisees that what they were doing was in vain because they had created doctrines out of the commandments of men.  The Pharisees had tried to substitute something else for the Word of God.  Most Christians know about the Pharisees and the problems that they had, but they do not realize that they are often guilty of doing the same thing that the Pharisees did.

No matter what idea someone comes up with, no matter how good something may sound, or who does or does not do something, we can never substitute man's ideas for God's Word.  We may not directly contradict what we find in the Bible with some man-made idea, but do we put more emphasis on our feelings, past experiences, something our favorite preacher said, or even a song than we do on God's Word?  If we want success in life and to be able to take advantage of all of the blessings that God provided for us through Jesus, then the only way to do that is by knowing and applying the Word of God in our life, there is no acceptable substitute for God's Word!