Thursday, November 24, 2022

A Pattern To Follow

"Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus."
2 Timothy 1:13 (NKJV)

Several years ago, I worked in a factory where a lot of things were made out of metal.  There were various stages of production where different pieces were made and then assembled to make the final product.  We had several patterns of the different things that were being made, and these patterns were used to show someone how to correctly do the work that had to be done.  Without an accurate pattern, things could be done all kinds of ways, with some of those ways being the wrong way.

In the letters that Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus, it is interesting to see how Paul encouraged them to do and say things in the same way that he had.  Paul said he gave them a pattern to follow with the words he used, the things he said.  The word "pattern" here, can mean an outline, an example, or a pattern.  Paul gave Timothy and Titus a pattern to follow with what he said.  Paul gave them an example, that they could follow, so they would know how to say the right kind of things.

In Titus 2:1, Paul wrote about saying things that promote sound doctrine, good teaching.  In Titus 2:8, Paul said we should have the kind of speech that cannot be condemned, saying things that others could not find fault with.  Ephesians 4:29 says that we should not use any corrupt (rotten, corrupt, or poor quality) speech.  We may not be an apostle like Paul, but we can help others by giving them a good pattern to follow.  Our words can, and should be, a good example for others to follow.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Right Approach, May Not Be The Direct Approach

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye."
Psalm 32:8 (NKJV)

When traveling by airplane, how you land at an airport is determined by several things, including the way the wind is blowing, which actually helps the plane to slow down and land.  An airplane may even travel past the airport it will land at, and then turn around to land into the wind.  If you were a passenger in an airplane, and the plane you were flying on past the airport you were to land at, you might think something was wrong, but the plane is just taking the best route to successfully arrive at its destination.

God knows what is going on in our life right now, what has happened in the past, and what direction we need to go in the futureIn Psalm 32:8, God said that He would teach us the way we should go and that He would guide usGod has an overall plan for our life, and God will guide us and help us in our everyday life as well.  One thing that I have learned is that sometimes we don't seem to take a direct route in the will of God, but the way we go seems a bit different than what we might have expected.

God may direct us in a way that seems strange to us, but that direction really is the right way in the plan that God has for us.  Sometimes God will direct us to do something, or get involved in a certain thing, because He knows how that experience will help us in the future.  We first of all need to realize that God can and will guide us in life, and we then need to learn to follow His direction, even when it seems to us that the way we take is not the best way to reach our destination.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

A Positive, Purifying Expectation

"Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."
1 John 3:2-3 (NKJV)

What if you knew that someone famous, some kind of celebrity, or someone well-known was going to come to your home, what would you do?  Most people would make sure that everything in their home was cleaned, straightened up, and that nothing was out of place.  The fact that someone special was coming to see you would most likely cause you to change what you were doing, and alter any other plans you may have already had, so that you would be ready for that special day.

While there are disagreements among Christians as to when and how Jesus will return to the earth, one thing that is certain is that Jesus will come again.  But even if some Christian was to go as far as saying that they did not think Jesus would ever return, no one lives forever and one day we will all meet Jesus.  Knowing this should make a difference in our life.  If we really have an expectation that we will meet Jesus one day, it will have an impact in our life and influence the way we live.

John said that if we have a "hope", an expectation, that one day we will see Jesus, that this expectation would help to purify us.  In the same way that someone expecting a visit from another person would be influenced by that expected visit, our expecting to see Jesus one day should make a difference in our lives.  Knowing that one day we will meet Jesus should cause us to focus on what is really important in our life concerning doing God's will, and eliminate things in our life that might hinder us from serving God.  If we knew that we would meet Jesus tomorrow, how would we be living our life today?

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Help Along The Way

"Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers,
who have borne witness of your love before the church.  If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well,

because they went forth for His name's sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles.
"
3 John 1:5-7 (NKJV)

When traveling through an airport, you can find all kinds of places to buy things that you might need when you travel.  You could find something that you had forgotten to pack, or something that would be helpful for you on your trip.  It seems that in airports today, you can find almost anything you might need to help you on your journey.  All of these places can help you with what you might need along the way, even though none of these places are your actual destination.

There are many ways we can serve God, and one way is by helping others in the things that God has called them to do. In 3 John, the Apostle John wrote to believers about how good it is for believers to help others along the way as they are serving God.  God has a plan and purpose for each and every person, and while we can't fulfill the will of God for someone else, we can do things that will help those other people move forward on their journey as they fulfill the will of God in their lives.

We may not be a pastor, but there are things we can do to help our pastor.  We may not be a missionary, but there are things we can do to help those serving in other nations.  There are many things we may not be specifically called to do ourselves, but there are ways to help others, by praying for them, finding some way to assist them in what they are doing, and even just with some encouraging words.  We all need to do what we can to find ways to help others along the way as they serve God.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Avoiding Problems

"Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them,
saying, "Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives."

Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul.
"
Acts 27:9-11 (NKJV)

No intelligent person would go into a situation that they knew would be harmful to them.  No one would intentionally do something that they knew would result in something bad happening to them.  For example, nobody would purposely invest in something where they would lose all of their money, eat something that would make them sick, or touch something that is so hot it would burn them.  If it was possible, we would all avoid anything that we knew ahead of time would be dangerous or harmful to us, or to someone else we cared about.

The Bible says that believers are led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14), that the Holy Spirit will tell us about things to come (John 16:13), and that God will teach us the way to go and guide us (Psalm 32:8).  We see a good example of this in Acts 27:9-11 where Paul said that he knew that the trip they planned to take was a bad idea.  Paul knew this because he was listening to the direction that God was giving him.  We might think that this is a great story about the Apostle Paul, but God can work the same way in our lives too.

Proverbs 22:3 says, "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished."  We want to avoid being the simple, foolish person who just keeps moving forward without any wisdom and ends up having problems.  God always knows the best way to go and to do things, and because He loves us, He will help us to avoid problems and difficultiesWe need to be people who follow the wisdom of God's Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit to live a life free of unnecessary difficulties.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Uncovering Our True Identity

"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
"
Colossians 3:1-3 (NKJV)

If you left something on a beach, it could eventually be covered by sand.  If you left something out in a field or lying in a forest, eventually it could be covered by dirt, leaves, or even branches.  Sometimes, to see something we first have to uncover it by removing the things that have accumulated over it and that have covered it up.  There may be something valuable lying on the ground, but if it is covered by something else, we will have to uncover that thing before we can see what it really is.

In the book of Colossians, Christians are encouraged to seek things above; we are told to set our minds on heavenly things and not on earthly things.  The reason for this is because we have been raised with Christ and our life is hidden with Christ in God.  Our true identity, who we were really created to be, is found in Christ, and we have to discover that identity.  The problem is that sometimes our true identity in Christ can be hard for us to see, because so many other things have covered up who we really are. 

Sometimes, because of past experiences, wrong teaching, or even because of how we were raised, our true identity and who God has created us to be is covered up and hidden.  We need to have a regular time of reading and studying God's Word, and we need to allow the Holy Spirit to show us who we really are and help us uncover our true identity and purpose in Christ.  By discovering who we really are in Christ, and living in our true identity, we can fulfill the will of God and live the life that God has planned for us. 

Thursday, October 13, 2022

The King Of The Hill?

"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ."
Colossians 2:8 (NKJV)

When I was a child, there was a game we played, especially in the Winter, called, "The King of the Hill".  We made as big of a pile of snow as we could, and then one person would get on top of the snow pile to be the king of the hill.  After that, the rest of us would do everything we could to get up the hill and knock that person off the top, so that we could be the king of the hill.  Fortunately, because the snow was usually fairly soft, no one got hurt and we all had a lot of fun playing this game.

The Bible contains the information we need to learn the truth about who we are in Christ, and how that because of what Jesus did for us, we have right standing with God and we are His children.  But there are a lot of Christians who are trying to play a spiritual game of king of the hill, thinking that believers have to do everything they can to get up to the top of the spiritual hill, so to speak, and conquer the devil and life's problems.  The only thing is that, because of Jesus, we are already on the top of the spiritual hill! 

As Paul wrote to the Colossians, we need to be careful not to let anyone "cheat" us, or literally "to carry us off as a slave".  The Bible shows us what our true spiritual position in Christ is, while the wrong kind of teaching can move us away from that truth.  The life of a Christian is not trying to fight our way into some spiritual position, but we need to take a stand in Christ concerning what belongs to us, and not let anything move us away from that position.  We need to know who we are in Christ, what belongs to us through Jesus, and take our stand there so that nothing moves us away.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Look What's Inside

"You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."
1 John 4:4 (NKJV)

When shopping for a computer, tablet, or phone, one thing that you will notice is that the device is not just sitting in a display with a price on it and nothing else.  Normally there are some details given about what is inside of the device, as far as things like the storage space and the type of camera.  The majority of people who are interested in buying one of these devices never buy it just based on how the product looks, they would want to know what is on the inside, because that is what really matters.

When someone becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit comes to live within them, they become the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16).  Whether someone feels like it or not, the Holy Spirit is there.  In 1 John 4:4, the Apostle John referred to the Holy Spirit as the "greater" One.  But, are we always aware of that?  Do we realize what is inside of us as a follower of Jesus?  Do we realize that the One in us is greater that he who is in the world, referring to the devil?  Too often the answer is no, we are not aware of that fact

Because we live in this natural world, we can become more aware of physical realities than we are of spiritual realities.  We need to look inside and realize that God has given us a Helper who will teach us (John 14:26), One who will lead us into the truth (John 16:13), and the One who will lead us in life (Romans 8:14).  We need to turn our focus from the external to the internal and recognize that the Greater One does indeed live in us, and He will help us, teach us, guide us into the truth, and lead us in life.  We need to look inside and see what God has given us!

Thursday, September 29, 2022

New And Improved, But Better?

"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, in as much as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises."
Hebrews 8:6 (NKJV)

One thing that I really do not like is when some product claims to be new and improved, but it is really only slightly changed.  It may be that the outside of the package, the logo, or some color scheme is different, but nothing of substance or value is better than it was before.  Sometimes I have seen things that say that they were updated, in my phone, tablet, or computer, but nothing is really new, improved, or better in any way.  To really be new and improved, something would also need to be better.

The Bible contains the Old and the New Testaments.  Another word for testament is covenant, or even contract.  Today, we have a new testament, a new contract with God that is better than the old.  What is better about this new covenant with God?  Because of our new, improved, and better covenant, we can have a personal relationship with God; He is our Father and we are His children, our sins are not just covered, they are washed away, and we have the Greater One, the Holy Spirit, who is our Helper, living in us. 

So many Christians live a life far below what God intends them to have, because they do not understand their position with God as a part of the new and better covenant that came through Jesus Christ.  God's Word tells us about this new, improved, and better covenant with God, so we need to go to the Bible to learn what belongs to us, and allow the Holy Spirit to help us see how to live as a new covenant Christian.  We need to know about, and live in the reality of our new, improved, and better, covenant with God.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Pay Attention!

"My son, give attention to my words, incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart;.

For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.
"
Proverbs 4:20-22 (NKJV)

There are many things we need to pay attention to in life.  If you are driving your car, you need to pay attention to speed limit signs and traffic directions.  In a school setting, you have to pay attention to the teacher and what you are learning, so you pass the tests and actually learn the material.  On your job, there may be things your boss or a co-worker tells you that you need to keep your focus on and pay attention to, to do your job correctly.  If you do not pay attention, the results are usually less than success.

In the Book of Proverbs, it refers several times to the need to pay attention to something in order to learn, gain wisdom and understanding, and avoid problems.  The results of not paying attention are never seen as a good thing, but it is important to notice that while the need to pay attention is stressed, there is nothing indicating that someone is going to be forced to pay attention.  Paying attention is something we have to make a choice to do, and it is not something that is automatic.

So many times, people do not pay attention to and keep their focus on the right thing, because they are distracted by something else.  By paying attention to the wrong thing, and not keeping our focus on the right thing, it is easy to make mistakes and do things that we should not be doing.  We must pay attention to and focus on God's Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit, and learn to filter out other things.  This is the only way we can successfully navigate our way through life and fulfill the will of God.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Fruitful Works, Or Just A Lot Of Works?

"For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;"
Colossians 1:9-10 (NKJV)

Quality and quantity are not the same thing.  For example, you could have one diamond, and it would be more valuable than a pile of ordinary rocks.  The quality of the diamond is greater that than of the rocks, even though the quantity of the rocks would be greater than the one diamond.  But, if you did not understand this concept, you might just think that by having a mountain of ordinary rocks, that meant you were some wealthy individual, but that quantity of rocks does not surpass the quality of the diamond.

Quality and quantity are also something that can relate to what we do as we serve God.  The Bible says that we were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10), that God is looking for people who are eager to do good works (Titus 2:14), and that we should be ready to do good works (Titus 3:1).  But this does not just refer to a lot of activity, because as Colossians 1:10 tells us, God wants us to be fruitful in our good works.  This is talking about quality over quantity.

We may be doing a lot of good things, but are they the things God is directing us to do?   This is a big factor in the quality of what we do compared to the quantity.  We can do a lot of things, but if God is not leading us to do those things, we may not have much real fruit as a result.  We need to be sure that we are faithful to do what God tells us to do, through His Word and by the Holy Spirit, so that we can have a high quality of fruitful good works and not just a quantity of works.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

What Will You Look Back At?

"Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
"
2 Corinthians 5:9-10 (NKJV)

Planning ahead and setting goals for the future is a good thing to do.  When planning for the future, it can be helpful to look back at the things that were done in the past.  If we are building a business, trying to live a healthier lifestyle, or working on managing our money better, by looking back at what we did before, it can help us move forward into the future.  No one wants to look back and regret that they did not make any necessary changes when they had the chance to do so.

One day, Christians will leave this world to go to be with Jesus.  This is a basic Christian belief, and the Bible also shows us, in places like 2 Corinthians 5, that Christians will go to what is called the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Many people have a misunderstanding about what this will be.  At the Judgment Seat of Christ we will not be punished there for our sins or judged to see if we can get into Heaven, because Jesus took sin on Himself and He made the way for us to get into Heaven.

The Judgment Seat of Christ is where we will be rewarded for what we did in this world.  Did we live a life that was pleasing to God, was that our life's goal, or did we live our lives for ourselves?  One thing no Christian would want is to meet Jesus and then look back in regret at their life and wish they had done more to follow God's plan; no one is going to look back and wish they had done less for God.  We all need to have serving and pleasing God as our highest priority in life.  That way we will have a bright future and we can look back at a life well lived.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Overcoming, By Faith

"For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith."
1 John 5:4 (NKJV)

If you asked people for their opinion about the best way to run or jog, you could have as many answers as you do people.  People might talk about the clothes you should wear, the best brand of shoes, or even where the best place to run or jog would be.  Sometimes people have all kinds of ideas what is necessary for someone who wants to run or jog on a regular basis, but most of the things people would mention are more in the area of style than substance.  No matter what other things you might do, to be a successful runner, you have to run or jog.

If you asked Christians about how to live a victorious life, you might get a lot of different ideas.  Some would tell you to pray many hours a day, others would tell you that reading and studying multiple chapters of the Bible on a daily basis would be the key, and others would talk about how someone needed to go to a special meeting or have some man or woman of God pray for you.  But, in 1 John 5:4 we have the answer to living a victorious Christian life, we overcome by faith. 

The Christian life is a faith life.  We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8), we are justified by faith (Romans 3:28), we live by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), and we overcome by faith (1 John 5:4).  Everything we do must be done by faith in God and His Word.  We don't overcome in life because of anything in ourselves, but because of Jesus.  There are many ideas about what it takes to live an overcoming Christian life, but the only way to overcome is by faith, based on what Jesus did for us as revealed to us in God's Word. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Talk Is Cheap

"Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works."  Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
"
James 2:17-18 (NKJV)

The old saying that "Talk is cheap" comes from the idea that it is easy enough to talk about something, but actually doing that same thing is entirely different.  For example, people can talk about making a change in their lifestyle, like people do with New Year's resolutions, and that is easy to talk about.  But it is something completely different for that same person to start an exercise routine, start eating better, or break a bad habit.  The best thing is when what we say and what we do are the same thing.

Faith is an important subject in the Bible, that is clear.  There are many people who are good "faith talkers" but many of these people are just talking about faith with nothing to show for it.  Christians will sometimes talk about biblical concepts like walking in love, being generous with their talents or finances, being faithful to church, and following God's plan for their life.  But, if you look at what these same people actually do, their works are showing what they really believe, their actions are the display of where their "faith" really is.

So often the problem is that people understand the concept of what they should be doing in their life and relationship with God, but they have not developed in their faith and trust in God and His Word, to the point where their actions correspond with those beliefs.  As James said, you can see what people really believe by watching the things that they do.  We are not supposed to live a life based solely on good works, but our "good works", as a demonstration of what we actually believe, are something that should be seen in the life of every Christian.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Flanking Maneuver

"lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices."
2 Corinthians 2:11 (NKJV)

It has been said that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and that is true.  But it is also true that going somewhere in a straight line is not always the best thing to do.  In many sports, going directly against your opponent is usually not the best way to attack and win, and the same is true in military and other situations.  One of the best things that can be done is to go to the side, to flank your opponent, and look for a weaker area to attack rather than go against them head on.

The Bible shows us that we have an enemy, the devil.  Here in 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul talks about how we are not ignorant of Satan's "devices".  The Greek word translated as devices here means purposes or even plans.  Paul talks about our not being ignorant of the purposes and plans of Satan, the devil, but I actually think that many times Christians are ignorant and unaware of what the devil is trying to do, because people are expecting a frontal attack when the devil is trying to flank them. 

Often people think the devil will attack them in some obvious way to cause problems in their life, and this does happen.  But what will happen more often is that the devil will come with some small deception or some little distraction that will lead to a bigger problem.  We need to be on guard against any attack of any kind, large or small, that may try to lead us away from God and His Word.  We don't want to be unaware of how the devil will try to use little, sometimes not so obvious, things to bring trouble into our life.