Thursday, February 22, 2024

What Will Your Response Be?

"And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it.  When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.
In response Jesus said to it, "Let no one eat fruit from you ever again."  And His disciples heard it.
Mark 11:13-14 (NKJV)

Normally when you are in a conversation with someone, you and the other person will be talking back and forth, with one of you speaking and then the other person responding.  It would not be a conversation if only one person spoke, and it would be strange for someone to speak to another person and the second person never said anything.  Usually, when someone talks to you, you then give a response.  In fact, if you did not respond to something that was said, then it could be implied that you agree with what was said.

Many Christians know the story of Jesus and the fig tree and how Jesus came to the fig tree but did not find any figs.  The fig tree had leaves, which would normally indicate that there were also figs on the tree, but there were no figs.  As it says in Mark 11:14, Jesus responded to the fig tree and He said something.  The word used here for respond is translated as answer in other translations of the Bible, and this word can mean to answer a question or to speak after something else is said.

In Mark 11, Jesus came to the fig tree that had leaves but no figs.  You could say it this way, the tree spoke by having leaves but no figs, and Jesus responded by cursing the tree.  In our everyday life, things are speaking to us.  Our body can speak to us, our finances can speak to us, other people, and different situations can speak to us.  The question is, how are we going to respond?  The way we respond, what we say, is very important.  No matter what situation we face, we need to respond in faith with God's Word, and not with our feelings, opinions, or other ideas.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

A Bible Usage Report?

"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)

Every week, my phone and my tablet produce a usage report telling me what apps I used the most in the past week.  From this usage report, I can see where I have been spending time while I was using my phone and my tablet.  Most of the time, I am not surprised with the app usage, because I know what I had been doing for the past week with my phone and tablet.  But sometimes I am a bit surprised that I have used an app as much as I did, and sometimes the usage report shows me that I used an app less than I thought I had.

When Joshua became the leader of Israel, God told Joshua how to be successful.  God told Joshua to keep the Law in his mouth and meditate in it day and night.  In terms of New Testament believers, we would say that it is necessary to meditate on and speak God's Word, think about it, and make it a part of our life, every day.  But, while this is God's plan for success in everything He directs us to do, the real question is if we are actually doing this, day and night, or if it is just an occasional thing?

Just like God told Joshua, God's Word needs to be a part of our life, every day, and every night, all of the time.  For some Christians, God's Word is a part of their life on Sunday, or in an emergency.  The quantity of time we spend with God's Word is not the point, but we all need to have a regular time in God's Word, every day, and make it a vital part of our life.  If we had some kind of a Bible usage report that we saw every week, would we be pleasantly surprised at how much time we devoted to God's Word, or shocked at how little it is a part of our life?

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Praying For Our Leaders

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,
for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NKJV)

One thing I have noticed is that it is very easy to get people to do what they are already interested in doing.  While that is a fairly obvious statement, there is a deeper issue that it highlights: people will do what they really want to do, even if it is not the best thing to do.  It is easy for people to be interested in doing things they like, and dislike what they are not in favor of.  Again, this is quite obvious.  But the real issue is that we need to be willing to do what is right and good, whether we like it or not and whether we are interested in it or not.

The Apostle Paul wrote many things by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to help believers live the life that God has called us to live.  While there are many things that are very simple and easy for believers to focus on doing, there are some things that Christians do not get too excited about; one of these things is praying for our leaders.  In 1 Timothy 2, Paul said that we need to pray for our leaders so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life.  If we are not praying for our leaders, then we have a problem.

If we pray for our leaders, as Paul talked about in 1 Timothy 2, then we are following scriptural guidelines.  Paul did not say to only pray for our leaders if we like them and agree with them, or complain about our leaders if they do not do what we want; Paul said that praying for our leaders was what we need to do.  One thing we can pray about for our leaders is for them to make good decisions that promote righteousness and the preaching of the Gospel.  We all need to pray for our natural and spiritual leaders, it is the guidance we receive from God's Word, and it is the right thing to do.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Knowing The Details

"But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,
persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra - what persecutions I endured.  And out of them all the Lord delivered me
2 Timothy 3:10-11 (NKJV)

When we learn about something, a place, an event, or even a person, there can be a lot of details to learn about it.  We might know that Berlin is a city in Germany, but there are a lot more things than that to learn about Berlin.  We might know about a man landing on the moon, but do we know when it happened or who was involved?  We might know about a person, a personal friend or a public figure, but how much do we really know about them?  If we really want to have a good understanding of something, we need to know all the details.

The majority of Christians know who the Apostle Paul is.  They might know he was formerly a Pharisee who converted to Christianity and that Paul started churches and wrote many letters.  But there are many more things we can learn about the Apostle Paul than just those few facts.  There were several people who traveled with Paul and spent time with him, including Timothy, Titus, and Luke.  How well did these people know Paul?  We can see that Paul lived a life that allowed others to get to know him and how he lived.

In 2 Timothy 3:10-11, Paul said Timothy had carefully followed Paul's doctrine, manner of life, purpose. faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, and afflictions.  These were not things that Timothy had only heard about; Timothy knew all the details himself.  Paul was not living a secluded life where no one really knew him or what he was doing.  Paul worked alongside other people and gave them a living example of a godly life and how to serve God.  We too need to give a detailed living example of a godly life that others can learn from.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Who Do You To Listen To

"And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue.  And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, "Where did this Man get these things?  And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!"
Is this not the Son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon?  And are not His sisters here with us?"  So they were offended at Him.
Mark 6:2-3 (NKJV)

Sometimes when we accomplish something, or if we do something that people did not expect us to be able to do, people might be impressed by what we did, but it can also be that people will criticize us.  If this happens, then we have a choice, will we listen to those people who praise or criticize us, or will we continue to do what we are doing?  If we are doing what is right, then we should not allow the praise or criticism from anyone to stop us from doing what we need to do.

Although Jesus is the Son of God, and He did the will of God, not everyone was happy with Jesus and pleased with what He did.  In Mark 6, when people heard Jesus teach in the synagogue, they wondered how He could teach the way He did, and people were offended by Jesus and His teaching.  People talked about the natural background of Jesus in a way that seemed to say, "We know His family, we know Him, who does He think He is?", but this did not matter to Jesus, He just kept doing the will of God.

Jesus knew Who He was, He knew the will of God for His life, so Jesus did not allow the criticism, or the praise of people to change what He was doing.  Jesus never changed His teaching to please His critics; Jesus taught the truth from Scripture, even when people did not like it.  We need to be the same way, and know who we are in Christ, what God has called us to do, and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Then we need to keep doing what God has said, no matter what others say about it; we need to know Who we should listen to.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

All Things, Or Just A Few Things?

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

Normally, when people set goals, they will do everything they can to achieve that goal.  It is not hard to get someone to do something that they are highly motivated to do, no matter how difficult that thing might be.  But, if you ask someone to do something that they are not interested in, or something they do not enjoy, then that is a different story, even if you offer to assist them in doing what needs to be done.  It is possible for that person to do the thing; they are just not willing to do it.

There are many Christians who like Philippians 4:13 where it talks about how we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, but I sometimes wonder if people really believe that, because it sometimes depends on the circumstance and situation in what they are doing.  Christians will talk about doing all things through Christ when it is something they are already interested in doing.  But does Philippians 4:13 only apply to God helping us do the things we already want to do?

It is not hard to talk about doing all things through Christ when we are talking about the goals and dreams we have.  But what about getting involved in something in our local church that, while we are able to do it, we do not really want to do; is that something that we then cannot do through Christ?  Do we allow our personality and our likes and dislikes to be our boundaries, or through Christ can we overcome those things to do whatever we need to do for God?  We can do all things through Christ, even if it is not our favorite thing, as long as it is part of God's plan for our life.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

You Control It Yourself

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Sometimes while I am out walking or running, I see people who are walking their dog.  But then, something happens where the dog gets upset or a little excited and gets out of control.  What is amusing to me is that the people with the dog act surprised that their dog is acting like a dog!  They sometimes look around as if they do not know what to do, or that maybe someone else needs to do something, but the person with the dog just needs to take care of their own dog; I often think to myself, it is your dog, you need to control it yourself.

We are a three part being: spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23).  When we are born again, we become a new creation in Christ, spiritually.  But even though we are a new creation in Christ, we still have the same body and soul as we did before salvation, and we need to do something with our body and our soul.  In Romans 12:1-2, the Bible says that we need to present our body as a living sacrifice and renew our mind, which is a part of the soul.  The emphasis here is that we do something with our body and our soul.

It is up to us individually as believers to control our own body and renew our own mind.  While other people may help us with this, no one can do it for us.  Some people seem to think that if they get enough people praying for them, or if they get into a special meeting, or if someone lays hands on them, everything will be fine.  But the Bible clearly tells us that we have to control ourselves.  Through learning what the Bible says, and by acting on it with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can control our bodies and renew our minds.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Say No To The Yes Man

"The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise.
He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.
Proverbs 15:31-32 (NKJV)

The term, "Yes man", refers to someone who always seems to agree with whatever another person is saying.  Sometimes in a business, a boss or leader will only want to have people around them who agree with and support whatever they say, they want a yes man.  But no good boss or leader just wants people who agree with everything they say, without any opportunity for input from any other point of view.  No one knows everything, and having other people who can bring wise and constructive input to us is always helpful.

No one does everything right, and wise people look for ways to improve what they are doing.  Someone who does not look for ways to improve and develop themselves is foolish.  What hurts people is not that they make a mistake, but what hurts people is their refusal to listen to input from others.  By paying attention to wisdom from others, each and every one of us can do what we do better.  This is why we need other spiritually mature believers around us to help us and give us wisdom in what we are doing.

A good question for all of us is, "who can correct us", who do we allow to speak into our life?  If we only listen to those who agree with everything we say, no matter what we say, does that mean that everything we say is right, or is it that we only allow the "yes men" to be our associates?  If we are unwilling to listen to wise input from others, we are in danger of having serious problems.  We do not want to be the kind of people who think we know everything and will not listen to others; we need to be wise and receive instruction from others.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Growing Today For A Better Tomorrow

"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,
but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ -
Ephesians 4:14-15 (NKJV)

Sometimes when there is road construction, or maybe a building is being remodeled, there will be a sign posted somewhere that says that what is being done will make things better.  There might be a sign that has a slogan like, "building today for a better tomorrow", or "we are building to make things better for you".  Building or changing things in the present to make things better in the future is good.  If something is only beneficial now, and it will not be helpful in the future, that thing is not such a good thing.

In Ephesians 4, Paul said that believers need to stop being children who are just tossed around with every wind of doctrine.  This means that we should not just follow every teaching that comes along or is popular in the Church world, no matter who says it.  But instead, Christians need to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), be mature in understanding (1 Corinthians 14:20), and desire the Word of God that will cause us to grow (1 Peter 2:2).  We need to grow up spiritually today so that we can be stronger, more mature believers tomorrow.

Spiritual growth is important, it is necessary, and it is something that should be happening on a continual basis in the life of a Christian.  We should be growing and improving, rather than just being the same person and same type of Christian in five years that we are right now.  By spending time in God's Word and following the direction of the Holy Spirit, we can grow and develop spiritually.  We need to develop spiritually every day, so that we are more effective members of the Body of Christ, and a better witness to the unsaved world, today and tomorrow. 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Don't Miss The Point

"Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
Luke 2:10-12 (NKJV)

One thing I have noticed in talking to people is that someone will miss the point about something, by getting sidetracked by something else.  Sometimes people get so caught up in insignificant facts and information that they miss the main point.  For example, in various sports there are so many statistics and so much information you can learn about that you almost forget the basic elements of the sport itself.  Whether it is sports, or anything else, we have to be careful that we do not get so caught up in some details that we miss the overall point.

Christmas is when believers celebrate the birth of Jesus, but some people miss that point.  For some people, Christmas is just about presents and time with family, which is good, but those things are not why we should celebrate Christmas.  Some Christians are bothered because others do not recognize Christmas for what it really is, or because Christmas is so secularized.  But in spite of that, we should not miss the real point to the story of Christmas.  We need to keep our focus on Jesus coming to the earth to save us from our sin, that is the real point to Christmas.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year in many ways.  The main reason that Christmas is so wonderful is that it is when Christians celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Many people and churches will go over the story of the birth of Jesus from Luke 2, which is such a great story about how Jesus came to the earth as a baby.  Then, Jesus went on to live a god-pleasing life and die on the cross for our sin.  That is the main point of Christmas, and that is why we should celebrate Christmas, even though many people miss the point.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Exercise Your Mind

"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 want to develop your muscles, you need to exercise.  But, to properly exercise your muscles, you need to do the right kinds of exercise.  For example, if you wanted to strengthen your legs, you would not do pushups.  If you needed to develop your cardiovascular system, you would not do exercises that are just for your arms.  By doing the right exercises you can develop and strengthen your body.  If you do not do any exercise, you are actually still making an impact on your body, it is just that the impact will be a negative one.

The Bible says a lot about the mind and our thinking.  The Bible talks about renewing the mind (Romans 12:2) and the right kinds of things to think about (Philippians 4:8).  Unfortunately, this is an area that many Christians have not paid the proper amount of attention to.  If we do not renew our mind and think about the right things, this can lead to other problems, because our thinking and believing are connected.  You cannot believe something you have not thought about, and you will think about the things that you believe. 

Colossians 3:2 tells us to "set our minds on things above", which is talking about what we think.  To "set your mind" can be defined as, "to exercise the mind".  If we think about spiritual truth, we will exercise and develop our mind, just like by doing certain exercises we would develop our body.  Rather than just struggling with wrong thoughts, depression, and stress, we can have a stronger mind through continually thinking about godly things rather than earthly things.  Start exercising your mind today by thinking about God's Word, and you can develop a strong thought life.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

A Good Word

"Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad."
Proverbs 12:25 (NKJV)

If you want to start a fire, you need the necessary elements, fuel, and oxygen; with these things, you can easily start a fire.  But, if you start a fire and add water, the fire will go out.  If you take away either fuel, or oxygen, you will also be without a fire.  This same thing is true in many other situations.  To have a certain thing, you need to have the elements necessary to properly create that thing, but even if you have the right elements, and you add something else, you will change what you had at first.

One thing that some people struggle with more than others is anxiety, which can lead to depression.  The dictionary says that anxiety deals with a concern about some trouble, some problem that may come at some time.  Everyone can have a feeling of anxiety when they hear some negative news, but it is what we do with that feeling that matters.  When someone is dealing with anxiety, or depression, that is a problem, but the Bible tells us that a good word can make the heart of someone with depression glad. 

If someone is dealing with anxiety and stress in their heart, in their life, Proverbs 12:25 says that a good word will make them glad, and a good word would certainly include God's Word.  On the other hand, if someone is hearing a "bad word", that can lead to anxiety and depression.  If we focus on and talk about the negative side of life, it will bring anxiety, stress, and depression.  But by focusing on and saying the right things, by saying what God says in His Word, we can successfully deal with anxiety, stress, and depression in our own life and in someone else's life.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

A Biblical Accent?

"The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips."
Proverbs 16:23 (NKJV)

Over the years, I have met people from many different nations who do not have English as their mother tongue, but who do speak English as a second language.  Many of these people have an accent when they speak English, which is understandable, and some people have a more noticeable accent than others.  Sometimes the accent a person has helps you identify where they are from and what their first language is, but that is not always the case.

When someone speaks a language and they have an accent, it shows you that the language they are speaking is not their native language, but their native language and how they speak it influences how they speak their second language.  In the same way, we can have a biblical accent, so to speak, because we have God's Word in our heart and that is shown with what we say.  The best thing is if our speech is accented with biblical truth and it is apparent to other people that we spend time in God's Word. 

Just like someone who speaks English or another language as their second language can have an accent, because they are used to saying things a certain way, Christians should have a biblical accent that shows that we are used to saying things from a biblical perspective.  We do not have to walk around quoting Bible verses, but it is better if what we say is influenced by what we know from the Bible and our relationship with God.  A biblical accent is something that we should not want to lose, but something we should all develop.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Pointless Projects?

"Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.

Psalm 127:1-2 (NKJV)

What if you had a great idea, maybe about some project, or some aspect of self-improvement, but to accomplish this goal you had to have some tools for the project, or you needed some equipment or something else for the self-improvement idea?  If you needed something to help you successfully complete what you are planning on doing, you would need to have that necessary thing before you start.  If you try to do something without having what is necessary, you will not succeed.

We might have good ideas about something we want to do, especially as believers, and we may even have some good plans about how to bring those ideas to pass.  But the thing that is most necessary for us to successfully do what we are doing is to be sure that what we are doing is in line with God's plans and purposes.  We may have great ideas, but are they only our ideas, or is it also a "God idea?".  We can have great ideas and great plans, but if they are not in line with God's plans we will fail.

The Bible says that God is our Helper (Hebrews 13:6), but that does not automatically mean that anything and everything we do agrees with His will for our life.  Whatever idea we have, whatever opportunity comes to us, whatever direction we believe we have from God, must be checked with God's Word, His plan for our life, and the direction of the Holy Spirit.  If what we do is not in line with God's plans, then what we do will fail, and it is just a pointless project.  If God is with us in what we do, then we will be successful.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Faith Pleases God

"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)

There are some things that people have said were impossible, but those things were only something someone had not yet done.  People said it was impossible for man to fly, to send a man to the moon, or to run a mile in under four minutes.  But there are some things that really are impossible.  For example, you cannot go swimming unless you are in some water, and it is impossible to flap your arms like a bird and fly into the air. Knowing what is possible and what is impossible is helpful to be able to see what can and cannot be done.

The Bible talks about how our goal should be to please God (2 Corinthians 5:9), and most Christians would say that they do want to please God.  But the question then is, how do we please God?  Is there something we can do that will please God, or is it just that we do are best in life and hope that this somehow pleases God?  Thankfully the Bible gives us the answer, it takes faith to please God. In fact, Hebrews 11:6 says that it is impossible to please God without faith. 

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that it is impossible to please God without faith, so then faith must be very important.  In Ephesians 2:8 it says we are saved by grace, through faith.  In 2 Corinthians 5:7 it says that we walk by faith and not by sight.  These verses show us the importance of faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God, so how do we get this faith that is so important?  The Bible tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing the Word of God.  It is by our faith in God's Word that we please God and live the life He has planned for us.