Thursday, May 21, 2020

Growth And Development

"but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ -
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 4:15-16 (NKJV) 

When I was growing up, my parents did the same thing that a lot of parents do, they checked the growth of their children.  Our family had a spot in our house where at least once a year me and my three brothers would stand, and usually one of our parents would mark how tall we were.  We also had regular checkups with the doctor to see how we had grown as well as seeing how we had developed.  Just growing taller and getting older was not enough, there had to be some development along with the progression in height and age.

Growth and development are both important, naturally and spiritually.  Someone may have gotten born again ten years ago, but if there is no spiritual development in their life then something is wrong.  A Christian may have been in their church for many years, they may have been involved serving in the church in some way, and they may even know many Bible verses.  But, while this does show some growth, it is not necessarily showing any spiritual development.  As we see in Ephesians 4, we need to grow up spiritually and give our supply to the Body of Christ.

To have both spiritual growth and development in our life, we need more than just a number of years of being in a relationship with God.  Is our relationship with God stronger than ever before?  As we serve in our church, and even outside of the local church, is what we are doing making a positive contribution to what we are involved in, or are we just a warm body who fills a space?  We may know many Bible verses, but are we speaking the truth in love or just throwing verses at people to prove our personal point?  We need to check our spiritual growth and development to be sure we have both.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Knock Them All Down

"casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,"
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV)

Bowling is a game you play by rolling a ball to knock down what are called “pins”.  Some people are very good bowlers because they are able to knock the most pins down again and again.  It is never a good thing to only knock down some of the pins, and no one who was a good bowler would purposely miss any pins and intentionally leave them standing.  It would be foolish for a bowler to say for some reason that they liked one or more of the pins and avoid knocking them down.

Just like a successful bowler has the goal of knocking down all the pins, Christians should have the goal of knocking down every thought that is out of place and that tries to gain superiority over the knowledge of God, which we find in the Word of God.  Any idea that does not line up with God’s Word has to be dealt with and not allowed to remain as a part of our thinking.  The first thing in this process is to know what the Bible says, to know what the right kind of thought is and what is not.

When you are bowling, once you knock down all the pins down, they get set up again.  In the same way, the devil will try to fill our minds with the same wrong thoughts repeatedly.  How do we bring our thoughts "into captivity"?  First of all, we do not just let any thought float through our head unchallenged, we check every thought against what we find in the Bible.  Secondly, we fill our mind with the truth of God's Word and make that a continual process for the rest of our life.  Don't let any thought into your mind, don't let any thought exalt itself against the knowledge of God.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Basic Truth

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8 (NKJV) 

A basic truth is a fundamental principle that everyone needs to understand.  Something like the Law of Gravity could be called a basic truth.  If you do not understand the fundamental principle of gravity, you will have some serious problems.  Someone might say that they understand that the force of gravity exists in the world and they know how gravity works, but that same person does not really have a true appreciation of the Law of Gravity until they trip and fall down.  That is when the basic truth of gravity becomes a reality to them in their life.

A basic truth that everyone needs to know is how great God’s love for us really is.  Often this most basic of all truths is not really understood.  Many people have heard John 3:16 and they know that it says that God loved the world so much that God sent His Son, Jesus.  But if we don’t really have an accurate understanding of how much God loves us, how much He longs to help us and bless us, we will not have the kind of life that our loving Heavenly Father wants us to have.  He loves us more than we realize.

Some Christians act as though God just likes them because He is their Heavenly Father and He is obligated to do so, or that maybe God only tolerates them.  But this is so far from the truth of the great love that God has for us.  Romans 5:8 tells us that God’s love was so great, that even when we were sinners, when we were doing wrong, when we were really God’s enemies, that God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us.  God’s love for us is so great, He did everything He could possibly do to help us.  That is a basic truth we need to know and we can build our lives on.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Dietary Restrictions

"Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them,
Speak to the children of Israel, saying, 'These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth:"
Leviticus 11:1-2 (NKJV) 

There are some people who have dietary restrictions due to a medical condition or even because of certain health goals.  Some things might be alright for these people to eat, and other things have to be avoided to maintain the person’s health standards.  In the Old Testament, God told His people there were some things they could eat and others they were not allowed to eat.  There were a couple of reasons for this, but the main point is that like people with medical problems or for health reasons, some things were good for the Israelites to eat and some were not. 

There are some things we should and should not eat naturally, and some things we should and should not “eat” spiritually.  In places like Leviticus 11, God gave Israel guidelines about what to eat and what not to eat. God told them there were some things they should not eat that in one or more ways may have seemed good.  The same thing is true for us today spiritually.  Some things may seem good in one way spiritually, but they are things that we really should avoid.  An easy example of this is a teaching that comes from a well-known minister, but it directly contradicts the Bible.

As Christians, we really do not have any natural dietary restrictions that need to be followed, like in the Old Testament, but there are some spiritual dietary restrictions that would be good for us to pay attention to.  Something may look good in one aspect, but be bad in another and we should avoid it.  Too many Christians get caught up and then blown around by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) which is why we shouldn’t just eat everything, spiritually speaking.  God knows what is best for us and He has given us spiritual principles in His Word as our standard for what to partake of spiritually.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Taking Inventory

"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.  Death no longer has dominion over Him.
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 6:8-11 (NKJV) 

More than once in my life, I have worked in a place where I was responsible for keeping track of the inventory.  This all happened years ago, so I usually kept track of the inventory by making a list on a piece of paper.  It was my responsibility to go through the store to check on the various items we had to sell, and to be sure that the inventory was accurate.  My job was to know what we had in our inventory and what was available to us, if we didn’t know what we had, we could not have made use of it.

An inventory is necessary to keep track of items in a business, because without an accurate inventory you may not know what you actually have.  What is true naturally is also true spiritually, sometimes people do not accurately know what they have.  If you don’t know what you possess and have naturally you cannot make use of it, and if you don’t know what you possess and have spiritually you cannot make use of it.  Romans 6:11 tells us to “reckon” or “to take an inventory” of our being dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.

Through Christ, we have been separated from the power of sin and its ability to dominate our lives.  Not only that, but 2 Corinthians 5:17 says we are a new creation in Christ and old things have passed away; 2 Corinthians 5:21 says we are the righteousness of God in Christ.  What else do we have in Christ, what belongs to us now?  The best way to find out is to go through the New Testament, and especially the Epistles, to see what we have now that we are in Christ.  As a Christian, there are things we possess and have in Christ that we need to know about.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Redeeming The Time

"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,
redeeming the time, because the days are evil."
Ephesians 5:15-16 (NKJV) 

Many people say if they just had more time, they would do this or that.  On the other hand, some people talk about how they are just “passing the time” or “killing time” in the sense of not really doing anything.  But we all know that time is something that you only have at one moment, time comes and then time passes.  No one has invented a time machine to go back in time to relive some event or do something differently than they did previously.  Therefore, it would be a good idea for all of us to make the best use of our time.

In Ephesians 5:15-16, we have some words of wisdom that everyone can use; we don’t want to be foolish, but instead, we should redeem the time.  We are told to “walk circumspectly”.  What doe­s that mean?  This is saying that we need to walk, to live, carefully.  If we are careful, and we are wise, then we are not careless.  Being careless can mean being reckless and not really paying attention.  The word “redeeming” in verse 16 means to “buy up, to ransom, to rescue from a loss”.  We want to make the best use of our time, all the time, and not waste our time; we don’t want to act unwisely and let our time slip away from us in unproductive activities.

No one wants to find out that they wasted their time and did something that was unprofitable and useless.  How can we be wise and make the best use of our time?  One simple way is by making priorities, seeing what is really important and what is not.  This is something we can do with just a little thought, and if we ask God to help us, He will certainly guide us in this area.  Making the best use of our time is not just a good idea, but it will help us live a happier and more productive life.  By making the best use of our time, by redeeming the time, we will be able to get more done in our life and we will also be more effective and fruitful in the Kingdom of God.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

How Strong Are You?

"If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small."
Proverbs 24:10 (NKJV) 

Many years ago, I worked for a company where I made some deliveries and picked up some things, like office supplies.  There were several times that I had a large number of office supplies to pick up.  Often, the workers at the office supply warehouse asked me if I would be able to lift the boxes by myself or if I needed help.  Most of the time the boxes were not too heavy and I was able to pick them up.  The level of my strength did not increase based on how heavy the boxes were, my ability to pick up the boxes just showed my level of strength.

It has been said that adversity brings out the best in people and that challenges make you stronger.  While adversity can give us an opportunity to act our best, and challenges can help us develop in some ways, in reality, adversity and challenges just show how strong we are.  Proverbs 24:10 tells us that if we faint in the time of adversity, we are not strong enough.  While this statement seems very obvious and simple, this verse is not a condemnation of me or anyone else who has had trouble dealing with a problem, it is the answer to the problem.

If we are not strong enough to meet a challenge, then we need to build up our strength.  In Nehemiah 8:10 we find a key to this; the joy of the Lord is our strength.  How can we be joyful all the time, and in the midst of adversity?  By focusing on God and His Word and allowing Him to work through us.  God has given us His Word and He will guide us by the Holy Spirit.  Often, God will work to prepare us even before a problem comes.  As we keep our focus on what God has said and follow His directions, He will empower us by the Holy Spirit and direct us to success in every challenge. 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

What Do You Call Yourself?

"No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations."
Genesis 17:5 (NKJV)

Sometimes, for different reasons, people change their name.  The most common example is when a woman gets married, her last name is changed.  But even if this is not the case, when a woman gets married, she is now a wife and when a man gets married, he is a husband.  When someone has their name changed for whatever reason they need to use that name for their identification and not their former name, otherwise there could be problems.  Calling yourself by the right name is important so that you can be identified correctly.

In Genesis we see the story about Abraham.  Originally his name was Abram, but when he got into a covenant relationship with God, God changed Abram's name to Abraham.  There are several things that could be said about that, but the main thing is that there was a name change and for Abraham to correctly identify himself, he needed to refer to himself the way that God did.  In the same way that God changed Abram's name to Abraham, when we come into a relationship with God through Jesus, what we call ourselves should change.

Once, we were a stranger to God, but now we are fellow citizens with the saints (Ephesians 2:9).  We are now a new creation and the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21), we are more than a conqueror in Christ (Romans 8:37), and the greater one, the Holy Spirit, lives in us (1 John 4:4).  As a child of God and joint-heir with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:16-17) we need to know what to call ourselves.  Don't refer to yourself the way you have before, call yourself who you are in Christ; we need to say about ourselves what God has said. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

What Is In The Toothpaste Tube?

"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
Romans 10:17 (NKJV)

What would you do if you bought a tube of toothpaste, brought it home, and the when you squeezed it ketchup came out?  That would be really strange and no one would like that.  When you buy a tube of toothpaste you expect to get toothpaste, but why is that?  Why is there toothpaste in the toothpaste tube and not something else?  It is not a trick question and the answer is really very simple.  There is toothpaste in the toothpaste tube because that is what was put in there.

In Romans 10:17 we learn how we get faith, through hearing God's Word.  As we continue to spend time hearing God's Word, through teaching or preaching and our own reading or studying it, we are building our faith.  But what people often don't realize is that while this principle works in the area of building our faith, it also applies to all of the things we hear and spend time with.  Just like spending time in God's Word will build our faith, what we spend our time with will build something in us.

People become afraid because they hear things that build fear into them.  People become depressed because they hear things that make them sad.  In the New Testament we are repeatedly encouraged to hear the right things and avoid the wrong things because of what each will do to us and for us.  To build faith, we need God's Word, and if something we hear does not agree with what God's Word has told us, then that thing will not build faith in us and we should avoid it.  What we spend our time hearing, and even thinking about, will do something in us.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Stocking Up

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."
Colossians 3:16 (NKJV)

Every Winter in Wisconsin there is snow.  Sometimes there are snowstorms that bring a lot of snow.  One thing that happens when there is the threat of a snowstorm is that people will go to the store and stock up on essential items and food.  People do this because they think that there might be so much snow that it is not possible to get out again for several days.  While some people do go overboard and buy more than is necessary, it is good to be stocked up with what you need to be prepared.

In Colossians 3:16, Paul wrote that we need to let God's Word dwell in us, richly.  There are a couple of important things to notice here.  First of all, it is up to us.  Paul said we were to let this happen, we have to allow it; God's Word is not going to just jump into us out of the Bible sitting next to us on a table.  Secondly, it is not just getting God's Word into us, but we are told to have it in us to a "rich" measure.  We need more than just a little bit of God's Word, we need a lot of it.

We could say it this way, we need to stock up on God's Word.  When there is potential for a problem situation, like a snowstorm or something else, people will stock up on what they need.  We will always need to know God's Word, so we should be in a continuous mode of stocking up, filling up with God's Word, we don't want to wait until the problem comes.  We need to be prepared for whatever might happen by stocking up on God's Word.  We need to read it, study it, think about it, talk about it, and fill ourselves with the Word of God.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

What Are You Looking At?

"And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots.  And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master!  What shall we do?"
So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."
And Elisha prayed, and said, "Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see."  Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw.  And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."
2 Kings 6:15-17 (NKJV)

If several people were sitting in a room and they were all looking out of a window, you could ask them what they see and they would probably give you several different answers.  One person might say that they see some trees, while another person might talk about seeing some birds, and another person might say they see some clouds in the sky.  It is not that they are actually seeing different things, but these people are all looking at different things that are outside of the same window. 

In 2 Kings 6, it tells us that the King of Syria was angry with Elisha so he sent the army to capture him.  When Elisha's servant looked out in the morning, he saw that the city was surrounded by the Syrian army.  This was shocking and upsetting to him, so he ran to ask Elisha what to do.  Elisha simply said that there were more on their side than on the Syrian side.  Elisha prayed that his servant's eyes would be opened and the servant then saw horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha; God's protection was already there for Elisha.

What was the difference between what Elisha and his servant saw?  They were in the same place in the same city, but they were looking at different things.  The servant was looking at the natural situation while Elisha was looking past the natural situation to the spiritual situation.  It is easy to be upset, afraid, and discouraged when we only look at the natural situations we face, but we must look past the natural to the spiritual.  We must focus on the spiritual truth we see in God's Word and not just the natural situation; we need to look at what God says about our situation. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Labels

"Do not let your adornment by merely outward - arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel - 
rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."
1 Peter 3:3-4 (NKJV)

Most of the food we buy has some kind of a label on it that identifies it by its brand name, the contents, and the nutrition information.  But what if the label was wrong?  What if there was some mistake and the information about the product was not correct, or if somehow the right label was switched with a wrong label?  If that was the case, you would not be able to trust what the label said, you would need to contact the manufacturer or see inside the package to know what was really in there.

There are a lot of labels that people use to identify themselves and others, and very often these labels are not correct.  Sometimes people are labeled things like "stupid", "failure", "victim", "worthless", or "underachiever".  But, are these labels really correct, and if so, why would they be?  How can we know if the label we or others have been given is the right label?  Could it be that sometimes people are given a label that is not right? Usually the label given a person is no real indication of what is inside of them.

We could say that God is our real "manufacturer" and He would know best what we really are and what our label should be.  We may have acquired a label though some experience in our life, but that does not mean that this is the correct label for us to wear for the rest of our life.  Don't just accept the label you have been given, even by yourself.  We need to look into God's Word and find out who we really are, who we have been made to be by God, and use that as our label.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Rare Or Just Not Used?

"Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli.  And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation."
1 Samuel 3:1 (NKJV)

There are some things that are rare and precious and some things that are very common.  Gold is something that can be difficult to find, it is rare and that makes it more valuable, it is even called a precious metal.  But dirt and grass are found in so many places that they are considered common and not rare or valuable.  While people do not handle dirt and grass very often, they are still not considered rare or valuable things, dirt and grass are easily available and therefore common.

In 1 Samuel we see that when God began to speak to Samuel, Samuel thought it was Eli the priest who was speaking to him.  Samuel did not yet know God or God's voice and Eli himself did not realize it was God speaking to Samuel.  There was no widespread revelation of God's Word at this time, it was rare and so it was precious.  Although God's people already had the first five books of the Old Testament, they had gotten away from God and His Word, so when a prophet spoke for God it was a rare thing and people considered that precious.

Today we are very blessed to have God's written Word, the Bible, easily available to us.  But just because something is easily available does not mean it is widely used.  And because God's Word is so readily available, people do not often consider God's Word as valuable and precious as they would something made of gold.  Don't let a revelation of God's Word be rare to you, put the proper value on God's Word, treat it as precious as it really is and make it a common practice to spend time with God and His Word every day.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Watch Out For The Weeds

"Now the ones that fell among the thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity."
Luke 8:14 (NKJV)

If you have ever had a garden, or worked in a garden, you know that one thing you have to watch out for are the weeds.  Weeds will hurt the plants you actually want to grow because weeds will take the water and other valuable nutrients away from what you have planted.  If you are not careful to watch over your garden and get rid of the weeds, then your plants will be choked and not grow the way that they should and you will not have the results in your garden that you could have had.

God's Word is like a seed and it can grow in our life.  In the parable of the sower, Jesus talked about the seed of the Word of God being sown and what happened to that seed in different situations.  The sad part in the parable is that Jesus said that only a portion of what was sown, 25% of the seed, actually bore fruit and produced as it should.  Was the problem with the seed or even the one who sowed the seed?  No, the productivity problem was with what happened after the seed was sown.

When God's Word is sown into our life, through our own time of reading and studying God's Word, or in some other way, we have to be careful that we don't allow other things to choke off that Word; that prevents fruit from being produced.  Just like weeds compete with plants for water and nutrients, there are things in our life that will compete for our attention and with our responsibility to act on what God's Word tells us.  We have to be sure that we do not allow anything to choke off the Word of God in our life.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Tuning Fork

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

Have you ever heard of a tuning fork?  It is definitely not something you eat with, but it is a tool used to keep things in tune.  When a tuning fork is stuck, it resonates at a certain pitch, a specific tone is produced that can then be used to tune musical instruments.  Over time, pianos, guitars, and other musical instruments will get out of tune and a tuning fork can be used to check and see if these things are in tune.  By using a tuning fork, you can be sure to keep things in tune.

God's Word is like a tuning fork, it helps to keep us "in tune" with God and His plans and purposes.  It is easy to get away from a biblical perspective in our life when we are constantly bombarded with ungodly input.  You don't have to go looking for some bad things or even be involved with things that you know are wrong, the world is filled with things that are contrary to God and His Word.  This is why it is so important for each and every believer to have a regular time of reading and studying God's Word.

Every day as we live and work, we are surrounded with things that will get us out of tune, so to speak, with God; we must do something to keep ourselves in line and in tune with God.  In John 17:17, Jesus prayed for His disciples to be sanctified, to be set apart, by the Word.  Through daily time in the Word of God and by spending time with God in prayer we can be sure that we are keeping ourselves in line with God's plans and purposes, God's Word is like a tuning fork that helps keep us in tune with God.