Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Things In The New Year

As the New Year is about to begin there is a lot of talk about people doing new things and making changes to their lives. Many people make New Year's resolutions in an effort to make positive changes in their lives and in turn make the New Year better than the last year. Although it should be obvious that nothing special takes place between December 31st and January 1st, many people use the changing of the calendar as the point to make a change in their lives.

No one is perfect and we can all find areas in our life where we can grow and develop, but we don't have to wait until the end of a calendar year to do so. There is something about the change of the year that gives people new hope and the belief that things can change and be better. For anyone who is a Christian we know that God has promised to help us and God has given us the Holy Spirit to assist us in our daily lives. Positive changes can be made at any time and with God's help the change can be a permanent one.

Permanent change is another aspect of having new things in the New Year. Many people start the New Year wanting to change and trying to change, but by February some have already made a mess of things and they give up. Or they get sidetracked with things in their life and they lose their focus on the intended change only to remember it later and then feel remorse at the fact that no real change has taken place. The good news is that even if you get off course you don't have to wait until the next New Year to start over again and pick up where you left off.

For any real change to take place in a person's life there has to be a willingness to change; the hard part is to keep going after the initial change is made. Recently I heard about an App for Smart Phones that will remind a person about their New Year's resolution. When I heard that I thought about how God has given us the Holy Spirit to remind us about the changes we need to make and to help us make the desired change. So make this coming year a year of positive change and development with new things in the New Year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Light Of The World Or Just Like The World?

"As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
John 9:5 (NKJV)

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden."
Matthew 5:14 (NKJV)

In John 9:5 Jesus said that as long as He was in the world that He was the light of the world. Then in Matthew 5:14 Jesus told His disciples that they were the light of the world. What was Jesus saying and how does it apply to us today? Jesus is the light of the world and as Christians we are His representatives in the world. Jesus is no longer physically present in this world but He is here through His Body, the Church.

Anyone can say "I am a Christian and I follow Jesus", but being a Christian is more than just saying a certain set of words; people often say one thing and then begin to act in a way that contradicts what they just said. There is an interesting verse in Titus 1:16 that talks about people who say that they know God but with their works (their actions) they deny Him. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that because of what they were doing they were carnal and acting like mere men. In other words they were not being the light of the world; they were acting just like the world!

So am I suggesting that Christians should live a life of following some rules and regulations in order to prove that they are Christians? Actually no, because as Paul wrote in Galatians 2:16 no one is put in a right position with God based on their works. What I am saying is similar to what we read in James 2:20 where it says that faith without works is dead. We don't do good works to get saved but because we are saved our life should produce good works.

Romans 12:1, 2 talks about Christians not being like the world but instead presenting our bodies to God to do His will and renewing our minds with the Word of God. By doing this we are transformed to be like Jesus instead of being conformed to the world; people who are not Christians need to see a difference in our lives because we are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Make the decision today that you will carry on the work of Jesus and be a light to the dark world around you. You may be in this world but you are different than the world, let your light shine!

Monday, October 31, 2011

God's Word Works The Same For Everyone Everywhere

There is a misconception that many Christians have about God and His Word. Many Christians think that God plays favorites and does some things for some people that He would not do for other people. Some people also believe that the things that God does in one place with a certain person or group of people is limited to that person or those people. None of those ideas come from God or His Word because God's Word works the same for everyone everywhere.

The Bible tells us in Romans 2:11 that there is no partiality with God, God has no favorite children. In Mark 9:23 Jesus said that all things are possible to those who believe and 1 Corinthians 12:6, 11 shows us that it is God Who works through people as He wills. God may use different people in different ways but it is still God working through that person.

We can look at the disciples of Jesus for an example here. Jesus picked twelve men from various backgrounds to follow Him and carry out His work. Jesus did not just select a certain class of people or people who had some special abilities, Jesus picked ordinary men who became extraordinary when they followed Him and acted on what He said. The same is true for people we read about in the book of Acts, God uses all kinds of people to do His will.

Today God is looking for people that He can use and we need to be ready to work with God. If we think that God and His Word work differently for some people based purely on some preference God has or that person being special then we are limiting ourselves and God. Jesus said in Mark 11:23 that whoever speaks to the mountain and does not doubt in his heart will have whatever he is saying. Remember, God's Word works the same for everyone everywhere but we still have to put it to work. Find out what God has to say about you and your life then believe it and act on it; you'll be glad that you did!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Speaking To Or Speaking About?

"For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says."
Mark 11:23 (NKJV)
A Bible principle that many people misunderstand is that our words are very important; what we say will set the course for our life, good or bad.  There has been some wrong teaching in this area but this wrong teaching does not take away from the truth of this Bible principle.  The Bible shows us that our words are vital to our success in life, but many people are not saying what God says about the situation they are in, they are simply talking about their problem.
In Mark 11:23 Jesus told His disciples that they needed to speak to the mountain.  Jesus did not tell them to talk about the mountain or describe it in some way but rather to speak to it.  What we say about our life, in every area, will have a big part in determining whether or not we will have success or failure.  No matter what situation you face today, no matter what mountain may be in your life, speak God's Word out of your mouth to the situation and continue to say what God has said.
Many people are so focused on the problem that all they do is talk about the problem, but this is not what we see in the Bible.  For example, when God created the world, God did not say "Wow, it is really dark out there!"  No, God said "Let there be light".  When David met Goliath, David did not talk about how big Goliath was but David talked about how he would defeat and kill Goliath.  Over and over again we see this principle in the Bible and it is one we need to practice on a regular basis.  If we continue to stand in faith on God's Word by speaking His Word.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Encourage Yourself In The Lord

"And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God." 1 Samuel 30:6 (KJV)

In 1 Samuel 30 we read the story of David and his men returning to their homes and finding the city burned and all of their families taken away as captives. 1 Samuel 30:4 tells us that all of the people, including David, "... wept until they had no more power to weep". This was obviously a very difficult situation and things then went from bad to worse when all of the people somehow decided David was to blame and they wanted to kill him. The good news is that David did not die that day but he went on to become the king of Israel.

The important thing to notice here is what David did in this difficult situation. Yes David faced some bad circumstances and his first reaction of crying would be the normal thing to do; but David did not just cry, he dried his tears and encouraged himself in God! David turned from his emotions and simply focusing on the problem to focusing on God and looking to God for the answer to the problem. Although it is not specifically stated here, I believe that David did exactly what he did in many of the Psalms he wrote; he started talking about how big God is and how God has the answer to any problem that comes along.

How about us? What will we do when we face a problem or a difficult circumstance? Will we just cry and look at the problem wondering what we are going to do? Or will we follow David's example and start talking about God working in our life, God being on our side, God leading us into victory, and God having an answer bigger than the problem? When we do those things we are encouraging ourselves in the Lord and tapping into the strength that God is always ready to give us in every situation. Next time you face a problem don't just look at the problem, see what God's Word has to say about the problem and then start talking about that. You will find yourself growing stronger rather than weaker and you will put yourself into the place where God can speak to you, just like He did to David, and God will show you the way to victory!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Is A Missionary?

Although it may surprise some people, the word missionary is actually not in the Bible. The word missionary came into use in the early 1600s and the word means, a person who goes on a mission, especially a religious mission. The closest word in the Bible that could be used for what is known as a missionary would be the word apostle, which means someone who is a delegate or an ambassador, someone who is sent out. However, because the word apostle has often been misused in the church world I would not want to call myself an apostle. But the word missionary can be so vague and it sometimes gives the wrong impression.

When people think about a missionary they often think of someone who lives in a jungle or some other primitive conditions. While this can be true many people like me live in very modern cities in modern countries. So a missionary cannot be defined just by where or how they live.

Some people think missionaries are those who help the underprivileged get access to food and clean drinking water. This may be the case but not always. Some missionaries combine humanitarian work along with their spiritual work but this depends on the missionary and the work they are called to do. Some missionaries spend time translating the Bible into the language of the people they work with. That is not an issue in Germany; Martin Luther translated the Bible into German about 500 years ago.

Missionaries can be from any one of the five spiritual leadership offices listed in Ephesians 4 (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher) or even in the helps ministry. But to define a missionary as only being a pastor or evangelist would not be accurate. Sometimes I have difficulty explaining to people that while I am considered a missionary and that I use the term because people understand it, my real calling in the context of Ephesians 4 is that I am a teacher and teaching the Bible is what I am called to do.

So what is a missionary? A missionary is someone sent out and equipped by God. Missionaries live in a variety of places, under a variety of conditions, doing all kinds of work. While every Christian is not sent out to another country, every Christian is called and equipped by God for some "mission" so in one sense of the word everyone is called to be a missionary. Next time you meet or hear about a missionary in another country, find out exactly what God has called them to do; I am sure you will be happy you did.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

God And His Word Do Not Change, We Change

In 2 Kings 22 there is a story about King Josiah. King Josiah commissioned people to do some work in the temple and while these people were working they found a copy of the Book of the Law, which would have been the first five books of the Bible. When they read what was written to the king he had a dramatic reaction to what he heard. It says that King Josiah tore his clothes, which was a sign of his deep sorrow. King Josiah realized that he and the people had gotten away from the principles God had given them to live by. King Josiah made a positive change when he heard what God's Word said and King Josiah's change in turn affected the whole nation.

In Jeremiah 36 there is a story about another king, King Jehoiakim. God gave the prophet Jeremiah a message for the king with the intent that the king would repent and change his ways, which is what King Josiah had done. However, when King Jehoiakim heard the message God had given to Jeremiah and that Jeremiah had written on a scroll, the king took a knife and cut the scroll up and threw it into the fire! This is quite a different approach and attitude towards what God had said than King Josiah's. The end of those stories is that God blessed King Josiah but King Jehoiakim was taken captive and carried away to Babylon.

In James 1:21 we are told to receive the word with meekness, which means we need to come to God's Word with a sense of humility. There will be times in the life of every Christian when they see something in God's Word that is contrary to what they see in their own life. This is when we have the choice to be humble, put God's Word first and make a change; this is what King Josiah did. The opposite reaction is to try to ignore what we have learned or try to justify why we need to continue living the way we live; this what King Jehoiakim did.

There is one thing we can be very sure of; God and His Word do not change. God has given us His Word to show us the best way to live and to fulfill His will for our lives, if a change needs to take place that change will be with us. Sometimes our actions, attitudes, or beliefs needs to change to line up with what God's Word has to say. If we are wise we will be like King Josiah and make the change because the end result will be for our benefit.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's What You Know That Matters

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

The introduction to John's first letter gives us a really good standard for the things we share with others, something we know and understand. John says that what he is talking about is not just something he heard from someone else or something he read somewhere but this is something he has spent time with and has experience with. If we really do not fully understand something we are better off not saying too much about it but instead we should spend some time reading and studying God's Word to get the understanding we need about that subject.

There are many people you can see on television or on the Internet who are supposed to be "experts" in some area or even say they are Bible scholars. My question has always been why are they considered an expert or an authority on the subject? What I have seen is that often people who claim to be experts in some field or even people who claim to be Bible scholars are not at all what they claim to be. Recently I read an article on the Internet by someone who claimed to be a Bible scholar and after reading their article I wondered if that person had ever read the Bible!

In Acts 4, when Peter and John were arrested for teaching people about Jesus, Peter and John said in verse 20, "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard". This is just like what John wrote later in 1 John 1:1, we need to speak about what WE have seen and heard. It is the truth from the Bible that we personally know and have experience with that we will do the best talking about.

This is why our own personal time with God and His Word are so important; if we don't know something we can't put it into action in our own life and we really can't help other people understand it. The things we do to help other people and teach other people start with and come out of our own relationship with God. Read and study the Bible for yourself; not just so you can check up on the things you hear to see if they are true but also so you have firsthand experience with biblical truth that you can then share with other people.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Walking In Love - Speaking The Truth In Love

Our words are very important. But, it is not only what we say that matters it is how we say it. You can say the right thing in the wrong way, or at the wrong time, and have a negative impact instead of a positive impact. The words we speak should be the kind of words that help and not hurt, words that build up and not words that tear down.

"but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ -" Ephesians 4:11 (NKJV)

Here in Ephesians 4 Paul is talking about spiritual growth and development. One way we can contribute to the growth and development of others is by speaking the right words, in love. It is when we speak the truth in an attitude of love with the goal of helping the other person that we will see the greatest results from our words.

So often we speak before we really consider what it is we are going to say. The problem is that once you say something you can never take those words back. As it has been said, it is better to put the mind in gear before the mouth goes into motion. I would take that a step further and say that as Christians we need to check our heart before we put our mouth into motion. Is what we have to say going to contribute in a positive way to the person or the situation?

This does not mean that we are always just saying gentle, flowery words that lack any real content or even correction. There may be times we need to help correct someone but we can do it in love and bring correction and guidance to the person instead of beating them down with words that harm instead of help. As Christians our goal should be to contribute to the overall growth and development of those around us and by speaking the truth in love we are taking a big step towards doing just that.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What Do Othes Say About Us?

"And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus," Acts 4:36 (NKJV)

In the Book of Acts we read about many great people from the early days of the Christian Church. One person who has always been interesting to me was Barnabas, whose real name was actually Joses. Barnabas is mentioned over twenty times in the Book of Acts but only once by his actual name of Joses. What I find interesting about "Barnabas", which means the son of encouragement, is that the name we know him by is really just a nickname that was given to him by the apostles.

This got me thinking about some other verses that show us this same principle of it being important how others see us and the reputation we have with others. In Acts 6:3 the apostles said that the people who would be chosen to serve needed to have a good reputation. In 1 Timothy 3:1-10 Paul said the same things were necessary for people who wanted to serve as bishops and deacons, they had to be "blameless" and have "a good testimony among those who are outside". While Christians should not live a life just to please other people or only do things to seek the approval of others, what others think about us is important.

If the lives of Christians are not meeting the standards of God's Word and they have a bad reputation with other people, then who will represent Jesus and Christianity to the lost world? What if Joses was a difficult person to get along with and the apostles decided to name him the son of discouragement? How about calling him, the son of sorrow, because he just made people miserable whenever he was around them? When we bring this into our lives, what terms do people use to describe us? How many of us would be called the son (or daughter) of encouragement today and how many of us might be called something else less flattering? Ouch!

In Titus 2:7, 8 Paul encouraged Titus to have a life style of good works so that people would have nothing evil to say about him. This is a pretty high standard to live up to but I believe it is God's standard and it is attainable. So when people talk about us, what name would they give to us? This is something we all need to consider and continue to grow and develop so that we are doing what it says in Philippians 2:14-16 where we live a blameless life and shine as lights in the world.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Answer Is Closer Than You Think

"Wisdom is in the sight of him who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth." Proverbs 17:24 (NKJV)

Everyone one of us will face difficulties in life and have questions that we need answers to. Often we find ourselves in a situation where we need wisdom to know what we should do and how we should do it. The problem comes when we look for the answers in the wrong place. As Christians we have two wonderful resources for answers in our time of trouble, God's Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Over the years as I have talked with people who are going through something where they are at a loss about what to do or they are seeking counsel about something in their life I refer them back to the Bible, God's Word. What has been surprising to me is how often those same people almost seem disappointed that I don't have something different for them. Many times the answers to the questions we have are much closer than we think and because we fail to realize this we look in all the wrong places for our answers.

In 1 Kings 19 there is a story about how God talked to Elijah when Elijah faced a bad situation. Elijah was on a mountain looking for an answer from God and there was a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire that came but the Bible tells us that God was not in those things. Then, after all of these spectacular things happened, there was a still, small voice that was God speaking to Elijah. I use this story to show how when we look for answers and we focus on some outward spectacular thing, waiting for writing in the sky, an angelic visitation, or some voice from heaven we miss the answers that God has already given us in His Word.

Not only that, but as the Bible says in Romans 8:14, the sons of God are led by the Spirit of God. Then we can add 1 Corinthians 3:16 where it says that the Holy Spirit is living in us. Rather than being foolish and looking everywhere else for the answers to the questions we have we need to start with the simple truth of God's Word, allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us through it, and let the Holy Spirit lead us and direct us. Finding the answer is a lot easier than we think because the answers are often closer than we think!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You Will Know Them By Their...

In our world today, through the Internet, advances in telephone technology and multiple channels on television a person has a wide range of ways to make connections with other people and what those other people have to say. This can be a good thing but it can also be a bad thing, it all depends on who you listen to and what they have to say.

In Matthew 7:20 Jesus made a statement about how someone could recognize a false prophet, Jesus said that we would know them by their fruits. In other words, we can tell what kind of person someone is by what their life is like and what things are being produced through their life. The Bible also tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 that we have to test everything and hold on to the best. Too many times however it seems that today people do not take any time to really find out what someone is like before they allow that person to influence their life and often the results are confusion and problems.

Today it seems like a lot of people think Jesus said, "You will know them by their titles, talents, tweets, or personality". But none of these things are necessarily a sign that a person is a mature, stable Christian who we should allow to influence us. Too many Christians are weak and ineffective and many times the root of the problem can be found in the people they allow to influence them. Our first and main influence should be from God through His Word, the Bible, and the direction of the Holy Spirit. If we start with this we will save ourselves a lot of problems in the long run.

We can all learn a lesson from what happened to Joshua and the children of Israel in Joshua 9 where they unwisely made a covenant with some people who were actually their enemies. What was the reason they did that? Because the people of Israel did not listen to what God had to say about those people. The people of Israel only took into consideration what the other people had to say and what those people had to offer. Just because someone has an impressive title, wonderful ability is some area, or has access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or some other form of mass communication does not mean that what they are doing or what they have to say has any real value. Be careful who you listen to and who you allow to influence you. Make sure everything you hear lines up with God's Word and you will be better off because of it!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Language Skills

Over the past 12 years since I have been living in Germany I have noticed two different things about my language skills. First of all, my ability to speak German has improved. Although I would not say I can speak German fluently I can speak it well enough to hold conversations with people and to do the things I need to do here without always having to ask someone else to speak for me. That is a really good thing because being able to speak the language of the country that you live in is vital for a missionary.

However, everything we do in the ministry of RHEMA Germany here in Bonn is done in English and in German so I am not required to speak German all of the time; being fluent in German is not as necessary for me as it might be for some other missionaries in Germany. My goal is to improve my German language skills so that I can speak even better German than I do now.

The second thing I have noticed is that my English language skills have diminished a bit. Obviously I am still able to speak English but I notice that sometimes I get stuck with even simple English words and sometimes I think of the German word for something before I think of the English word! That is a strange feeling to have. When I do speak English with people here or I teach in English I always try to find a simple way to say what I want without using too many big words. It seems to me that this may be a part of the reason my English language skills have decreased a little.

I have also noticed that sometimes my sentences follow a German sentence structure instead of English. I must say that I am very happy for the spell check program on my computer and for my family members who proof read my newsletters before they are sent out. Now I don't think I will ever lose the ability to speak English but I have noticed that living in another country has had a definite affect on my language skills. In fact, when I did the spell check on this document I found that I made five simple mistakes so I think that proves the point!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Walking In Love - What's In It For Me?

The subject of the love of God is something that is very important; love is mentioned in every letter in the New Testament. Even the small books of Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude all mention love. Walking in love is one of those things that we don't always hear that much about but living a life motivated by the love of God that is in us is a vital part of a successful Christian life.

If we read through the New Testament and study all of the Bible verses about walking in love we will find that we all have some room for improvement. Typically we tend to be selfish and we think about how what we are doing will benefit us. We might even ask the question, "What's in it for me?" as we consider doing something. The thing is that if we are going to walk in love, instead of wondering what we are going to get out of a situation we should be wondering what we could contribute to the situation and what it is that we have to give instead of what we could get.

Our goal should be to do what we can to help others and not to see what others can do for us; even Jesus said that He did not come to be served but rather to serve others (Mark 10:45). Love does not insist on its own rights or its own way, love always builds up and edifies; this is what Jesus did and we should do the same. When we go into a situation only thinking about how we can benefit we will miss opportunities to help others and we will fall short of the plan of God for our lives.

Too often we only focus on getting what we want and we don't even consider others and their needs. Instead of always asking the question, "What's in it for me?" we would be a lot better off if we would always ask ourselves the question, "What can I do to help and benefit that person and how can I help in this situation?" By doing this we will walk in love and be a greater blessing to the people around us.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Keeping Your Guard Up

"Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)

One of the best things we can do is to keep a guard on our heart to be sure that the things we allow ourselves to be exposed to help us and don't hurt us. The Bible is very clear about our having the right kind of influences in our life and the results of having the wrong influences. By this I am not just talking about hanging around with the wrong kind of people and avoiding places that everyone knows to be a bad influence. Those kinds of things are certainly included, but from what I have seen and continue to see, many Christians are allowing themselves to be influenced by teachings and beliefs that are having a harmful effect on them.

One of the things I do in my ministry is to teach various classes in Bible schools. No matter where I might be and no matter what the topic of the class might be there is always someone there who has a question about something in the Bible. Very often the questions stem from something they heard someone teach somewhere. Then, because the person who asks the question is not sure what to make of that teaching they look for someone to help them understand what the Bible has to say about that thing.

No matter what we read or listen to we must be careful about what we "hear" because it will have an impact on us. Too often Christians just listen to anything that sounds good and they get themselves into trouble because of it. When we hear or read something we must always first check it with what the Bible says. If we cannot find clear Bible verses on the subject we should stay clear of it. If we don't do that we are not guarding our heart and the result will be confusion, doubt, and a hindrance in our relationship with God. We have to guard our hearts by keeping ourselves filled with the Word of God so that we will know what the truth is. If we don't we end up with problems that can send us off course in our walk with God. Guard your heart with the truth of God's Word and keep your relationship with God strong.