Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Focus For The New Year

"Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being."
1 Corinthians 10:24 (NKJV)

Each year around the end of December people begin to make projections about what they expect the next year to bring.  In the past I have seen things like, "This will be the year of increase", "This will be the year of the double portion", and "This will be the year of abundant provision".  The thing I notice here is that all of these predictions for the New Year are very self-centered, the focus is on what will happen for us and how can God bless us in the New Year.  But, instead of thinking about what we can receive in the next year why not think about what we can give?

While I have no problem with the fact that God wants to bless His children and give them success in every area of life, God does not want us to prosper just so we can sit on a pile of money.  God does not want us healthy just so we can take a vacation and go mountain climbing.  God does not want to reveal the truth of His Word to us just so we can fill our mind with facts.  God blesses us so that we can live the best kind of life AND so that we can be in a position to help others.  Our goal for this next year and every year should not be just to see how we can be blessed but to find a way that we can be a blessing to others.

As we approach a New Year I believe it would be good to have a new focus and start looking for what we can do for other people.  Let's make this next year the year where we are a greater blessing to others than we have ever been before.  In the coming year let's take the focus off of ourselves and what can we receive and let's look for what we can do to improve the lives of other people around us.  Imagine what our churches would look like if we all had this kind of attitude.  If we have a new focus in the New Year and do what we can to bless others we will find that we will be blessed as well and it will be a great way to start the New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

What Kind Shape Are You In?

"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 12:2 (NKJV)

People spend a lot of time and money trying to look a certain way.  Some people go to a health club to get into shape or to maintain a certain level of fitness.  There are some people who have surgery to alter how they look to maybe impress other people or to change what they see in themselves as something that is less than desirable.  Some people will watch what they eat because they know that certain types of food have so many calories or this or that health benefit.  But what is even more important than the physical shape we are in is the shape our life takes based on what influences us.

There are many good things in the world but we cannot allow ourselves to just follow whatever society values because those values may contradict God's values. God wants us to follow the pattern for life that He has given us in the Bible.  If we fill our life, our mind, and our words with what God has said we will be "transformed".  The word "transformed" here in Romans 12:2 comes from a Greek word where we get our English word "metamorphosis".  Our life can be transformed as we focus on God and His Word, we can be changed and take on an entirely different shape than we have ever had before.

So, what shape are we in today?  Are we thinking, acting, and talking like the world or are we thinking, acting, and talking like God?  Whatever we are allowing to influence us is going to have an effect on us and cause us to be shaped in a certain way.  If we find that a lot of the things in our life are there due to a wrong kind of influence and the shape we are in is more like the world than God, then we need to make a change.  Check up on yourself and see what shape you are in and make sure that the pattern you are following is from God.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

God's Word - Quality Or Quantity?

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,"
2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV)

God's Word is profitable and valuable for us; I like to say that the Bible is our blueprint for life.  Everything recorded in the Bible can be helpful to us, and at different times some parts of the Bible are more relevant to us than others.  One thing I have noticed over the years is that some people get the idea that more is always better, especially when it comes to the Bible.  Now I am certainly not saying that people need less of God's Word but my question is, do quality and quantity always go together, especially when it comes to the Bible?

For example, just because I have read the Bible once or more, does that automatically mean that I really have an understanding of it and I know how to apply what God's Word says to my own life?  This is an issue for a lot of Christians.  When you tell some people what the Bible says about their situation they will say things like, "Well yes I know the Bible says that!"  But if we really do "know" what the Bible says and we understand it doesn't that mean that we will then act on it and it then becomes a part of our life?

We need to know what the Bible says but our goal should not just be amassing quantity, we should strive for quality.  When we know and understand even one verse from the Bible it can change our life.  Just knowing a lot of facts without a practical understanding of the facts is useless.  We should all make sure that we have a regular time of reading and studying God's Word but we don't want to just hurry through what we are reading so we can check a chapter or book off of our reading list.  We need to come to God's Word with an understanding that all of God's Word is beneficial and it can change our life, that is a good way to get quality from God's Word.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What Has God Revealed To You?

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."
Deuteronomy 29:29 (NKJV)

God is a revealer of truth; God wants us to know His will.  Over and over again in the Bible we see God showing people truth and helping people see the direction they should go.  Today as Christians we even have the Holy Spirit living in us!  Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth and the Holy Spirit would remind us of things that Jesus has said (John 14:26).  Jesus did say that we must ask to receive, seek to find, and knock to have something opened (Matthew 7:7), but we should remember that God is not trying to hide His plan from us but rather God wants us to know His will.

Too many people focus on the questions they have and what they don't know instead of what they do know.  Many times when some tragedy has occurred or something has not happened the way someone hoped it would there are questions.  We can sometimes get so focused on the questions we don't have the answers to that we lose our focus on what we do know.  If we are not careful we get so caught up in asking "Why?" that we don't do what we do know to do.  It has been said that analysis brings paralysis and that is what happens if we just stay in the place of asking questions without moving forward with what we do know.

What has God revealed to you through His Word and what are you doing with it?  What are you doing about what God has led you to do in your life?  We want to have answers to all of our questions but we should remember as it says in Deuteronomy 29:29 that the things that are secret and unknown to us are in God's hands but what has been revealed is given to us so we can do God's will.  Instead of staying in the dark, so to speak, with the questions we don't have answers to we should walk in the light of God's Word that we do have; God will always let us know the things we need to know so we can do what we need to do.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Simplicity In Christ

"But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."
2 Corinthians 11:3 (NKJV)

When Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians he warned them about being deceived and getting away from the "simplicity that is in Christ".  Too often people have taken the simple Gospel message and complicated it with man-made rules and regulations.  The fact is that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for humanity and to become our substitute to pay for sin; that is the Gospel message, the good news.  God and His Word are really not as complicated as people sometimes make Him and His Word out to be.

Jesus talked about spiritual things in a very simple way that anyone could understand.  Jesus did not use complex terminology to try and further complicate a God that many people did not really know or understand. The religious leaders of Jesus time also spoke about God, but not like Jesus did.  One reason for this was because those religious leaders were more focused on the rules and regulations of following the Law than they were about having a relationship with God.  In Matthew 23 Jesus said that the Pharisees would even tithe from the herbs they grew but they neglected justice, mercy, and faith.  In other words, the Pharisees missed the point of the Law while trying to keep the regulations of the Law.

God wants a relationship with us, but some Christians have gotten away from the simplicity in Christ and have complicated it with rules, doctrines, and traditions which leave people with no joy and an ineffective Christian life.  We need to spend time with God in prayer, not trying to sound sophisticated or super spiritual but just talking to our Heavenly Father.  We need to spend time with God in His Word, not so we can learn more facts or find some new revelation but just to get to know God better and to discover who we are in Christ.  If you have gotten into the rut of just following the rules then maybe you need to take a look to see where you have gotten away from the simplicity found in Christ and get back to the basics of a focusing on a relationship with God and not living by a set of rules.