Thursday, December 27, 2018

That's Not The Gift I Wanted

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variation or shadow of turning."
James 1:17 (NKJV)

Did you ever have the experience at Christmas or on your birthday where you were hoping to get some great gift, but you didn't?  Your hopes were high and you may have made plans about what to do with your amazing gift once you received it.  And then, when you opened your gifts, the thing you really wanted was not there.  All of your expectations came crashing down as the reality set in that you would not get the gift you really wanted.  You may have received something, but it was not what you were looking for.  This may have led to some disappointment, or even some negative feeling towards someone, but hopefully that did not last long.

The Bible tells us what God is like and what He does and does not do.  In James 1:17, we are told that every good gift and every perfect gift comes from God.  We are not told that some good and some bad things come from God or that some perfect and some imperfect gifts come from God.  People sometimes have the idea that we might get some good things from God and then we might get disappointed and receive something we did not need or want, which leads to some people having negative feelings towards God.  However, this is not how God operates and not what we see in the Bible.

In Matthew 7 Jesus said that if a son asked for bread, a good father would not give him a stone, and if the son asked for a fish, no good father would give him a snake instead.  God is better than any earthly father, and the Bible says God even knows what we need before we ask, but we still have to ask.  One reason we sometimes do not have what we want is because we don't ask, and sometimes things happen because we live in a fallen world that is corrupted by sin where the devil is working.  But God is a good God who wants us to have good things and He is not withholding what is good and giving us something bad instead.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Gift Exchange

"For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established - 
that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith of both you and me."
Romans 1:11-12 (NKJV)

Most people like gifts, especially when they receive a gift.  But it is also nice when someone gives you a gift and you are able to give them a gift as well.  Sometimes around Christmas people have gift exchange parties where everyone gives a gift and receives a gift.  These types of parties can be a lot of fun because everyone there is involved in giving and receiving something.  No one person has all the gifts to give because everyone has something to contribute and everyone goes away happy that they were able to give and receive something.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome he had not been there yet .  Paul was planning to visit Rome at some time in the future and he said that he wanted to see the people there so that he could give them a spiritual gift.  But Paul also said that he believed that he and the Christians in Rome could be encouraged together through their mutual faith.  What was Paul saying?  Paul knew that the best situation was one in which everyone has something to contribute and everything is not just coming from one person, Paul knew that everyone has something to give.

One thing that is clearly taught in the New Testament is that each believer has received a gift from God (1 Peter 4:10) and each member of the Body of Christ has something to contribute (Ephesians 4:16).  Our situation as Christians is not that there are just a select few who have all the spiritual gifts, wisdom, and knowledge, but all of us have something to give.  Exactly how that happens can differ according to the situation, but it starts with people realizing that they have something to give.  When Christians come together there can and should be a mutual exchange where each person is able to give and receive something.  What gift do you have to give?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Maintaining Your Balance

"For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God."
Acts 20:27 (NKJV)

Whether it is because we have tripped over something and started to fall, inner ear problems, or some other cause, a loss of balance can be a serious problem.  Sometimes balance problems can be corrected and sometimes just being careful is a good way maintain proper balance.  It would be very foolish to have some kind of balance problem and just ignore it, even when it results in falling down and possibly getting hurt.  If there is a problem and there is a solution to the problem then the wise thing to do would be to solve the problem and avoid the negative results.

In the same way that there can be many reasons people might lose their balance physically, there are several reasons that people can lose their balances spiritually.  Some believers have problems because they only focus on one spiritual truth and they ignore others, this leads to their being out of balance spiritually.  Some Christians do not know some spiritual truths and because of their lack of knowledge they are out of balance spiritually.  If we are out of balance spiritually we are in danger of being taken advantage of in the areas where we are unlearned.

In Acts 20, Paul told the leaders from the church in Ephesus that he had not failed to teach them the whole counsel of God.  Paul knew that there were many spiritual truths that people needed to hear and he taught them all.  Paul may have emphasized one topic at one time more than another, but Paul knew people needed to hear many topics to have a well-balanced spiritual life.  If we are overemphasizing one spiritual truth at the expense of other truths, or lacking biblical knowledge in some areas, we can easily get out of balance spiritually.  We all need the whole counsel of God, the whole Word of God, to lead a balanced, mature Christian life. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Sore Foot, Sore Body

"And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it."
1 Corinthians 12:26 (NKJV)

For most of my life I have been a runner.  Several years ago, I stubbed my little left toe pretty badly, it was painful and made me stop running for a while.  When my toe improved, I started running again.  As I ran, I noticed some pain in my toe, but I also noticed some pain in my left calf, my left knee, and in my left hip.  I thought this was very strange and had to slow down because of it.  Then I realized what was happening; my body was trying to compensate for my injured toe.  But, because of trying to compensate for one problem it was actually creating other problems.  The solution was that I had to just rest my toe until it healed so I could start running again.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul compares the Body of Christ to the natural body.  Paul shows how the entire body needs to work together and that what affects one part of the body will have an impact on the rest of the body; this is true of our natural body and the Body of Christ.  In Ephesians 4:16, Paul talks about how every part of the Body of Christ has a supply that it should give to the Body.  The problem is that when one part of the Body of Christ is not functioning properly or is hurt, like my little toe was, then the whole Body will suffer because of it. 

Just like the physical body, the Body of Christ will try to compensate for the injured part, which is good and should happen.  We are interconnected as believers and need to support one another.  But, like with the physical body, if other parts of the Body of Christ are trying to compensate for another part then more problems can develop.  Every part of the Body of Christ, world-wide and locally, needs to be healthy and strong, doing its part in fulfilling the will of God.  Our goal as believers should be to find our place in the Body, stay connected to our local church and give our supply; that way the whole Body will be strong and do great things for God!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Separated Or Connected?

"who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
2 Corinthians 3:6 (NKJV)

Connections are important and without the right connections we can have problems.  Our phones have a connection to the telephone company, computers are connected to the Internet, and appliances need to be connected to electricity to function properly.  If our phones, computers, and appliances get separated from what they need to be connected to we miss out on all the benefits we can have from those things when they are connected.  There are times when something can hinder the connections we should have, so we need to be sure that we keep everything properly connected.

When God created man, He was connected to them and had a relationship with them.  God told them they should not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; He said if they did they would die.  As we know from the story, Adam and Eve did eat from the tree.  But, while they were sent out of the Garden of Eden, they did not instantly die.  What happened?  The first thing we need to realize is that death does not talk about an end but it refers to a separation.  When Adam and Eve sinned they were separated from God, which caused them to lose the benefits they had in their relationship with God.

Today we have a new covenant with God based on what Jesus did for us.  Paul says that this covenant is not of the letter but the Spirit; the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.  Paul was saying that today we live in this new covenant that is based on the grace of God and not the letter of the law of the old covenant.  The only way to maintain a proper connection to God is through the Spirit, not the law; we maintain our connection with God spiritually, not by following rules.  If we try to base our relationship with God on living by laws, we are really separating ourselves from God and it will cause us to miss out on the blessings and benefits we should have in our relationship with Him.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Whose Will Wins?

"Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
Ephesians 5:17 (NKJV)

Have you ever been in the situation where you were going out to eat with some friends or maybe traveling to some place and there was a difference of opinion?  Maybe there were different ideas about what restaurant to go to, or it could have been that you were traveling somewhere and there was more than one route that could be used to get there.  It might also be true that someone knows something about a restaurant or route that would make their idea the best.  But if you ever want to eat or arrive at your destination a decision has to be made where someone's idea is accepted and someone's idea is rejected. 

Everyone has ideas and a will of their own, but if we are wise, we will always find out what the best thing to do is in every situation.  For Christians, our goal should be to find and follow the will of God.  But this often means that for us to follow the will of God we have to put what we want, our will, to the side.  As it tells us in Ephesians 5:17, we need to be wise and understand the will of the Lord.  This would mean more than just having the knowledge of what God's will is.  If it is wise to know the will of the Lord then we should pursue the will of God in our life.

In 2 Peter 2:10 it talks about people who live their life according to their natural desires, the flesh, saying that those people are "self-willed".  Paul told Titus that one of the requirements for an overseer was that they could not be self-willed (Titus 1:7).  In both of these cases it is talking about people following their own will, not the will of God.   For us to do the will of God we must submit our will to God's will and allow His plan to be our plan.  God's will and plan for our life will always be the best thing for us, but we must allow His will to win over our will.  That is the true path to happiness and success in life.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

What World Will You Create?

"By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible."
Hebrews 11:3 (NKJV)

When I was in high school, I took several art classes where I learned to draw, paint, and sculpt things.  When I wanted to do one of these things I would get the proper materials and then begin my work.  If I was going to paint a picture, I would get a canvas, some brushes, and some paint.  If I was going to create some sculpture I would get some clay, and possibly some tool to use to shape the clay.  It would have been foolish of me to attempt to create a painting with some clay or to make a sculpture with some paint or drawing materials.  To create the right thing I had to use the right materials.

In Hebrews 11:3 it tells us that God framed, which literally means to complete thoroughly, the worlds with His words.  Through the words that He spoke, God created the world.  In Genesis 1 we see the phrase "God said" repeatedly as God created the world and everything that was in it.  In a similar way, the words that we speak will create the world we live in.  If we talk about fear, failure, problems, and other negative things then it will be difficult to have a life that is free of those things.  If, on the other hand, we talk about what God has said in His Word we will create a different type of world.

The Bible shows us over and over that our words are very important.  The things we say will have an impact in our life, positively or negatively.  The more we talk about something, the greater it will become in our life.  We can talk about the natural situation we find ourselves in or we can look to what God has said in His Word and talk about that.  We will never achieve the success we desire or fulfill the will of God for our lives if we do not speak the right kind of words.  It is our choice as to what we talk about, and whatever choice we make, those words will create the kind of world we live in.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Where's The Trouble?

"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet."
Matthew 24:6 (NKJV)

If you have a problem with a car, and it is not something you can easily fix by yourself, you will have to take it somewhere to fix it.  Very often what will happen is that the mechanic will connect your car to a computer that will diagnose the problem to see where the trouble is.  It would be foolish to have a car problem and then just randomly try to fix different things without knowing where the actual trouble was in the car.  If the engine is not running correctly you would not just change the tires and if you did have a problem with you tires you would not replace the steering wheel.

In Matthew 24 Jesus talked to His disciples about some things that would happen before He returned again.  Jesus said that the disciples would hear about wars and rumors of wars.  Jesus did not specifically say that the disciples themselves would be in these wars or that they would even be somehow affected by them.  But Jesus still told the disciples not to be troubled.  Jesus was not telling them there was a physical or even spiritual threat to be dealt with, the trouble would be located somewhere else.  Jesus said that things like this would happen but the disciples should not allow these types of things to cause them to be distressed. 

Often when we have problems in our life, whether it is something big or small, we will have questions about what to do and even thoughts about what might go wrong or how things might not work out.  Even if we are not facing a problem, we could still have similar negative thoughts.  This is very much like what Jesus talked to His disciples about, not being troubled in our mind.  We do not have to be troubled by things we experience or even hear about.  By filling our mind with God's thoughts, His Word, we can successfully deal with wrong thoughts that would trouble us and not allow them to distress us.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Put Your Own Mask On First

"Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.  Continue in them, for in doing this you will both save both yourself and those who hear you."
1 Timothy 4:16 (NKJV)

When you are on an airplane they will go over the safety procedures to make sure everyone knows what to do if there should be an emergency.  One of the things they talk about is the air mask that will drop down from above you if there should be a sudden drop in the pressure of the airplane cabin.  But, when they talk about the air mask, the flight crew will always tell you to put your own mask on first before trying to help someone else.  The reason for this is simple, if you are unable to breathe properly you will not be able to help someone else, so you first have to put on your own air mask before you can really help someone else. 

The Apostle Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, who was a young minister.  Paul gave Timothy advice on ways that Timothy could be successful in ministry and Paul also reminded Timothy that Paul himself gave Timothy a good example to follow.  One very important thing that Paul told Timothy was to pay attention to himself and the right kind of teaching.  Paul said that if Timothy did this then Timothy would not only save himself, but he would also save those who heard him.  If Timothy had focused on trying to help others first he would not have been as successful as he could have or should have been.

If you take care of yourself and what you know and believe first, then you can help others.  But, if you don't take care of yourself and the things you know and believe, then you will not only have problems yourself, but you will not be able to help others.  Paul encouraged Timothy to continue with and stay in this pattern because it is the way to really make a difference in the lives of others.  If someone has problems in their own life and does not really know what the Bible says then that person is not going to be very effective in helping others.  Just like Paul told Timothy, we all need to first take care of ourselves and know the truth so we can help others.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Other Side Of The Gospel

"Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel."
Philippians 1:27 (NKJV)

It has been said that if you climb a mountain from one side you have one view, but if you climb a mountain from the other side you will have a completely different view.  Also, two people can tell a story from two different perspectives and while they are talking about the same thing they might emphasize different aspects of that same story.  Someone who has only seen one side of a mountain or knows just one part of a story may say that they have the correct view.  But, neither side of the mountain or story is the right or wrong side necessarily, but to have a complete understanding of the mountain or story you usually need both sides. 

If you ask Christians what the Gospel is, many would talk about how Jesus came from heaven to take our place and die on the cross for our sin.  Some would say that the Gospel is good news and that through Christ we have been made right with God.  Others would talk about how Jesus came to give us an abundant life or about our future hope of being with God for eternity and not going to hell.  All of these things are true, but they mainly focus on one side of the story, the aspect of our benefits because of the Gospel.  The Gospel is indeed good news for man, but it is also much more.

We often look at the benefits we have received from God through Jesus, and there are benefits, but we fail to see the responsibilities we have also been given.  As Paul mentioned to the Philippians, we have a responsibility to live in a way that pleases God and promotes the Gospel.  We are not just told to go and live a happy life of our own making, we see that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives and we must focus on fulfilling that: being a good representative of Jesus Christ, walking in love, spreading the Gospel around the world, and living a life worthy of the One who saved us.  Get both sides of the Gospel and you will have a complete picture of what it means to be a Christian. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Wasted Motion

"But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless."
Titus 3:9 (NKJV)

Over the years I have been a member of a few health clubs and I have also owned some exercise equipment.  One thing that I did before getting involved in a health club and using any exercise equipment was to familiarize myself with what exercises I could do and the proper way to do them.  But, I have noticed over the years that there are some people in health clubs, and who exercise on their own, who do not really know how to exercise correctly so that what they are doing is not helping them, in fact what they are doing is just wasted motion.  While they are doing something, what they are doing will have no real, lasting benefit. 

God gave us His Word to help us learn His will and to see how to live the kind of life that pleases Him.  God knows the challenges we face in life and His Word gives us the guidelines we need to know what to do in every situation.  The Holy Spirit will direct us as to how we can do the things we need to do and help us as we step out in faith to act on God's Word.  But, if we are putting our focus on and efforts into something that God has not said in His Word then we will not have the results in our life that God has promised and we are seeking.  If what we do is not based on the Bible it is just wasted motion.

The Apostle Paul talked about avoiding some things because they were unprofitable and useless.  Too often Christians are doing things that may seem nice and look good, but they bring no real benefits because these things are not based on the Bible.  People are sometimes taught to do certain things in a certain way as a method for success, but if these things are not in agreement with the Bible they are unprofitable and useless.  We need to get into God's Word to have a thorough understanding of it so that we are sure what we are doing is in line with the Word and not just wasted motion.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Greatest Validation

"For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."
2 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV)

When we do something good, it is always nice if someone notices and says something positive about it, especially if the person who notices what we have done and compliments us is someone we look up to in some way.  While we normally do not do things just to earn someone's praise, we all would have to admit that we like to hear people say something positive about us and the things we do.  It is a natural thing to enjoy someone recognizing our efforts, but it can be a trap for us to pursue these types of complements as way to validate what we do and not just recognize the value of doing something simply because it is the right thing to do. 

When we have something to do, especially when it is something we are doing for God, we need to do that thing no matter who sees it or notices what we are doing.  If God is leading us to do something, if He has directed us through His Word or by the Holy Spirit to do something, then we need to do it no matter who recognizes us for our efforts; we will not always have praise and recognition from others for the things that we do when we follow God's plans.  If we look for someone to validate what we are doing before we are willing to do it, then we may never really fulfill God's plan in our life. 

Paul talked about people who wanted some kind of letters of commendation to show who he was and to validate what he was doing.  However, Paul realized that the greatest validation of his efforts was not going to come from men but from God.  In the same way that Paul understood that seeking the compliments and accolades of others was not a wise way to judge the value of what he did, we too must understand that God's plan and the gifts and abilities He has given us do not need to be validated by other people to be significant.  We all need to recognize the value of God's plan in our life, no matter who does or does not validate it for us.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Do You Know Your Name?

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!  Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him."
1 John 3:1 (NKJV)

My last name, Rogahn, is of German origin.  But, no matter if I am in Germany, the USA, or in some other place, my name has been mispronounced and misspelled many, many times.  When I was younger and someone would incorrectly spell or pronounce my name I was quick to correct them.  The problem was that no matter how many people I would talk to about how to correctly spell or say my name the problem persisted.  Although people have had and continue to have a problem with my name it does not bother me because I know what my name is; it is not a problem for me because that does not change my identity. 

In the Bible we learn about our true identity in Christ and who God says we are.  1 John 3:1 is one example, where we see that God has called us His children.  Even if other people do not understand that or accept that, it does not change the truth about who we are.  Some people may try to explain why we cannot be who we say we are in Christ, why our past should disqualify us from being in God's family, or how we do not deserve a place in God's Kingdom, but that does not change what God has said about us.  The most important thing is that we know who we are and what God has called us.

God's Word is the place we need to look to find out how to correctly say who we are and what we are.  If God has called us His children, then we are His children.  If God has said we are a new creation in Christ and righteous in Christ then we are (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21).  If God has said that we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:10), and blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3) then that is exactly who and what we are.  Know who and what you are in Christ so that no matter what anyone else says about it you know for sure who you really are.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Right Place To Keep It

"And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart."
Deuteronomy 6:6 (NKJV)

There is an old saying that states "A place for everything and everything in its place".  The meaning behind this phrase is that to keep things organized there should be a place for everything and when that thing is not in use it can be stored in its proper place so that it can be easily found when it needs to be used the next time.  For example, if you had a regular place to put your car keys it would then be easy to find them when you needed them.  If you did not have those keys in a place where you can easily find them again, then you may have trouble locating them when you need to use them. 

Deuteronomy 6 shows us the proper place to keep God's Word, in our heart.  It does not say to keep God's Word on a shelf or just in our notes.  We need to have God's Word in our heart to help guide us in our life and so that it is ready for use in our life as we need it.  In Psalm 119:11, the Psalmist said that they kept God's Word in their heart so that they would not sin, Proverbs 37:31 talks about the righteous having God's law in their heart and the result being that their steps did not slide, and Proverbs 4:20-21 says that we need to keep God's law in our heart because it is life to us.

If we don't keep the Word in our heart, but only have it somewhere on a shelf or don't even know it, we will not only miss out on all the benefits of God's Word in our life, but we can find ourselves in some difficulty as we will not be able to use it as we should in our time of need.  Having God's Word in our heart is a result of having a regular time of reading and studying the Bible as well as acting on the Word, this is how we make it a part of our life and get it into our heart.  We all need to be sure we are taking the time necessary to get God's Word into our heart, that is the right place to keep it.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Stay With Your Race

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
2 Timothy 4:7 (NKJV)

When I was in high school I participated in some running sports.  One thing I was a part of was what was called track and field.  This consisted of different types of running events and things like pole vaulting and the long jump.  My area was running the one and two mile races, I was a better distance runner than sprinter, and I was definitely not a pole vaulter or long jumper.  Once, when we were missing some people at an event, my coach had me run the 400 meter dash.  That was not my usual event and the results showed it as I finished behind most of the other runners.  While I was good with running longer distances I was not very good at the sprinting events. 

In Hebrews 12, the Bible compares the Christian life to a race and Paul also used that example in 2 Timothy 4:7.  As Paul neared the end of his life, he talked about having finished the race.  Paul was confident that as his time on earth was coming to an end that he had done the will of God for his own life and run the race God had given him.  This is similar to what it says about David in Acts 13:36, that David served his generation by the will of God, in other words, David ran his race for God.  Jesus Himself said in John 17:4 that He had finished the work God had given Him to do.

Just like Paul, David, and even Jesus, God has a plan for our life; God has a race for us to run.  You can't run my race and I can't run your race, each of us must run their own race according to the will of God.  We must first find out what the will of God is for our life and then fulfill it.  Through the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit, God will help us to discover the race He has for us and He will help us run that race.  We can't just choose our own race, we live, or run, in response to His will.  Discover your race and find the will of God for your life so that all of us can say we have run our race, served our generation, and done the will of God.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Staying Sharp

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV)

Things like knives, scissors, and various kinds of blades need to be sharpened on a regular basis.  If you only use your knife, scissors, or blades without the regular maintenance of sharpening them, then the time will come where you will no longer be able to use them effectively.  If you keep cutting instruments sharp, it is not a problem to cut through whatever it is you need to cut.  It is easy for some of these things to be dulled through normal use, and without those things being sharpened they will end up dull and useless.

The things that we do and the people we spend our time with will have an impact on us.  It is interesting to see that people can do many of the right things, but if they spend a lot of time with the wrong kind of people it will have more of a negative impact on them than the positive things that they do will have.  The people we spend our time with should be those who help us stay spiritually sharp and do more for God, people that discourage us and take our focus away from the things of God are really just making us dull.

The Bible talks about the kind of people we need to be and the kind of people we need to spend our time with.  Yes, we can walk in love and be kind to everyone.  But, the question is whether or not we have people in our life who are helping to build us up, people who help us to be "sharp".  Do the people we spend our time with help us to be "sharp" and godlier, or do they dull us to the things of God?  We can also ask that about ourselves, do we help to improve other people or do we make them dull?  Our goal should be to build relationships with people that will help to build us up and to be that kind of person for others. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Standard We Should Have

"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ."
Colossians 3:23-24 (NKJV)

What kind of attitude should we have with the work that we do?  Is there one attitude that is right for one kind of job but not for another, or is there a certain attitude we should have for every job?  Is there a level of work that is acceptable sometimes and not at others, or should our level of effort be consistent no matter what job we are doing?  The answer, which most people would agree is correct, is that our attitude and our effort should be the same with everything that we do, because we should have a standard that does not change from task to task.

In the Bible we can see the standard that God has.  When the temple was built, when God gave the details about the clothing that the priests would wear, and when instructions for the different sacrifices were given these things needed to be done in a certain way.  God gave a standard of excellence in everything He instructed people to do and this should be our standard as well.  No matter who may or may not be paying attention to what we are doing, we need to realize that even if no one is watching us or approving of what we do on earth we have a Master in Heaven who is paying attention.

As Christians, no matter what we do or who we work for, we should do it as to the Lord because He is the One that we are really serving.  Our natural work on the earth should show a pattern of excellence because of Who we serve and represent.  We can always ask ourselves the question, if this was some work I was doing directly for Jesus how would I do it?  That is the standard we should have all of the time for everything that we do.  No matter who our earthly leader or boss is, no matter what standard they might require, we serve someone even greater and our standard should reflect that.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Sensitivity Training

"For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil."
Romans 16:19 (NKJV)

Sensitivity can be a very subjective thing.  Some people are more sensitive to light than others while some people are more sensitive to certain smells.  In both cases, the person with the heightened sensitivity is more aware of, and more influenced by, the things they are sensitive to than other people are to those same things.  Some sensitivities can be developed, like sensitivity to certain sounds or tastes, because of someone's repeated exposure to and experience with these things.  While many types of sensitivity seem to occur naturally in a person, some sensitivities can be developed.

The things we spend our time with will develop a sensitivity, an awareness, within us.  If, for example, someone was to listen to classical music all day long it would become easier and easier for them to recognize certain selections of music and their composers.  This same kind of thing can, and should, happen with Christians.  As we spend more time in God's Word, talking to God in prayer, and being with other like-minded believers our sensitivity to the things of God can increase.  Spending less time with these things would make us less sensitive to godly things.

As with most things, we can develop in our sensitivity to what is good and God honoring. We can develop an understanding of how God sees things and what He considers to be right and wrong, rather than having our concepts of these things being influenced by society and other people.  By our continuing to spend time in God's Word and in prayer we can develop a sensitivity and awareness to be wise towards what is good, as Romans 16:19 says.  This helps us to follow God and live a life that is not only satisfying, but one that is pleasing to Him as well.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Delays Do Not Determine Destiny

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

Having a flight, train travel, or a trip delayed is not much fun.  But, as long as the flight will still leave the airport, the train will reach its destination, and the trip will still take place then the delay is not a serious problem.  If our travel plans are delayed, but not cancelled, we may be inconvenienced or even be a little late for something, but we will still reach our destination.  In the overall scope of things, a simple delay is not the end of the trip we are taking and not the final outcome of the plans we have.  A travel delay does not determine whether or not we will reach our destination.

Most of the time, things do not happen as quickly as we would like them to.  It can be that we are expecting something to happen in our life and in our walk with God and that thing does not develop as soon as we expected it to, and we can become frustrated.  But, just because something does not happen in the time frame that we expected does not mean that the thing we desired is wrong or that it is not actually coming to pass in our life.  Just because something is delayed does not mean that it is not on the way, that thing could in fact be just around the corner, so to speak.

God has a great future planned for us; God does not make bad or negative plans.  But, that does not mean that our destiny will show up overnight.  The Bible is full of examples of people who were promised something or had great plans and those things did not come to pass as soon as those people had hoped.  But, a delay in a plan coming to pass is no determination of destiny.  We must discover God's plan and purpose for our life and then continue on in our relationship with God knowing that He will help to lead us into His will.  We cannot get caught up in the timing of God's destiny for our life, but we can be sure that as we follow Him that His plans will come to pass.  

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Relationship, Not Rituals

"Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him."
John 14:23 (NKJV)

If you look in a dictionary, you can find several definitions for the word "ritual".  One of those definitions is that a ritual is something that is done in a certain way and repeated, something done in a predetermined method.  Rituals are not necessarily a bad thing and some rituals are helpful.  For example, we can have a certain way that we do some things at home, or at our place of work, where the routine of a ritual helps us to remember what it is we need to do and how we need to do it.  But something could also become such a ritual to us that we lose the real meaning and purpose behind what we do.

When Jesus walked on the earth He talked about His heavenly Father in a way that was different than many of the religious leaders of the day, it was more personal than what most people were used to at that time.  In the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John we can often see Jesus confronting the religious leaders about how they had turned what was supposed to be a relationship into nothing more than a ritual. The sad thing is that today many believers are falling into the same problem, they have a set of rituals and a routine that they follow without the corresponding relationship to God.

While the Old Testament did prescribe rules for how many things needed to be done to please God, the religious leaders had completely lost touch with the God that the Old Testament pointed to and the Redeemer who was to come, which was Jesus.  It is true that there is a right way and a wrong way to live, but if we only focus on those guidelines and rules we will fall into rituals that will hurt the real relationship we should have with God.  We build our relationship with God through His Word and by spending time with Him in prayer, it is not just a ritual that we follow, it is a way for us to maintain a close relationship with God.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Holy Spirit, Our Helper

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you."
John 16:7 (NKJV)

Years ago, I worked at a company that produced wood paneling.  Logs were cut down into pieces that would then be manufactured into paneling.  For a while I was involved working in this process as the logs were being cut.  My job was to take the log that had been cut and put it on the conveyor that took it back to the operator to cut another piece.  This job was too much for one person, so a helper was always needed.  With someone helping me I was able to do the job that I could not do alone.  To be most effective, my helper and I had to work together, we had to cooperate.

When Jesus operated in His earthly ministry He led His disciples, taught them, and helped them do what was necessary.  The time came when Jesus was about to leave the earth and Jesus said that it was better for Him to leave.  This must have been a shock to the disciples, how could it be better if Jesus left them?  The answer was that after Jesus left the disciples He sent the Holy Spirit, the Helper, to them.  When Jesus was on the earth He could only be in one place at one time with the disciples.  The Holy Spirit is not limited to one place and He is not only with us, today the Holy Spirit lives in believers!

The Holy Spirit was sent to be our Helper.  The Holy Spirit is not called the Doer because He does not do everything for us and then we just sit back and watch things happen.  The Holy Spirit is not called the Watcher because He does not just stand by and watch all the things happening in our life without offering us assistance.  The Holy Spirit is our Helper and whatever it is we need to do, He will help us to do it.  No matter how big the task, no matter what God is leading us to do, no matter how it may look to us, we can trust the Holy Spirit, our Helper, to work with us and help us get the job done!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Not Me

"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)

There is a comic strip that started several years ago and still exists today that focused on a family with several young children.  In one installment something had happened and the parents questioned the children as to who had caused the problem.  The response from the children inspired a reoccurring joke in the comic of a character they called "Not Me" because this was supposedly the person who was behind the problems.  All of the children insisted that they were guilt free and the culprit was "Not Me", which of course was not true.

One reason this joke in the comic had such a long-lasting impact was because this idea is something familiar to many people, when something happens it was "Not Me" who caused the problem. We tend to not want to take responsibility for things and we will often first look for someone or something else to blame as the source of our problems.  It is much easier to believe that someone else is at fault for our troubles than it is to look at ourselves to see what we could change to resolve our problems, but the Bible is very clear that we are responsible for our own lives.

Throughout the New Testament we are taught that we must control our bodies and renew our minds.  If we do not present our body to God as a living sacrifice and we let our natural desires run wild it will cause nothing but trouble.  If we fail to change our thinking to line up with what we see in the Bible and we do not control our emotions the results will not be good.  We cannot just blame other people, our circumstances, or even the devil for all our problems.  We need to fill ourselves with God's Word, be a doer of the Word, follow the direction of the Holy Spirit, and allow God to work in us and help us live the life He has prepared for us.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Rest In Faith

"There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His."
Hebrews 4:9-10 (NKJV)

When you are traveling to a place the time will come when you that know you have arrived, the journey would be over because you had reached your destination.  If you were looking for something you would come to the point when you know that you have what you were looking for, you are no longer seeking that thing but you have found it.  It would be very strange to not know that you had reached your destination or that you really had what you were seeking.  In both situations, there is something you have and know that indicates that your journey or search has ended. 

The Bible shows us that faith is what we need to receive what God has provided.  Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  This shows us that we get faith from the Word of God.  We also know that according to 2 Corinthians 5:7 that we walk by faith and not sight, so faith is not based on physical evidence.  But, there is a way to know if we have really put our faith in God and placed our trust and confidence in His Word rather than in something else.  The thing that shows us whether or not we are really in faith is rest.

One of the key elements of the Christian life is peace.  This is also a good way for us to see whether or not we are really in faith.  If someone is at rest then they are at peace, if there is no peace then there is no rest.  If we are really trusting in what God has told us and we in faith for what the Bible has said then we are at rest, we are at peace about the situation.  When we are at rest it means our confidence is in God and we are not trusting in our own works, we have put our trust in the work of Jesus.  We rest in faith expecting to receive what God's Word has said; if we are in faith then we are at rest.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Adapt, Improvise, Overcome

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

There are several documentaries I have seen that show how people in the special forces of the military are trained.  These people go through specialized training that is designed to equip them to be able to fulfill the duties required of them.  During their training, the special forces recruits are put into situations that are designed to take them out of their comfort zone and the things that they are used to doing.  The point is that through the training the instructors are trying to teach the recruits how to successfully adapt, improvise, and overcome in any situation.

It is easy for us to get used to doing things a certain way and to get into a routine.  Getting too settled and comfortable in our usual way of doing things and our normal routine can hinder us from doing things that we are not familiar with.  This can also mean that we then withdraw ourselves from anything out of the ordinary and we limit ourselves in what we are willing to do.  However, if we really commit ourselves to following God's plan for our life we will undoubtedly find ourselves confronted with situations that are not a part of our ordinary routine.

God has a wonderful plan and purpose for each and every believer.  But some Christians have difficulties when they face a situation that is new to them or that forces them to step outside of their usual routine and go beyond what they have done and experienced in the past.  This is why we need to learn to rely on the empowerment and leading of the Holy Spirit and realize that because we are in Christ we can do whatever God directs us to do.  With God's help we can adapt to any situation, improvise with the help of the Holy Spirit, and overcome in every circumstance of life.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Watching Over Your Prayers

"Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;"
Colossians 4:2 (NKJV)

Have you ever been cooking something, operating a machine, or working on a project that required some repeated attention?  It may have been that you were preparing some food, and once you started the process you needed to continue stirring or turning something over to make sure the food was prepared properly.  You might be working with some machinery that needs repeated attention once you start its operation to be sure everything is working correctly, or if you just started a project you may need to recheck what you did to be able to have things turn our right.

Prayer is simply talking to God and the Bible has a lot to say about prayer.  We can talk to God about what He has shown us in the Bible that has been provided for us through Jesus.  This kind of prayer can be called the prayer of faith.  We see what God's Word says, we ask in faith according to what God has said, and we expect results.  But, this prayer of faith does not always bring instant results and that is where we need to be watchful, or vigilant, with our prayers.  The word "vigilant" used here in Colossians 4 can also be translated as watchful, watching, and keeping watch.

After we have talked to God about something according to His Word, we keep watch over what we have prayed, we are vigilant about our prayers, through giving thanks.  Once we have prayed and asked we do not need to keep on asking, but we should continue to give thanks to God for the answer.  This helps us to keep our faith active as we thank God for His answering our prayer rather than complain and wonder when we will see the results we desire.  The next time you pray in faith for something God has promised in His Word, keep a watch over your prayers by giving thanks that God is faithful and the results are forthcoming.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

No New Direction Is Direction

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

Traveling by car is easier today than in the past because of the of navigation help that is available.  In the past, if you wanted to know what route to take you had to rely on a map, which can be difficult to use while driving.  Today some cars have navigation systems built into them, some people have separate devices for navigation, and there are even apps for phones that will help to give you directions.  But, no matter what type of navigation you use, you must rely on the information given to you and not continually stop to question if you are really on the correct route.   

God has promised to lead us and give us the direction we need for our lives.  As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit in us to lead us (Romans 8:14) and we have the Word of God to give us direction as well (Psalm 119:105).  One problem that believers have in following God's direction is as we follow the direction we have from God we sometimes wonder if there might be something else we should do.  We sometimes think that maybe we missed something that God has said, because it seems like we have not had any updates to our course for some time. 

But, just like a navigation system would tell you to drive on a certain road, without constantly reassuring you that you are on the right road, once God gives us some direction for our life we can keep moving that direction until He tells us something different.  God is a lot smarter than we are and if we are pursuing His plan and will for our lives with our whole heart then He will find a way to let us know if we need a course correction or additional route information.  One thing that we need to realize with God's direction in our life is that if He has not given us any new direction then we need to just continue doing what He has already told us to do.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

What Kind Of A Book Is It?

"and he said to them: "Set your heart on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe - all the words of this law.
For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess."
Deuteronomy 28:46-47 (NKJV)

For as long as I can remember, I have always liked books and reading them.  Today, I own many books that cover a variety of topics.  There are some books that I mainly use for research and information, I have many books that focus on different Bible topics, some books that are historical in nature, and other books that are filled with pictures about different places in the world.  Of course, not every book is the same kind of book.  Knowing what type of a book you have will help you to get the most out of that book.   

People have many opinions about what kind of book the Bible is.  Some people think the Bible is just a historic book, recounting the lives of people who believed in God.  Some think the Bible is a rule book that was given to us so we would know right from wrong.  Others think the Bible is a book filled with great ideas that can help us to be wise and successful in life.  The truth is that the Bible is all of these things and much more!  The Bible has been given to us by God to help us know Him better, understand the significance of everything that Jesus did for us, recognize our purpose in life, and give us guidelines for successful living.

When Moses related to the people of Israel all of the things that God was saying to them, Moses emphasized that God's Words are not just some trivial, vain thing; God's Word is our life and it will help us in every area of life.  God's Word can counsel us (Psalm 119:24), revive and strengthen us (Psalm 119:25, 28), guide us (Psalm 119:105), give us understanding (Psalm119:130), and much more.  God's Word is really God speaking to us.  The more we know and understand the Bible and put it into practice in our lives the better things will be.  What kind of book is the Bible?  It is the best of all books.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Proof Of Purchase

"Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, though the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
2 Peter 1:2-4 (NKJV)

Normally when you go to a store to buy something you will get a receipt.  Once you have paid for the item it is yours and the receipt is the proof of purchase.  It could be that what you bought was expensive, like a phone or a computer, and it was something you had wanted for a long time, so at first it is almost too good to be true that it is yours.  Someone could stop you outside of the store to question you about what you bought, but no matter what they said you know the item is paid for and you have the proof of purchase to show it is yours.   

In the Bible we learn about all of the things that God provided for us through Jesus.  Through His death and resurrection, Jesus paid for everything we would need to live the abundant life that He came to bring.  When you learn about what Jesus did it might not seem real to you, like it is too good to be true, or someone may tell you that it does not really belong to you for some reason.  But, with God's Word showing us the proof of what Jesus purchased for us we can know what belongs to us, this is why it is so important for us to read and study the Bible.

If you are not sure something belongs to you, or if you do not have a proof of purchase, someone could claim that thing was theirs or convince you that what you had really belonged to someone else.  When you know something belongs to you, then you will not only ignore anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, but you would even resist any attempts of someone trying to take it away from you.  As we grow in our understanding of everything that Jesus provided for us we grow in faith and our confidence of what belongs to us.  The Bible is our proof of purchase for everything that God provided for us through Jesus.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Building On Our Foundation

"For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it.  But let each one take heed how he builds on it.
For no other fountain can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 3:9-11 (NKJV)

When I was a child, I would build what I called a "fort".  Either I would put some chairs together, draping a blanket over them, pile up some cushions from the sofa, or in some other way make an enclosure that was my special place to be.  In my mind, what I had created was a wonderful thing, but what I had built was not really very stable.  Because I was creating this "fort" in our house I had a good foundation to build on, but my flimsy structure would not have withstood anything.  Even though I had built something with good intentions on a good foundation, I had not built with the right materials. 

Paul talked about being a wise master builder who laid a foundation.  Paul went on to say that Jesus was the foundation that was laid.  Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Christian life and Paul spent his life telling people about Jesus.  Paul then helped people learn the significance of what Jesus did to help those same people build on the foundation of Jesus Christ.  Once we receive Jesus as our Savior our foundation is settled and then we build our life on what Jesus has done for us.  But, as Paul said, each person has to be careful how they build on the foundation.   

Just like Paul said, there are many things we can use to build with, but is what we build in our life based on Jesus and what He did for us?  Some Christians struggle in life because while their foundation is secure, they have never spent the time to get to know God through His Word and what they have built their life with is contrary to the Word.  What we believe, do, and say in our life must be based on what Jesus did for us, which is revealed to us in the Bible.  If we build our life using something else, we will not build a truly successful life.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

It May Happen Different Than We Think

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

The end result of something is always more significant than the process itself.  For example, you may have a task to accomplish and it turns out that you find a way to do it that was different than what you had done before, but you still achieved the desired result.  Or, when you are taking a trip to some place, the route you travel is not as important as reaching the destination is.  If in the process of doing something we find ourselves doing something we did not expect, or traveling down a road that we originally thought we would not be on, would it matter if we had the right result and reached our intended destination?

Some people have the idea that God somehow controls everything so they just say that God will always work things out, some way or somehow.  However, this is not entirely accurate, because God is not some great puppet-master in the sky controlling every detail of our life.  But, God is actively working in our lives and no matter what may come our way He will help us and guide us to what we need to have and where we need to be.  We can be sure that God will help us work everything out, but that does not mean that things will always work out the way that we think they will.

What often happens when we face a difficult situation is that we begin to think about what the answer might be and how we can we can work things out.  But, we either do, or should realize, that we do not know everything.  With our limited knowledge and understanding it will never be possible for us to figure out everything and know exactly what to do and how to work things out each and every time.  This is where we must put our trust in God and allow Him to direct us and show us what to do to find the answers and solutions that we need, which may not at all be what we had expected.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Experts Are Not Always Right

"saying, "Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives."
Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul.

Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me."
Acts 27:10-11, 25 (NKJV)

In every area of life there seems to be someone who is considered an expert.  Whether it is in some technical field or an area of study there are people who have spent time learning about that certain thing and because of the knowledge and experience they have about it they are referred to as experts.  They may or may not have some official title, but often these experts are consulted for their views about something in their area of expertise.  But, no one person knows everything and the term expert is very relative, because someone who appears to be an expert to one person may not be to another.

In the Book of Acts, we read about Paul and his trip to Rome.  At one point in this trip, Paul advised the people he was with that he had a perception, a sense, that their trip would have problems.  But, the centurion, who probably was in charge, did not listen to Paul but instead the centurion listened to the professional sailors, the experts, about what to do.  Paul was right and the ship was eventually destroyed.  But, Paul told everyone to "take heart" (to be of good cheer, to have good courage) because God had told Paul that they would make it through the storm.

Paul shared what I believe was a spiritual perception, a leading of the Holy Spirit, that did not agree with the expert opinion.  Paul said this when he was on a ship going through a terrible storm.  The storm was so bad that the people on board, including the expert, professional sailors "lost all hope of being saved".  No matter what storms may come, no matter what the experts might believe or say, no matter how we feel in the situation, we need to do like Paul and believe what God has said.  Standing in faith on God's Word will lead us through and out of the storm, no matter what the experts may have said.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Waiting For Waves

"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

There are a lot of things that can make waves.  The main way waves are created is by the wind.  But, waves can also be created by passing boats or something large falling into the water.  One thing that waves are not really created by is people.  If someone was to stand on the shore of a lake, the ocean, or some other body of water that person could jump up and down, stare intently at the water, or even make a lot of noise, but they would never create any waves.  We may enjoy watching the waves and hearing their sound as they crash on the shore, but we can't really create the waves.

Every believer needs to learn who they are in Christ and what belongs to them as a Christian.  Through Jesus we have been provided with all the things that are necessary for us to live a successful, godly life.  We are not creating the benefits and blessings, that is something God has already done.  Our part is to learn what God has provided through Jesus and receive it by faith.  Then, once we have exercised our faith we continue to stand in faith and by doing so we will receive what we have believed God for.  How long it will take is not the question, we continue to do what we know to do and then expect results.

We can't create the waves but we can keep ourselves in the position to be there when the waves come in.  In the same way, we cannot dictate when and how the answer we need will come, but we can choose to continue to stand in faith and not grow weary while we wait to be able to reap the harvest we desire.  Too many believers expect something to happen sooner than it does and they get tired of waiting and they give up.  Once we have taken a stand in faith we need to continue to stand and expect the results God promises in His Word, in due season we will reap the harvest if we do not give up.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Switch To Silent

"My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him."
Psalm 62:5 (NKJV)

With all of the devices that people use today and all the different tones for phones ringing and notifications from different apps, we can sometimes experience an almost overwhelming level of noise.  There are some places that have signs, or there may even be an announcement of some kind given, asking to switch your phone to silent.  Doing this can eliminate distractions in places like concerts, seminars, movies, and in church.  By switching our phones to silent, it can be much easier to focus on what is truly important without all of the extra noise going on.

Just like there can a be a lot of natural noise from things like cell phones, we can have so much "noise" going on in our mind that we have a hard time focusing on what is important.  Our mind can be so busy with different thoughts that we get distracted from what we should pay attention to.  This can especially happen to us in the area of faith and taking a stand on God's Word for something that He has promised us and made available to us through Jesus.  David understood this and it is why he talked about keeping his soul quiet in Psalm 62.

One of the areas where we will have the biggest battles in our faith is with our thoughts and emotions, the soul.  When we take a stand in faith, which is of the heart, the devil will come with contrary thoughts, in our mind (our soul), to try and distract us.  David talked about quieting the soul and focusing on God, because God is where our faith, our expectation is from.  When the wrong, distracting thoughts come, that is when we need to quiet our mind, switch it to silent, by keeping our focus on what God has said in His Word.  This is how we silence our soul and continue standing in faith to receive the things that God has promised us.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

No Expiration Date

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away."
Mark 13:31 (NKJV)

Many products we buy have a date included as to when the item should be used by.  Normally this type of thing is seen on perishable items such as food, because a time will come when the product will expire and no longer be any good.  Often you will see something like a date showing either when the product should no longer be eaten, or you might see a date given and a statement about how the product is best when used by that date.  Being aware of the expiration date that something has is better than trying to eat or use something and finding out that the item is no longer usable or edible.

In the four Gospels we have a record of the things that Jesus did and said.  Sometimes things are found in one Gospel that are not found in another and sometimes things are found in more than one Gospel account.  One interesting verse is found repeated exactly the same in Matthew 24:25, Mark 13:31, and Luke 21:33.  Jesus said that heaven and earth would pass away, but His words would not.  Everything we see around us on this earth will one day come to an end, there is an expiration date.  But, it is good to know that God's Word has no expiration date and will last forever!

Some people have the idea that somehow God and His Word may have worked in the past, but it does not work the same way today.  Other people think that only certain people, like maybe the pastor, has an ability to access some of God's blessings while most people do not.  God's power still works today and God's Word is as valid and effective today as it ever was.  We need to simply find out what God has said to us in His Word, put our faith in what He has said, and act accordingly.  God's Word will work the same for anyone, anywhere, anytime, and all the time!  God's Word works and has no expiration date.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

When You Seem Surrounded, Attack!

"And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel had retreated.
He arose and attacked the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his had stuck to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to plunder."
2 Samuel 23:9-10 (NKJV)

There are different types of strategies for different types of warfare.  When I have studied military history and various battles it was often the plans that the different armies had for fighting the battle that led to victory or defeat.  With the right tactics and strategy, a smaller group could defeat a larger group that did not take proper steps to plan and prepare for the battle.  No one would expect success in a battle without some type of planning or strategy that puts into use the best ideas available to be sure of having an outcome of victory.

As Christians we are told to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12), the weapons of our warfare are not natural (2 Corinthians 10:4), and that we need to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11).  All of these examples help us to understand that we have an enemy, the devil, who will do everything he can to hinder us from living the life that God has planned for us.  The truth is that the devil has already been defeated so he cannot conquer us, but he will try to make us quit.  Just like the example in 2 Samuel 23, even if some problems make others run, hide, or quit we never do that, we stand our ground in faith.

When problems come into our life it sometimes seems that one comes after another until we feel overwhelmed.  The devil will tell us that things are horrible and that they will never get better so we might as well just quit.  When this happens, rather than run and hide, we need to move forward.  No matter what we face, we need to find out what the Bible says about our situation and focus on that.  When it looks like we are outnumbered and surrounded by our problems that is the time to go on the attack in faith by continuing to speak and act on the truth of God's Word, that is our strategy for victory!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Whose Hands Are We Holding Up?

"And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed,
But Moses' hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it.  And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."
Exodus 17:11-12 (NKJV)

There are many kinds of public transportation systems that are found in the European countries that I have been to.  When using some type of public transportation, there have been times I saw someone struggling with luggage, a baby stroller, or something else.  Whenever I had the chance, I would help them.  With my assistance they were able to do what they needed to do.  But, when I helped that person I was not just helping them but anyone they were with and even the overall public transportation system because I helped things move quicker than they would have otherwise. 

When we have the ability to do something that will help another person, with whatever they are doing and we can make their task easier, we should.  In the story from Exodus 17, Moses got tired so two people helped him by holding up his hands.  When Aaron and Hur helped Moses, they were not just helping Moses, these men were actually helping the people of Israel and even helping God's plan come to pass.  When we help someone, like with what Aaron and Hur did, we are directly helping that person, but it can also be that we are involved in something bigger. 

Do we realize that when we help in our church on some team that we are really helping the Pastor and also helping God?  Every person is an important part of their team, each team is an important part of their church, and each church is an important part of God's plan.  Every person on a team is a part of the team, a part of the church, and a part of God's plan.  If we don't work together then we won't fulfill the overall will of God because God's plan is bigger than just one person.  The question for us today is, whose hands are we holding up?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Light And More Light

"For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light."
Psalm 36:9 (NKJV)

If you were in a dark place, with very little or no light, and a distance away from you there was some light, would you move towards that light?  Normally the answer would be yes, usually we want more light and not less.  As you move towards the light you would be able to see things better due to the increase of the light.  If you just stayed where you were you would not have any more light than you did at the beginning, and if you moved in the opposite direction you would have less and less light.  For most people the simple thing to do when it is dark is to get more light. 

God's Word will give us light, it will give us understanding (Psalm 119:130).  Psalm 36:9 tells us how in God's light we get more light.  The more light and understanding we have from God's Word, the more light and understanding we will be in a position to receive from God's Word.  In other words, as we come to better understand what God has said in His Word, we can then receive even more light, wisdom, understanding, and clarity from God's Word.  But, when we do not follow, or even reject, the guidance we receive from God's Word it is like turning off the light.

If we do not receive the light and understanding that God's Word can give us, the less we will understand what God is saying to us through His Word.  This is the reason some Christians struggle, they have received some light from the Bible but they have ignored, rejected, or failed to act on that light and they have put themselves in the dark.  But, no matter where we are today, more light is available to us and God is ready to help us understand and follow His Word.  When we walk in the light and understanding of what we know from the Bible it is like bringing more light into our lives.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Strategic Positioning

"For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south.
But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another."
Psalm 75:6-7 (NKJV)

Have you ever had the opportunity to watch someone play chess who is very skilled at it?  Some people even get to the level of being a Chess Master.  One thing that all good chess players have in common, especially if someone is a Chess Master, is that they play the game thinking well ahead of their current move.  Often someone who is very skilled at the game of chess is planning their next move while considering several moves beyond that.  Many times what may look like a very ordinary move is actually a setup for something bigger that is coming later. 

Like a skillful chess player, God moves people around and strategically positions people for His plan.  For most people, the movements do not look significant, but there is a reason for every move.  We may not see the purpose to it, but God is orchestrating something.  We may not always understand why God moves us or others into different areas or directs us to get involved in different things, but God knows exactly why.  God is often organizing something that we do not recognize until it all falls into place.  God is strategically positioning and preparing us and others for something great.

God moves people into positions just like a master chess player moves pieces.  There are times that God will move us geographically to prepare us for something that He wants to do and there are times that God will move us spiritually, so to speak, by helping us grow and develop certain things in our life that He will put to use at a later time.  This is why it is so important for us to learn to follow the course of life God has given us in His Word and to learn to be led by the Holy Spirit.  We may not see or understand exactly what God is doing in our life now, but we can be sure that His strategic planning is at work. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

This Is Not An Actual Emergency

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;"
Psalm 46:1-2 (NKJV)

When I was growing up, from time to time the television channels we received would run a test of what was called The Emergency Broadcast System.  When these tests happened, an announcement would be made that a test was about to take place and this would be followed by a test signal, a tone.  Once that was over there would be another announcement reminding everyone that this was only a test and if it had been an actual emergency further instructions would be given about what needed to be done.  Because it was not an actual emergency there was nothing to worry about.

Everyone faces challenges in life, no one is exempt from this.  We serve a wonderful, loving God, but this world is under the influence of sin and we will have problems.  But, no matter what difficulty we may be confronted with, God is with us to help us.  When we find ourselves in a difficult situation the devil will always tell us how bad things are and he will do everything that he can to persuade us that we are in a crisis that is too big, even for God to help us with.  This is when it is good to remind ourselves that no matter what we face in life it is no surprise to God and nothing is too big for Him to help us with.

Regardless of what we may face, we can be confident that God has already been working to prepare us for it.  Through His Word and by the Holy Spirit He will help us to overcome any negative situation.  God is constantly working in our life to help us live the life Jesus provided for us, and when a problem arises we can be sure that God has either already equipped us to deal with it or the answer is on the way.  If what we faced had been an actual emergency, then God would have already instructed us about what to do and further instructions would definitely be coming our way.  No matter how bad things may look, we can trust that God is with us and He will always deliver us.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Jump-Start Christians

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

There were times in the past that I owned cars that were not in very good condition.  Once, when I lived in northern Wisconsin, I had a car that had some problems getting started.  If the weather was good there was no problem, but when the weather was not so favorable I would sometimes need to have my car jump-started.  The main problem was that my battery was too weak and by itself it could not do the necessary work of turning over the engine to get the car started.  Unfortunately, I put up with this problem for a while, but I eventually bought a new battery and that solved the problem.

Some Christians are like that old car of mine, they have problems getting started on their own and operating the way that they should.  These believers are looking for someone or something to get them revved up and motivated to do things the way that they should; on their own they never seem to be able to live the life God has called them to live.  These are the kind of people who are looking for some special meeting to go to or some certain song during the worship service that helps them to get that feeling they need to move them to where they need to be.

If we base our life too much on the natural realm and not the spiritual we will struggle; I once lived that way too.  I remember how I was always looking for something to help me do what I was supposed to do, it seemed like by myself I could not do it.  Then I learned the truth about who I am in Christ, that the Holy Spirit in me is greater than anything I might face and I can do all things through Christ!  Do I still have challenges in life?  Certainly, but once I discovered who I was spiritually and lived my life accordingly I didn't have to find someone or something else to get me going.  I am able, with God's help, to be who God called me to be and do what He wants me to do.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Infiltrators

"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)

Throughout history there have been spies, people who work for one group or country but try to infiltrate and get into another group or country, to either cause harm or to try to find ways to influence something in the other group or country.  The way a spy works is to try and somehow blend into the group or country that they are not from by doing everything they can to seem as though they belong.  A successful spy is someone who becomes accepted by the group or country they are working to infiltrate, and once this happens these spies can cause a great deal of damage.

One of the areas we will have our biggest challenges in is in the area of our thoughts.  We have to examine and check every thought we have by the Word of God to be sure we catch any wrong or misleading thoughts.  Not all bad thoughts are easy to recognize, the devil will try to find a way to make the wrong thoughts blend in and seem normal.  The devil will work to try and put thoughts into our mind that seem to be alright, but they lead to something bad.  Through the wrong kinds of thoughts, the devil will try to infiltrate our thinking to lead us into problems.

No one would immediately accept or yield to a thought like, "I should throw my Bible away" or "I would be better off if I never went to church again".  But, thoughts like, "I really don't have time to read my Bible again today, but that is OK, I can read my Bible tomorrow, or the day after that", or "Church is nice, but I have been so busy I need a day to rest, if I miss church just once or twice it won't matter".  Those kinds of thoughts don't seem so bad, but they can lead to other worse thoughts, which will lead us into trouble.  By checking all of the thoughts we have by what we see in God's Word, be can be sure that no wrong thoughts will infiltrate our mind and cause us problems.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Fact Finding Mission

"He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him."
Proverbs 18:13 (NKJV)

One thing that I consider to be a very bad practice is when news stories are reported without all of the information being completely known or understood.  Many times, in an attempt to get ahead of other news organizations, things are reported at first that are later found to be inaccurate.  In our society today, everyone seems to be in a hurry and no one seems to want to wait for things, and this can lead to problems.  Rather than just being in a rush to find out whatever we can, from wherever we can, everyone would be better served by waiting until all of the information was gathered before saying or doing anything about it.

Sometimes people will go on what they call a "Fact Finding Mission", to check into something and investigate it to find out what is really true.  These Fact Finding Missions can be very beneficial in learning all of the necessary information to make a wise decision based on all the available facts.  In Proverbs we are told that if we answer or respond to something without really hearing and knowing all the facts we are acting foolishly and the result will be shame.  We can have ideas about what the Bible has to say about a certain thing, but if we really don't know what the Bible actually says we can have problems.

Just like people go on Fact Finding Missions to learn all they can about a thing, we need to be on a continual mission to learn and understand all we can about God and His Word.  This means we need to have a regular time that we spend reading and studying the Bible, as well as regular attendance at a good Bible-believing church that teaches the truth of God's Word, and learning what we can from men and women of God who have insight and understanding of biblical truth that we can benefit from.  By doing this, we will keep ourselves in a place of spiritual growth and development and we can be a help and benefit to others.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Place Of Provision

"Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.
And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there."
1 Kings 17:3-4 (NKJV)

There is a saying about how there are three very important words for people involved in selling real estate, location, location, location.  Being in the right place at the right time is very important; it is definitely one of the keys to success in life.  When we are in the right place, and at the right time, we will do much better than if we are in the right place at the wrong time or in the wrong place at the right time.  If we are not in the right place at the right time we can miss out on some very important, and some very necessary things.

Elijah was a prophet in the Old Testament who was led by God to places where God was able to work through Elijah to help others.  In 1 Kings 17 God gave Elijah direction to go to a certain place where what Elijah needed would be provided.  Some of what Elijah needed was already at that place, and some of what Elijah needed was going to come to him when he was there.  If we continue reading the story, we can see that the time came when Elijah's provision where he was came to an end, but Elijah did not change his location until God told him to do so. 

What if Elijah had not followed God's direction?  Elijah would have missed what God had wanted Elijah to have. There are times when God is directing us to a place, and when we get there we don't see what we think we should and we don't find what we think we need.  But, if we follow the direction that God gives us, all of the things we need, and even things we don't know we need, will be provided.  By following God's direction to go where He wants us to go and do what He wants us to do, until He tells us something different, we will always be in the right place at the right time, the place of provision.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Faith And Wisdom

"Now Jacob's well was there.  Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well.  It was about the sixth hour."
John 4:6 (NKJV)

Having the right tools for the work you need to do is essential, and you need to know how to use each of the tools you have and what they are best suited for.  You may have one tool that you like more than other tools, but that does not mean that this tool is always the best tool.  You could have a tool that is good for several applications, but that does not mean that it is good for every application.  While you may prefer one tool above another, or one tool may work in more settings than others, you still always need to have the proper tool to get the job done right.

One of the main elements of Christianity is faith.  But, faith is not the only thing necessary for a successful Christian life.  One of the most important, and often neglected, things that we need is wisdom.  The Bible repeatedly talks about wisdom and how valuable it is.  We may think that wisdom is not as important as something like faith, but faith and wisdom both have their place.  Some people think that they can do whatever they want and then somehow just take a stand in faith and overcome any negative consequences that they have as a result of their actions.

We can have problems if we somehow think that faith can overrule wisdom, even if we make poor choices with things like our health or finances.  But, for example, as we see in John 4:6, even Jesus got tired and He was wise enough to take the opportunity to rest.  Jesus did not just try to use faith to have more physical strength.  In the area of finances, David set aside gold, silver, and other materials in preparation to build the temple; he did not just expect that somehow the financial resources would be there when he needed them without any effort on his part.  Make sure you use all the tools available, including wisdom, to have a successful walk with God.