Spiritual Wisdom

Ephesians 1:17-19 (NKJV): that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power…

Good stuff. True stuff. I have had some things on my mind that I was wrestling with and looking for some biblical perspective upon which to base any decision I was to make. This involved my wife, who I had not discussed any of this with. Searching online for the answer from people’s theology I generally trust produced little result. finally, after discussing it with somebody whose Bible knowledge probably far exceeds mine and seems like a suitable mentor, I realized that the answer was only going to come from God in prayer. So often I decide to take on the role of problem solver, theologian, counselor, etc. without first consulting God. In fact, I don’t like to admit this, but often God is the last to be consulted (when He should most certainly be first). Let me interject here that I am continuously amazed by His grace and the patience that He has with me.

On with the rest of the story…

After finally surrendering and asking God to show me the answer to my problem, my wife came home and was the first to bring up the issue in conversation and was feeling the same way I was about it! I had my answer. I know from whence it came. There is no way my wife could have known that this particular topic was on my mind and had also been on hers that very same day. God showed me what to do through fellowship with other believers,  which, in turn, pointed me back to Him to provide the right answer. I believe that the Holy Spirit is as active today as ever, and I thank Him for His guidance.

May you experience that same wisdom and revelation in your life. Ask for it — that’s all I did.

God’s Incredible Grace

But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. -Romans 3:21-24 (MSG)

Really I need add nothing to this paraphrase than is already written. Of course, lack of that necessity won’t stop me! The fact of the matter is that I can do nothing that will assure me of a place with God in His kingdom apart from accepting His incredible love and the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus for me on the cross.

I read [what sometimes seems like a deluge of] material on different Web sites about topics like what Bible version you should read, the sin of divorce and remarriage, what type of baptism ‘counts,’ tithing, so on and so forth. People have lots of opinions and even more judgments on what type of Christian you are, if any, based on your theology.

I’m not saved because of the bible versions I read, my view on baptism, the church I fellowship with, the way I partake of communion, or any other theological nuance I embrace. I am saved completely because of the GRACE OF GOD. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. -Ephesians 2:8,9 (ESV)

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. -Romans 3:23-28 (KJV)

May God bless you as you meditate on His Word for you this day.

Building each other up in Christ

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. -Galatians 6:1 (ESV) 

Even though Christians, we can judge others and put them down, somehow unconsciously expecting to feel better as a result. Of course, inevitably, it makes us feel worse when we realize how un-Christlike that sort of behavior is. Jesus admonishes us when we fall into that behavior and offers a warning that we might fall victim to the same fate as those we might ‘sentence.’ Refer to Matthew 7 for further proof of that idea: 1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.  2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:1-5 (ESV)

Better to take care of my side of the street. Often, when I do that, the other side seems to get better at the same time.

Joyful Songs

17 For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.[a]
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

-Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

Ever wake up in the middle of the night with all the world’s problems seeming to rest on your shoulders? Perhaps you couldn’t get to sleep in the first place because of things you’re worried about. I’d like to say it never or rarely happens to me, but you know what that would be! I can invent scenarios to worry about when I run short of real problems! Not only is it bad for the soul, that self-created stress can be physically bad also. When I’m in that frame of mind, I am denying myself the peace of God that He makes so readily available at any time of the day or night through the limitless resource of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13: I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (NLT)

I will say this: those occurrences are far less frequent when I remember Jesus and His awesome gift to me: the knowledge of God’s grace that is proven through His blood.

Too often, many of us Christians get carried away with theology and consequently start judging each other harshly — certainly not in a manner that I envision Jesus wanting for us. When I get too deeply entrenched in theology, it is easier for me to forget the overwhelming grace of God, who loves all of us and wants nothing but the best for His children. Somehow, even when I made the choice to be apart from God, I think I knew that -deep down inside.

God is with us. Even those times when we might not think we need Him, He is present and loving us. I accepted Jesus many years ago, but did not grow in my faith and knowledge of His Word for me. I wandered away from Him and spent much time chasing things that I thought would make me happy -with little regard for what God wanted from me and for me. As His “prodigal son,” He welcomed me back with open arms when I repented and has forgiven me. I wish to know His Word better and follow Him closer. My life is sweet because of God’s incredible grace.

Do you know Jesus? I hope you do. He wants to know you. Repent and put aside the guilt and shame for the life you have led, His blood has the power to wash that away. But if we live in the light in the same way that God is in the light, we have a relationship with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from every sin. 1 John 1:7 (GW). In Christ, you will be a new creature. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! –2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

Wow. What a great day.

Books, Books & More Books

Last night I finished a short read called “Skeptics Answered” by D. James Kennedy. I got it at a young church I recently visited in Bozrah called Revelation Church. The people were friendly and the Spirit of God seems to be moving there. In fact, in many ways it reminded me of Calvary Chapel, where I am currently attending on a regular basis. Anyway, this is not intended to be a church review as much as it is a “book review.” They offered paperback Bibles (NLT) and copies of the aforementioned book by Kennedy to anyone who wanted one. Since it’s a book that addresses an issue that should be of the utmost importance to every follower of Christ (showing skeptics the truth of Christianity), how could I refuse?

The book illustrates the importance of knowing how to face the skeptics and their tireless, uninformed arguments against Christianity — comparing it to other religions and trying to expose the alleged futility of its ancient doctrine of salvation. Practical examples of how to achieve a useful defense and witness are offered. The Bible is defended and shown to be the infallible Word of God through ancient writings and logic. Jesus’ person-hood is confirmed and His identity as God is more than adequately affirmed. I recommend this book to new and old believer alike. It certainly has helped me with practical information and tips on how to deal with those who don’t believe and those who *just might* be ready to come to Jesus. It also takes on some tough issues that we all probably ask in our faith walk. Check it out. I know you can probably still find a copy at Revelation Church in Bozrah, CT.

 

Avoid False Teachers

The subject of this post is one many would prefer to avoid, as it opens up possibilities for judgment and alienation of those who seek what we seek – the truth of God’s word. My pastor taught on this subject from the Bible Sunday, relating some of his experience with people who teach false doctrine for purposes of self-gain. One thing he said which I must hang on to and hope you will is this: Many things are said and done in the name of Jesus that are embarrassing. But I have never been embarrassed by anything Jesus Himself has said or done in the scripture or present day. But the threat of false teaching is real, as Simon Peter points out in his second letter:

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 2 Peter 2: 1-3 (ESV)

You would do well to act as the Bereans in Acts 17:11 did:

11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (NIV)

Whatever you read or hear, if your intuition says there’s something wrong with it, don’t ignore it. Sometimes, we hear the same lie over and over again and start to believe it. Often these lies are interwoven int he truth, causing them to be less noticeable but, nonetheless, just as false and damaging to the witness of the Gospel. Let’s not forget too that teachers of the Bible are human beings, too, and therefore subject to the ability to make mistakes — no matter how good their intentions may be.

Please, find a Bible-based church and study God’s word. His truth is there and is an invaluable resource in life’s day to day struggles with sin and quest for the truth. He speaks to us from the sacred pages.

Slow to Anger

And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32, KJV)

No coincidences. The older I get, the more I see the truth of that. Last night I lost my temper with a person at a local pharmacy for the way I was being treated. This is the third time in a row I have left the establishment in anger. This has to stop. Whatever their issues, nothing can excuse my anger and lashing out at them. I have learned over the years from involvement in a twelve step fellowship that I am responsible to clean up ‘my side of the street’ and cannot be concerned with what others may or may not have done to bring about any given situation.

As a Christian, my obligation is to follow the teachings of Jesus and spread His message of love and salvation, not my message of frustration and anger, To rest on my laurels and say I have improved or ‘they deserved it’ is wrong and will ultimately cost me in health and happiness. Anger is bad not only spiritually, but proven to be for the body, as well. I didn’t feel well after the encounter last night, and as much as I went home and complained to my wife about the shabby treatment I felt I got, I realized I was trying to justify the only thing I can control in the situation: my behavior. I repented of this, as it is most definitely sinful for me to insult people or react with such anger. I wanted to hurt the person in the drive-up window (I don’t mean in a physical sense, but emotionally), and I know that was not the way God wanted me to handle the situation. A painful reminder that I am a sinner and have some stuff to take a serious look at in my life. Obviously, other issues are at play here.

I opened the YouVersion Bible app I have on my phone and the verse above was the verse of the day. No coincidence. God speaks to me through the book of Ephesians again.

Proverbs 15:18 A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife (KJV)