Things of Value

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. -1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)

English: Photograph of an open Bible with focu...

I was reminded once again last night by a television preacher that the things we value so much in this life, save our money for [or spending foolishly on] or invest our time, talents and resources on have no permanent value and will pass away. It was pointed out that simply driving by a junkyard will illustrate the point. Those rusted, rotten old heaps piled up there were once the pride and joy of some new owner– who often drove them off the lot with an extreme sense of satisfaction, pride and the certainty that they would have this car for many years and take remarkable care of it. They did not see beyond the temporary existence of this thing and its subsequent insignificance in the light of God’s eternal kingdom. Not to be too overly dramatic here; it’s just that they probably way over-valued it in the beginning.

So many things that our lives present to us seem [at first] to be the answer to everything wrong in our existence and an absolute blessing. Many times, they solve problems and surely are blessings– but we must be careful not to let these material, worldly blessings blind us from the truth of the Gospel.

Are we too focused on the things in front of us [the things of this world] and, thus, taking our eyes off the prize?

In Good Times & Bad

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. -Habakkuk 3:17-18

I read a devotional in the morning called “Days of Praise” and couldn’t help but be convicted of my attitude when I read this morning’s page. The Scripture reference above was taken from today’s page. It’s easy for me (as I am sure with most Christians) to be full of praise for God when things are going my way. It’s not so easy when “luck” takes a turn for the worse. Yet, where the rubber meets the road for us is when things aren’t so good and we can still keep a grateful heart, continuing to show love praise to God for all that He has given (and taken away). I can think of no more powerful witness for the Gospel message than to keep on thanking and praising Him when most of the world would be cursing.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. -1 Thessalonians 5:18

The Big Picture

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. -Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

Ever wonder why people have such a hard time with death? Perhaps with animals not so much (you would have to ask them). As the pastor of my church put it once, it is because man was not originally designed to die as we do now. Death entered the world through sin, which began a long time ago in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:12). To the unbeliever it may sound like a fantastic story, but in my heart and that of every brother and sister in Christ I know, it is not. Of course, as Christians we have a hope. There is a way out of this mess and back to our heavenly Father. I’ll give you a one word hint: Jesus.

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! -Romans 5:17 (NIV)

Undercover Christian

And you, beloved, are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. Similarly it would be silly to light a lamp and then hide it under a bowl. When someone lights a lamp, she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair, and the light illumines the entire house. You are like that illuminating light. Let your light shine everywhere you go, that you may illumine creation, so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest, may see your devotion to Me, and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it. -Matthew 5:14-16 (VOICE)

Are you an undercover Christian? Have you ever been? I must confess I have been guilty of that more than once in my life, for sure. There have been times when I had my faith in Christ so well that no one would ever guess I knew Him. In fact, on the way home from work this very day, a car pulled in front of me that I could have easily hit if not for slamming on the brakes. I blew the horn and got the typical sarcastic wave from the person as she sped off onto the highway entrance ramp that she was in such a hurry to reach. I seized on the opportunity [as the offended party] to launch into a tirade about what kind of person she was. It wasn’t nice. Had she been able to hear me, not only would I have not held back– I’d probably have had more to say. Anybody that could have witnessed it would not have seen even a hint of Jesus in me at that moment. I don’t say this to take out the proverbial clubs and start beating myself, as I’m sure the devil would love to see. I say this to make the point that none of us are particularly unique when it comes to matters of being human.

I know Jesus loves me and that the Holy Spirit is present within me. How do I know this? Because, when I sin, He convicts me of it and I know almost instantly that I am wrong. As more time is spent in the Word and in prayer with Him, I find myself doing bad things less and less.

Listen, I can’t explain my actions. Here’s why: I am not able to do the things I want; and at the same time, I do the things I despise.-Romans 7:15 (VOICE)

In Romans 7:15, the Apostle Paul himself writes about his struggle with doing the things he despises (hates). I am thankful that such a verse is there because God reminds me that I am not alone and should not let the evil one single me out with his accusations. This does not mean that my behavior is alright because Paul sinned as well, but rather that I am not unique and beyond redemption. I know of nothing else like the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to help me live a happy, more productive life for the Kingdom. Amen? Amen!

When it comes to God and living a Spirit-filled life for Him, don’t be a secret agent! Blow your cover and be known for Him!

Keep It in Today

 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. -Matthew 6:34 (NLT)

People beginning recovery from a substance addiction are often encouraged by fellow addicts to “keep in the day” and to stay clean for just 24 hours at a time. People that have been in such recovery programs for years will usually tell you that it took them a few years to really understand the concept– beyond just staying away from a drink or some drug for a day.

Obviously we know as Christians that it is not just a good idea for addicts and alcoholics to look to the day [and not beyond] when living their lives, it’s good advice for anybody. When I look at the reality of the spiritual warfare I am faced with each and every day and the call from Christ to be His follower, it is all I can do to try and live up to the task with the Holy Spirit’s help. Therefore, all my prayerful focus needs to be in today– and not tomorrow. Besides, there is no tomorrow– it’s always today. At the stroke of midnight, a new today begins once more.

May God bless you richly as you ponder what it means to live today for Him.

Book of Legalism or Gospel of Grace?

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. -Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

Perhaps one of the greatest tools at Satan’s disposal is legalism within the community of believers. It seems like, when legalism abounds, the Gospel message gets completely stifled. I started to think about this again, because I casually researched a group of Christians (name not necessary) and was surprised to discover a very legalistic community just beneath the surface of a peace-loving veneer. One Web site (of theirs) offered some insight into “dos” and “don’ts” and went so far as to tell you when it was appropriate to leave– if you had been lucky enough to be invited to someone’s home for Sunday dinner. They seem to live lives of seclusion from the public in general and I have never witnessed them engaged in any evangelistic outreach (although perhaps they do and I have just never seen it). At any rate, reading about them caused me to reflect on legalism and think about the things I have been tormented with in the past (of a legalistic origin) that completely contradict the Gospel of grace.

Far too often, Christians will ostracize other believers over [what can be] a petty issue of doctrine that has little to do with following Christ. It could be what Bible translation they use, what denomination they affiliate with, whether or not they “speak in tongues,” have ever been divorced, etc. The list goes on and on, but I think you get the point. The Gospel message (one of grace) can be stifled amidst the human cries to “defend the faith against the wiles of the devil.” Are there times when we should be on guard against the workings of Satan? yes! How about every moment of every day until our Lord’s return! But let’s not use our zeal to “defend the faith” as a tool for the devil. Let’s check our motives to see if they are born in love and with the goal or edifying our brothers and sisters. Let’s transmit the Gospel message to all we encounter and not simply deliver a list of regulations and requirements for salvation. Remember, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. -Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)

 

This Past Weekend

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

It’s Monday morning [once again] and another weekend has now been relegated to the annals of history. Last Thursday, I was given unpleasant news by my doctor and threatened with a drastic course of treatment if I did not take the steps necessary (responsibly) to correct the problem. The necessary steps are diet and exercise and the drastic course of treatment (if I fail to comply) involves insulin. For a long time I have been a type II diabetic and have treated the malady with pills. As time goes on, the number and variety of pills has increased. It has come to my attention through study of God’s Word that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I have a measure of responsibility here that I have forsaken. The Holy Spirit has convicted me of this through the Word of God, the way I feel and [most certainly] the word of my doctor.

I feel good about the fact that this weekend I have been good about watching carbs. In fact, since I saw my doctor Thursday afternoon, I have been consciously counting carbohydrates whenever possible and feeling pretty good about myself (with God’s absolutely necessary help, of course). Already I notice a difference with the alleviation of certain symptoms such as “night sweats” and other things. Sometimes, when we are caught up in a sinful lifestyle, we become immune to it and unaware of the way it is degrading our lives and making us feel. When that happens, it has imprisoned us and the devil has us right where he wants us. It was that way with me for several years with drugs, alcohol and cigarettes (which I treat differently but are in reality a drug, as well).

There is a method I know of staying on course with this and living the way God wants me to live. It involves my yielding myself to the life-changing presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The good news is that I already have it as a believer in Christ. I have only to acknowledge that and surrender to Him. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. -Philippians 4:13 (NIV)