Saturday, July 21, 2018

What is Faith and What does it Accomplish?

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 *Faith makes the abstract concrete. *Faith turns the cloudy into measurable precipitation. *Faith brings tomorrow's hope into today's reality. *Faith fashions the ethereal idea into an empirical item.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Praise is comely for the upright.

Psa 33:1 Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.
(The word comely means beautiful, attractive.)

A good look for the Christian is a glad heart which continuously rejoices in the Lord, and praiseful lips which extol the Lord.

Too many Christians are far too glum. They pour forth the faith from dour vessels. Unsmiling expressions do not adorn the gospel of God, but disgrace the faith.
As ornaments on a holiday tree, so does a positive, praiseful believer make for an attractive religion.

We ought to ask today, are we the honey that attracts or the vinegar that repels? The faith is best showcased by the beautiful believers whose faith gives them joy rather than those whose religion seems to have given them indigestion.

Monday, July 2, 2018

For Those that are Blue

Feeling lonely, used, unappreciated, despondent, abandoned, fearful, insignificant, in decline, depressed?

1. Surround yourself with positive people as much as possible. Have positive, godly friends with whom you can share your difficulties. Don't neglect church, that's the community God has given you as a great resource of encouragement.

2. Don't exaggerate your problems. Pity parties tend to lead us to see the worst scenarios. Instead, count your blessings. Perspective is key. Compared to 90% of the world, you are very well-to-do and blessed beyond measure. The crippled would love to have your mobility, the blind, your vision, the deaf, your hearing and the diseased, your health, the destitute, your resources.

3. Busy yourself with fulfilling ministry. (Quit brooding about self). Win souls, visit afflicted, pray for others. Volunteer at the homeless shelter or one of dozens of other places where you will help people much worse off than you.

4. Is there some sin, some guilt, some habit that is keeping you down? Is there some harmful default that you resort to that always makes things  worse?  Find victory in Christ and leave it under the blood.

5. Realize your position in Christ. See life from God's perspective. As well, see life from eternity's perspective. (Your line of sight is obscured and skewed)

6. Read uplifting, inspiring materials, listen to some good, gospel music.

7. Exercise, sleep right, get going, rather than sinking into self-destructive habits: over-eating, alcohol, too much screen time.

8. Leave the past in the past. You failed? You were abused? God means to use your pain to strengthen you and bless others. It won't happen as long as you dwell in times past. What good is rehashing the past doing you? NONE!

9. Most of all, foster your relationship with God. Immerse yourself in the Word, pray with passion, ask God to fill you with His Spirit, put on the whole armor of God.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Cowardice of Dissembling (Dissimulation)

Galatians 2:1  Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. 2  And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. 3  But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: 4  And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: 5  To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. 6  But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: 7  But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8  (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 9  And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. 10  Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. 11  But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12  For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13  And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

Paul suffered much from the legalists. He defended the true gospel of grace against the Judaizers
who promoted strict adherence to the works of the law to attain or ensure salvation.

When he returned to Jerusalem for a conference with the Apostles, they at first acted as if they were in complete agreement with his ministry, rejoicing with him that Gentiles were being saved. But when the legalists came around demanding that gentile believers jump through Jewish hoops, the pillars of the faith suddenly switched their tune to appease these legalists. Rather than standing with Paul in defense of the gospel of grace, they remained neutral and didn't have Paul's back in the debate regarding grace vs works.

This infuriated Paul and he had it out face to face with Peter for his wishy-washy fence straddling in order to appease men.

It got so bad that the cat-got-your-tongue disciples caused even Barnabas, a true grace guy, to be persuaded toward legalism.

To dissemble is what happens when a person bites their tongue when they are compelled speak up. It causes them to act as if they are in league with the enemy to keep the peace.

Obviously, there is a time to speak and a time to shut up. But when the gullible are in the balance, the truth must be voiced with conviction, lest the weak get carried away with the error.

And that brings us to you and me today, in our realm of influence. We should be vigilant and conscious of the need to boldly speak up when error is presented and others are in danger of being drawn into heresy.

As Paul indicated in Gal 1:10, His job is to persuade men and please God, not the other way around.

I see it played out on social media. When a person posts some innocuous picture of a birthday party or anniversary, the "likes" pop up like prairie dogs in the summer sun. However, post a gospel friendly meme and the prairie dogs give way to crickets.

What to do? Dissemble and hide who and what you are and what you stand for to placate your FB acquaintances? Or do you continue to be a witness, attempting to persuade others to come to faith in Christ?

At work, at the break table, when the filth starts flying, do you speak up for decency or do you meld into the furniture like a chameleon into the foliage? To become invisible when you ought to show your colors is cowardice. When a matter arises and your convictions are challenged, do you capitulate or do you express what you know is the truth?

I am certainly not suggesting a believer act like a jerk, I am saying we must speak the truth in love when it is called for.

Ecc 3:1,7  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: …a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

Monday, June 11, 2018

I'll Take Door Number One Please!

There is only one way into the sheepfold, through the Door, Jesus. John 10:1

There is only one way to abundant life, Jesus. Jn 10:10

There is only one way to have eternal life, Jesus. 10:28

The enemy offers several doors,

Deceptive religion. There is only one true faith, all others are hatched in the pit of hell.

Drugs and Drink. Life is brutal! We wonder how a person can navigate all the sorrow without the Lord. Easy, the enemy blinds the lost from the truth and then dulls the pain with mind altering substances.

Dames and Dudes. If Slew-foot can distract wayward sinners with pleasure, passion and the promise of love, then, he supposes, they will never settle for simple faith in an invisible God. 

Deification of Self. If a person becomes self-sufficient in his or her abilities, inherent goodness and vast worldly knowledge, they would have no need of outside interference of their autonomy.

Dollars and Distinction. Money buys popularity and if you can gain enough notoriety on this earth, who cares about floating around on a cloud strumming a harp for all of eternity?

Have you seen “Let’s Make a Deal?” Do you recall the sound made when the poor sap chose the wrong door and received the gag prize? Wha, wha, wha, whahhhhh!

There is only one Way and one Door, everything else is just the gag. The devil is behind all the wrong doors. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Spirit of God at Work on Mount Everest.

Romans 8 is the Magnum Opus of Scripture. It is the richest, most encouraging chapter of the Bible. It is the apex of holy writ. Indeed, rare air is breathed on this mount.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, DaVinci's Mona Lisa and Beethoven's 5th pale in comparison to this great work.

And it is the Spirit of God Who we find intricately woven throughout the fiber of this powerful passage.

Verse one should put a smile on every believer's face. This verse should quicken our hearts, put pep in our steps and lift our spirits.  "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

When we see the word "therefore," we must always check the previous thought. What we find in the entirety of the 7th chapter of Romans is... So Much Frustration!

Imagine, the greatest Christian to ever lace up his sandals is conflicted to the point of abject frustration. "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

And on the heels of this declarative exasperation we find a powerful resolution...Rom 8:1 "No More Condemnation!"

Volumes could be written regarding Romans 8 without ever stepping on the toes of other authors’ comments. But here is my brief musing concerning the Spirit of God's presence in the chapter and in the life of the believer. 

We believers are:
*Spirit led, vs 1, 14
*Spirit emancipated, vs 2
*Spiritually minded, vss 4-7
*Spirit indwelt, vs 9
*Spirit quickened, vss 10-11
*Spirit adopted, vs 15-17
*Spirit assisted, vs 26
*Spirit interceded, vs 27
*Spirit sealed, vss 33-39

Isn't that encouraging? My heart is racing. My lungs are filled with the rarified Himalayan air of the Bible’s highest mount.

Thank you, Spirit of the Lord, for filling this chapter and for doing a great work in me and my fellow believers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Blessed Christian Greetings

1Co 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
1Co 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
1Co 1:3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
1Co 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
1Co 1:5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

Paul was so gracious in his salutations to the brethren of various churches. Here, he bestows wishes of God's grace, peace and enrichment upon the Corinthian believers.

But what is easily overlooked is that another brother accompanies Paul in this Apostolic blessing, Sosthenes.

This saint is worthy of some consideration. That blessed brother's name "Sosthenes" means "safe strength. And, there is much in a name. Read what Jamison Faucett Brown has to say about this man's Christian history...

Associated by Paul with himself in the inscription, either in modesty, Sosthenes being his inferior [Chrysostom], or in order that the name of a “brother” of note in Corinth (Acts 18:17) might give weight to his Epistle and might show, in opposition to his detractors that he was supported by leading brethren. Gallio had driven the Jews who accused Paul from the judgment-seat. The Greek mob, who disliked Jews, took the opportunity then of beating Sosthenes the ruler of the Jewish synagogue, while Gallio looked on and refused to interfere, being secretly pleased that the mob should second his own contempt for the Jews. Paul probably at this time had showed sympathy for an adversary in distress, which issued in the conversion of the latter. So Crispus also, the previous chief ruler of the synagogue had been converted. Saul the persecutor turned into Paul the apostle, and Sosthenes the leader in persecution against that apostle, were two trophies of divine grace that, side by side, would appeal with double power to the Church at Corinth [Birks].

May the lot of us believers rise to the level of our brother Sosthenes. Might others find in us a safe strength. May we be counted worthy of the title, "Trophies of Grace."