Pushing or Pulling or Praying or Praising


I hope you’re not pushing and pulling your way through life. Undoubtedly, many folks would testify that their life is one constant struggle. Come with me to the Scriptures: James 3:16-17, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. (Is this your life?) But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” It is easy to see the distinction between the worldly human conditions and heavenly wisdom.

In chapter 4:1-5, many aspects of the pushing and pulling of this world are described. These are believers who lust and want things, yet they are empty as they ask amiss. They try a dual friendship that will not work. The friend of the world is the enemy of God. Only through a submissive humble spirit can their need be met. (Verse 6)

In verses 7-11, the believer is given a list of imperatives that leads to victory. I will deal only with verse seven which says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” So, my friend, in an attitude of humility, we are to be under obedience to God; and we are to stand against the devil.  These steps will put you on the pathway of a changed life. Your life will no longer be characterized by the chaos of pushing and pulling but by praying and praising. Every Christian needs to pray for a humble spirit which leads to submission and when we do, we will find ourselves praising the Lord.

What I’m giving you is just the start on the road to Christian blessing. Please read verses 7 to 11 and you will find the rest of the imperatives that God lays out for the New Testament Christian to follow.

In closing, I ask you to read James 4:17.  God bless you and may each of us have the victory.

Peaches Picturing a Perfect Present


 

This summer the local South Carolina peach farm had an excellent crop of cling-free peaches!  They were large.  They sported a blend of red, yellow, orange, pink, and gold colors across their outer fuzz.  They balanced a wondrous blend of tangy tartness with succulent sweetness.  They were juicy enough to make indoor-eating a challenge.  So, we bought three bulging baskets and took them to my family in Iowa.  The peaches were a gift that they greatly appreciated. 

Now, would they have valued our gift if they had refused to accept it?  What if they had said that they weren’t worthy or couldn’t afford the gift?  They had to accept the gift if they were going to show that they really valued it.  The same is true regarding our gift of salvation.  God has offered us the gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sins!  This gift is far greater than some silly succulent something from South Carolina.  According to Ephesians 2:4, He showed mercy by His great love.  According to the next verse he makes us alive in Christ and offers salvation by grace.  According to verse six, he gives a citizenship and a home and a status in heaven.  He gives out an inheritance in kindness through Christ Jesus.  In verses eight and nine we read, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.” We have quite a gift! 

But we must accept this free gift if we truly value it!  The peaches would have done my family in Iowa no good if they would have just said, “That’s nice,” but never accepted them.  Likewise, God’s salvation from sin does no good to people who recognize what it is but never accept the gift for themselves.  Have you ever asked Christ to be your Savior and received His free gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sins? 

Furthermore, if we value a gift, we will use it!  What would have happened if my family would have accepted the gift of the peaches and never eaten any?  Would they have valued the peaches if they left them to sit in the baskets or even on a shelf?  How would they be valuing the gift of peaches if they let the peach fuzz turn to black and white mold fuzz?  That would be ridiculous, of course!  Similarly, it would be ridiculous for us to accept God’s gift of salvation and then not live out our salvation as God intended.  Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  He gave us the free gift of salvation from sin.  He gave us the free gift of a relationship with God.  How are we valuing the gift if we accept that salvation and continue in sin?  How are we valuing the gift if we accept that salvation and don’t walk with God? 

Let’s show we value God’s free gift to us by accepting God’s free gift.  Then let’s use our freedom from sin by living the Christian life to please God!     

 

Would You Choose Jesus for a Friend?


 

I have recently been reading a series of historical fiction books about the life of Christ. People have different ideas about fiction, but my thought is that anything that we understand to be fiction but which releases our sanctified imagination about how it might have been when our Saviour was on earth is a very good thing.

In this case, the researcher, Brock Thoene, is at the top of his field, and the writer, his wife Bodie, is also at the top of hers.

Each book takes a character in the gospels and fleshes him or her out as that person might have been.

All of the characters have one thing in common.  They pursue Jesus.  Initially, most do it from what could be called a selfish motive—needing healing or a friend or something to believe in other than the diabolical pagan gods.

But eventually each character becomes a true follower of the Lord, whether a formal disciple or a person who regularly crosses paths with Jesus some other way (like Mary Magdalene).  They all adore Jesus and try to see Him as often as possible, bringing other needy people to Him as they go.

That makes me see the value in these books—they introduce Jesus as a real person (which He is) whom many people adore.  I adore Him, too, through the Scriptures and through reading books like this that remind me that He is a real historical figure who lived here on earth for around 33 years.  People who knew Him well loved Him; the more I get to know Him, the more I love Him, too.  Books like this remind me of how much I long to meet Him—a real person, the God-man who gave me every good thing I have ever known. 

Although He is so much more than just someone to meet the needs of all of the people He has created, He does that, too.  As a needy, fallen human, it is appropriate to run to Him.  It is appropriate to run to Him for salvation, then to continue running to Him as to the friend whose presence we crave.  It is appropriate to tell others to run to Him with us in their need. 

In the simplest way, that is salvation—knowing that He is a holy God, that we are nothing without Him, and that we must run to Him.  Witnessing is simply encouraging others to grab our hand and run with us! 

Fake News


            Today we are bombarded by what seems to be “fake news.”  Even our President complains about it.  Fake news may be very damaging causing one to truly believe statements that are not true.  We may even relate these stories to others as fact.

            Fake news is not a new device but used to be called “propaganda”; lies spread to hurt and deceive.  (Think of WW II.)  Fake news has its roots in the Old Testament as Satan lied to Adam and Eve, telling them they could become as “gods”(Gen. 3:1-5).

            John 8:44 states the devil “… is a liar and the father of it [lies].”  The lie of humanism that man may become as God has been drawing men away from the true God ever since the lie, fake news, was used in the Garden.

            In John 14:6, we read that Jesus said, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  He also instructed believers “… if ye continue in my word, then ye are my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

            So don’t worry and fret about the “Fake News,” give out the “good news” that Jesus saves!  “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).

 

Vacation Bible School


Come join us for a fun-filled, exciting week!

Perfectly Incomplete!


            God made us for Himself.  God made us incomplete – perfectly incomplete – that we might find our completeness in Him.

To live for God is a far greater objective than to live for self because we are being called to step out of our own little lives and live for what is greatest and highest and deepest, that is, for the glory of God.  This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise (Is. 43:21).  Indeed, to live for Someone who is much greater than myself is a much higher quest than to live for merely my own mean, miserable, mortal self.

Man’s quest for God quenches pride and quickens hope and quells fear and qualifies for service.

 

The Fact! More Importantly the Factor of God!


Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shall have good success.

I am amazed at the extent to which Americans will go to operate, define, seek solutions, offer help, and expect results without acknowledging the slightest possibility that there is a God in heaven who is anything more than a cold hard fact. I define fact, as something known to have happened or to exist. In 1944, 96% of all Americans believed there was a God. In 2016, the number who believes there is a God in heaven has dropped to 79%. Both the Gallup and Pew Researchers have basically consistent percentages.

I am and will always be with the crowd that believes there is a God and that he is not only a fact, but He is the ultimate factor in each life. He is my life and my all as a Christian.  God must be more than a fact.  He must be allowed to rule and rein in our lives. We should join the Psalmist in Psalm 42:1-2a,  As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul for thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.

My hope and prayer is that you would allow God to be more than a fact in your daily life. God can become the dominant  factor by your choice. Good godly choices are the result of a surrendered heart based on a love for God and the knowledge that God can be a real factor. He will, in fact, influence every outcome of your life if allowed to do so.  Joshua 24:15,  And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

If your life is only at the fact stage, let me offer you the wonderful blessing of allowing God to become the major factor in your life. This means you are choosing to allow the great God of heaven, the Creator, to influence, control, and direct your life.  Oh, what blessings you will have! What victories you will experience! What joy will abound in your life! How often you will see mountains become molehills! You will see the impossible become possible. The pathway for your life will become clear. Allow God to become a factor in your life today. Seek to have the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5).

Should you be one of the 10%-11% who do not believe there is a God, read the Gospel of John.  It is often called the Gospel of belief.  John 20:31, But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. Let’s have biblical answers and lives for this non-biblical culture in 2017.

Against Such There is No Law



Law vs. no law – in Galatians 5 we see the contrast between law and no law. In verses 19-23, there are two lists. One concerning the law – verses 19-21 list the works of the flesh which would keep one from inheriting the kingdom of God. One concerning no law – verses 22-23 list the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance – against such there is no law. That is such a convicting phrase.  We are so often more concerned with legalism and what we cannot do that we miss the most important point. We have no law that keeps us from exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in our life. We can love all we want, have all the joy we want, have all the peace we want . . . but are more often consumed in what we cannot do. Galatians 5:18 offers an answer – But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. The fruit of the Spirit — live it, show it, do it – there’s no law against it!

My Weakness = His Strength


II Corinthians 13:4

For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God.  For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God towards you.

There are many times in the Christian life that it seems like I am so weak.  I know what I am supposed to do and how I am supposed to think, but it just doesn’t always work.  Living in a brand new culture and learning how to adapt in a completely different environment and still minister all the while has really brought out the reality of my own weakness.  There are days that are just filled with my weakness, but in reading this passage in II Corinthians, I was reminded that being weak is exactly what I need in order to recognize the great strength of my heavenly Father.  My weakness drives to me my knees and to the Word to find passages like this one.  This passage encouraged my heart that I don’t have to live in defeat due to my weakness.  The truth is this – My weakness only serves to magnify God’s strength in my life!  I get to live in the reality of my weakness so that I can have the power of God to sustain me.  So the next time you are struggling in your weakness, thank the Lord for that weakness and claim His strength to live by the power of God.

The words to “In My Weakness” by Mike Harland and Cary Schmidt summarize how we need to face our weakness and allow His strength to shine through us.

When living life for Jesus Christ becomes too hard a task,
When obedience means sacrifice that seems too much to ask;
That’s when I learn that my own strength isn’t really strength at all,
And I find rest in humbleness when I surrender all.

In my weakness He is strong;
In my need He leads me on.
When I come to the end of all I am,
And I place my trust in Him;
That’s when His strength begins –
In my weakness.

When failures in my human strength have weakened all my pride,
And ruined hopes in fallen dreams have crumbled me inside;
It’s then by grace I fin’lly see the strength of Jesus Christ,
His victory is real in me when weakness fills my life.

In my weakness He is strong;
In my need He leads me on.
When I come to the end of all I am,
And I place my trust in Him;
That’s when His strength begins –
In my weakness.

 

Bloom Where You are Planted


 

What do I mean by that?  I mean, let’s not make excuses as to why we’re not flourishing in our service to God, or why we’re not obeying what He asks us to do.  But let’s give 100% of us to be a witness, through our lives, wherever God puts us and in whatever situation.  God allows each of us to have challenges, but they are not to be an excuse for us.

In Philippians 1:12-18, Paul is in prison, and instead of being angry or sulking, he sees the purpose that God had for it.  You could say, he bloomed!  In verse 12, he says that his imprisonment furthered the gospel.  In verse 13, he said that it even got him into the palace.  And in verses 14-18, other people were now more boldly preaching Christ without fear.

We have to avoid the mindsets of our culture—that it’s all about me, or how I feel, or that’s not fair.  Instead, when situations occur, ask, “What is God up to?”  No matter what we’re facing, whatever the injustice seems to us, we need to train ourselves (through humility) to pray, “Lord, to me this doesn’t make sense.  But I know you see the bigger picture, and I choose to trust YOU.”  Also, we need to watch our attitudes because others are watching us.  You see, we are seeing the physical side, but God has a heavenly side to all these events in our lives. 

There is another great example in Esther.  She had lost both of her parents, was taken away from her homeland, and then was married to an angry, arrogant, unsaved man.  This is a situation that none of us would choose of our own accord, but she bloomed where she was planted too!

In Esther 4:16, she laid her life on the line to obey God.  She did not choose to live in self-pity.  Because of her submission, many people were saved in that time. 

“You, too, are a tool in the hand of God, being applied to situations that may just feel like ‘everyday life’ to you but are actually backlit stages where the purposes of God are being put on display from your street address.  And he knows the audience that He’s playing to, whether it be members of your family, church friends, random acquaintances—whoever needs to see His power at work in a surrendered heart…like yours.”

God has a purpose for where you are right now.  He has a role for you in His plan, if you accept it and obey Him.  He does not depend on us though, because He’ll use another if we decide not to obey, but who wouldn’t want to be used by God? (I know I do!)

Keep in mind, things are not the way they’ll always be.  God will right all injustices—but we don’t need to worry about them.  And if we do our best to bloom for God, in whatever situation we’re in, at the end we can say like Paul did (and Esther could’ve) that “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).  All that He allows in our lives is part of His plan, to further His message.  Lord, help us to bloom for you!