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!     

 

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Responses to Who Christ Is


In John 1, we can find an amazing description of who Christ is.  He is the Word.  He is Eternal.  He is God.  He is the Creator of all things.  He is Life.  He is the Light of the world.  He is the one sent from His Father.  He is the one who came to His own Creation that He had made and that He knew would not receive Him.  He was made flesh.  He is preferred.  He is the source of grace and truth.  He is the Lord prophesied by Isaiah.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He is the Son of God.  He is Rabbi (Master).  He is Jesus Christ the Messiah.  And He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  He is the Son of God and the King of Israel.  He is the Son of Man who came to bridge Heaven and earth. 

While it is great to contemplate this description of Christ, it is also great to consider how people responded to Him in John 1. 

John the Baptist testified of Him, speaking well of Him and proclaiming Christ to be the Lamb of God and Son of God. 

Andrew followed Christ, and brought his brother to Him. 

Philip followed Christ, and witnessed to Nathanael of Him. 

Nathanael worshipped Him. 

These are all great responses to who Christ is.  His own people did not receive Him.  “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12).  Have we responded to Christ by receiving Him?  Have we responded by witnessing of Him to others around us?  

 

Consequences of Pride and Faith


Proverbs 28:25-26 elaborates about the consequences of pride and of faith.  The Hebrew parallelism in that passage is not intended to give a definition of a proud person or a definition of one who stirs up strife or a definition of one who trusts the LORD or of one who trusts himself.  Rather there is an extended explanation of the fact that trusting self instead of the LORD leads to foolish self-destruction.

Here are the verses:

He that is of a proud heart                                 stirreth up strife:

but he that putteth his trust in the LORD                        shall be made fat.

 

He that trusteth in his own heart                                    is a fool:

but whoso walketh wisely,                                 he shall be delivered.

 

When the Lord put these elements together, He revealed the following applications:

 

A person who has a proud heart stirs up strife.

A person who has a proud heart does not put his trust in the LORD.

A person who has a proud heart shall not be made fat.

A person who has a proud heart trusts in his own heart.

A person who has a proud heart is a fool.

A person who has a proud heart does not walk wisely.

A person who has a proud heart shall not be delivered.

 

A person who stirs up strife has a proud heart.

A person who stirs up strife does not put his trust in the LORD.

A person who stirs up strife shall not be made fat.

A person who stirs up strife trusts in his own heart.

A person who stirs up strife is a fool.

A person who stirs up strife does not walk wisely.

A person who stirs up strife shall not be delivered.

 

A person who puts his trust in the LORD does not have a proud heart.

A person who puts his trust in the LORD does not stir up strife.

A person who puts his trust in the LORD is not a fool.

A person who puts his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.

A person who puts his trust in the LORD does not trust in his own heart.

A person who puts his trust in the LORD walks wisely.

A person who puts his trust in the LORD shall be delivered.

 

A person who is made fat does not have a proud heart.

A person who is made fat does not stir up strife.

A person who is made fat puts his trust in the LORD.

A person who is made fat is not a fool.

A person who is made fat does not trust in his own heart.

A person who is made fat walks wisely.

A person who is made fat shall be delivered.

 

A person who trusts in his own heart has a proud heart.

A person who trusts in his own heart stirs up strife.

A person who trusts in his own heart does not put his trust in the LORD.

A person who trusts in his own heart shall not be made fat.

A person who trusts in his own heart is a fool.

A person who trusts in his own heart does not walk wisely.

A person who trusts in his own heart shall not be delivered.

 

A person who is a fool has a proud heart.

A person who is a fool stirs up strife.

A person who is a fool does not put his trust in the LORD.

A person who is a fool shall not be made fat.

A person who is a fool trusts in his own heart.

A person who is a fool does not walk wisely.

A person who is a fool shall not be delivered.

 

A person who walks wisely does not have a proud heart.

A person who walks wisely does not stir up strife.

A person who walks wisely puts his trust in the LORD.

A person who walks wisely is made fat.

A person who walks wisely is not a fool.

A person who walks wisely does not trust in his own heart.

A person who walks wisely shall be delivered.

 

A person who shall be delivered does not have a proud heart.

A person who shall be delivered does not stir up strife.

A person who shall be delivered puts his trust in the LORD.

A person who shall be delivered is made fat.

A person who shall be delivered is not a fool.

A person who shall be delivered does not trust in his own heart.

A person who shall be delivered walks wisely.

 

Trusting self instead of the LORD leads to foolish self-destruction.  Trusting the Lord leads to His blessing and protection and guidance.

 

Who Are You?


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Who are you? People who don’t know you think you are a stranger.  People who do know you might call you a parent or a child or a sibling or a spouse or a friend or a coworker or a good citizen.  But who does God say you are?  How does He describe your relationship with Him?  If you have trusted Christ to be your Savior, you have a new identity.  According to 2 Cor 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.”  What is this new creature?  There are many fascinating figures of speech used throughout God’s Word that describe who we are in relation to God once we are saved.

If these do not apply to you, you should ask Christ to save you from your sin and shame and to transform you into the creature described in the following ways:

I am a friend of Christ, a friend of God!  (John 15:14-15, James 2:23)

I am no longer God’s enemy!  (Romans 5:10)

I am a child of God!  (John 1:12, 1 Peter 1:14, Romans 8:16, 2 Cor 6:18)

I am a brother of Christ!  (Hebrews 2:11)

I am part of a chosen generation, and a peculiar people!  (1 Peter 2:9)

I am a Christian (Christ-like one)! (Acts 11:26, 1 Peter 4:16)

I am a follower of God!  (Ephesians 5:1, Luke 9:23)

I am an heir! (Galatians 4:7, 1 Peter 1:4)

I am a child of light, a reflection of God’s light!  (Eph 5:8, Mat 5:14, 2 Cor 3:18, Phi 2:15)

I am a soldier!  (2 Timothy 2:3)

I am a servant!  (Luke 17:10, 2 Cor 4:5)

I am a stranger and pilgrim and sojourner!  (1 Peter 2:11, Eph 2:19, Heb 11:13, 13:14)

I am an ambassador from another country offering reconciliation!  (2 Cor 5:18-20)

I am a preacher!  (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15)

I am a part of a royal priesthood!  (1 Peter 2:5,9)

I am a saint from a holy nation!  (1 Peter 2:9)

 

What a responsibility it is to wear the name Christian!  But it truly is a grand thing to be a Christian.  Let’s live as God has planned for His redeemed to live.

Always be Thankful!


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Alright! December is here!  The turkeys and pies and parades and football were great for Thanksgiving, but now Christmas month has arrived!  Churches enjoyed their little Thanksgiving service, but now we can focus on Christmas pageants and cantatas!  We are done with Thanksgiving and on to a bigger and better holiday!  This often seems to be our attitude as we approach Christmas.  Indeed, the incarnation of Christ must not be minimized.  It cannot be over-celebrated.  However, can we brush aside thankfulness as if we have done our quota of being thankful for the season?  Of course not.  With this in mind, December is the perfect time to make sure that we are living a life of gratitude. 

Ephesians 5 mentions thankfulness in a very interesting context.  The beginning of the chapter says to follow God and to walk in love.  Then it says to abstain from fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, foolish speech, and crude joking.  Such things are not appropriate.  Rather, they should be replaced with giving of thanks (according to verse 5).  In other words, the remedy for wrong thoughts, actions, and wrong words is to develop a lifestyle of gratitude.  As we maintain an attitude of gratefulness to the Lord for the new life He has given, we cannot live for self.  As we praise the Lord for what He has done, we cannot be crude.  This attitude of gratitude is contrasted from the unsaved who are whoremongers, unclean, covetous, and idolaters.  So, if we fail to be thankful, are we associated with ungodly people?  This sounds like what Paul wrote in Romans 1:21 that unregenerate reprobates did not glorify God “as God, neither were thankful.”  These people “did not like to retain God in their knowledge.”  Thankfulness is not merely counting our blessings on a holiday.  It is not merely telling Him thanks for this or for that during our prayers.  Thankfulness is recognizing who God is and what He has done and how I owe all to Him.  It is in all my ways acknowledging Him. 

Ephesians 5:13-21 discusses living for God.  Walking circumspectly, redeeming the time, knowing God’s will, being filled with the Spirit, worshipping God, and submitting to others are all in the same context as being thankful.  Our thankfulness is not just to be a listing of things we are happy about.  Rather thankfulness is a humble attitude of knowing God, and worshipping Him for His goodness and letting Him guide us.  This gratitude attitude should never end.  Verse 20 says, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In order to abstain from worldliness, let’s be thankful.  As we worship the Lord and submit to Him and to others, let’s be thankful.  It certainly is far better to be humbly grateful than to be grumbly hateful! 

Witnessing to Muslims


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2 Tim. 1:6-14

The US census of 2010 counted three million Muslims in the United States.  That number is inaccurate since many Muslims do not feel comfortable identifying themselves as such on an American document.  Furthermore, the number of Muslims in America is rapidly growing.  In 2015, the FBI did a study that estimates that the number of Muslims is nearly five million.  How do we witness to them?  They are infiltrating our cities speaking Arabic, Urdu, Bengali, Farsi, and Dari.  They have built mosques across our land—as many as three hundred in New York City alone.  They veil themselves behind long garments.  Can such people really be won to Christ?  Do we really have to witness to such people? 

Don’t be afraid

2 Tim 1:6-14 has some helpful advice regarding our witness.  This passage is more than a command to go and preach the Gospel.  It gives several pointers on what should be included in our Gospel witness.  In verses 6-7, Paul reminds Timothy to do what he was appointed to do.  God had given Timothy the charge of being a witness in the city of Ephesus.  Timothy had to be reminded of something that we often have to be reminded—our witness must not be mixed with fear.  God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.  So, when we are witnessing to a Muslim, we don’t need to assume he is a terrorist or that she is concealing a bomb.  Rather, we must be convinced that God has given us the power to boldly share the Gospel.  He has given us the spiritual strength to witness when we are discouraged and the physical strength to accomplish what He wants us to do.  God has given us the ability to love other people.  We can love those who don’t seem lovely.   As we follow Christ’s example, we can learn to have compassion on the lost!  God has given us a sound mind.  We cannot trust our own intellect, but a sober mind is a gift from God to use as we talk to Muslims.  We do not have to fear when our Gospel presentation is rooted on the Word of God!  When witnessing to Muslims, we do not have to fear them.  Neither should we fear our own failures.  God gives us the strength, the ability to love them, and the ability to have a clear mind. 

Don’t be ashamed

The next five verses indicate that also we should not be ashamed of the Gospel.  Paul said in verse 8, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…”  Verse 12 says, “Nevertheless, I am not ashamed…” The context in both verses 8 and 12 is that we should not be ashamed or intimidated by persecution.  Let the Muslim criticize me or even attack me or imprison me.  How can we be so bold?  How can we be ready for afflictions mentioned in verse 8 and suffering mentioned in verse 12?  Such boldness does not come from personal resolve.  It comes only from confidence in the reality and power of the Gospel.  Do you feel intimidated or threatened when sharing the Gospel?  Then maybe it is time to remind yourself of the reality of what we believe.  Maybe it is time to memorize more verses about the new life that the Gospel brings.  Maybe it is time to memorize more verses about whom we have believed.  Let’s make sure that we are persuaded that God is able to keep our souls until the end. 

Don’t be apathetic

The final challenge in this passage is to “hold fast” the Gospel and to “keep” it.  The idea is to be on guard – to make sure that the Gospel message is always a standard for all to see.  We have heard it from others.  It has been entrusted to us.  Let us gladly proclaim it in faith and love. 

One teen girl recently expressed that when she sees people in Islamic attire, her first thought is often, “I wish they weren’t here.”  Is that the attitude Paul described to Timothy?  Or did the Apostle Paul encourage us to boldly believe and proclaim the Gospel?  Muslims can be saved.  They need the Gospel.  Let’s get it to them! 

How to Live the Christian Life


Let's Talk Following Instructions 

If you want to change the alternator in your car, you can go online and watch a Youtube video explaining how to do it.  If you want to make a key lime pie, you can quickly snag a recipe from Pinterest.  If you want to learn the Belarusian language, you can go get a simple book on this subject for dummies.  We are familiar with going to a source for answers to learn how to do things.  Why do we approach the Christian life without going to the Source of instructions?  While the Bible should not be considered simplistic or trendy, the Bible’s instruction on how to live the Christian life is easy to understand and relevant to everybody of all times in all places.  

Many Bible passages give a simple explanation of the basics of the Christian life.  Hebrews 12 gives one such explanation by giving a list of instructions.  These instructions could be grouped as three things that form the basics of the Christian life:

1.     Keep a right focus!

2.     Reject the wrong things!

3.     Embrace the right things! 

What should we focus on? 

Verse one says that we should focus on the examples of those who have lived by faith.  Are you reading the Word of God daily to learn from the examples of Noah, Moses, Deborah, or David?  We don’t focus on their examples if we never read about them and meditate on the Bible.  A second focus is found in verse one.  We should focus on “running with patience the race that is set before us.”  This means that we are to live our Christian life focused on God’s plan for our lives.  Do you go through life with eternity’s values in mind?  A third focus and most important focus is that we are to look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”  We are told in verse three to “Consider Him.”  Have you ever looked to Christ for salvation?  Do you focus on Him throughout each day?  Do you praise Him and speak of Him and talk to Him?  Do you do right simply for the right reason—that you are focused on Christ?

What should we reject? 

Verse one says to lay “aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us?”  Verse four encourages us to resist sin and fight against it.  Do you get rid of sin?  Do you get rid of weights that distract you from running your race? Verses 15-16 give some specific sins to lay aside.  These verses tell us to not be bitter against others nor should we be immoral. 

What should we embrace? 

Verses 5-11 say that we should embrace discipline gratefully.  Do you respond correctly to things God does to get your attention?  Are you grateful for the conviction of the Spirit of God?  Do you repent when you realize you backslid even a small amount?  Also, we should embrace Godliness.  Verses 12-14 say that we should follow peace and holiness.  According to these verses, if you are not seeing people come to know the Lord, it might be because no man sees the Lord in your life. 

What are the instructions here for living the Christian life?  Keep a right focus!  Reject sins and weights!  Embrace God’s correction and peace and holiness! 

So what if we believe in evolution?


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Why does it really matter if we evolved from a lower life form?  If I wasn’t there when God made the earth, why not just accept what the “scientists” and “experts” say that we have evolved ever since the universe began?  What’s the big deal?

For one thing, if we embrace evolution, we deny the legitimacy of the Word of God.  The narration in Genesis 1 and Exodus 20 explicitly state that Creation occurred in six days (each of which consisted of one evening and one morning).

Secondly, if we embrace evolution, God does not really have to exist; or if He does, He could be one of many.  Regardless, He would not be responsible for creating mankind.  He would not be sovereign over us and might not even care about us.

Thirdly, if God is not responsible for creating mankind, we are not accountable to Him.  If we are not accountable to Him, I can cheat or even murder!  Besides, if my cheating, lying or murdering gets me to the top, I might be living by survival of the fittest!

Fourthly, if mankind evolved by evolution, death and destruction occurred for millions of years in a brutal saga of survival of the fittest.  It was kill-or-be-killed until the weak and unfit species died out—all for millions of years prior to the first man and woman.  If that were true, death was not the result of a rebellion of Adam.  If that were the case, would there be any connection between the cause of sin and the remedy for sin?  Surely not.

But we do not have to accept these false notions!  Romans 5:12-19 explains that as one man (Adam) sinned and brought death, one man (Jesus Christ) brings new life.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned… Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come…For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is  by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many…For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. 

1 Corinthians 15:22 sums this concept up concisely: For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 

If we got here without God, there would have been no origin for sin and death.  If there had been no origin for sin and death, there would be no remedy for sin and death.  Accepting evolution is a pretty big deal.