Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Being Real

An antique dealer thought that the wrinkled old baseball card that she found might be worth $10.00. After posting it on eBay, she began to wonder if it might be more valuable than she had thought. She removed the posting and consulted a professional evaluator who confirmed that the photo on the 1869 card showed the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team in the U.S. The card sold for more than $75,000.00. Even though the card was creased and discolored, the most important thing was its authenticity – it was real!

Paul and his companions suffered greatly while spreading the gospel of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 6 he listed their outward trials, their inward traits, and their spiritual resources. “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” (2 Corinthians 6:4-7). Try to imagine if you will the circumstances in which all these things interacted: beatings, patience, prison, kindness, distress, love. Although broken physically, depleted emotionally, and tested spiritually, the authenticity of their faith in Christ clearly showed through! “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

The point is this – in our walk with Christ, there is absolutely no substitute for spiritual authenticity – being real! It is not enough for us to simply say, “I am a Christian.” We must prove it to ourselves, others, and most importantly to our loving Father by our actions throughout the day. Our spirituality and progress should certainly be evident to all and it will be when we take it seriously. When we do, then it will be real!

O to be like Thee!
O to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in they fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Don't Be a Poor Example

A woman in Oregon was caught driving 103 miles per hour with her 10 year old grandson in the car. When she was stopped by the police, she told them that she was only trying to teach him never to drive that fast. I suppose she wanted him to do as she said, not as she did. The Pharisees and teachers of the law seemed to have a similar problem. Jesus had a scathing assessment of them: They were spiritually bankrupt. He held these to groups directly responsible for this sad spiritual condition. As the successors of the lawgiver Moses, they were responsible for expounding the law so that people would walk in God’s ways and have a genuine and vibrant relationship with the Lord. "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). Their personal interpretation and application of the law became more important than God’s law. They did not practice what they preached! What they did observe was done not to bring glory to God but to honor themselves. Jesus exposed who they were – image managers, posers, and hypocrites.

The test of the effectiveness of following Jesus is not just in what we say but in how we live. Are we telling others God’s Word and doing what it says? We must model our lives by words and actions as we diligently follow Him.

Christians, remember you bear His dear name,
Your lives are for others to view;
You are living examples – men praise you or blame,
And measure your Savior by you.
— Anonymous

“Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (Matthew 23:3)
--- Our Daily Bread, Marvin Williams

Monday, September 12, 2011

Return to the Lord

"O Israel, return to the Lord your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity; Take words with you, And return to the Lord. Say to Him, "Take away all iniquity; Receive us graciously, For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips" (Hosea 14:1-2).

Robert Robinson had been converted out of a very worldly life of sin, and at the age of twenty-three wrote the hymn, “O Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Sadly, Robinson wandered far from the faith and, like the Prodigal Son, journeyed into the distant country of carnality. Until one day – when he was traveling by stagecoach and sitting beside a young woman engrossed in her book. She ran across a verse she thought was beautiful and asked him what he thought of it. Bursting into tears, Robinson said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.” (Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories, p. 52)

The story is told of a lamb that passed a pig pen each day on the way with its mother to the pasture. Watching the pigs wallow in the mud seemed like fun, and on an especially hot day the lamb asked his mother if he could jump the fence and wallow in the cool mud. She replied, “No.” The lamb then asked the usual question, “Why?” The mother just said, “Sheep don’t wallow.” This didn’t satisfy the lamb. He felt that she had “put him down.” So, as soon as his mother was out of sight, he ran to the pig pen and jumped the fence. He was soon feeling the cool mud on his feet, legs, and stomach, as he wallowed deeper and deeper in the mud. After awhile, he decided he had better go back to his mother, but found that he couldn’t move. He was stuck from the weight of the mud which had gotten into his wool. His pleasure had now become his prison, He cried out and was rescued by the kind shepherd. When cleaned and returned to the fold, the mother told him, “Remember, sheep don’t wallow.”

Sin is like that. It looks so nice, and we think we can escape whenever we wish, but it just isn’t so. Our pleasures soon become our prisons. We must remember, “Christians don’t wallow.” The apostle Peter wrote, “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20-22).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Importance of Knowledge

Knowledge is a very important aspect of life itself. Knowledge of life makes it easier to make the right choices. Knowledge of our jobs will allow us to progress. Knowledge of the Word of God will help us gain eternity with Him. As we live day by day we are ever learning and gaining more knowledge. In the religious realm, if we reject knowledge then we too will be rejected. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Hosea 4:6). Those who do not retain God in their knowledge will be rejected and will pursue worldly things. The apostle Paul wrote, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:28-32). Knowledge must be gained, applied, and passed on. Jesus said, "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered" (Luke 11:52). It is so very important that we increase in the knowledge of God and be able to translate that knowledge into the wisdom we need to please Him. "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:9-10). Keep studying God’s Word on a daily basis because knowledge is vitally important!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Making Repairs in Our Life

There have been some men who have tried to fix something and just couldn’t quite get it to work. They could not get the item fixed right. If you happen to be one of those men, then you will probably appreciate this sticker that I recently saw on the side of a company truck specializing in home repair:

“We will fix what your husband fixed.”

Whether the problem is the plumbing, electrical, flooring, or bathrooms, it’s usually better off in the hands of someone who is skilled and trustworthy in those areas. That’s the way it is with sin – and the struggles within us that resist our efforts to mend it. Jeremiah denounced the greedy prophets and priests of his day who “healed the hurt of God’s people slightly, saying Peace, Peace!” (Jeremiah 6:14). They did not change themselves nor lead the people to spiritual transformation. So the Lord called the people to follow His way: “Thus says the Lord: "Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Centuries later, Jesus, the Son of God said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The parts of our lives that we have tried and failed to repair can be restored by the hand of God. Through faith in Christ, we can be made whole!

Life’s fractures can be mended
By faith in Christ the Lord
At first the pain but then the gain
And usefulness restored.
— Hess

Monday, September 5, 2011

Aiming For the Mark

Our children have recently began taking archery lessons. The first lesson was acquainting them with all the various parts of the Bow, and the various aspects of the Arrow. The second lesson taught them the proper way to hold the Bow, loading the Arrow, and aiming and shooting at the Mark (the target). As I watched this slow but steady progression, it reminded me of how we begin our lessons of life of being a Christian. After learning of Jesus and obeying Him in baptism, we begin our daily walk. As with archery, we will only improve our walk with practice. The more we study and apply all of God’s principles and commands in our life, we will hit the Mark (which is heaven). The Apostle Paul wrote, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12-14). In addition, our prayer life should also be directed toward God with the right aim. "My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up" (Psalms 5:3).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Motivation to Live Righteously

The inspired Word of God says “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). The “grace” in this text would represent our Savior Jesus Christ. He did something for us that needed to be done, that nobody else could do for himself. We needed to have our sins atoned for but we were unable to do that ourselves and so it was Jesus who appeared to all men to put away sin by His great and precious sacrifice (Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 9:26). Since Jesus did this for us, something that we could never do for ourselves, He teaches us that there are now things that we must do in order to live with Him forever in eternity.

We should now be motivated to deny ungodliness and worldly lust. That is, we are not to be involved in ungodly deeds and works of ungodliness. Ungodliness results when individuals have a heart of irreverence and a lack of love and appreciation of Jesus. The inspired apostle Peter wrote, “Now "If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:18). The difference between an ungodly person and a sinner is that the ungodly is irreverent, without any regard for God or not having respect for things that are divine. The sinner (in this text) is one who is conscientiously wrong, sincerely in error, or honestly mistaken. Worldly lust can overcome Christians from time to time and because we know this is possible we should be aware of it. Worldly lust is to have inordinate desires for those things of the world that are forbidden to Christians (1 John 2:15-17). Be careful, because if we are not careful we can soon be caught up with the pleasures of life that those of the world are caught up in on a daily basis.

Out of true respect and admiration of our Lord and what He willingly did for us, paying the ultimate price, we must be moved to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this world. Christians have a responsibility to shoulder responsibilities and execute them according to what the grace of God teaches. To live righteously is to focus our attention upon the manner of our life. This will include things such as our thoughts, words, and deeds. The Christian strives to do all things which are right and pleasing to God because we know that we are His chosen generation, a holy priesthood, looking forward to a life of living with our Lord forever! Godliness is the very fountain from which all of man’s outward activities flow. We are told to “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us (John 3:16). In return, out of a deep abiding love for Him because of His great love for us (1 John 4:19), we are now determined to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12b-13).