Friday, August 26, 2016

Misdirected Love

In 2 Timothy 3:1-5 we read, "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power."

Paul refers to people who have misdirected love. He uses love in four ways in the passage, and only one is in harmony with God's will. In verse 2, he mentions, "lovers of themselves." Love most certainly can be given to wrong things. Love can destroy us when it isn't properly channeled.

Again, in verse 2, he lists, "lovers of money." Jesus taught about money and the proper attitude toward it. The rich young ruler of Matthew chapter 19 failed miserably. If we allow money to become too important in our lives, we too can be destroyed.

Furthermore, Paul mentioned, "lovers of pleasure." We live a "partying," "fun loving" world. People are always looking forward to the weekend. However, there is more to life than fun and games. "Weekending" is killing Christians. Many are spending more time and money on recreation and sports than on the Lord and His cause.

Finally, Paul speaks of "lovers of God." The first three types of love destroy real love for God. Idolatry is simply misdirected love, the love of the wrong thing. We should develop a strong lasting love of God above all others and all things. We should possess the love of Mark 12:30 where it says "and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength..." Where is your love directed today? Is it toward God and His work, or toward the things of this world?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Camouflaged with the World

When I was in the U. S. Air Force I was issued several different sets of uniforms. A few of those sets were the camouflaged uniforms. The purpose of the camouflaged uniform is to help the wearer blend in with his surroundings – to get lost in the crowd of trees, shrubs and leaves. It’s easy to get lost in the backdrop of the forest if you look like the forest.

In the same way, it’s easy to “get lost” in the world if we look like everyone else. Many people, I’m afraid, have traded in their “light” colored cloak of Christianity for a suit which is colored and patterned so that it blends in with the rest of the world. There are many ways to look like the rest of the world. We can dress like them (no matter how immodest, distasteful, or vulgar it may be.) We can talk like them, and participate in their jokes, vulgarity, and disrespect for God. We can act like them - drink what they drink, do what they do, and play what they play.

Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” 1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” God clearly teaches us to not conform ourselves to this world. We shouldn’t blend in, but rather stand out! God expects his children to be different from the world. Peter writes, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). May we always strive to be “seen” as a child of God in all aspects of our life.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Living on Earth, Longing for Heaven!

Bible Christians are truly blessed by God. We enjoy the time that we have been given to live here on earth to serve and honor God, while at the same time sharing His refreshing plan of salvation to everyone we can. We do this because we know that when we die, we have so much more to live for at the resurrection. The longing that we as Christians have for heaven motivates us to be pleasing to our heavenly Father while living on earth. Let’s take a moment to consider some facts concerning heaven.

What Is Heaven?
Heaven is God’s throne. “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest” (Acts 7:49). “But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne” (Matthew 5:34). Christians look forward to the day that we can inherit an eternity with God in heaven where His throne is. Unlike this earth where we now live, we realize that heaven is a very secure place. Jesus said, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20). It certainly is going to be a much better place (Hebrews 11:16).

What Are We Going to Have There?
While we live here on earth it is important for us to invest in our eternal home. We do that by laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 19:21). When we practice righteousness, obey, love, and honor God here on earth we are going to have our names written in the Lamb’s book of life. “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20, see also Revelation 20:12). When we stay the course here on earth, even when we are persecuted and treated unjustly until the very end of our life, then we can be assured that a great reward awaits us there. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). What a great and tremendous day that will be to know that we have gained an inheritance in heaven that is kept for us with our Lord (1 Peter 1:4)! What a peaceful thought it truly is to know that we will be living in heaven for evermore with our Father (Matthew 6:9) and Jesus Christ His Son (Mark 16:19; Hebrews 9:24). These are the reasons why the Christian can and should stay motivated to work and serve God faithfully and diligently while living on earth – knowing that we are going to enjoy the beauty and joy of heaven for eternity!

Who Will Be Able to Enter Heaven?
The Bible (the word of God) clearly teaches us who will be able to enter into the beauty of heaven. Bible Christians, those individuals who have become Christians based on the teaching of God, not man, will be able to enter heaven. These are the ones who have heard the word of God (Romans 10:17), believed the word and in Christ (John 8:24; Hebrews 11:6), repented (turned) from sin (Acts 17:30; Luke 13:3); confessed Christ as the son of God (Acts 8:37; Matthew 10:32); and have been baptized for the remission (forgiveness) of sins (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21). Once one has had their sins forgiven by being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, then one is considered to be a Bible Christian (Acts 11:26). The Christian must then be faithful to God until death to be able to receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

We, as Christians, are able to live here on earth, enduring all the persecution, pain, and suffering that may come our way because we know there is something much better awaiting us. The Hebrew writer penned these words, “but now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16). Satan is alive and well, seeking to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore we must remain “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Jesus said only those who do His will be allowed to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 7:21-23). I encourage every Christian to stay the course, be faithful until the very end of life so that we can hear the words of Jesus say to us at the judgment day “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Is My Love for Christ Obvious?

If you are like me you may have a Facebook account and enjoy staying in touch with family and friends while also sharing photos back and forth to one another. Facebook has become a very popular avenue in which to express just about anything that is on our mind and even share postings from others that we find interesting or insightful. This medium is a wonderful way to keep in touch with many people, but I must say that more often than not, I find many posts and photos offensive and discouraging to me. Please allow me to explain my personal thoughts concerning this matter as a Christian who’s first priority is to serve and obey God above all others and anything else.

Christians are posting pictures, or sharing posts, of themselves, family members, friends, or others who are absolutely dressed immodestly. When someone posts a picture of anyone that is not dressed properly, it presents a negative effect to the Christian. The first thing I notice is that it is not an appropriate picture and I immediately delete the image from my news feed. I certainly do not hit the “like” or “love” button because that would give my approval of the photo. My first thought is why did this Christian send this photo for many other Christians to see? My second thought is that I don’t believe that this Christian has the proper love and obedience for Christ. Have we become numb to what God’s word clearly teaches in regard to modesty. And by the way, it does not matter if the individual is dressed in the commonly accepted attire for a sporting event, if their clothing for that event is immodest in God’s sight. Before a Christian steps foot outside the door of their own house they should make sure that they are properly clothed, in God’s sight, before anyone else sees them in any given place or situation.

Christians are posting or sharing posts which contain bad language. We may see a video or post which reflects something that we are passionate about and we know of some others who may appreciate it. We then click the “share” button and off it goes to our many friends on our news feed. Then I see a post and immediately notice a curse word in the caption! What do I do? Do I continue to watch it? No. I immediately delete the post and wonder why would this Christian send something like this? “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). Again, I certainly would not hit the “like” or “love” button because I don’t give approval for such things as a Christian.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must think about who we are. We also must be mindful that everything we do, what we say, where we go, what we wear, etc., also reflects upon others who we are. God knows our thoughts and actions and as soon as we hit the “post” button other Christians also know our actions! The title of this article is “Is My Love for Christ Obvious?” Is it? The apostle Paul when writing to Timothy told him: “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all(1 Timothy 4:12-15). When Christians post only those things which are good and acceptable to God, then we can see their progress in Christ, striving to do all things which are pleasing to God and other Christians.

When Christians hit that “like” or “love” button when something is posted that is not acceptable to God (unrighteousness), then one is giving approval for the sin. “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 1:32). We need more Christians to have the kind of mindset that the apostle Paul was writing about in Romans and Philippians. ”I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things(Philippians 4:8). I urge you to read these passages and ask “am I honestly proving my service to God as a Christian by posting or liking the things I do?” We need to understand that we are to be a “living sacrifice” and acceptable to God in all that we do.

When our true love for God motivates us, then we will ensure that we are conducting ourselves in every way that is pleasing to Him. Jesus said that we must “ the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength....” (Mark 12:30). With that kind of sincere love for God, then we will stay focused on making sure that we please our Lord in all aspects of our lives. When Paul wrote to Timothy, he instructed him to be an example to the believers in “purity”. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he told them to meditate on those things that are “pure.” The apostle John wrote “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:1-3). I believe that every Christian understands the purity of Christ. He was without sin, the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He gave Himself freely to die on the cross so that we can have forgiveness of sins and to be with Him in eternity if we will obey His word (John 12:48), and be faithful until death (Revelation 2:10). Therefore, before we ever post or share a post on Facebook, think about our love for God and the purity of Christ. A Christian that truly loves God and strives to be pure as Christ is pure, will always make sure that everything that is posted or shared will not only be pleasing to God, but also to all His children who have a desire to be with Him one day. Let us make sure that others will truly be able to see that our progress in Christ is “evident to all.”