Friday, September 23, 2016

DOES GOD HEAR ALL HIS CHILDREN'S PRAYERS?

             According to this verse, sin separates the believer from fellowship with God.  This is also why 1 John 1:9 is such a vital and daily practice.  There are no degrees to sin, according to the Bible.  Perhaps there is a habitual problem of using the Lord's name in vain, maybe a lifestyle living in the sin of homosexuality, or even constant worrying (worry is a sin - Phil. 4:6), all sin needs to be confessed, but more importantly, all sin separate believers from fellowship with God.

Isaiah 59:2 "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear."

             Not just fellowship, but also prayer.  When we pray with unconfessed sin in our hearts and lives, the Lord does not hear them.  There are a lot of times that people tell me that they are praying for this or that and yet, I know, they have unconfessed sin in their lives.  Most often, this seems to be prevalent in those who are decidedly living in a lifestyle opposed to Biblical values.  All Christians sin, but the Holy Spirit convicts.  Living in a blatant and rebellious lifestyle is shaking your fist to God, yet Christians everywhere are living in unconfessed sin.
 
     1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

IS IT OK FOR CHRISTIANS TO ACCEPT ANYTHING THAT IS LABELED "CHRISTIAN "?

            To a lot of Christians, it would seem to be safe to go to a "Christian" church, a "Christian" concert, or any other "Christian" event.  After all, it's "Christian".  I use quotations because for the last decade or so, churches and other events seem to just throw the term Christian onto whatever it is they're promoting.   Unfortunately, a lot of true believers will run to these events or churches that are labeled Christian.  Unfortunately, churches also type up anything they want and it can sound really good and Biblical, but one has to go to this church, and maybe for a while, before the truth is revealed, even though it seemed really good online.
          With one time or annual events, it might be pretty easy to distinguish pretty quickly certain errors.  There are a few passages in the Bible that commands the believer to test and prove these things against scripture.  Anything that a believer involves themselves in needs to be examined through the lens of scripture.  That's not easy to do, especially when so much of what goes on is labeled as Christian.
              There's a number of verses that warn the believer of dangers throughout the world, and there are also some very clear verses commanding that the believer think, pray and research before jumping into that "christian" get together or attending that "christian" church.  One word that is common in the following verses is to approve, prove, or try.  Ok, 3 words, but looking at the Greek, they all mean the same; to examine, prove, or deem worthy.

Philippians 1:10
1 Thessalonians 5:21
1 John 4:1

             If the Bible commands that these things be examined or proven, or deemed worthy, what is the standard?  Well, God's Word. Anything that the Christian participates in that is not deemed worthy of God's approval, is, well, "chasing after the wind", as is put in Ecclesiastes.  Paul stated his life's goal in Philippians 3:10 and 14.

10 "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;"

14 "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Sunday, September 11, 2016

"I'M NOT PERFECT, BUT I'M BETTER THAN YOU" Part 2


              As they talk about other Christian's faults and gossip about the things others do, they say to me, “I’m not like those other Christians.  I actually get it.” I'm not talking about any one person particularly, but yet that group of Christians everyone seems to know or maybe it's not even a group, but only 1 or 2, but this phrase, or others very similar, seems to be a very common "go-to" saying. Why do people think down on others or maybe they don't and just simply acquire a "holier than thou" outlook.  In most instances, this outlook seems to be evident in areas of Christian liberty, or areas where the Bible is not specific, yet the matter is left to the discernment of the Christian.  There are, however, instances where this is evident in ministry, Bible studies and discussions, and even in the mundane things of the christian life.  There is a great Bible verse in 1 Corinthians chapter 8 and the context is Christian liberty.

1 Corinthians 8:1 "Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth."

             The bold, italics is always the part that jumps out at me.  As mentioned above, this particular outlook does not need to be about Christian liberty matters, but it could just be the result of once attending some classes at a great seminary or even some classes from a knowledgeable teacher or pastor. Even having gone through the same experiences that others are currently going though seems to give people an entitlement outlook of "I get it, but you don't yet" or just experience and position in general seems to demand respect (almost looking for an awe effect) when not earned.  There are lots of reasons people feel entitled to superiority over others.  James 4:10 and 1 Peter 5:6 are virtually the same verse. 

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."

            Romans 12 adds a new dimension to humbling ourselves, but also to keep control of our own thoughts.

Romans 12:3 "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."

               One problem with having a self-superior outlook is that there is no way to know the way the person on the other end will react to this attitude.  The recipient could be on the verge of a mental overload simply from all the stress of life.  To have to listen to someone's self-superior retort might shun them away.  They might also be just having a bad day and are not able to control their tongue at that moment.  Obviously, there's no excuse for wrongful behavior on either side and there are, of course, many other reasons to be humble.  Number one being because God commands it.  Another reason would be that God resists the proud and will one day chasten them with whatever is needed to humble that person......and it could be life changing depending on the Christians level of pride.  It could be humiliating, like King Nebuchadnezzar's experience.

              Isaiah tells us that God's thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways.  When Christians are not humble enough to change perspectives and attitudes and responses towards others, that Christian will be humbled by God himself.  It is always safer to be humble rather than be humbleD and humiliated

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"I'M NOT PERFECT, BUT I'M BETTER THAN YOU."

             There seems to be a common school of thinking in regards to self-righteousness.  It's very easy to get caught up in the trap of thinking that your own accomplishments or experiences surpass that of anyone else.  All of us have fallen short of the glory of God, and have fallen to the same depth of helplessness and sin, but even with that knowledge, Christians are prideful.  No matter how much of your life has been spent in the pursuit of godliness, there is still the sin of pride.  For some, it might be because of attending many years in seminary, sitting under a certain teacher or school, or even just studying the Bible for your whole life.  The Bible has a lot to say about self-righteousness, or in another word, pride.

          So what are some verses that will help us understand the value of pride?  Starting in Proverbs chapter 8, the Lord tells us just what He thinks of pride.

Proverbs 8:13  "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate."

Proverbs 16:18 "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."

            These two verses are probably the most well known, yet it seems as though reverence for this issue is lacking.  God tells us very clearly here, and in many, many other places that he hates pride and that pride will lead to destruction.  The sin of pride is so ingrained in human nature that the prideful person is blinded from reality.  Let's look at some other verses that tell of the Lord's discontent with this matter. 

Psalm 138:6 "Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off."

Proverbs 16:5a "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD..."

Proverbs 21:4 "...and a proud heart...is sin."

Jeremiah 50:31a "Behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord GOD of hosts..."

Jeremiah 50:32a "And the most proud shall stumble and fall..."

James 4:6 "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."
          
             There are many, many other verses all over scripture in regards to pride, but I wanted to try to focus in on God's view of the sin of pride.  It is clear in scripture what God's thoughts are, but also it's hard to ignore that some of these verses also tell us what kind of heart we need to have.  God honors the humble heart and regards highly anyone who is humble.  One of my favorite verses that tell Christians clearly the place and value of the humble in heart is found in Isaiah 57:15.
   
            "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
                
              God is speaking in this verse and is just as clear here about the value placed on Christians with humble and contrite spirits.  Of course and unfortunately, we still have the sin nature, however striving to be humble and contrite assures a close walk with God. 
              

               Micah 6:8 "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

Monday, August 29, 2016

Lessons in Love

      God needs to teach us how He loves so we can better love others, and how much and how complete His love is, for us to have a better understanding of Him and to gain more appreciation that He chose us to be His.  A lesson that gets so ingrained in the heart and mind that it can not be forgotten, is painful, but is also glorious, and, of course, ultimately magnifies the scope and intensifies the depth of the character of God.  Glimpses into God's character is all He wants for his children, so that we can learn and strive to be more like that perfect and glorious character.  Once that first small glimpse is learned, the next glimpse appears, which is often a more difficult lesson, and that cycle continues all our life.  More often, these lessons get more painful, overwhelming, and heart-wrenching, especially when they are about Christ's love.  After these harsh love lessons, the reality becomes more real that we need to love all our brothers and sisters in Christ and people in the world unashamedly, non descrimanatingly and, as in 1 Corinthians 13, covering all faults.  One indication of pure love is that others will probably not understand how a Christian can love a person so involved in worldliness.  Jesus is the only true example Christians have of how to love and through some harsh lessons, the Lord gives a small glimpse of what it's like to have such a love for someone, and for reasons inexplicable other than exemplifying the love of God.
           These lessons are harsh, however the Lord first needs to humble us to a place of teachableness and a willingness to be transformed into His image. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CHARACTERISTICS OF PRIDE VERSES HUMILITY

Pride:

"The first is that prideful people are not very thankful, after all, they deserve it, don't they? They deserve the good things anyway and so, of course, they don't have to give thanks because they deserve all of the good things

Prideful people have outbursts of anger because, “Around here there's really only one way and that's mine. There's really only one schedule and that's mine. There's only one set of expectations and that's mine. So, if you mess with my way, you mess with my schedule, you mess with my expectations, then you will feel my wrath.” That's pride and people who are full of pride have outbursts of anger.

Prideful people are perfectionistic. That doesn't mean we can't strive for excellence but perfectionistic people think that their work, their stuff and their accomplishments are perfect
because, after all, they're the only ones who know how to do things right and that is the only thing that satisfies them.

Prideful people hate accountability. They hate accountability and they don't want to listen to anyone. They don't want to be under anyone's authority. They think they're entirely self-sufficient and so they don't want accountability. “Forget that. Being accountable for my responses and my actions? Are you kidding me? I don't need accountability. Why? Because I do it all right anyway.” That's a person who is full of pride.

Prideful people are consumed with what others might think of them, though they hide it, being man-pleasers. Praise is addicting to them and so they become very self-righteous about how wonderful they are and how, well, not so wonderful others are.....or when they get criticized, they launch into self-pity because, “It feels like everybody is coming down on me.” “Oh, I can't handle it.”  Those are actually expressions of pride. And they cannot imagine someone actually asking them to take a step of faith in anything and when they do, they get upset, they distance relationships, they stop hanging out or talking with those people anymore because, “You're messing with me and my plans and my way.”

Prideful people are defensive. They're defensive. You can't really teach them something, they're defensive. They have an answer to everything, because they know everything all ready.  They don't have the attitude to learn. 

Humility:

There's thankfulness. Jesus died. I mean, sometimes you have to tell yourself that a lot, over and over and over again to see the significance of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and that without it we would have no hope of eternal life.

There's regular and constant prayer because humble people know where their strength comes from and they recognize that if the Lord wanted to do a Nebuchadnezzar to us, he is fully capable of doing that. If he wanted us to walk in humiliation, he could. You see, humble people just say, “I know I don't have enough strength. I know I don't have enough skills. I know I don't have enough wisdom. I need your help, Lord, and I’m asking you to do your work first of all in my heart and also heart of others.” They are actively serving others including those who have nothing to offer in return. You see, they are willing to serve simply because they want to serve Jesus and they don't have to have the rescuer or the savior mentality to the service.

They have a learner's attitude. They recognize that every time the word of God is opened, there is something there for them. There is some area of growth, some way in which they need to take a step and so they're coming asking the Lord for help every single time.

They pursue integrity. They don't just wait for people to catch them in their sin, they
pursue integrity.  Oftentimes people have a little part of their life that is just hidden over here, nobody knows about it, just kind of their own little thing and it's not until thats exposed that they will even begin to admit it and yet, what the humble person does is pursues integrity, doesn't want any of those little areas floating in their life.

They encourage others, they don't say, “There's me and then there's you,” they say, “There's you and then me.” It just doesn't make sense, does it? But that's where we need the strength of Christ to constantly come alongside so that the emphasis can be on the you rather than on the me."

It takes a lot of humility, not pride to speak kindly.
It takes a lot of humility, not pride to love others.
It takes a lot of humility, not pride to have an attitude of learning.
It takes a lot of humility, not pride to serve others and not yourself.
It takes a lot of humility, not pride to accept Christ's gift of eternal life.
It takes a lot of humility, not pride to serve a risen savior.

Quoted section from Rob Green's message: The Characteristics of Love.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A few good thoughts.

Spiritual disciplines of a Godly pastor:

1. Read, read, read, and read some more.

2. Pray, pray, pray, and pray some more, realizing that though prayer is to be constant, eventually steps of faith need to be taken.

3. Utilize biblical commentaries and other biblical study aids and/or software.

4. Surround yourself with Godly people who will keep you accountable and whom you don't have a problem with taking their advice/biblical criticism.

5. Know what the Bible says on the character of a pastor and practice those things.

6. Lead  by example.  The person you are in church does influence others, either negatively or positively.  Choose for the glory of God.

7. Put energy into your ministry and all the ministries that you, alone, can handle.  Dont depend on others to offer or be willing to serve in every ministry, but when they do, it will be a blessing.....and when that happens, then you can add other ministries or refocus on existing projects.

Practical disciplines of a Godly pastor:

1. Spend time getting your life and family organized to suit the ministry and ministries you're involved in.

2. If you’re not willing to say “no” to other people most of the time, you will never accomplish your priorities or be efficient in various ministries.

3. Develop healthy communication with those all around you.

4. Know your own limits and the limits of those in your church.

5. Never expect too much or ask too much of people.

6. Discipline yourself to take one day off a week to rest/replenish/refresh and connect with your family.

7. Take your vacation time every year to disconnect from ministry in order to have a blast with your family.

8. Lead by example.  The person you are outside of church does influence others, either negatively or positively.  Choose for the glory of God.