Thursday, April 26, 2018

Negativity

Many people struggle with negative thinking and it would appear that Satan uses this battle to distract God's people from trusting Him and manifesting the character of Jesus Christ. Christians have the responsibility to evaluate the thoughts that they allow to be entertained in their minds.  Paul encourages believers to transform the way that they used to think before they were saved because it does not bring about the righteousness of God (Romans 12:1-2).  Paul also instructs believers to have the mind of Christ in all matters (1 Cor. 2:16) but this does not come without the careful study of the Word of God and prayer. 

Negative people always tend to suck the life out of everyone around them.  They tend to believe the worst about others and the situation.  They seem to demonstrate very little faith in the sovereignty of God.  If a Christian desires to avoid negativity then they must purposefully think about, "things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praise worthy" (Philippians 4:8).  Positive thinkers learn to think God's ways and they believe that He sits enthroned and is capable of keeping order in this world.  Positive thinking takes time but with practice it will become easier.  Most people love to be around others who walk with confidence in God's ability and in the promises of God's Word.

Negative thoughts can always be replaced with godly ones.  We as Christians live in a world that offers fear, stress, and negativity but this is not to be our fate.  Because we have the Holy Spirit of God living within us we can walk with confidence in the darkest of situations that would cause us to fear and question Him.  Let's be a life-giver to others by walking positively in the character and promises of God.





Thursday, April 5, 2018

What Does it Mean to be Unequally Yoked?

As a young boy I continuously heard preachers preach from 2 Corinthians 6:14 which says, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership can righteousness have with wickedness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?"  I'm so thankful that God placed people in my life that cautioned me about God's desires for me.  As a result, I sought to find godly friends and date only those who gave evidence of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Today, I truly believe that this verse is disregarded as it was with God's people in the days of old.  What is God's intent with this verse?  Is it wrong to pursue close and binding relationships with those who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior?

The yoke that the apostle Paul was speaking about was a wooden bar that would join two oxen together in order to cause them to work at pulling together on a job.  When one ox was taller or faster than the other ox then it would cause them to fight against one another and perhaps even cause them to walk in a circle.  Being unequally yoked made it so that they could not accomplish the task that they were set out to do.  Instead, they would fight against each other and exhaust one another.

The message that Paul is giving the Corinthian church is not a new concept for God's people.  In the Old Testament God cautioned his people not to make partnerships with their neighboring communities who embraced other gods because their unbelieving neighbors had a worldview that would serve as a snare for God's people (Exodus 23:32-33).  In this verse, Paul is discouraging Christians from being in an unequal partnership with unbelievers because believers and unbelievers are opposites, just as light and darkness are opposites. A non-believer is governed by the principles of Satan until they come to know Christ as Savior.  Two non-believers would not be unequally yoked because they share the same system of beliefs apart from God.  Christians are expected by God to have a biblical worldview concerning all aspects of life.  Being united with a non-Christian in a partnership is being unequally yoked, which God forbids.

Christians and non-Christians have different moral compasses (at least they should have) that pull against one another.  One or the other will have to surrender to the will of the other in order for movement to take place.  Venturing into a business relationship with a non-Believer would be a clear application of what Paul is speaking about here.  Business decisions that are made each day will reflect the worldview of one partner or the other.  As a former business owner I can honestly say that moral judgment is regularly made about matters and not all people agree about the rightness of a decision.  Christians also fail to understand that God never intended His people to be united in marriage with a non-Believer.  In fact, God forbids and cautions His people not to be unequally yoked in this area as well.  Many young people choose to date lost people (and their parents are even  supportive) believing that they can win them to Christ on a future date.  This has been called "missionary" dating.   It seldom ever takes place and they reap the consequences of a divided household or even a Christ-less family in the days to come.  I've also witnessed many times a young person walking away from God and their church as they began dating a non-believer.

We must embrace God's Word when it comes to being united with unbelievers.  Parents must train their children on the importance of only dating those who profess Jesus Christ and give evidence of that relationship through a growing relationship with Christ. 




Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Should Christians Observe the Sabbath?


Recently a Christian asked me a great question about the Sabbath. They were wondering whether or not we as Christians should be practicing the Sabbath today and what the Bible had to say about it.  Here were some of my thoughts.

Since Jesus Christ came as the promised Messiah, He fulfilled “every” requirement of the Law so that God’s people were no longer under bondage to fulfill the Law but under the grace of Christ that came through the shedding of His blood.  The approximate 613 laws in the Old Testament that were placed upon the Jews found their fulfillment in the “One” person and redemptive act of Christ.  This is very important in that the Law could never save but it served to point to our need for a Savior.  This is not to say that the 10 commandments would not apply to us any longer.  In fact, all of the commandments can be found repeated in the New Testament apart from the command to keep the Sabbath.  Romans 6:14 explains to Christians that they are no longer under the Law but under grace through the work of Christ.  If we want to be technical, the Sabbath principle was not technically focused on the day of the week (although it was Saturday for the Jews) but the emphasis was to have a designated day where no work would be done (Ex. 20:8-11) and God was the complete focus of worship.   According to Acts 2:46-47, the early Christians were meeting every day of the week for worship and not just on the “Sabbath” (or Saturday).  In the early church, if there was a specific day that was primary for much for their worship it was Sunday, the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).  

The early church, which comprised of a great number of Jewish converts, had much transition happening in their lives.  All they ever knew was the Mosaic Law as they waited for their Messiah.  They had to make sense of their faith, their traditions, and the work of Christ.  There is always a feeling of safety in keeping tradition, which is why we can be so strong on imposing our own traditions on others.  There is nothing wrong with making one day our specific day of corporate worship over another.  In fact, Paul told early Christians who were struggling with special holy days to give grace and freedom in this area (Romans 14).  He encouraged believers to be fully confident for themselves that their actions would bring glory to God—which should be our focus today as well.  

Is there anything wrong with choosing Saturday over Sunday???  Absolutely not.  Sunday has been a day that has worked for Christians for many years and many things are shut down in respect for that day.  I feel it works best for us but for some people worshiping on Sundays is not possible because they work that day.  I believe that Galatians 5:13-15 sums up the principle for Christians to follow in respect to choosing the way that we worship.  It suggests that although you are free in Christ to choose (because He has set us free from the bondage and weight of the Law) how we worship, don’t allow our freedom to be a stumbling block for others and be careful judging others in these matters.  Each person will give an account to God for all of his or her actions, whether good or evil (Matthew 12:36).



Thursday, March 22, 2018

Have You Heard of the 4 Spiritual Laws?

You may or may not have heard of the 4 Spiritual Laws.  Just as there are physical laws that govern the physical universe, so are there spiritual laws, which govern your relationship with God.  These four laws help us to understand how to share Christ with those who do not know Him.

The first law is, God loves you, and offers a wonderful plan for your life.  God's Word tells us in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."  Jesus Christ said, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly" (John 10:10).  In other words Christ came in order that our life might be full and meaningful.  Many people do not experience this abundant life because....

The second law tells us that man is sinful and separated from God.  Therefore, he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life.  We are told in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  Man was created to have fellowship with God; but, because of his stubborn self-will, he chose to go his own independent way and fellowship with God was broken.  Since God is holy and man is sinful, there is a great gulf that separates them both but we learn from the third law the only way to bridge that gulf.

The third law informs us that Jesus Christ is God's only provision for man's sin.  Through him you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life.  Romans 5:8 tells us that Jesus Christ died in our place, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Not only did he die but Christ rose from the dead.  We are told that, “Christ died for our sins…  He was buried… He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures…” (1 Cor. 15:3-4)  God bridged that gulf that separated us from Him by sending His sinless Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins.  Knowing these three laws is not enough...

We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives~~this is the fourth law.  Jesus Christ said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him” (Revelation 3:20).

You see, receiving Christ involves turning from our self to God (repentance) and trusting Christ to come into our lives to forgive our sins and to make us the kind of person He wants us to be. It is not enough just to agree intellectually that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins.  Nor is it enough to have an emotional experience.  We must receive Jesus Christ by faith, as an act of our personal will.  Please share this Good News with others this Easter~~it truly is the reason for the season.





































Thursday, March 15, 2018

7 Costs of Being an Evangelistic Leader


For many churches, evangelism is not talked about a great deal and it is not a priority in their ministry.  If we aren’t talking about evangelism then we can be assured that many of us aren’t really doing evangelism.  Many explanations could be offered for the death of evangelism in our churches.  Tom Rainer cites various reasons why evangelism is difficult work with churches and Christian leaders.
  1. It is spiritual warfare. Satan and his demonic horde do not want people to know the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though the manifestations of demonic opposition are many, you can be assured the evangelistic leader will confront such opposition again and again.
  2. You will be viewed as narrowed minded. John 14:6 does not sit well with culture. Though Jesus Himself said He was the only way, truth, and life, leaders will be rejected and opposed for such “narrow-minded” thinking.
  3. Something else must be sacrificed when you are an evangelistic leader. Your time is limited. You have sermons to prepare. You have hospital visits to make. You have counseling appointments. You have way too many meetings. And hardly a day goes by without a new and unexpected crisis arising. You must sacrifice something else to take time to share the gospel with others.
  4. Some of your members will complain. You have some church members who will complain about anything that does not serve them personally. It may be headed under the passive-aggressive guise of “I’m not being fed,” but you can be assured some of your members will oppose your leadership in evangelism.
  5. New converts will be seen as threats or inconveniences in your church. True story. In one of the churches I served as pastor, a lady tried to get me fired because the “new people” were “messing up our church.” New Christians are needy. Some longer-term members don’t like to give up their comforts for others.
  6. Discussing theology is easier than doing theology. I wish we spent an equal amount of time sharing the gospel as we do talking and debating theology. Yes, we need to take bold stands for the truth. But we don’t need just to stand there; we need to do and go.
  7. You will have to break out of your holy huddles. It’s more comfortable hanging out with people who are like us and who believe like we do. But you will not have that luxury if you become an intentional evangelistic leader in your church. You will discover new relationships with non-Christians, which means you can’t spend all your time with Christians.   


 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Should Christians Practice Lent?

I was recently asked by a couple of Christian men about the biblical purpose of Lent and whether or not Christians should be practicing it.  Many Protestants are not familiar with the term due to the fact that many of them don't practice it.  The Lent season (approximately 46 days, not counting Sundays) began in the 4th century and it was a period of time that was used for fasting, eating in moderation, or self-denial of something special.  Lent would begin on Ash Wednesday and last all the way until Easter Sunday.  For some who practice Lent, they may choose to refrain from smoking, eating meat, eating chocolate, not drinking coffee, or even turning off their television for a time.  It was a way of practicing self-denial of something special that meant something to an individual in hopes of gaining a greater measure of grace or blessing from God.

However, the Bible teaches that grace cannot be earned and it is the free gift of God (Eph. 2:8, Rom. 5:17).  Lent is encouraged as a sacrament in which believers receive an extra measure of grace or blessing.  No place in Scripture are Christians asked or told to practice Lent.  In fact, God's love for us cannot be any greater than it already is by practicing some act of self-denial.  Jesus Christ is the fullness of God's goodness towards us.  In Scripture Jesus encouraged those who desired to practice fasting to do so privately and not to make it a public matter in order to receive the accolades of others (Matthew 6:16-18).   Ash Wednesday (the beginning day of the Lent season) is the day that ashes are placed upon one's forehead to express their humility and penitent heart towards God. 

There is nothing at all wrong with fasting.  In fact, God desires that we walk in humility towards Him as a lifestyle.  His desire is that Christians are constantly aware of sin that exists in their lives and that they seek to walk in holiness every day of the year and not just during Lent season.  Lent should not be a time for us to boast of our sacrifice for God rather we should boast in the cross of Jesus Christ alone.  Christians are free to practice Lent if they feel so led to do so but they should always have a repentant heart and a life bathed in holiness.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Your Love Never Fails & It Never Gives Up on Me


There are times in our lives when the trials seem to be more than we can bear and it is during those times that we just sit and rest in the character of our God and His promises.  We know that His promises are sure and that His love is constant even when we cannot connect the dots.  God's Spirit has a way of ministering to our spirit through the power and comfort of His Word.
Here are some Bible verses that I have come to cling to and rest upon as God has brought me through difficult days. Take the time to write some of them down and underline them in your own Bibles.  Pray these verses to God and may you find comfort in the arms of the Holy One.
Jesus is speaking in John 10:27-30, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
The Psalmist declares in Psalm 36:5-7, "Your loving kindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like a great deep. O LORD, You preserve man and beast.  How precious is Your loving kindness, O God!  And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings."
Paul states in Romans 8:37-39, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
1 Peter 5:6-7 encourages believers to, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
Lastly, we can stand strong because of God's character as seen in Psalm 3:2-6, "Many are saying of me, 'God will not deliver him.' But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.  I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.  I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side."
Find rest in His presence and His promises today.