Thursday, November 15, 2018

Lessons From a Leper About Thanksgiving


The leper's story of a miraculous healing in Luke 17 is remarkable—to see such a disease immediately eradicated in someone's life is nothing short of awe-inspiring.  Yet when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are healed even more completely!  Once we were eternally separated from God by our sins, but Jesus has made forgiveness possible through His obedient sacrifice on the cross.  Through His blood we have been healed.  When we consider this year and what we have to be thankful about we ought to consider the depth of our greatest blessing—cleansing of a spiritual leprosy (our sin). 

A second lesson that we can learn from a leper is that we need to make thanksgiving a priority of life. The leper didn't wait to return to Jesus when it was convenient or after he had visited the priests.  He went immediately to Jesus.  The priests did not heal the leper, and the leper knew it.  He returned to the only One worthy of his worship and thanksgiving.  Have we been visiting the throne room of grace to thank the One from whom our blessings come?

A third lesson that can be learned is that thanksgiving should be offered from the outpouring of grateful hearts. There was an intensity in the leper's worship because he was aware of his helplessness to secure for himself the healing that he needed. How much more wonderful is the eternal healing for those who have been forgiven and now are able to follow Jesus Christ? May our thanksgiving be an enthusiastic celebration of Christ for healing that only He can bring about!

Lastly, we must learn to be consistent in our thanksgiving beyond the Thanksgiving season. The more intentional we are about offering thanks to God, the easier it becomes to see His goodness in our lives. That is why we are repeatedly commanded in the Bible to be thankful in all things (1 Thess. 5:18).  No one could ever begin to bless us like our heavenly Father.

I hope that our families see in us the natural response of always going back to our heavenly Father for His ceaseless blessings. Let us be diligent in thanking Him for His grace and goodness.  Let’s let others know the things that we are most thankful for in our lives!


 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Christians & Halloween?


I’d like to share with you an article that is long overdue.  In fact, my full intentions were to write this myself as Christians struggle with whether or not they should participate in this event.  Due to time and another dear brother doing such an excellent job, I’d like to pass along to you a great article that I believe reflects a Biblical perspective about this questionable event called Halloween.  In fact, his conclusions mirror my own and I believe you will find it most valuable as a Christian.  This article comes from a Christian web site called, “Got Questions.”
“Halloween, no matter how commercialized, has almost completely pagan origins. As innocent as it may seem to some, it is not something to be taken lightly. Christians tend to have various ways to celebrate or not to celebrate Halloween. For some, it means having an “alternative” Harvest Party. For others, it is staying away from the ghosts, witches, goblins, etc., and wearing innocuous costumes, e.g., little princesses, clowns, cowboys, super-heroes, etc. Some choose not to do anything, electing to lock themselves in the house with the lights off. With our freedom as Christians, we are at liberty to decide how to act.


Scripture does not speak at all about Halloween, but it does give us some principles on which we can make a decision. In Old Testament Israel, witchcraft was a crime punishable by death (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27). The New Testament teaching about the occult is clear. Acts 8:9-24, the story of Simon, shows that occultism and Christianity don't mix. The account of Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13:6-11 reveals that sorcery is violently opposed to Christianity. Paul called Elymas a child of the devil, an enemy of righteousness and a perverter of the ways of God. In Acts 16, at Philippi, a fortune-telling girl lost her demon powers when the evil spirit was cast out by Paul. The interesting matter here is that Paul refused to allow even good statements to come from a demon-influenced person. Acts 19 shows new converts who have abruptly broken with their former occultism by confessing, showing their evil deeds, bringing their magic paraphernalia, and burning it before everyone (Acts 19:19).

So, should a Christian celebrate Halloween? Is there anything evil about a Christian dressing up as a princess or cowboy and going around the block asking for candy? No, there is not. Are there things about Halloween that are anti-Christian and should be avoided? Absolutely! If parents are going to allow their children to participate in Halloween, they should make sure to keep them from getting involved in the darker aspects of the day. If Christians are going to take part in Halloween, their attitude, dress, and most importantly, their behavior should still reflect a redeemed life (Philippians 1:27). There are many churches that hold "harvest festivals" and incorporate costumes, but in a godly environment. There are many Christians who hand out tracts that share the Gospel along with the Halloween candy. The decision is ultimately ours to make. But as with all things, we are to incorporate the principles of Romans 14. We can’t allow our own convictions about a holiday to cause division in the body of Christ, nor can we use our freedom to cause others to stumble in their faith. We are to do all things as to the Lord.”





Thursday, October 4, 2018

Don't Accept Satan's Lies


Prior to being in ministry I was a subcontractor for flooring and I had various men work for me during that time.  One specific man worked for me about seven years and we became very good friends to the point that we enjoyed each other’s company even off of the clock.  He was a believer in Jesus Christ and attended another local church in town; in fact, he was very involved in ministry at that church.  He had grown up in a Christian home and his parents served as missionaries.

I knew that he had become infrequent in church and he started to enjoy more acquaintances with people outside of the church.  For his own reasons, he had become frustrated and disillusioned with the church and so called Christians.  Alcohol became a dear friend that he could trust and isolation became a regular practice in his life.  We always enjoyed each other’s company and we often picked up where we left off when we got together.  However, I knew that he lacked the joy of walking with Christ like he once did in his life.  It wasn’t long and he began to fail to acknowledge or respond to my calls and texts although I knew he was busy.  In fact, I even continued to refer him flooring work from people who would contact me for flooring—everyone loved him.

I knew that his parents and siblings were concerned for him but they did not want to interfere with his life or push him away from them.  Having never married and with his family living out of town, he spent a great deal of time by himself.  Out of the blue one day he sent me a text that said, “Please tell my parents that I’m very sorry but I’m unable go on.  I’ve tried.”  I did not know how to interpret this text although I took it to heart and attempted to call him to grab coffee with him.  After a few short exchanges of texts he went off the radar and stopped responding to me.  It was six hours later that I received a phone call from a common friend sharing with me that he had just ended his life with a gun. 

As tears filled my eyes and a lump developed in my throat, I stood speechless and dumbfounded.  I could only ask the question, “Why would he do this”?  It has been almost four years since he took his life and I keep his photo next to my desk to remind me about the preciousness of life, friends, and to keep praying for his family.  I truly believe that he succumbed to the lies of the evil one, Satan.  You see Satan would have us to believe that God is not capable of bringing deliverance in our lives.  Satan would have us to believe that life is meaningless.  Satan would have us to believe that our circumstances our hopeless and that God left us behind.  Satan would have us to believe that we are unworthy and that nobody cares for us any longer.  Satan is a liar!!!

Once an individual crosses the line and accepts Satan’s lies then Satan sets his hook deep inside of their soul.  He then attempts to draw them away causing them to entertain all types of ungodly thoughts including ending their life.  Please be convinced and share with others that there is not a thing that could ever separate us from the love of God, which is through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:38-39).  Christ proved His love to us through His death, resurrection, sitting at the right hand of God, and by interceding (praying; John 17:9) for us even today.  God wants us to know the fullness of joy and peace, which comes through walking and fellowshipping with Him.  The day we let go of God’s hand is the day we begin to look for the hand of another (Satan) who will always give us the wrong comfort and ultimately poison our soul.  Please reach those who are doubting the love of God today!



Thursday, September 27, 2018

Encouraging Through the Word of God


As a shepherd of God’s flock, I meet regularly with those who are hurting in hopes of comforting them with the encouragement and promises from God’s Word.  One of the best ways to face the darkness of tomorrow is to understand the character, promises, and the ways of our Great God.  Before making hospital or home visits to those who are hurting I strive to have a verse or two prepared that I can share as an encouragement to those that I am visiting. 
You see, God’s Word is capable of bringing about comfort, hope, and joy in ways that I could never begin to do so.  We are told in Isaiah 55:11 by God that His Word, “it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  Praise God!  Others need more than our personal encouragement to help them make it through the trials of this life.  God’s Word always points others back to Him and it’s only through God’s Word that we can speak with any true confidence. 
I would like to share with you 10 verses that have become very dear to me in times of turmoil that you can share with others as well:
1.     Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

2.     Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

3.     Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

4.     1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

5.     Psalm 94:19, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”

6.     Luke 12:22-26, “And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?’”

7.     Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

8.     Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

9.     1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

10.  2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of  love and of a sound mind.”



Thursday, September 20, 2018

Contentment

 
There are times that we, as Christians stand guilty of finding contentment in many things except God.  Contentment can be sought in our titles, our jobs, our possessions, our relationships, our intellects, our reputations, and even our egos.  There is a real temptation for us to strive to find satisfaction in these things apart from God.  However, what if we had nothing but food and clothing; could we truly be content?  Could we be content living at the local rescue mission or living in an apartment versus our private, furnished homes?  What if we didn’t have cable television, the Internet, or Netflix?  Most of us love our things and life’s small amenities that keep us comfy and happy.  I’m concerned that life’s luxuries have become our necessities in order for us to be happy and content.
God encourages His people through His Word to find contentment in Christ alone plus nothing else.  The Apostle Paul said, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  (NIV, 1 Tim. 6:6-11)
According to Scripture, there is a real danger in being desirous of the things of this world.  God’s Word says that those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap that leads to many harmful desires for us.  Although it is impossible to identify what all those dangers might be, a part of this danger is finding satisfaction apart from God and seeking things that God has not willed for His children to have. Some people allow money and material things to drive their lives and motivate them.  Some Christians would consider their lives very good, while they have very little substance in their relationship with God.  Could we be so bold as Christians to ask God to help us to loosen our grip on the things that we have become used to and that we find important to us?  Could we be so bold as to ask God to remove anything in our life that is keeping us from knowing, loving, and serving Him better?  Please know this type of bold prayer to God could be very painful.
Ultimately, are we willing to get back to the basics of finding contentment in the person of God alone for all of our joy and contentment.  Have we slowly drifted over the years only to find ourselves docked at the wrong harbor where God cannot be found?  Could we lay everything before our great God and ask Him what He would have us to pick back up?  May we find contentment in the goodness of His character and in His love for us.





Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Meaning of Abba Father


Throughout the Bible there are many names ascribed to God that are used to describe the character of God and the relationship that He has with His people.  I’m not choosing one name over another; however, I was recently studying the name “Abba Father” as found in Romans 8:15 which says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”  The words Abba Father are found two other places in Scripture.  Jesus addresses His Father as “Abba Father” in His prayer at Gethsemane (Mark 14:36).  Paul, in Galatians 4:6, uses the words “Abba Father” in a similar manner to that of Romans 8:15.
The word Abba is an Aramaic word that means Father.  In its context, it was a common term that expressed affection and confidence and trust in ones own earthly father.  Abba signifies the close, intimate relationship of a father to his child, as well as the childlike trust that a young child puts in his father.  In Scripture the Aramaic word Abba is always followed by the Greek word for Father. Together, the terms Abba and Father particularly emphasize the fatherhood of God.  In two different languages God’s children are assured of His great care and protection that He has for them.  The use of these two words together should remove any fear in our hearts because God holds His children secure now and for always.  He welcomes them in His presence. 
The name Abba Father is also very significant in terms of how God relates to His children.  The right to be called a child of God and to call God Abba Father belongs only to those who have become believers in Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13).  When a sinner is born again they are adopted into the family of God (John 3:1-8—Christ explains this to Nicodemus) and are then made heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).  This means that we, along with Christ, will be the recipients of God’s full expression of glory in the future.  This truth brings great significance in the fact that we are full members of an eternal family in which God is our Father and Jesus Christ is our elder brother (Hebrews 2:11–12).
Practically, it means that we can live this life with confidence that God has provided and desires an intimate relationship with His redeemed children.  It means that Christians have all the privileges of a fully adopted child of God and that they now wear His name.  Becoming a child of God is the most humbling and honoring of privileges.  Because of this new relationship with our Abba Father, God no longer deals with us as enemies; now, we can approach Him with “boldness” (Hebrews 10:19) and in “full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22) that we are welcomed.  As a child of God we have been given “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade” (1 Peter 1:4).  Calling God our Abba Father is not to make light of His divine nature.  It helps those who have been born again to understand their new relationship with God, their Heavenly Father.  



Thursday, August 23, 2018

Living With a Clear Conscience


Two words that can be used incorrectly in a sentence are the words conscious and conscience.  These words are very different and not interchangeable. The definition of the word conscience is “an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one's behavior.”  Scripture says much about having a God-honoring conscience.  The following are thoughts taken from Scripture about a clear conscience:

1.     Keep a Clear Conscience:  “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)
2.     Keep a Clear Conscience Before God and Man:  “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” (Acts 24:16)
3.     Our Conscience Can Be Seared:  “Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.”  (1 Timothy 4:2)
4.     A Clear Conscience Allows a Restful Heart:  My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.” (Proverbs 3:21-26)
5.     Christ Can Give Us a Clear Conscience:  “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14)
6.     A Guilty Conscience Can Be Cleansed by God:  “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”  (Hebrews 10:22)