Now or Forever?

 

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“But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.” Romans 12:24

My friend had been a Christian for 15 years, having the same combination of joys and struggles most of us have, when he began listening to a pastor who proclaimed that God wanted all believers to enjoy prosperity, better jobs, health, happiness and that elusive promotion.

“God loves you so much,” the man said, “that he wants you to enjoy your piece of heaven right now while you’re here on earth. Don’t believe the talk about a recession or bad economic times,” he continued, “it is during these times that God moves all obstacles in our way so we can prosper and be an example to the world!”

After listening for several months and sending his tithe and offerings, suggested by the pastor (as you give so shall you reap), his overall fortunes took a dive. My friend was floundering. He was discouraged and disappointed with God. Instead of realizing that the pastor was in error, he looked higher and fixed the blame on God. His heavenly dispensing machine had failed to produce according to his wishes.

My friend had been lured away by the promises of a worldly pastor using materialistic bounty to distort and confuse the truth of the Gospel.

Romans 1:25  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Fortunately, my friend began to see through the false promises of selfish gain to realize that God’s promises are ever-faithful but geared to our eternal prosperity, not temporary pleasures or materialistic gain. Instead of eagerly listening to this false shepherd who was leading his flock astray, my friend returned to the Bible, the only source of absolute truth. He found the Streams of Living Water (John 7:38) to wash his soul once again.

Hebrews 13:20-21  Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

John 10:11  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.

1 John 2:15  Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.

As he took his eyes off the false promises he’d been taught and returned to his first love, Jesus Christ, my friend began to change. He began to flourish. The peace of God was once again filling his heart and showing on his countenance. He saw clearly now that he had been trading the grace of God for the hope of material wealth. A very poor trade.

Romans 5:1-5  Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.  This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:11  And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 8:35-39  Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can troubles or problems or sufferings? If we have no food or clothes, if we are in danger, or even if death comes—can any of these things separate us from Christ’s love? As it is written in the Scriptures:

“For you we are in danger of death all the time. People think we are worth no more than sheep to be killed.” Psalm 44:22

But in all these things we have full victory through God who showed his love for us. Yes, I am sure that nothing can separate us from the love God has for us. Not death, not life, not angels, not ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, or anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 12:2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18  That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

To help each other flourish, we can pray this Scripture:

1 Thessalonians 5:23  Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming.

 

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Stumbling Block

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1 Corinthians 1:23

We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.


I grew up in a neighborhood with lots of diversity. My folks did not discriminate, so neither did my sister and I. People were people. Some were nice and some not-so-nice. One of the most interesting was Mr. Johnson. He was blind and he was older—like a Grandpa.

One of my friends…actually not a friend as I was to learn…who lived nearby, was a prankster. He never tired of pulling pranks on everyone and we were getting frustrated with him. Finally, he did something to Mr. Johnson that excluded him from my circle of friends.

Mr. Johnson lived alone with his dog, Pete. He used a cane to get around his yard and all over town. He had a garden out back and tended it often. He raised lots of vegetables that he shared with everyone. If you wanted to pick some veggies on your own, you just rang a bell Mr. Johnson had attached to his gate. That way he knew someone was in the yard and he would come out to visit and chat.

As you may imagine, Mr. Johnson had established walking paths around his yard to get around to everything. Often he would putter around without using his cane to detect any stumbling blocks. This is where Freddy the prankster came in.  

Freddy decided it would be funny to ring the bell after he had set up a few obstacles in Mr. Johnson’s pathway. So he did. After he placed a few blocks in the paths, he rang the bell and hid off to the side. Mr. Johnson came out smiling, bidding a welcome to whoever may need some vegetables. He hadn’t gone very far before his foot hit a wooden block in the middle of the path. Down he went, cracking his wrist bone and bumping his head on a border stone.

Fortunately, Mr. Johnson’s next-door-neighbor came to get some cucumbers right after this happened. She was a nurse and was able to tend to his bruises and swollen forehead. It turned out that his cracked wrist just needed a tight wrap for a week, along with some pain medicine. This prank did not change Mr. Johnson’s attitude or generosity. Friends removed Freddy’s obstacles and everything went back to normal in Mr. Johnson’s backyard.

Freddy was never seen in the neighborhood again. By the fall, he and his family had moved to another school district.

I wonder if I am ever a stumbling block to others by my actions, attitudes or conversation? Do I, without considering the impact of what I am doing or saying, throw up obstacles in the path of others? Do I possibly cause someone to stumble spiritually? What about those times when I just have to have my way? Who stumbled on my selfishness? Someone surely. Thank you Lord for your forgiveness.

1 Corinthians 8:9  But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.

2 Corinthians 6.3 We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us.

Romans 14:13  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

 

If My People Will Pray

 

 

 

The religion of the founding fathers is notoriously difficult to pin down, but their written records offer many insights. For example, when the Continental Congress met for the first time, in September 1774, John Adams described in a letter to his wife a remarkably familiar religious atmosphere:

“When the Congress met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay of New York and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina because we were so divided in religious sentiments—some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists—that we could not join in the same act of worship.

“Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said that he was no bigot and could hear a prayer from any gentleman of piety and virtue who was at the same time a friend to his country. He was a stranger in Philadelphia but had heard that Dr. Duche deserved that character, and therefore he moved that Mr. Duche, an Episcopal clergyman, might be desired to read prayers to Congress tomorrow morning. The motion was seconded and passed in the affirmative. … “

In this case, unlike many others in history, conflict apparently ended with the selection of a spiritual spokesman. Adams continues:

“Accordingly next morning he appeared with his clerk and his pontificals [vestments], and read the Psalter for the seventh day of September, which was the 85th Psalm. You must remember this was the next morning after we had heard the rumor of the horrible cannonade of Boston. I never saw greater effect produced upon an audience. It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning. After this, Mr. Duche, unexpectedly to everybody, struck out into extemporaneous prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present:

“‘Be Thou present, O God of Wisdom, and direct the counsel of this honorable assembly. Enable them to settle all things on the best and surest foundations, that the scene of blood may be speedily closed, that order, harmony, and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish among the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and the vigor of them in this world, and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, thy Son and our Savior, Amen.’

“Washington was kneeling there, and Henry, Randolph, Rutledge, Lee, and Jay, and by their side there stood, bowed in reverence, the Puritan patriots of New England, who at that moment had reason to believe that an armed soldiery was wasting their humble households. … They prayed fervently for America, for Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston [whose port had been closed and in which British troops were being quartered].

“And who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploringly to Heaven for divine interposition. It was enough to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave, pacifist Quakers of Philadelphia.”

If My People Will Pray

ChristianHistory.net­­­

 

Thought Life

 

 

“What he thinks is what he really is.”  Prov. 23:7

Most everyone who knew Michael enjoyed his company. He was an excellent supervisor, a mature elder, a gifted city-league ball player, a charitable man, father and husband of one wife. Michael was the kind of guy people would line up to toast at his funeral. Most men envied him and many women secretly wished their husbands had some of his traits.

But who was Michael…really? His secret thought life was not exactly parallel with his exterior. Over the years Michael developed resentment at not being selected as the Vice President of his corporation and he harbored a simmering bitterness. The same was true in his church life. He spent more than ten years at his church before being selected as an elder. This was definitely not right or fair, he thought, casting the blame on his pastor who he knew was responsible.

And so it went for Michael, finding fault with people and companies who he blamed for various insults and rejections. His thought life was his secret refuge, a place that allowed him to get even. His thought life was also building a wall between himself and the Lord. “After all, the Lord could have given me the desires of my heart,” he thought.

Michael frequently retreated to a secret thought life in which he was superior, the winner, the smartest and best. The problem with living like that is–it is not real. It is a false life that leads us away from actual life and its challenges. And for a Christian, real life is built on their faith in Jesus Christ and forgiveness of sins, not promises to give material possessions and power.

What do you “think”? Are you building a secret thought life that gives you the pleasure and gratitude you “think” you deserve? Satan is the father of lies and is willing and able to help you along that road. He did remind a hungry Jesus that He could turn stones into bread!

John 5:39-40  You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.

Rom. 12:2-3  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

1 Cor. 8:2-3  Those who think they know something really don’t know as they ought to know. But the person who loves God is known by him.

1 Cor. 3:18-20  You should not fool yourself. If any of you think that you are wise by this world’s standards, you should become a fool, in order to be really wise. For what this world considers to be wisdom is nonsense in God’s sight. As the scripture says, ”God traps the wise in their cleverness.” (Job 5:13).; and another scripture says, ”The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are worthless” (Ps. 94:11).

Eph. 3:13-21  So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored. When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Many people have written books that promise riches through positive thinking. Why do you suppose so many books and celebrities talk about the same idea? Because there is truth in it. A kernel of truth that says whatever you think you will walk in. If you think you are a loser, that is how you will live. Your life will manifest circumstances to convince you it is so.  

As a Christian, it is essential that we think on Jesus Christ and his promises so our life will reflect the light of God. See Phil. 4:8-9. Think on these things!

 

 

Am I Generous?

 

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money.  Ecc.5:10

 

Two business graduate students from an Eastern college decided to experiment with the generosity of people across the United States. They traveled as two young men who’d lost all their money and needed help getting to their destination. Their sole purpose was to see if they could determine, overall, which economic level was the most generous; poor or rich.

            Like most of us, they had been raised with the idea that rich people, for the most part, are not generous; that they tend to grab for more and don’t have time for those down on their luck. These two students were embarking on a nationwide trip to take firsthand notes.

            After three weeks and several hundred meetings, meals, handouts and job opportunities, their discovery actually fortified the idea that the rich are not as generous as the poor. They were stunned as people with barely enough to get by were the first to help them, giving freely of food, money and a place to stay the night!

            The higher up the economic ladder they went the more suspicious and less generous they found people to be. Most often these people expressed the idea that they should take care of themselves. Rarely did they meet a person of wealth who offered them lodging.

            If these two young men came across our lives what would be our response? Would they leave our lives touched with the generous love of the Lord, filled with food, clothing and a place to stay? Or would we be found on the list of those not willing to reach out with help?

            Matt. 5:7  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

            Matt. 6:1-4  Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

            Luke 6:30-31  Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

Prov. 3:27  Do not withhold good from those who deserve it
      when it’s in your power to help them.

Lining our lives up with Jesus shatters our worldly ideas and dreams. He takes us beyond the rules and liturgy of the Pharisees into a world of personal responsibility and servanthood. He led the way by showing Himself as a servant instead of the Lord of all the world. Jesus did what His Father in heaven required of Him and that is what He expects of us.

Blueprint or Metaphor?

 

        Charles was teaching an adult Sunday School class with about 25 people. The same group had been meeting for several months and had shared many aspects of their fears and joys and challenges of walking with Christ as Savior. It was a class that seemed focused on serving the Lord, willing to make sacrifices.

        One Sunday, Charles surprised everyone with a test! Of course there were protests and grumblings. “A test? Where are we, in school again?” He smiled and passed out the papers just the same.

        The test was actually not what they thought. Rather than finding out their knowledge of what he’d been teaching, it challenged the depth of their faith, forcing every person to face their “true life” walk with Christ. At the end of the test he included Luke 6:27-38 followed by this question: “Do you think that Christians today are to take these verses literally? Are we to actually live our lives using this as our guide?”

        Luke 6:27-38 (Words of Christ):

  • Love your enemies
  • Do good to those who hate you
  • Bless those who curse you
  • Pray for those who mistreat you
  • If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also
  • If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also
  • Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back
  • Do to others as you would like them to do to you
  • “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
  • Love your enemies! Do good to them
  • Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked
  • You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate
  • Do not judge others, and you will not be judged
  • Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you
  • Forgive others, and you will be forgiven
  • Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.

What do you think? Are these verses in the Gospel of Luke an actual blueprint for living our lives today or a metaphor, meant to encourage and challenge Christians to live more sacrificially? Do you find yourself thinking that most of these statements are good as a guide but a few of them are over the top? Did God include these verses to be thought provoking but not literal? Perhaps the purpose of these verses is to provide a basic outline for Christian living but not to be taken literally.

But then, how can we pick and choose which Bible verses are literal and applicable for today’s Believers? Do we have the freedom to ignore verses that present too great a challenge for our flesh? If we believe the Bible to be God’s Word, given to its writers by the Holy Spirit then who are we to disregard those which present too great a challenge? We only have to look to the Book of Job to be reminded of who God is:

Job 38:4-7 ~“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?

  Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions

  and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations,

  and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together

  and all the angels shouted for joy?”

Finally, what does the Bible itself have to say about all the verses contained inside?:

2 Timothy 3:16 ~All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for re-setting the direction of a man’s life and training him in good living. The scriptures are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God and fit him fully for all branches of his work.