I’m sure you’ve noticed that I more often address the readers of this blog as children of God than as Christians. I do that because many people have the idea that everyone who attends a church or says that he or she believes in Christ is automatically a Christian. Not so! One can sleep in a garage every night but that does not make him a car. It is like the many people who declare that the Bible says that we are all God’s children. No, the Bible does not say that. In fact it says the opposite. John wrote: “He (Christ) came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:11-12) Clearly, only those who receive Christ can truly say they are God’s children. It is biblically correct to say that we are all God’s creation, but only those who receive Christ can rightfully say that they are His children.
I was reminded of the worldly misconception that we are all God’s children when Pastor Mike yesterday mentioned another false belief, namely that God helps those who help themselves. I bet some of you who are reading this blog have heard others say this more than once. There are other phrases people mistakenly think are in the Bible. A notable one is “So let it be written, so let it be done” from the movie we all see at least once a year, “The Ten Commandments.” Here is another often used phrase which is uttered by well meaning folks when trying to comfort those who are grieving: “I’m so sorry for your loss, Heaven must have needed another angel.” I’m sure some of you are angels in the eyes of many who know you, but the truth is that none of us we will ever be angels. The Lord will call us home one day, but it won’t be because He needs another angel. I hope none of you ever uses that phrase in the future. It may do more harm than good.
Five times in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began a sentence with these words: “You have heard that it was said….” In all these instances, He was reminding His listeners that they could not accept as truth, everything that others had said or taught. I trust this will remind us of the importance of reading God’s word. The best way to identify the counterfeit is by knowing the genuine. In God’s Word, we have all we need when trying to encourage others or lead them to Him. The more truth you know, the better you will be equipped to help others.
God’s word for today: (2 Timothy 3:16) “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living.” * GNT (Good News Translation)
I venture to say that a good number of Christians hesitate to tell others when they worry or are afraid, thinking they will be perceived as having a lack of faith. I know that I seldom tell others when I am afraid. And if you think that being afraid is always indicative of a lack of faith, permit me to remind you of the following: In the 20th and 26th Chapters of Genesis, we read where both Abraham and later his son Isaac lied to the men of the places they traveled to, by telling them that theirs wives were their sisters because they were afraid they would kill them and take their wives for themselves. Moses was afraid when he realized that others had seen him kill an Egyptian man who was beating a fellow Hebrew, so he fled Egypt to go into Midian. (See Exodus, Chapter 2) In I Kings 19, we read about the time Elijah fled in fear from the wicked queen Jezebel. King David, the mighty warrior king wrote: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Ps. 56:3) He did not write “if” but “when.” Centuries later, the Apostle Paul, sent back to the church in Philippi one of their members who had helped the apostle for some time. While there, the fellow became very ill and almost died. When the Lord healed him, Paul sent him back, saying in his letter: “Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.” (Ph. 2:27) Obviously, Paul had been deeply worried when the man was very sick. The point is that all these are considered heroes of the faith, yet they worried or were afraid at different points in their lives..
Does this mean we should always worry? Of course not! The point is, however, that worry is an actual part of life. On the other hand, it is obvious that many people worry much more than they should. In a recent survey concerning worry, these were the findings: 40% worry about things that will never happen. 30% worry about the past that can't be changed. 12% worry about criticism by others, which is mostly untrue. 10% worry about health, which gets worse with stress, and only 8% worry about actual problems.
If you find yourself worrying more than what you feel is normal, you need to bring it in prayer to the Lord. You need to ask Him to strengthen you in the faith. Then, you need to trust Him and leave your cares and burdens with Him. What you should not do, however, is let the devil or anyone else make you feel that you are not a genuine child of God because you worry from time to time.
God’s promise for today: (1 Peter 5:7) “Cast all your worries on Him because He cares for you.”
I used to have a hard time making out what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote this in his first letter to the Corinthians: “For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16) I understood the part about not boasting about preaching the gospel because it is not our message but Christ’s. The part that troubled me at first was the second half of the verse where Paul said he was compelled to do it and woe to him if he didn’t. To me, to force one of His servants to do this or that went against my perception of God’s character. In time, and later by experience, I came to understand what Paul meant. I understood later that Paul was actually referring to an inner force within him which was compelling him and not God directly.
This reminded me of the Prophet Jeremiah’s dilemma in Old Testament times. As many of you are aware, he went through many hardships being God’s spokesman to a very obstinate and vindictive people. He was preaching a message they did not want to hear. The last straw was the pain and humiliation of being beaten and put in the stocks under orders of the temple priest. After that, Jeremiah said “Enough! I will make mention of His name no more” Then he added: But if I say, “I will not mention His word or speak anymore in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in indeed, I cannot.” (Jer. 20:9) What was this? It was the same inner force that centuries later prompted Paul to write, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” And it is the same force that drives every genuine servant of God.
Many years ago, when my sons were teenagers, I left the church thinking it would be better for my family if they were in a “better” church environment. I was wrong! It only took me a few weeks to realize my error. I just could not stand the idea of being a “bench warmer” or seeing others doing what I should have been doing. I couldn’t take that anymore so I went back to my home church. By God’s grace, they took me back. What “compelled” me to go back to do what I was called to do? I’m convinced it was the same “inner” force that drove Jeremiah and Paul to keep on doing what they were called to do. The truth is that we need to serve God. It is for our benefit. If we don’t do what He has called us to do, He’ll call someone else. The conclusion to this matter should be obvious. If you have been called of God to a certain task or ministry, you will never be fulfilled until you’re smack dab in the middle of His calling upon your life. You may even search for reasons, just like Jeremiah did, why you can’t or won’t serve God in your calling. And whether your stage is at home, work, church, or any other place, that inner force within you will never stop bothering you; that is, if you have a genuine call of God upon your life. To me, there are few things sadder than unused instruments. They are of no value to anybody unless they are being played. If God has called you, you are an instrument in His hand. Let Him play you.
God’s word for today: (Psalm 40:8) “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”
A favorite Psalm of many children of God is Psalm 100. It is relatively short so here it is in it’s entirety: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. 2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. 3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”
Although we love and believe what many bible verses say, we don’t always put them into practice. Making a joyful noise is one of them. The first church my family and I attended upon my conversion was a church where loud joyful noises were non-existent. That is not to imply that folks there did not love the Lord; its just that they believed that church worship should be done in quiet reverence. I am not the most expressive guy around but I do remember times in that church when folks would glance back at my wife and I because we were singing too loud or when an “amen” or two would come out of my mouth. That reminded me of this story I once heard: A visitor in a certain church uttered a loud “amen” when the preacher said something he agreed with. Many folks turned around and looked at him. After a while he gave out a loud “praise the Lord!” Even more folks turned to look at him with raised eyebrows. The next time a loud “amen” came out of his mouth, an usher tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “What’s wrong with you?” The visitor replied, “I’m sorry, I just have a joyful heart.” The usher replied, “Well, mister, you didn’t get it here.”
Churches are like families, what works or is done in one will not necessarily work in another. Like people, they have to be true to themselves. Simply put, we have to be ourselves. As a pastor, I have no problems with folks being loud and happy in church if that is the way they are everywhere and as long as they are not disruptive. In fact, I love to see people praising the Lord in a joyful way. I often hear someone remark how some Christians get wildly excited at a sporting event but not in church. I beg to differ. When I attend a sporting event to watch a favorite team, I usually sit through the whole game. If you don’t believe me, ask my son. Yet, in church I am a little more animated. In the regard, then, I am the exception. Does that mean I don’t feel joy and excitement whether in church or in a football game? No! It is just me being me. We have to be careful when we unknowingly gauge a person’s love for God by what we see on the outside. The most accurate way to determine people’s love for Christ is by the life they live, the lives they have touched or the way they treat others, not by the way they worship God in church. That being said, to make a joyful noise unto the Lord will always be a good thing.
God’s word for today: (Psalm 89:15) “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance.”
I did not have sufficient time in my sermon this past Sunday in church to elaborate so I would like to focus on the points I omitted, hoping that it can be of some benefit to our readership. I titled the message “Under Attack” because the Lord had impressed me lately with the idea that Satan’s battle against us has intensified. Perhaps it has because the devil is aware that his time is running out. I don’t know what the Apostle Paul saw exactly when he reminded Timothy: “This know also: that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2 Tim. 3:1 KJV) In other bible versions they are called hard or difficult times or times of trouble, but one need not be too spiritually perceptive to see that times of trouble are here already and that it begins at the government level and extends all the way down into our homes.
As I mentioned in the message, Satan succeeded in driving a wedge between the brothers in the first family and we all know how that ended up. His tactics haven’t changed. He is still trying to divide and to sow discord, which is one sin God especially detests. (See Proverbs 6:16-19) If it is such a wicked sin, it is surely inspired of the devil. Sadly, Satan seems to be having success in all areas today, beginning with our country and ending at the home level. He’s even been successful in church. Here too, it is nothing new. In fact, Paul addressed such a situation in his letter to the Philippians, beseeching two prominent women in the church to settle their differences, reminding them that they were not enemies but rather sisters in Christ.
That is what the text to my message this past Sunday pointed out. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the devil and all other demonic spirits. (See Ephesians 6:12) If the devil is shooting at us, why are we responding by shooting at a brother or sister in Christ? After all, they, just as we are all capable of doing, are being influenced by the devil himself. It is Satan who is really behind it, and he is capable of dividing even the strongest in the faith if they get careless. Sunday, I wanted to end with this plea but I ran out of time, so I’ll present it to you: If you are having an issue with a brother or sister in Christ and if you don’t have the grace or strength of forgetting or dropping it altogether, please make a sincere effort of settling it with him or her. To remind you that this is nothing new and that it happens more than we are willing to admit, this is what Paul begged the members of the Corinthian church who were fighting amongst themselves: “Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? (1 Cor. 6:7) If you’ve said “I’m not gonna take it”, Let me ask you, “Can you take it for Jesus?”
God’s word for today: (Galatians 3:28) “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
I suspect that since we are in the electronic age, paper magazines are not as popular as they once were. Of course, I could be wrong…….again. One magazine which was very popular when I was a young man was one called “True Confessions”. I suppose it was primarily directed at a female readership and I also remember that the titles of the stories named on it’s cover were often sultry attention grabbers. I’m not big on magazines today so I have no idea if the magazine still exists. Nevertheless, the reason that it came to my mind yesterday, was because of what I read in 1 Samuel 15 concerning Samuel and King Saul. In it, the prophet confronted Saul for having disobeyed the specific commands of the Lord concerning the Amalekites. He was to wipe them out completely but instead, he spared the best of the cattle and sheep, his reason being that he was going to use them to sacrifice unto the Lord.
As Samuel approached him, the first thing that came out of Saul’s mouth was: “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” (verse 13) That was a lie! When you read the story for yourself, it wont be hard for you to see that the more Saul opened his mouth after that, the more he kept putting his foot into it. The clincher to me was when he told Samuel: “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.” That’s when my first thought was, “That wasn’t a true confession.”
Here, in my opinion, is what was basically wrong with Saul’s confessions: They were dishonest, insincere, and he did not see them as evil as they were. Otherwise, he would have not asked Samuel to forgive him but rather would have asked him to entreat on his behalf before God. Forgiveness always begins with God. When David acknowledged his sin concerning Bathsheba and her husband, he knew this. That is why he prayed: “Against you, (God) you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51:4) The next time we find ourselves in a situation where we’ll have to confess to God and seek His pardon, I pray that ours will be “true confessions.” When they are, we will be forgiven every time.
God’s promise for today: (Proverbs 28:13) “They who conceal their sins do not prosper, but they who confess and renounce them find mercy.”
Without a doubt, every one of you has heard someone say something very negative about a friend, family member, or loved one. I bet it hurt you deeply and maybe even drew an unchristian response from you. Why? It is because of your love for the person in question. In fact, these are some of the characteristics of true love: It does not dishonor others. It keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil, and it always protects and trusts. (See I Corinthians 13:5-7) In other words, true love does not believe in gossip and will generally dispel slander when it is directed at a loved one.
If you are, in fact, troubled deeply right now because someone reported something negative to you about someone you love, I want to remind you of this valuable advice in Philippians 4:8: The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) says it this way: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.” In other words, we are to dwell on positive things and not on the negative. We are doing the accused a big injustice if we entertain the idea that perhaps what we heard was true. If we did, we believed the story without an investigation and we did not think better of that person. We did not brush away the negative thought like we should have. That is not true love. We owe it to our brothers and sisters in Christ to always think the best about them.
One sure way to dispel those troubling thoughts quickly is to go to God immediately. That is the time to pray for the one accused because we love him or her deeply. That is the time to remember that God knows all about it anyway, that if there is any truth to the accusation, He knows how to deal with it and He also knows how to forgive, heal, and restore. When we offer a sincere prayer for that person, that’s where our part in the matter ends. Now, it is in God’s hands. In the end, we won’t think differently of the one accused and will love him or her just as much as before. And if we do that, others will pray for us when we too have been slandered or falsely accused. On that day, their prayers on our behalf will help us deal with our own anguish and heartache.
Gods word for today: (John 13:35) “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples: if ye have love one for another.”
Many children of God believe that discouragement is the devil’s number one and most effective weapon in his arsenal. With it, he does more harm to Christians than with anything else. There are many reasons Christians get discouraged. Here are just a few: A special prayer petition is not answered or long overdue, we are going through an exceptionally difficult trial, our obligations and responsibilities have grown to the point of overwhelming us, we see fellow believers being bad examples, or as in the case of the writer of Psalm 73, we see people who don’t believe or ever acknowledge God, prospering and not seeming to have the kinds of struggles we face constantly.
It is in the last example I just mentioned where it is pretty easy to see discouragement’s underlying problem as well as the remedy. Psalm 73: 2-3 reads: “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” As you can see I underlined the words: “when I saw.” Clearly he was focusing on the problem only, but now take a look at what verses 16-17 say: “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” Here again, I underlined “till I entered the sanctuary of God” because that’s where the remedy lay. It is when he entered into God’s presence that he was no longer focusing on the problem but on God. Obviously, his focusing on the prosperity of the wicked had discouraged his heart. Then, being in God’s presence, he no longer had a problem with it. In fact, any time in the future when he would see wicked people seem to be prospering in their lives without God, he would be reminded that he was focusing on the wrong thing once again.
I know many people don’t like or even want to hear it, but the number one reason people get discouraged is because they have taken their eyes off of God. Do what Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, did. Get back to Him quickly. Bring him your worries, cares, or burdens. When you do, your joy, peace, comfort, and assurance in Christ will be yours once again.
God’s promise for today: (Hebrews 4:15) “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew, Chapter 6) is more than just a model prayer, it is THE model prayer and all our prayers should be patterned by it. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His audience the right way to pray. He knew, that many of His followers desired to know more about it and even though His Disciples were present on that day, they too would later ask Him to teach them how to pray. (See Luke 11) I suspect some of you, at one time or another, have wondered if you are praying the right way. Well, as we analyze the prayer more closely today, perhaps your question will be answered.
Jesus begin His prayer this way: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (vs 9) All our prayers should begin with our acknowledgment of God and our praise to Him. We can’t just barge in and start talking when we come into the presence of someone who is worthy of honor, and who can be more worthy than God Himself? To do so, would be as disrespectful as those who sit down to eat a meal and start chomping down the instant the plate is set before them. Verse 10 reads: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Most bible scholars agree that this is one petition that has not been fully answered yet. Nevertheless, every genuine child of God should always want His will to be done and it should be acknowledged in every one of our prayers. That is not always easy to do but we all admit that God’s way will always be better than ours. Verse 11 says: “Give us this day our daily bread.” It should not be difficult to realize that every good thing we need in order to survive comes from Him. That is why the writer of Psalm 100 added: “it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.” Verse 11 reads: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Those who never forget How merciful and loving God was when He forgave their sins should have no trouble whatsoever in forgiving those who have wronged them. The original prayer ended with verse 13, which reads: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” This should serve as our reminder that we need the Lord’s help and protection continuously. We can’t make it on our own and the devil would wipe us out immediately if he could. Finally, we see that the prayer ends just as it began, with our acknowledgment, gratitude, and praise to God. I wish I could have been more specific, but I trust this was of benefit to you nonetheless.
As soon as you have the opportunity, please read and meditate on the first part of this chapter. (Mt. 6:1-8) In it, you will learn some valuable things regarding prayer in general, as well as fasting. You will also learn the things you would like to avoid when lifting up your prayers to your Heavenly Father.
God’s word for today: (James 5:16 KJV) “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
We probably hear it on a daily basis and it is very likely that, at one time or another, we make use of it as well. I am referring to “sarcasm.” I believe that on occasions, sarcasm can be funny and maybe even harmless, but for the most part, it is mean spirited and often includes malice. I saw a report about the nationwide poll of the most annoying words people hear. The word “whatever” topped the list again for the 3rd straight year. I bet it annoys many of you when you hear it. In fact, in almost every instance, the person using it is being sarcastic. If you’ve employed it recently in one of your conversations, it is very likely you were not being nice. Do we really need to use the word at all?
As I have shared in the past, I am not a subscriber to Facebook, or any other social media outlet for that matter. Nevertheless, people often send me a copy of someone’s Facebook post, especially when it comes from a member of my family or church. To be fair, sometimes the posts are heartwarming and nice but for the most part they will contain language that is not convenient, sarcasm, cruelty, or even malice. While Facebook can be used to encourage, comfort, and make somebody’s day, it very often is used to criticize, slander, or belittle someone. The one topic of conversation that has topped all others lately and has brought out the worst in people, is the past presidential election. It bothers me when I read the nasty, sometimes even crude, remarks people make to every internet article about the elections, but not nearly as much as when I hear of Christians that are doing the same, especially if they are part of my “family.”
If anybody in your family or someone you know relishes in “getting into it” with others on Facebook about the past presidential elections, or any other issue, and are being like the world in general, please remind them who we are. Yes we are citizens, but we are God’s children first. We may have the right to disagree, but we don’t have the right to be nasty. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gave us all this stern admonition: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” (Eph. 5:3-4) I pray I didn’t give you the impression that I have never done such things. It is very possible that we sounded sarcastic to others and didn’t realize it. Nevertheless, the exhortation remains; lets be very careful when we have a conversation with others. Let’s remember all the people or groups we represent. We don’t want to make them look bad, do we? Above all things, may we never forget that we represent Christ. Now, after reading today’s blog, I hope none of you replied, “whatever.”
God’s word for today: (1 Peter 1:15) “But as He which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.”
I think it is safe to say that many of us do with God’s Word what we do in cafeteria style restaurants. We go down the line choosing the itemswe prefer and passing on the items we can do without. To be more specific, there are things in the Word of God that we really take to heart. Therefore, we make a sincere effort to practice and abide by them. On the other hand, there are some words of advice or instruction in the Bible that, though we may not confess it, don’t sit too well with us. With these, whether we read them or hear them in a sermon, and though we may think “ouch” within ourselves at the onset, we often try to pretend they are either not there or else they are not for us but for somebody else we know. In fact, just yesterday one of our church members remarked that my message this past Sunday in the Spanish service was perfect for someone that was present. I hope I didn’t give you the impression that I would never say such a thing for we all think, from time to time, that certain church sermons are perfect for someone we know.
I was thinking about this matter earlier today when I read Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in particular in Chapter 2. In it, the apostle pleads with them to strive to be in one accord. In verses 3-4, he wrote: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” He continued by reminding them of Jesus’ example, that even though He was God in the flesh, He humbled Himself and took the form of a servant and because of it, God the Father exalted Him to the highest level possible. It will be no different for those of us who love God. In fact, Jesus made it clear that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Mt. 23:12)
Yes, this word of exhortation in Philippians, just like the entire word of God, is for us too. Perhaps it will do us well to remember that we don’t always have to be right. We don’t have to win every argument. We don’t have to pass every car in the streets and highways. We don’t always have to be heard. We don’t always have to give our opinion. We don’t always have to defend ourselves. We don’t have to always be first in line, and we don’t always have to have our way. Even in Sunday School, children are taught that “it is Jesus first, then others, then you.” Perhaps Jesus was thinking of this very same issue when He said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:3) We often hear the reprimand “don’t be childish!” Well, perhaps being “childish” every once in a while is not such a bad thing after all.
God’s promise for today: (Matthew 5:8) “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
As I was reading Psalm 63 yesterday, these three verses stood out and reminded me of a great eternal truth. They read: “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.” (Ps. 53:5-7 KJV) I can relate, and perhaps many other children of God can too, because in our times alone with God, especially in the night watches, we meditate on His goodness and faithfulness. It is at these times that we remember the many times He has rescued us and answered our prayers. Because we never forget these trying times of the past in our lives, we rejoice in the assurance of the upcoming demonstration of His faithful loving care and protection. The reminder of this truth helps us endure every time a new and difficult trial appears in our horizon. It is as though the Lord Himself tells us: “You’ve been down this road before. I helped you then; I will help you again.”
If you find yourself in the middle of an ominous storm in your life today, I pray you too will remember that you’ve been down this road before and that the Lord was with you each and every time. If you will focus on anything in your new trial, let it be on the help you have received before. If you do, you will surely add it to the wonderful memories of the past that will make your future night meditations that much sweeter.
God’s promise for today: (Deuteronomy 7:9) “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
Lately, this bible verse has come to mind quite a bit: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”(Hebrews 13:17) Lets take a closer analysis of this verse. Lets see what it says and also what it does not. When it says leaders, I suppose it is reasonable to believe it speaks of those in every area of our lives. Some are elected and others appointed or assigned. Then there are those who are called of God. Still, all of them are in a position of authority nonetheless. What this verse does not say is that these leaders are perfect and never need to be advised. It does say that they are the ones who will give an account to God, not those who disagree with them or have “better” ideas. The application of the verse begins at home. Let’s say the leader of the house, in most cases the father, is not meeting his obligations or is neglecting his duties. He is the one who will have to answer for it someday before God.
It is a human tendency for people to tell their leaders, sometimes in strong or forceful terms, that they should do this or the other or else to do things some other way. In fact, I think we all do it. Anyone who has read the bible knows how much Moses struggled with his opposing critics and he was the one God appointed as their leader. You are also aware that he also needed support, sometimes even advice. Why? Because he was not perfect. Neither were all those who were leaders before or after him. And also, as the verse indicates, what should have been a joy for Moses, very often was a troublesome burden for him. When he reacted in kind, he, as well as his people, suffered because of it. This can happen to all leaders, especially those who serve God’s people.
All bible readers also know that, in times past, God even placed evil men in positions of authority for the purpose of chastising His own people. This is one thing I’ve had in mind during all the presidential elections since I’ve been a Christian: God is, and has always been, in complete control of man’s affairs. Because of it, in every election I always wonder if God chose him or her to bless or chastise us. And since it is obvious that our nation, as a whole, strays farther from God each new day, is the idea of being chastised by Him that far fetched? One other thing to keep in mind about leaders, especially those who are called or ordained of God, is this: If he placed them in authority, He is just as capable of deposing them. He needs no one to help Him do it either. The same goes for all leaders in all places and levels of authority. What is our part? We are to pray for them. When we are told to have confidence in them, to me it really means we should have confidence in God. After all, He put them there and He will remove them if and when it is necessary. When we do, we will all get the benefit.
God’s word for today: (1 Timothy 2:1-2) “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
Upon reading in the 6th Chapter of Matthew this morning, particularly verses 17-18, the Lord reminded me of the importance of keeping certain things to ourselves. The verses read:“But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Did you notice the words “in secret”? And though the verses speak directly about fasting, I’m sure it also includes whatever we do in our service and obedience to God.
It is a human tendency, I know it is one of mine, to want to share with others what we are doing in our lives, especially those things which are good. Because of it, I have gotten into the practice of offering a silent prayer to God when I sense that someone is about to open a conversation with me. My prayer is: “Lord, please help me to be a good listener and say only that which is necessary.” After this morning’s biblical reminder, I’ll add this to my prayer: “Please help me not to say something like “Really? me too!” or “Well, let me tell you about me.” I’m sure we all know those who have the reputation of always besting someone else’s claim. For example, let’s say someone says “Man, I only got four hours of sleep last night, and the other will reply something like “I only got two” or else “I sleep less than that every night.” I think you get the picture.
Being that this new year is still in it’s infant stage, perhaps it would be a good idea to make it one of our resolutions. I am referring to the effort to draw attention away from ourselves as much as possible. When asked about John the Baptist, Jesus said “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than he.” (Mt. 11:11) Yet, when Jesus arrived on the scene, John said this about Him: “He that has come from Heaven is above all” That is why he also had declared previously: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Read John 3:29-31) Its as if John said: “Christ is the One people need to see and hear, not me.” We hear this phrase often: “Its all about Jesus.” That is a true statement, and because it is, let’s try to live in such a way where others will see more of Christ than us in our lives.
God’s word for today: (1 Corinthians 1:31) “That, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
I just read this morning the account of the two sisters who were kicked out of their flight to go see their dying father. One of the sisters said they were told the reason they were kicked off was because they were a threat to the flight. Since their father died shortly thereafter, she wants the airline to be held accountable and thinks the attendants should lose their jobs because of it. What puzzled me somewhat was that this sister claimed the attendants “didn’t have heart” in the same sentence where she said they should lose their jobs. Is it not heartless to hope someone loses their job? I hope I didn’t give you the impression that I have taken sides on this matter. In fact, let me say that I have no idea who is right or wrong in this matter, whether the airline, the sisters, or both. In fact, I’ll never give my opinion on that incident, or any other, when only one side of the story has been heard. Paul wrote this sound piece of advice:“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)
Because we are human, we are prone to jumping at conclusions upon hearing the first side or account of any story. I don’t know how many of you will admit to this, but I know I have been burned more than once by believing the first side of a story. In this incident, as in all others which raise questions, the only One who knew the motives and intentions of the hearts of all those involved was God. And in almost every case, its not what we do but the reasons we do them, that matter most to God.
I know I’ve touched on this topic before but I sincerely believe it merited being repeated. I also believe, as in the majority of cases, that this incident could have been avoided and a better outcome would have resulted if things would have been handled differently. Occurrences such as these will continue to come our way. May the Lord, therefore, give us the grace and wisdom to act accordingly when they do.
God’s word for today: (Romans 14:13) “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”
A favorite bible verse of many Christians, me included, is Romans 8:1. The King James version says it this way: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Upon comparing the interpretation of this verse with other bible versions, I noticed one glaring difference. Many of the newer bible translations leave out the last part of the verse. The NIV, for example says it his way:“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Obviously, the part that reads “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” was left out. This could fuel the fire of many unbelievers who claim that the bible is filled with contradictions. Once again, they would be wrong.
At first glance, it would appear that this freedom from condemnation applies only to those who walk after the Spirit and not to Christians who live according to the flesh. If that were the case, salvation would not be by grace. Keep this in mind: We are not saved by what we do; (our works) we are saved by what Jesus did. Another thing to remember is that, we who are in Christ, have been freed from condemnation, not from the effects of the flesh. Because the “old man” is still in us, we will all struggle with our carnal nature, some more than others, until Jesus comes for His church. Thank God, therefore, that He has freed us from condemnation anyway. The last part of Romans 8:1 is really just a description God’s children. That is, they live because Christ lives in them, or as the verse says: “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” It is just one more Christian characteristic just like this one which I put up on our church’s marquee recently: “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.” For those who have love (Jesus) in their hearts, it is just as natural to give than it is to drink water. They just do.
Here is why this bible truth is important: At one time or another this thought will come to all of us: “Who am I kidding? I am not worthy of being a Christian.” There are people who have been in Christ and in the church for years who have fallen for this lie from the devil. Because of it, they feel condemned. Don’t let that happen to you. If you have ever called upon Jesus to save you with a sincere heart, He did. Therefore, there is absolutely no way you can or will ever be condemned.
God’s word for today: (1 John 4:13) “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”