Tag Archives: grace

In Search of Contentment, Pt. 1

Not far from Wilton is a yearly event held unlike anything I ever saw growing up in Southern Ohio.  The spinning of car tires, squealing of train wheels against steel track, horn of tug boats, and paddle churning of riverboats, now that, I am familiar with, but this was a very new experience for me.  Every year in the fall, the Hot Air Balloon Festival descends upon our region.  For miles and miles balloons can be seen in the beautiful Hudson River Valley in the Adirondacks.

Looking to the sky as these large balloons take shape and lift into the air is a majestic scene indeed.  The hot air generated by the flame is thousands of degrees in temperature, and the great force unleashed at the pull of a switch or push of a button is incredible to see. The sound, heat, and lift from the fire is wonderful to watch.

As the balloons begin to ascend, a peaceful, serene emotion overcomes me.  The balloon is content to follow the manipulation of the balloon pilot in the wind. The balloon has no objective of its own.  If ascends high into the sky, or if it remains grounded due to high winds, the balloon is content. Whether it is a Snoopy balloon, a turtle, a butterfly in shape and appearance, or simply the classic balloon style, it is content.  If it is folded up and kept in a trailer or is traveling hundreds of miles, it is content.  Balloons appear to me to be very peaceful.

Balloons high in the sky also offer a unique perspective.  The pilot and riders get a “bird’s eye view” of the region below.  The higher the balloon goes, the larger the perspective of the pilot and passengers.

When it comes to our personal contentment, the hot air balloon gives us a good parallel to consider.  The balloons are peaceful.  The balloons offer a greater perspective.  In the same way, contentment provides an inner peace and offers a Godly perspective on life and daily matters.

Coveting is something everyone deals with from time to time.  Being jealous of others is another common sin.  Sometimes our thoughts and emotions betray us to one of these sins even before our mouths express these sins.  For example, sometimes, without saying anything, there is already a jealous spirit in a person.  In other times, the heart is already coveting another’s position, privilege, or place in life.  It may not even be expressed out loud.  But it is in the heart.

Some men covet the jobs and paychecks of other men.  Some women covet the family life of other women.  Some men would love to trade places with another man and his place in life.  Some women would trade places with another woman if they could.  Working mothers in the workforce may long to be able to stay at home.  Mothers working at home may have a desire for a different career outside the home.

Students in school may covet the grades of others.  Some even cheat to “get ahead” in school.

At the time of this writing, a billion-dollar college entrance scheme has hit the news.  Exams were forged.  Skills, abilities, and grades were changed.  Payments were made.  The ultra-wealthy and a whole list of Hollywood stars are caught up in this scandal.  All of this is an effort rooted in covetousness, jealousy, and greed.

What does the Bible say about contentment?  Plenty.  Philippians 4:11-19 is a primary passage that emphasizes contentment.  If you are searching for contentment – here is where to find it in the Bible.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

 

Please look for the next posting for PART 2…

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Jesus, The First Missionary

Jesus, The First Missionary 

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

Have you ever heard anyone ever refer to Jesus as the first missionary?  Think about this for a moment.  In the above verses, we discover that God sent Jesus to this world on a mission of mercy.   The love of God was manifested or demonstrated to mankind when He sent Jesus to this sinful world on our behalf.   Jesus willingly left Heaven to come to this earth to seek and save us sinners.  He came to rescue us from our sin! In many ways, this is the first mission trip.

While on this mission trip, Jesus identified with mankind when He took on flesh.  With no sin, He took our sin and carried our guilt to the cross of Calvary.  It was there that He paid the price for our sin, taking our death sentence upon Himself.

With Resurrection Sunday (Easter) coming, this is a good reminder for us.  Thank Jesus for His salvation plan finished at the Cross.  Three days after His death, Jesus rose from the dead, proving He is God and demonstrating His power over sin, death and Hell.  Be thankful and stop a moment to praise the Lord for His amazing gift!

When missionaries take the Word of God to other regions and nations, they take the Good News, the Gospel.  Since Jesus is the first missionary and His love for us is demonstrated by His coming to earth) and since the Bible teaches us about missions it is apparent and a good conclusion that the heartbeat of God is missions.

God sent His Son.  He gave us His only begotten Son.  Missions is giving.  Missions is sacrificial.  Missions is the pulse, heartbeat, and breath of God to us people on earth.

Since missions is so important to God, I would suggest that missions should be important to the Christian.  Each church member and each disciple of Jesus, should feel the pulse of God’s heart concerning missions.

Something to consider for your life personally is “do I have the same heartbeat as God?”

Examine your own heart.  Have you ever noticed this:  Some Christians do not like to pray, so they do not come to prayer meeting?  How about this:  Some Christians do not come to missions conferences or attend when missionaries are visiting because they do not want to hear about missions or be challenged to give money to missionaries? I suppose it could be some other motivation to avoid – if they are actually avoiding on purpose. Sometimes people are truly “providentially prevented.”

Could an avoidance phenomenon simply be and indicator that “my heart is not yet in sync with the heart of God?”  Sure it can be.  Even if you do not like to pray in public, the Lord can develop your heart to begun to pray with no fear or shame.

Even if you have avoided missionaries in the past, the Lord could change your heart – if you let Him.  Most avoidance issues are really a matter of trust.  Do you trust God to hear and answer your prayers? Do you trust God with all your finances, not only your tithe?  Do you trust God to give money to missions? God even gave a wonderful promise to all those who give to missionaries.  He promised to supply each and every need a person will ever have…when they give to missions!

Answer this: Do I trust God with every aspect of my life?  Is the Bible a perfect prescription for the problems of life?  Can I rely on God’s will, revealed in His Word, to truly provide for every need?  Have I trusted Jesus for salvation and been able to fully rest in His promise of salvation to all Who trust in Him?  Do I trust Jesus each day?

The next time a missionary comes to church, get involved.  Find ways to support your church missions program.  Make a missions promise to God.  Clear your schedule to provide a meal, housing, fellowship, or your attendance to encourage a missionary.

Recently, WBC experienced a tremendous Missions Conference.  We were blessed to see 5 people respond to the call of “being willing” to be a missionary if God would call them to that.  We saw the faith of the people in attendance at each service increase.  I believe most people in our church were praying for the conference – and continue to pray for God to send laborers into the harvest.  Some people were sick.  Others had schedules that would not permit them to attend.  A few were out of town.  Many were battled by Satan to not attend.  All who attended contended with work, school, household needs and more.

One girl, in an emergency room, through tears while being stitched up, expressed to the doctor that she was hoping to get home in time to attend the final night of the missions conference.  She did not get home on time to make the start of that particular mission conference service, but she did get there in time to hear the preaching.  I love that heart.  I mean, I really love that heart.

This is an example of the heartbeat of God that we should have for missions.  Yes, Jesus was the first missionary, and if as a Christian we had the same heartbeat, missions would be important to us as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Critical Eye

The Critical Eye

And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.  And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?  How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.   Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.  Matthew 12:1-14

Have you ever been around a person that is constantly complaining?  Have you ever been that person?  Perhaps all of us know someone that is always “pouring cold water” on a situation or known to be a “Johnny Rain-Cloud.”  People who are hyper critical can find fault with even the best of things in life.

Think of it this way – Jesus was and is perfect.  No fault. No sin. Nothing wrong with Jesus, and yet the hyper religious pharisees found what they perceived to be a fault – Jesus was healing people on the Sabbath day and that must constitute work in their ungracious estimation.  These men were perceiving things the wrong way because they had conceived their own way of following God’s law.  The expectations they demanded of others were a figment of their own thinking – not the Lord’s.  They had added new rules to God’s Law for everyday for the year!

Everyone should grow in discernment.  This is something the Bible says we should have.  Being critical of others and having personal discernment are not the same thing.  These religious leaders, many of whom could quote long passages of the Old Testament, did not have any practical smarts about them to see Jesus was doing better than the Law was actually calling for.  Watch out – when you start to “nit-pick” others, your eye is becoming critical.

Here are several thoughts about the critical eye.

  1. Those with critical eyes tend to hold others to higher standards than they hold themselves.
  2. Those with critical eyes choose not to see the good that is evident all around them.
  3. Those with critical eyes are quick to complain and let their critique be known – no matter how foolish their words really are.  Imagine – criticizing Jesus – doing good!
  4. Those with critical eyes neglect to have a close fellowship with God.  Instead of praising God, they praise themselves with their proud stance and egotistical demands.
  5. Those with critical eyes get angry very fast.  These irate leaders wanted to kill Jesus.
  6. Those with critical eyes are more emotional and listen less to common sense and reason.  If a man had a sheep fall into a pit and he rescued it – how is it any better or worse for Jesus to heal a man with a withered hand?  Their critical eye and angry heart refused basic reason and it diminished their thinking skills.
  7. Those with critical eyes fail to see the goodness of God.

Jesus did amazing things in His time on earth in the New Testament.  I suggest to you that Jesus continues to to incredible things through His people – His church today.  If you can’t see it – reexamine your heart.  Check your spiritual eyesight.  Sadly, there are many people who look at life like the Pharisees did.

Clean your classes off.  Open the Bible and see our Good and Great God!  Look to serve others by finding ways to carry others, not criticize them.  Avoid having a critical eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Than Death Insurance

More Than Death Insurance

“When one asked the salesman what he was selling, he said, “Life insurance.”

“That’s not life, but death insurance.”

“What do you mean?”

“You have to die to win.”

“Not always. You get your money back with big interest in 10 or 20 years if you live, but if you die your family is protected for a number of years.”

“Fine. The Bible says, ‘But if any provide not for his own, specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel, but it’s more important to carry life insurance.”

“Say, what are you selling?”

“Life insurance. Eternal life. Nothing to pay, and you begin to get big dividends immediately, of peace, joy, contentment, and an understanding of God’s plan for your life.””  (-Knights)

What kind of insurance do you have?  Jesus came to earth to give something better than death or life “insurance.”  He came to earth to purchase eternal life.  Jesus paid the full price that our sin – death.  He died in my place.  He died for my sin.  He died in your place.  He died for your sin.  He shed His blood for our sin.  Theologians call this Substitutionary Atonement.

Romans 5:8 teaches, But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Jesus demonstrated or proved His love for us with his work and action on the cross.  He did not just say “I love you.”  He demonstrated love when He laid down His life for us.  No matter how BIG or little you perceive your sin to be, Jesus still loves you!  None of us are worthy, but He loves us anyway.

Then He rose from the dead.  The phrase: “Rose Again” in 1 Corinthians 15:4 indicates that while He was previously dead, He came back to life, and continues to be alive!”  What an incredible truth!  Jesus continues to be alive today.

As I prepared for Easter Sunday preaching, I searched out all the leaders of the worlds major religions.  Here is what I found:

Buddhism. The Buddha’s body was cremated in Kushinagar, India and the relics were placed in monuments or stupas, some of which are believed to have survived until the present. Ramabhar Stupa in Kushinagar was built over a portion of the Buddha’s ashes on the spot where he was cremated by the ancient Malla people. The Temple of the Tooth or Dalada Maligawa in Sri Lanka is the place where the right tooth relic of Buddha is kept at present.

Christian Science.  Mary Baker Eddy is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the United States.

Confucianism. The grave of Confucius, founder of Confucianism, is in his home town of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. The grave of Confucius is located in a large cemetery where more than 100,000 of his descendants are also buried.

Islam. According to early Muslim sources, Muhammad is buried in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (“Mosque of the Prophet”) in the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia. The tomb of Muhammad lies within the confines of what used to be his wife Aisha’s and his house. During his lifetime it adjoined the mosque, which was expanded during the reign of Caliph al-Walid I to include his tomb.

Scientology.  Upon his death, L. Ron Hubbard was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.” (Wikipedia)

Christianity: Go to the Garden Tomb at Jerusalem.  There are no bones, no ashes – nothing!  Jesus walked out of that stone tomb alive!  Jesus is alive today. 

Would you believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus?  This is called the Gospel.  Jesus is alive and calling to you for a response.  Will you accept the forgiveness of sins and receive eternal life from Jesus?  He loves you.  Believe in Him today.

Believers and Tattoos

Believers and Tattoos

Should a Christian get a tattoo?  Should we be concerned when someone gets some “ink?”  To answer this, we must understand the origin of tattoos.  Tattoos are nothing new and in fact we see tattoos in the Scripture.

According to a report by NPR, “Tattoos have become more common over the past couple of decades. A Harris poll in 2012 found that 1 out of every 5 adults — 21 percent — has at least one tattoo. An earlier Pew Research Center study found that the number was closer to 40 percent among those ages 18 to 29.”

With the incredible amount of people getting tattoos, you can see why there are so many of these little shops and mall counters offering tattoos.  I saw one shop that sold engraved trophies for sports teams, etc. and they could also engrave your body in their tattoo parlor. How convenient is that?!

Right in the middle of God’s law recorded in Leviticus in between the prohibition for drinking blood, the prohibition for prostitution, and the ban on wizards and witches we find the following verse:

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.  Leviticus 19:28

Keep in mind the Old Testament Law was multifaceted.  Some Law related to civil government (most of which we continue to follow today), some related to worshiping God, and other parts were practical (like sanitation and diet laws).  The Law was given to show how deficient and sinful humans are and to demonstrate how much we need the Lord.  Jesus fulfilled the Law.  While we do not obey the Law to earn the favor of God, these truths can cause for a more healthy and happy life.  Thank God for grace!

The verse starts by prohibiting cutting the flesh.  That practice was found in pagan religions.  Think of Elijah (1 Kings 18) and the prophets of Baal who were cutting themselves to try to get their false god to answer them.

Apparently, the tattoos were also part of cult religious practices. Stars, leaves, flowers, and other images were inked or burned into those being initiated into the cult.  The tattoos, like today, represented something.

Very simply, tattoos were connected with “dead people” and with cult practices in ancient times.  They were used as identifying marks in groups and activities that were (and are) against the Lord.

Commentator Albert Barnes adds this insight: “The prohibition against marking the skin may involve either tattooing or painting the body as part of a religious ritual. Such markings may have been designed to protect a person from the spirits of the dead or to demonstrate membership in a group. Some evidence for this has been found in the examination of human remains in Scythian tombs dating to the sixth century b.c. The Israelite law may prohibit this practice since it involves a self-imposed alteration of God’s creation, unlike circumcision, which is commanded by God.”

Think of it this way: If a person spray painted a public library, were caught and charged; they would be charged with “defacing” a public building. They would not be congratulated for decorating the building.  Our bodies are the temple of God and is to be wholly dedicated to Him.  Marring or defacing the body is not something we want to do.  Sin has already done a good job in changing mankind and our bodies – because of original sin and its consequences.

If you already have a tattoo, then use it as an example of God’s grace.  When people see it, or you talk with others, make it a point to say “This is who I was, but now I belong to Jesus.” Use the “Before and After” approach of telling others of your Savoir.  The “Old Man Vs. The New Man” is a great way to demonstrate the markedly different life the Lord has made in you.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What will this tattoo identify me with?
  2. What kind of statement will a tattoo make?
  3. Will this help me look more likes Jesus in attitude, actions, or appearance?
  4. Does this make me appear more like the world or less like the world?
  5. Will this point people to Jesus or to something/someone else?

I do not believe that many readers of this article today would like to be associated with a cult or with occultist practices. Take care of your body – do not deface your body.  We conclude with several verses and one key thought for your consideration.

1 Corinthians 6:8-20 says, Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient (Helpful, beneficial): all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.  And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respecting God’s Way

Respecting God’s Way

I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.  Psalm 119:15

The Bible is an incredible Book that God wrote for His creatures – man.  The Word of God is a pertinent message for humans as we live, work, play, and die in this thing called life.

The longest chapter in all the Bible is Psalm 119.  It contains 10 different words that are terms for the “Bible.”  “Word”, “statute”, “judgment”, and “precept” are some of those terms.

As the verse above declares, the Psalmist had “respect” unto the ways of God.  We all have our ideas and personal expectations about how life will turn out.  Sometimes there are detours, and sometimes dead-ends.  There are points of crisis and places of crying.  There will be happy times and times that are not so happy.

How do we cope with it all?  I suggest we make the most of the moments God gives to us and cope with the good and bad that happens by accepting the will of God.

When we see the Bible as God’s “will” for our life, it will help us to look to His plan, seize ahold of His teaching, and see meaningful changes in our lives.

In other words – respect God’s Word and the way of living it commands us – more than you respect your own plans. Meditating on the Word of God will cause you to accept your circumstances, and by God’s grace discover the greater purpose or meaning for life that God is trying to etch into your life.

Determine to respect the way of God and His Word more than your own way of thinking.

 

 

 

We All Start Somewhere

We all Start Somewhere

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:                  1 Peter 2:2

John Maxwell tells this astute story: “A group of tourists visiting a picturesque village walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked him, “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.”

Whether you have been saved 4 days, 4 months, 4 years, or 44 years, the Lord has called you to be a “Growing Christian.”  We all start at the same place in our relationship to God.  When we are “born again,” at the moment of our believing in the Gospel, we start a new, spiritual life.

The Bible is what new and old Christians are nurtured with.  The more we read and apply, hear and change, study and implement, the more we grow to be like Jesus.  None of us are born “great.”  We are born to serve a “great God!”

One sad truth in Christianity is that some believers never grow up spiritually.  This has been a problem since the start of the church.  The letters to the churches that Paul wrote were in many cases to help the young churches to grow up in their faith. From lustful desires to hateful relationships, the early church needed to grow.

When we do not desire the Word like a baby desires milk, we do not grow like we should.  Examples include:

  • Continuing to be Stubborn in Spirit.
  • Consistently Rebellious in Heart.
  • Contentment in Judging Others.
  • Complaining to Feel Better.
  • Character Assignations of Others.
  • Charging into a Talk with Anger.

Brethren, if you are behaving like the points above, you have some areas to grow up in.  It could be that you think yourself to have “arrived” but you may not give as much value or as much of a lasting testimony to the work of God in your life.  Your behavior is reflecting who you really are.  Your “being” is still in childhood. Feeding on the desires of the flesh and the pride of life need to be exchanged for feeding on the Word of God.  You can do better than being a “Big Baby.”  God can help you grow out of spiritual infanthood.

You got to eat. We must consistently read, study, hear, and apply the Bible to our lives. Decide to grow up in Jesus by consuming more of the Word today.

Salvation is the start to a lifetime of growing and becoming more like Jesus.  Don’t’ just start.  Start and finish.  We do not “arrive” until we get to Heaven. Give grace to others along the way.  Decide to be more like Jesus. Then. Be. Like. Him.