From Frequent Formal Faithful Following, Flows Full Foundational Fellowship

July 16, 2009 at 11:50 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration | 10 Comments
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We might wonder if the boldness of the Apostles would find the same reception today that it did in the earliest days of the Church. Imagine a preacher, pastor, evangelist, or Christian elder exhorting new Christians to, “Be a follower of me!” The response would likely be, “What do you mean, ‘Be a follower of you?’ What about being a follower of Christ?”

However, the 1st Century Christians were commended for being followers and imitators of their spiritual leaders. The key to this is that the leaders themselves were following Christ, and encouraging their followers to do the same.

And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:

I Thessalonians 1:6

The philosophy of the world is that times of affliction mean an absence of joy. But the philosophy of the Bible is that Christians who receive the Word of God in times of affliction, and who submit to their spiritual leaders and to the Lord, and who do not forsake faithful attendance at church (Hebrews 10:25), will experience the joy of the Holy Ghost. This joy is not dependent upon circumstances or externals. Instead, it comes from His indwelling presence.

It is all well and good to warn and encourage others about the coming of the Lord, but as the day of His coming approaches, we have a specific command from Scripture to be diligent about assembling together frequently, formally, and faithfully.

What Christians Want You to Know

July 15, 2009 at 8:33 am | Posted in I Corinthians, Salvation | 6 Comments
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What are are true Christians trying to accomplish? Mainly, we want to obey God’s Word. We want to please Him by doing what He has told us to do. In short, our main goal is the same as the main goal of the true Christian Church for the past 2000 years. “We preach Christ crucified.” (I Corinthians 1:23)

Who was this Christ? He is and was the Son of God and God Himself in a body of flesh. Why was He crucified? He was crucified to pay the price for sin, so that sinners, by trusting in Him, could be reconciled to God.

To avoid the horrible and eternal cost of paying the price for your own sins, you must know God’s Son, Jesus Christ, personally, as your Savior. (Romans 10:13)

It’s Good to “S.W.I.M.” with Spurgeon

July 14, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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Have you ever heard this parable concerning faith? She had to cross a stream, and the current was strong, and there came one to her who said, “Faith, I will help thee! Come with me up the river till we can find a place where we can ford it.”

Faith said, “No; I was bidden to cross the river here.”

So another came, and said, “I will build a bridge for you, that you may go over the river with ease,” and he laid hold of a few stones, but not much ever came of it.

Yet another said, “I will go and find a boat.” But there were no boats about; therefore, they asked Faith to wait till they build a boat for her.

What did she do? She took off her vestments, and plunged into the water. “Thank God,” said she, “I can swim;” and so she swam across, and reached the other side without boat, without bridge, and without ford.

That is what I should like to see every sinner here do — begin to swim. Do not wait for help. Cast yourself into the stream of everlasting love. Believe in Christ Jesus, and have no more confidence in the flesh, with its bridges and boats. Commit thyself to the stream of eternal grace, and swim across. Faith can enable you to do it. Nothing else can. Take that lesson home to yourselves, you who are seeking the Saviour at this time.

Charles H. Spurgeon

Quarterback Commandment No. 10

July 13, 2009 at 5:39 pm | Posted in John, Quarterback Commandments | 8 Comments
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Only two more to go… We are nearing the end of the list of 11 Quarterback Commandments which Bill Parcells gave to Tony Romo during their time together with the Dallas Cowboys.

Quarterback Commandment No. 10: Don’t panic. When all around you is in chaos, you must be the hand that steers the ship. If you have a panic button, so will everyone else. Our ship can’t have a panic button.

Spiritual Application: In the heat of spiritual battle, when things seem as though they are getting out of control, God’s leaders must be thermostats, not thermometers.

We’ve all been there. You have been planning some event or occasion in detail. Maybe for hours, maybe for days, or even weeks, you have pictured in your mind just how it will go. You finally arrive and nothing is the way you expected it. Things are in disarray and people are panicking. What will you do?

A good quarterback knows that even the best gameplan does not contain a solution to every possible predicament. Sometimes your star receiver is injured in pre-game warmups. Sometimes the opposing defense has concocted a blitz package you’ve never seen in your life. Once in a while you find yourself trailing by three touchdowns halfway through the fourth quarter, and there is no play in the playbook for making a first down when it’s third and 29 to go.

When ten anxious faces gathered around a huddle stare pensively at their leader, there’s only one right response: calm collected confidence tempered with firm determination. If the quarterback loses control, everyone else is going to lose control.

On the football field, leaders need a steady hand and a positive demeanor. Christian quarterbacks need the same attitude and posture during regular counseling sessions, church services, hospital visits, and in all types of spiritual calamities and unforeseen chaos.

When God prepared his people for battles in the land of Canaan, He told His priestly quarterback to tell the troops to:

…approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them;

Deuteronomy 20:3

Peter hit the panic button when Jesus was arrested, and almost interfered with the plan of redemption:

Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

John 18:10

But Jesus, the greatest Spiritual Quarterback of all time, stayed cool:

Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

John 18:11

Read Acts 27:41-44 for the account of a shipwreck, and the Apostle Paul’s great response, and you will almost be tempted to think Parcells was reading his Bible when he said, “Don’t panic. When all around you is in chaos, you must be the hand that steers the ship. If you have a panic button, so will everyone else. Our ship can’t have a panic button.”

As a Christian quarterback, when I walk into a chaotic situation, I must ask God to help me not to be a thermometer. A thermometer just reflects the temperature of a room. When things get hot, the mercury goes up. When things are cold and dead, the mercury dies down, too. I must instead ask God to make me a thermostat. A thermostat is not controlled by the temperature; it does the controlling. When I walk into a room of spiritually cold people, I need to warm things up in the Spirit of God. And when I walk into a room of hot-headed chaos or knee-knocking panic, I need to be calm, and help to cool things down.

Standing in the Crossway

July 8, 2009 at 12:14 pm | Posted in Salvation | 8 Comments
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The descendants of Jacob were chosen by God to be the people through whom He would bless the entire world. The descendants of Jacob’s twin, Esau, are anther story. They became the Edomites. Since they shared a common ancestor, God had commanded the Edomites to treat the Hebrews as “brothers,” and to be sympathetic toward them in times of trouble. (Numbers 20:14-17)

Apparently the Edomites did not take this command seriously, because, centuries later, when the Chaldeans were invading and slaughtering Jacob’s descendants in Jerusalem, the Edomites stood by and rejoiced.

But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.

Obadiah v. 11

And that’s not all! As some of the Hebrews were trying to flee, some of the Edomites stood at the crossroads areas (what the Bible calls “the crossways”), and blocked their escape while the pursuing heathen hordes caught up to them.

Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress.

Obadiah v. 14

It is a shame to hear of such treachery. However, at the same time, could there be a more applicable reminder for those of us, in our day and time, who stand by as unbelievers come to the “crossroads of faith?”

As men and women fall under the convicting power of the Holy Ghost and realize their sinful condition, they sometimes see the need to flee from God’s wrath. When we as Christians stand at the crossroads of decision, do we snatch desperate sinners out of the wrong path, and help to usher them toward Jesus Christ? Or, are we like the Edomites, who lurk in hiding, waiting to spring out, trip them up, and hold them down until the enemy arrives to capture or slaughter them?

The Lamb of God was nailed to a wooden cross on ancient Golgotha. That instrument of torture – which He turned into the ultimate symbol of love – is a place of crisis for those who have not yet believed. Let us not be like the Edomites of old. Let us help the hurting and the hunted and the helpless to see that the “Crossway” is the only way to eternal life.

The Grudge-Match of the Century: The Lion of God vs. Double-Wicked Cushan

July 7, 2009 at 9:30 am | Posted in Biblical Violence | 5 Comments
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In the land of Canaan, in the days of the Judges of Israel, God’s people often failed to act like God’s people. As their priests failed to instruct the people in the keeping of God’s law, and as a new generation of parents failed to hold their children accountable for their sins, the people of Israel began to intermarry with the pagan idol-worshippers around them. When this happened it wasn’t long before the Israelites began worshiping the false gods of their spouses, and began to “do evil in the sight of the Lord” (Judges 3:5-7), including sacrificing their own children.

Therefore, to chasten the people whom He loved, but whose sin He hated, the Lord God allowed the king of Mesopotamia to enslave them. This king’s name translates to the charming moniker, “Double-Wicked Cushan.”

God heard the cries of His people, however, and raised up Othniel to deliver them. It was the “Lion of God” versus “Ol’ Double-Evil.” How did Othniel win the victory and restore the freedom of God’s people for 40 years? Not by having the largest army or the sturdiest weapons. Rather, the key to Othniel’s success is found in Judges 3:10: “And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war…”

Othniel responded to the power of the Holy Spirit, and he had a willingness to fight for God. Most Christians today are not commanded to be in a military war, and we are forbidden from using carnal weapons. We are in a war, but it’s a spiritual war, and our main weapons are prayer, the Word of God, love, and, like Othniel, a willingness to serve. What a waste it would be to have the empowering gift of the Holy Spirit residing in the temple of your body, but to refuse to walk in His strength, and to be enslaved to the enemy’s strongholds.

What to Do for Your Kids

July 6, 2009 at 9:19 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting | 9 Comments
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A while back, I pointed out three things from the Bible that parents should be for their children: Be an encourager; be an enforcer; be an example.

This time, I want to talk about three things parents should do for their children.

No. 1: Pray for your kids.

The Bible says to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17). I know many times when I ask the Holy Spirit to help me know what to pray for, He brings my children to my mind.

When you pray for your children, pray for their safety.

[A Song of degrees for Solomon.] Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

Psalm 127:1

I can think of numerous times that God protected my children from danger when I wasn’t around to do it.

Pray for their future. I’m even praying for the four jerks out there somewhere that will want to marry my daughters one day, if it’s God’s will that they get married.

Pray for your children to have wisdom.

No. 2: Play with your kids.

Lectures are good. Bible study devotions are good. But one of the greatest areas of training is just in day to day living. Take some time out – spend time with your children. There should not be a difference between “God time” and “real life” in our families. With God’s help, you can make a Bible lesson out of swimming in a lake, hitting a softball, or teaching a teen-aged child how to drive a car.

I have had the chance to visit with a few people on their death beds. These people did not wish they had worked more overtime. They did not wish they had killed one more deer, or caught a bigger bass. They did not wish they had done a better job mowing their grass to keep up with their neighbors. They wished they had spent more time with their kids.

The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children. Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.

Psalm 115:14-16

God wants us to enjoy our children. Take the time to play with your kids.

No. 3: Pay attention to your kids.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of being too busy for our kids, but even easier to fall into the trap of not having the patience to listen to our kids. “Thanks, Honey, I’ll just stick that coloring sheet in my Bible and look at it later.”

When my patience is being tried by that long story about how Sally said her hair ribbon was yellow when my daughter knew it was really orange, I need to realize that, at that moment, this story is very important to her, and she needs to see that it is important to me, too.

How does God listen when I pray? Is He bored, and wishing I would wrap it up? No, He hears my prayer about finding a parking space just like He hears my prayer that my friend will be healed from cancer.

Dad, it may take fifteen minutes to teach your son how to pull nails with a hammer under your careful supervision, when it would only take you two minutes to do the whole job by yourself. But how excited will your son be the next day, when he tells his friends about it? What will he learn in fifteen minutes about hard work, about being careful, about a dad who’s willing to help him feel like a little man?

What parents should be for their children: Encouragers, Enforcers, Examples.

What parents should do for their children: Pray, Play, and Pay attention.

Next time: What to buy for your kids.

The How versus the Who

July 3, 2009 at 9:39 am | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Biblical neighbors, John | 12 Comments
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The Lord Jesus was known for healing the blind. He did this not only out of compassion and to prove He was the Messiah, but also as the prelude to a spiritual lesson. Once, when He encountered a beggar who had been blind since birth, Jesus made clay out of spittle, and applied it the man’s eyes. When the man obeyed Jesus, and washed the clay from his eyes, he could see for the first time!

Almost immediately, the man’s neighbors, who had known him to be blind his whole life, began to question the miracle.

The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?

John 9:8-10.

When Christ miraculously changes the life of a believer today, this pattern will often still hold true. First, the neighbors will notice. Second, they will begin to wonder “how” the change was wrought. However, this is really the wrong question. What the observers in John Chapter 9 should have been asking was, “Who?” instead of “How?” When your neighbors see a God-made change in your life, and want to know “how” it was done, take that opportunity to tell them instead by “Whom” it was done.

Two “Right” Feet

July 2, 2009 at 9:20 am | Posted in Biblical Doctoring, Biblical Walking | 6 Comments
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Asa was the third king of the Kingdom of Judah. The Bible records that he began his reign by walking in God’s will. As he trusted and obeyed the Lord for 35 years, he was blessed with success.

However, one who truly walks in the center of God’s will does not walk on a broad meandering thoroughfare. The centerline of God’s will is razor-thin. One step to the left or right can take you out of God’s perfect will, and 1000 miles in either direction can be just as damaging as that first step.

In that 35th year of his reign Asa took his first big step – a stumble, really – out of God’s will, and trusted the King of Syria instead of the Lord.

And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the LORD thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.

II Chronicles 16:7

Instead of repenting, and getting back on God’s narrow path, Asa continued to order his own steps, ignoring the Holy Spirit’s counsel which had been given to his great-great-grandfather, David. (Psalm 37:23)

Even when God allowed him to contract a disease which reminded Asa that he had stumbled and was using his feet to walk away from the Lord, instead of back to the Lord, the reproof was not taken.

And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.

II Chronicles 16:12

God, help us to follow You on the paths of righteousness, for Your name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

The Great Trading-Post

July 1, 2009 at 9:06 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical Greats, Isaiah | 16 Comments
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The Lord God is the Creator of Life, and the Maker of Heaven and Earth. He has given us His Word and His Spirit, and He has not left us without hope. The Bible says that He heals the broken-hearted, and He binds up their wounds.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

Isaiah 61:1-3

Life is not always easy. Sometimes it seems like life is just a series of problems. Sometimes we are right in the middle of a problem. Sometimes we are coming out of a problem. Once in a while it seems like everything is going great, and then we have a problem, and we look back, and we see that time when we thought things were going great as just a time when we were about to go in to a problem.

I find comfort and hope in Isaiah 61:3 because it tells us that one day, if we submit our lives to the Lord, He has some great trades in mind for us – especially for those who mourn – who feel sorrow or sadness.

First, He says that He will take away our ashes and give us beauty. Ashes were worn on the head during times of grieving in the Old Testament. Beautiful head coverings were worn in times of great joy. Do you have a testimony of a life spent serving others? A willingness to serve others is a very good quality. Sometimes it doesn’t look beautiful to us, but the Lord says, if we place our trust in Him, and serve others, one day we will wear a crown on our head instead of ashes – a beautiful crown – for we will be children of the King.

Second, the Lord tells us that we can give Him our mourning – our grieving and sadness – and He will take that from us and anoint us with the oil of joy. Are you the kind of person that other people just like to be around? Would people use the words “loving” and “lovable” to describe you? In this world, we can’t have happiness all the time. But for those who will place their faith in Christ Jesus, He will anoint you with His Holy Spirit. And you can trade in your circumstances-dependent “happiness” for a “joy” that comes from Him living inside you.

Third, the Bible says that Jesus Christ can take away your spirit of heaviness, and clothe you in a garment of praise. Are you content? Do you have a tendency to be satisfied with the things you have? All kinds of problems – but especially financial problems – can make us feel heavy, like we are carrying a weight on our shoulders. Too often we picture a dollar sign as the answer to our problems. But it is as if the Lord says, “I’ll trade with you. You stop placing your desire on ‘things’ – stop being ‘covetous.’ Stop trusting in material things, and I’ll give you a garment of praise. I’ll clothe you in My righteousness, and you’ll be content in Me and want to praise Me.”

My wife is good at just about everything – except she doesn’t have a green thumb. She can kill the healthiest plant in the most fertile soil.

But God can grow the strongest plants in the least favorable conditions.

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3

The Lord knows that we are going to mourn in this life from time to time. He knows our spirits are going to get heavy. He knows we are going to feel like dumping ashes on our heads. But we do not have to feel that way. Just as an expert gardener can take a sad-looking, drooping plant, and water it, and care for it, and bring it back to life, so can the Lord give us new life – ETERNAL life, and make us, not just any old plants, but strong trees – trees of righteousness: THE PLANTING OF THE LORD, that He might be glorified.

Will you accept this comfort from the Lord? He has promised it to you if you will trust Him and Him alone.

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