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Soldier4Christ
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« Reply #30 on: July 15, 2006, 08:30:53 PM »

Acquired Taste

    I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalms 119:101-103)

I am, what you might call, “a serious coffee drinker.” I like all kinds of brands and flavors. I have a cappuccino maker, a ten cup coffee pot, and a four cup coffee pot as well. I drink coffee at various hours of the day, not just morning, and when I go out of town, I am sure to see to it that I will have a coffee pot where I am staying--even if it means bringing my own.
My wife, on the other hand, has these words to say about coffee: “I don’t know how anything that smells so good can taste so bad.” More than once I have told her how coffee is really kind of an acquired taste--one I have grown accustomed to--one I miss when it is not there.
In Psalms, we are invited to, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Psalms 34:Cool. Now, would we say that our “taste” for the Lord is an acquired taste? I would say so. For it is only through the contact with the Holy Spirit that we even begin to discover what the Psalmist is talking about when he writes, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
So how does one taste of the Lord? In Psalms 119, we read, “I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” To taste of the Lord, simply means to walk with Him and according to His word. It means meditating on the things of God--chewing on them, if you will. And it means experiencing God in an up close and personal way as we keep our feet from evil and purposely set our hearts on the purposes of our Maker.
In time, our acquired taste is one that we cannot hardly go a day without. We enjoy the pleasantry of His company. We enjoy the warmth of His filling. We enjoy the aroma of His sweet Spirit as He embraces us in all His goodness. We have grown so accustomed to tasting the Lord on a daily basis that, when we do not spend time with Him, we soon feel the effects thereof.
Another aspect of our acquired taste is that as we taste of His goodness, we recognize the empty foods of this world as just that--empty. In Proverbs 20:17 we read, “Food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man, but he ends up with a mouth full of gravel.” Simply put, the empty foods of this fleeting world can leave a bad taste in our mouths.
We need to be, what you might call, “ a serious child of God.” The kind of people who enjoy God at all times and look forward to that next moment together. People who, whether we are at church, home, or away, we seek to ensure that we have the things of God with us--even if it means taking a Bible to the beach.

    Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:1-3)
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« Reply #31 on: July 15, 2006, 08:31:32 PM »

Self Defense

    I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him." So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer (Ezra 8:22-23).

In recent days there have been churches who have began offering self-defense classes to the women of the church, or to anyone who wants to take the classes. Perhaps the church leadership decided they need to find better ways of providing for the physical needs of the members as well as the spiritual needs. And with this, hoping to give to some a sense of security--one more reason not to fear this life or this world.
Regardless of the reasoning, it seems as though the chosen course of action is one that so closely resembles the same course of action that those outside of the church would take. When considering how one should protect one's self, where is the difference between what a child of God does and what someone who is not a child of God would do? Perhaps we might think the difference is in the condition of the heart. That may be so, yet are we so different if our trust is put in the same self-protection methods and devices as that which others use?
Some would argue that God may lead us to use such methods. That may be so as well. But the question then becomes, "Have we asked God?" How many people who are the children of God have "fasted and petitioned" to find out God's desire and way to protect us? We would have to admit that we know of few such people--probably none. Most of us who take self-defense courses are seldom there because we struggled with weather it was wrong or right, and then felt God leading that direction. How many of us would be as Ezra, ashamed of even thinking to seek protection of any worldly type because we would want the world to know that God is our protection?
The point is this: God does love us and He protects us. It is not a question of does He protect, but do we trust? When David swung his sling against Goliath, he did not trust in what he could do with a sling but what God would do through him. David's trust was clearly in God and not his own skills and abilities. And as we seek an answer from God concerning the question of self-defense, we may be frightened of what He might say because we still have a hard time trusting others or in something we cannot see when it pertains to our safety. Nevertheless, we must not rationalize and quickly find solutions as the world does. Instead, we must first remember that God is our protection and then pray earnestly to Him to determine how He wants to carry out that protection. What He has to protect us is always far better than any worldly methods we could settle for.

    Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. for I am the Lord, your God (Isaiah 43:1-3).
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« Reply #32 on: July 15, 2006, 08:32:14 PM »

In Humility Consider Others

    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others
    (Philippians 2:3-4).

We live in an age of deliberate separation. We easily make decisions that affect others while only considering the way it effects us individually. We have little difficulty absolving ourselves of responsibility for our actions if at times those actions are most beneficial to our own personal desires.
In Romans 12, Paul tells us that we should "be devoted to one another in brotherly love." That we should, "Honor one another above yourselves." In verse 13 he encourages us to, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn," and to "live in harmony with one another."
If we pursue what is in our best interest, we cannot ignore the fact that what we do effects those around us. And while we might not always make popular decisions, we cannot turn away and simply say, "I have done no wrong," or "I have done all I can." While there are still those who have been hurt, or those who have been offended--there is also a need for healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. Letting bygones be bygones is not a viable solution if forgiveness does not accompany. Sweeping broken relationships and fractured fellowship under the rug does not repair a problem--it only causes the rug to be lumpy. And even once the fragments under the rug have been trampled by the footsteps of time, there will always be something of it remaining--regardless how visible it is to the eye.
Few of us handle confrontation well. It is a creature that frightens us and instills within us a desire to turn tail and run completely away. But confrontation is the doorway to forgiveness, and a doorway that must be walked through if true forgiveness, and peace, is ever to be found.
We have all made mistakes and we have all caused strife within our relationships, whether inadvertently or not. But we do not have to let circumstances lay, saying, "what's done is done," and seek to absolve ourselves of personal responsibility. Instead, we can go to our brother or sister and seek their forgiveness. For there comes a time when it does not matter who was wrong to begin with--as long as both harbor resentment there will be no peace.

    Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (Mt.5:23-24).
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« Reply #33 on: July 15, 2006, 08:32:50 PM »

A Timely Word

    Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).

A kind word. A soft answer. A hug that goes further than the best advice. These are the medicines for the sick and strength for the weary.
It is a timely word, or a time without a single word. A time when all you simply have to do is be present. It is not as difficult as we make it. We simply put aside the feelings of awkwardness surrounding what we should do or say, and just simply be. And within the moments of genuine concern, we will find the words we do not look for, and do the things we have not planned. And all in all we will be a blessing to one in need by forgetting ourselves for the benefit of another.
We often want to help. We so badly want to reach out to someone who has had a rough time or who has suffered a tragedy. And so we approach them and struggle to think of just the right thing to say. That's when it happens. The clichés come stumbling out over our tongues as though we opened our mouths not realizing what words were lurking behind our sealed and somber lips. And even though the moments seem awkward, we feel we must do something to reach out to that someone who is hurting--only to retreat in regret and realize that it is not just words that help, but that the words must be right, well timed and from the heart.
Understand we have the best intentions, but good intentions do little good if they are not carried out in wisdom. If we mean to do good in ministering to another, we must first determine what they truly need; and that need is not as we see it, or even as they see it, but as God sees it. Remember how Job's friends went about telling Job what he needed, as they saw it, and consider how much it seemed they helped Job--not much.
Ministering is God's work. It is something that we can only truly do under His leadership. We do not see the whole person as God does, and no matter how well we think we know someone, God knows far better. He knows far better what is best for them--whether it is a kind word or a soft answer, or a hug and nothing more. It may be at times that there is need for tough love, but who are we to know what is best? Our reasoning is heavily biased and distorted, and falls short of factoring in all of the many parts of a situation or a person. Therefore we must turn to the One who knows best, therein finding the right words to say and the right things to do to help someone up who has fallen, or to strengthen someone who is weak. We then become an instrument of healing to a tired and broken heart as we place ourselves, as instruments of healing, comfortably in the hands of the Master, our Lord God.
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« Reply #34 on: July 15, 2006, 08:33:19 PM »

Fireworks

Read James 3:3-12

    Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell (James 3:5-6).

The news carried stories of fires started by stray fireworks. This particular fourth of July season seemed drier than most. But even with all the warnings, it was feared that many would ignore the warnings and that, as a result, there would be many more fires to come. For even with the knowledge that a small spark could easily turn into a giant blaze, there would be those who would still strive to do what would please them--regardless of the consequences.
Consider the tongue as James discusses it in James 3:3-12. It is such a small member of the body but seems to have great power over the whole. We allow it to steer us into situations that are detrimental to us. We let it exercise a freedom of speech and justify the words it speaks by claiming a need to express one's self. And when the tongue has run it's course, we expect that others should understand our need to say what we think, and that they have no right to hold any part of it against us.
But a tongue that exercises no self-control lives by a double standard. If someone else expresses what is thought or felt, and it is in some way offensive, then it's "Where do they get off?" and "They have no right!"
The tongue is like the fireworks on a dry summer day. If the fireworks are treated with careful control and kept within necessary confines, then what comes will be a beautiful display. But should one lack wisdom in the use, the devastation that results could be extremely severe.
While we consider our freedom on this Independence day, we might want to consider the why behind free speech. Free speech is something that is meant to help society, and bring about good to all people. As free speech is exercised properly, we behold the beauty of power under control. But should free speech be something to excuse thoughtless or even malicious words, then the tongue becomes the master, and the free speech that was meant to set us free becomes something that further enslaves us, as we suffer the devastation of an untamed tongue.
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« Reply #35 on: July 15, 2006, 08:33:52 PM »

Cloven Tongues Like As Of Fire

    And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language (Acts 2:1-6).

There was a significant purpose behind the events of the Day of Pentecost as described in Acts chapter two. The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) was a "one day festival. . .observed as a Sabbath with a holy gathering at the tabernacle."* Many people had gathered for the Pentecost, from all around. They spoke many different languages and dialects, and as the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak concerning the matters of Christ, those who had gathered heard the Word of God in their own language.
The Apostles did not will this to happen, it was a movement of God. And as a movement of God, there was much purpose within it. It was not a demonstration of the filling of the Holy Spirit to satisfy the eyes of men that the Holy Spirit had truly come. God moves the Holy Spirit into the lives of those who are His own, and that is always a blessing and a miracle. But the purpose of the manifestation of tongues far exceeds any idea that the reason behind it is to provide proof to those who look on that one has come under the power of the Holy Spirit. We sadly diminish the power of God if we choose to see speaking in tongues as something to show men that someone is truly saved. Why should God have to prove anything to us--including the extent to which He has changed a heart.
And while there are those who require speaking in tongues as a demonstration that the Holy Spirit has come, there are also those who forbid the speaking of tongues all together. But Paul would tell us, "be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid the speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way" (1 Cor.14:39-40). There is a need and purpose for the use of every gift, and that is not something to be exercised without control, or to be completely forbidden.
The bottom line is this: there are many ways that God would choose to use us to encourage and edify others. To restrict His time and method is to quench the movement of the Holy Spirit. To require His movement, is to be confused regarding who should be God. And while there is still such controversy over the issue of tongues in the church, so many of us overlook the real issue. For there are those who would claim to speak in tongues in a Holy language only to go away from that point and perhaps use their tongue to talk about someone else behind their back. And there are those who would frown upon tongues in church, who would also refrain from giving a word of encouragement to someone in their time of need.
Perhaps we could find a sad irony in the whole issue. That as we would discuss the issue of tongues interdenominationally, we would likely argue, raise our voices and perhaps even make some biting and hurtful comments. And in our efforts to determine the best way to glorify God with our tongues, we would dishonor Him through our tearing down of each other.
May God grant us the wisdom to see that the true gift of tongues is in using them to encourage, to help and to love others.
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« Reply #36 on: July 15, 2006, 08:34:27 PM »

Breaking Of Bread

    And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread (Luke 24:35).

We break bread together as a gesture of fellowship. Even if we do not physically break bread, we often come together over fellowship dinners and engage in time of conversation. Our time around the fellowship table could last for hours and sometimes do as we talk and laugh and enjoy the company of friends. It is with those who are special to us that we often come together and truly know what it means to "break bread."
This is not a strange fellowship. For we have all been created with a desire to have such fellowship. And that fellowship is desired because it is something the Father desires to have with us. So He beckons us to come to His fellowship table and break bread and engage in joyful hours passed in delightful conversation. And God so much desires to have fellowship with us that He has provided the bread--bread to be broken so that fellowship may be full.
In John 6 verse 51, Jesus tells us, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." Jesus is the fellowship bread. He was broken so that fellowship might be restored between a fallen world and a Holy God. He willingly laid Himself out to be broken, and that upon a fellowship table we call the cross.
And in all of this, we stand in awe and quite perplexed by the love of God. But this breaking of Christ, the manna from Heaven, should not be so mysterious to us. It was the natural response of a loving God toward His lost children. It was the very nature of God to provide us such a beautiful way to be restored to Him.
The mystery is in the many times that we do not follow His example. We look at the wonder of God's work through Christ, the breaking of the fellowship bread, and see it was the perfect answer. We know that His plan of Salvation brought us together with Him into a sweet and glorious union of love. And though we see the wonders and benefits of His work, we often shy away from the breaking of bread, even though it is the perfect means to restore fellowship with others whom we have wronged or who has wronged us. Through Christ, there could come beautiful reconciliation, but we choose instead to harbor ill feelings or simply ignore a problem and hope it will all go away.
We see Christ--the Bread from heaven--who offered Himself up to be broken in order to restore fellowship. He says to us, "This is my body, broken for you." He did so that we might be reconciled to God, and so we might be reconciled with others. He beckons us from the fellowship table, "Come and break bread." And if we choose to heed His call and come together with those with whom we need to be restored, we find that all things can be mended through the work of the broken Bread.

    And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).
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« Reply #37 on: July 15, 2006, 08:34:59 PM »

To Know His Will

    If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (Jn.8:31-32).

Being a disciple of Christ means continuing in His word. It is a seeking for His truth so that the truth may dwell in us. Not just so it will make us free, but also that the truth revealed in us will free others. As we abide in Christ and His word abides within us, we become one with Him in spirit, thought and purpose. Out from this relationship comes an understanding of God's will for our lives--an understanding that is clear and definite. As we reside in Christ there need be no guesswork concerning God's purpose and direction for us. It is a truth we shall know, and that truth is a liberating truth.
If this is the case--that God's will is clear as we remain in Christ, and that there is really no guesswork--one might wonder why we often seem to keep coming to a place wherein we ask, "How can I truly know His will for me?" Sometimes we feel we know without a doubt what His will is; while at other times we feel we don't have a clue. Still other times we may feel as though we thought we knew what His will was, but suddenly everything seemed to change and then we are not quite so certain that we knew His will to begin with.
The fact of the matter is that His will is not what we should be in question of, but our perception of His will, and why we think it is one thing or another--that is what we should question. For as we consider the will of God on a day that we feel close to Him, we might find it to be one thing; while the next day might find us feeling spiritually weak, which might lead us to feel that His will is not what we thought at all, but something entirely different. We may have began to pursue God's direction when we felt spiritually strong. We may have felt strengthened and as though the path was already set, and that by the power of God we knew we would follow the course to the end. But somewhere along the way we became fatigued, weary and worn. Some of the other options suddenly begin to catch our eyes. In fact, we soon begin to reason that maybe God is leading us to follow a different course now--maybe even the one that looks the most satisfying to our flesh and comforting to our lives here on this earth. We then may even talk ourselves into believing that God wants us to have certain things that at one time we would not have even considered--a time when we were closer to Him.
When it appears the will of God has changed or that we might not have perceived it correctly to begin with, we might want to ask ourselves a couple of questions: "How close was I to God when I felt His leading me this way?" Where are we at in our relationship with Him is a good indication of how well we can hear His voice and there with discern His will. "What has changed?" Since I began following what I believed to be His will, what has changed? Did God change what He wants? Has something changed with me? Have I taken my eyes off of what He wants and put them on my wants? Have I grown distant from Him and therefore am being more heavily influenced by the world than by God?
Finding God's will is something we make very difficult when is should be the truth that sets us free. Number one: we must draw near to Him. We cannot hear His voice if we are not close to Him. Number two: we must spend adequate time in prayer, bible study and individual worship. Fifteen minute quiet times are all too often too quiet and become little more than a faint whisper in the midst of our noisy lives. We need to give the necessary time to these areas so that God's influence can be easily heard above the influences of the world in our daily lives. Number three: we need good godly counsel. This is not seeking counsel by going to someone who always agrees with us. Instead, it is asking for the thoughts of someone who walks with God and therefore will be honest and encouraging. Above all we must remember to draw near. Jesus said "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.
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« Reply #38 on: July 15, 2006, 08:35:33 PM »

A Note To The Perfectionist

    I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Rom.12:1).

The God who fashioned you before you existed and knew you while you were within your mother's womb is He who knows both your capabilities and your limitations. He is the manufacturer of your heart and the builder of your life, and in His wisdom, He does not expect you to be anything that you were not created to be.
However, God does expect us to do our best at whatever we do as though we do it for His benefit and not our own. And what is pleasing to Him is when He sees in us a fervent spirit that works hard and afterwards can settle back and find confidence in knowing that we have done a good job. Not that we might boast of ourselves, but that we might recognize our own hard work and find pleasure in a productive day--and within that, give glory to God for making us thus and so.
Yet many times we meet challenges and hit them with all we have only to find that we cannot do what we expect ourselves to do. We might lose heart and wonder where we went wrong. . ."Did I overestimate my abilities?" we might ask. But then perhaps we become like the pessimist who sees the glass half empty, and rather than seeing the hard work we have done, we diminish the good from it by reflecting only upon our limitations.
Jesus tells us in John 7:24 that we should "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." Yet we find that if we quickly turn around that we are often the only ones who are breathing down our necks or staring over our shoulders. We are our own worse critics, and we are often the first to proclaim that our best is not good enough. And rather than looking at what God has given us the ability to accomplish, we sneer our lips and mutter, "I should have done better!"
Perhaps we do not realize that when we have done our best and then reject it, we are not only putting down who we are but we are also putting God down. For we are the work of His hands and we should stand in awe of all that He has done. When God's creation functions the way it was supposed to it is a reason for praise. But for some reason His standard is not good enough for us. For if we live up to His expectations yet fall short of ours, we are somehow insinuating that we know better than God what is "acceptable" and that "which is [our] reasonable service."
There is a righteous pleasure that we can come to experience as we do our best at all we do. For in so doing we magnify our Creator as we allow ourselves as His creation to function the way He had purposed before we were born. As God is the maker of our person He is also the one who sets the standard that we are to live by. Trying to live up to our standards or the standards of others will often leave us feeling that we are somewhat of a failure. For though we are less than perfect, we often expect nothing less than perfect from ourselves. But God sees in truth, and as we learn to trust in what He thinks of us rather than what we or what others think, then we will come to accept who we are, and we will learn that our best is good enough, and worth giving glory to God for when we do it. In this we find what is that good and perfect and acceptable will of God, which is our reasonable service. We should look at ourselves through the eyes of God, for as we do we will see ourselves for who we really are--not less than, or greater than--but we shall know ourselves even as we are known--and then comes contentment to be the person God has made us to be.
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« Reply #39 on: July 15, 2006, 08:36:04 PM »

Godly Ambitions

    Delight thyself also in the Lord and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart (Ps.37:4).

The greatest rewards are those that are often overlooked--and almost always unexpected. Psalms 37:4, at first look, might seem like a statement of cause and effect. A person may read the verse by itself and quickly deduce that if he was to "delight" in God, then he could have what he wants. The problem is that the focus often shifts from the first part of the verse to the second. And so the verse is understood to tell a person that if he wants to get what he wants out of life, then all he need do is delight himself in the Lord. The result is that the person attempts to live a lifestyle that he believes will please God, so that he can have what he wants from this life. An example might be a person who, knowing that God rewards giving, decides to give twenty percent of his income to the church, feeling certain that God will give more to him than what he had to begin with. The problem with this line of thinking is when the motivation is more focused upon getting a desired reward rather than being a delight to God.
But as a person's focus is directed toward the first part of Psalms 34:7 ("Delight thyeself in the Lord"), then the rest of the verse falls into place. For as we draw near to God and delight to do His will, the desires of our heart are steadily transformed. Our ambitions, goals and aspirations begin to change--in perspective at least, if not also in direction. For what we desire moves away from selfish desire and moves toward godly ambition. We move away from pouring ourselves into doing what will bring us pleasure and seek how we might please God instead. And as we do, God grants us the desires of our heart because our desires have become a smaller reflection of His greater glory.
Jesus told us that "whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will
lose his life for [Jesus'] sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:25). Our greatest rewards will come when we do not seek them. As we seek to "lose" our lives, we open ourselves up to be the instruments of God's purpose, to accomplish His will on earth. Living this way will bring us great rewards, and that is because we do not seek rewards. We do not seek to store up treasures in heaven and we do not do our righteous acts so that God will reward us--we simply do them because--and we require nothing in return.
If our only reason to live the Christian life is to gain better reward then we have missed the point. Following Christ means sacrifice of our wants and giving up of personal desires so that God's greater good will prevail.
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« Reply #40 on: July 15, 2006, 08:36:41 PM »

God's Math

    And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to [his] disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. (Matthew 14:19).

How many times does 5000 go into 5 and 2? Once--with some of the 5 and 2 left over.

With our new life in Christ we better be prepared to be reeducated. The way we have thought about things in the past will not be the way we need to think about things present or in the future. Realizing that we are new creations, and that old things are past away and all things have become new (2 Cor.5:17), we should be ready to check our old ways of reasoning and thinking at the door. No, that does not mean we check our brains at the door--it simply means that we learn to "walk by faith, no longer by sight." Because, if we are not careful, our human reasoning will quickly put our eyes on the wrong things. And rather than keeping our eyes upon Christ, we train our focus steadily upon our problems and situations.
With our new life comes new math. That math is not the new math taught in public schools. Instead, it is a math that only makes sense in the spirit and when read within the context of the Bible and seen in the movement of God's Spirit. It is the math that tells us that all we need to feed 5000 men and their families is five loaves of bread and two fishes. It is a math that is not logical and is not constrained by mathematical laws and theorems. It is not a math that is worked out on paper--but worked out in faith.
This kind of math leads us to become extraordinary givers. For as we see a need that God desires to meet, and we see that need requiring X amount of dollars, we do not flinch and throw up our hands and say that it must not have been God's will. Imagine the 5000 if Jesus would have assessed the situation and determined that since He could not readily see God's provision with His eyes. that it must not have been God's will for the people to eat.
As extraordinary givers we trust God to meet X when all we have on hand is half of X, or maybe less. As extraordinary givers we do not consider a need for a financial cushion because we realize that God's math means that He will always supply our need.
It is not enough to ask God to show us needs that need met, we must also ask Him to meet that need through us. And as we see the need and realize that meeting the need will blow the budget plans, we do not throw up our hands and say, "Oh well, we can't do it 'cause we haven't got the money."
The thing to keep in mind is that God is not going to ask us to do something for which He will not also make a way to do it. And as we consider the work of the church and examine our budgets, we might discover some wondrous events will occur when we stop being slave to the bottom line, and start moving toward ministry with full knowledge that God will give us everything we need to do what He asks.

It is not a question of math or human reasoning--but instead, it is a matter of simple trust and obedience.
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« Reply #41 on: July 15, 2006, 08:37:15 PM »

All Together Now

    Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cling to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing [diligently] in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits (Rom.12:9-16).

We struggle for uniqueness, and we strive for individuality. Our hope is that we find ourselves, our purpose and our place in this world. A place in this world that was made specifically for us. A place that no one else can fill. We seek a place wherein we feel that we are the perfect fit and that we are somehow special as an individual. And this is not just a fact of growth as a person, it has become a right of ascension in a society where we have adopted the attitude of looking out for number one.
And it is not enough that I find who I am as a person, a family member or even a Christian; I will strive so that others will also see my importance and all that there is that makes me a special and unique individual. While many would say that there is nothing wrong with such behavior, we should not overlook the fact that as we strive for independence and individuality, our focus becomes more and more self-centered. So much so that it becomes harder and harder to truly see things from anther's point of view, or perhaps even suffer with them when they suffer or be joyful when they are joyful.
It seems to be the trend to find creative ways to build one's self-esteem. And while it is necessary for us not to see ourselves as less than we are, it is also dangerous to overinflate our personal viewpoints of ourselves to an extreme and idealistic distorted level. What's more is that we should not think we need to find ways to boost ourselves and our self worth, it seems to be a natural tendency to promote one's self or to even distort the truth in favor of a better reflection of who we are. We seem to naturally gravitate toward whatever is good for the self while neglecting our effect on the whole of society, or even on those closest to us.
We are not an island. Yet we live our lives acting as if what we do or say carries very little weight. But if we stop being so narrow-minded, looking solely to our own existence as though we are the center of the universe, we might discover that we are just a small part of a much greater whole. We are responsible for far more than just ourselves, for everything we say or do ripples outwardly into the lives of those around us. No where does God say to us that He wants us to do as we please or that we should go out and build a life and lifestyle that is centered around ourselves. Instead, we are frequently instructed that we should "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil.2:3-4).
We are all together. And what one does affects the others. There is no escaping that and there is no shirking of the responsibility we have to care for each other, and to see that every decision we make weighs in the balance of all things and in all lives. Our first need is to stop living as though we were put on this earth to live as an individual. While we are an individual, we hold a place in the greater whole. And it is necessary for us to function properly within our place for the good of all people. Ask God to help us to see the greater whole, and to show us ways to serve others and to move away from serving self.
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« Reply #42 on: July 15, 2006, 08:38:32 PM »

Learning How

    In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work (2 Tim.2:20-21).

A young boy observes his dad fixing the car. The father asks the boy to hand him certain tools, and explains to the boy which tool is which and patiently waits while the boy finds the tool. Once the boy gives his father the tool, the father then begins to explain the tool's purpose, and how each tool is shaped for a specific function. The boy watches intently while the father uses the tool, and by watching his father he learns something that will one day help him to work even as his father works.
As God's children, we are both the tool and the child looking on. As a tool, we are shaped for a specific function. We are designed with a purpose in mind--for a specific function in life and in the body of Christ. By watching our Heavenly Father, we will learn how we as His instrument will be used to perform our function effectively. And we will see how we are being shaped to fit the work God has given us, and to snugly fit into His hand as He works through us.
As God's child, we should find ourselves in a position that we are following our Lord and observing what He does. We do not take the role of one who knows, but of one who is learning. For no matter how much we think we know, we must realize that we do not see the whole of God's intended purpose for us. He is shaping us daily, and we become presumptuous in thinking that we have figured out all that's involved in who we are and how we are to complete a task. We are to do a job, and we are to become an instrument, yet we are also to follow the Teacher. And as we keep our place as the child student, then we will discover far more than we could have ever presumed on our own.
In discovering God's will for our use and purpose within the body of Christ, we will find it helpful to keep a couple of things in mind. First, we need to be near to God--watching Him intently to learn from Him what we will need for every single day. And with that, we must not forget who the Teacher is and who the child student is. Secondly, we need to consider how God has shaped us. As we examine the different ways He might use us, we must realize what kind of tool we are. And just as we would not use a hammer to turn a bolt, we are seldom going to be called to do a job that we were not fashioned for. When weighing the possibilities, if there are three types of jobs to be done and only one of those jobs fits who God has made us to be, then that is probably where God wants us.

Draw near to God as His child, and you will discover your place and purpose in the body of believers in Christ.
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« Reply #43 on: July 15, 2006, 08:39:07 PM »

The Eyes Are The Windows

    Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb.12:2-3).

It is said that if one stays in a rut long enough, the rut will become a grave. Not everything that is endured is what is necessary. For there is much that is gone through that God had not intended. For the chains that hold a weary soul are seldom what one's mind perceives, but more or less a prison forged from selfish wants the mind conceives. Much of what is burdensome is that we bring upon ourselves. And so we feel imprisoned by what we feel we must attain.
Look in to the eyes of many Christians. They are those who claim to have been freed by the work of a Gracious Savior Lord. And where we might think to find a dancing flicker of the Light of God, instead we find distress. For these are those who are released from chains of sin and death. These are they who have embraced the Light of God in Christ. And these are they who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. Yet what is seen within there eyes tell little of such knowledge. But rather tales of burdened life, paying bills and getting by.
The eyes do tell the story, and perhaps better than any word or gesture. For they reveal what's in the heart and speak as loud as any word. One by one the children of Light leave Sunday's worship service's doors, to shake the hand of the preacher man, and tell him how much they loved his words. But he then looks into their eyes to see the troubled waters. And he wonders what he has to do to help them find a greater joy--to free them from the burdens.
There is an old hymn called, "I Love To Tell The Story." It is a hymn the reflects the feelings of joy that comes from telling the story of Christ, about His glory and His love. It is the story of eyes that are focused on Christ. For as one's eyes beholds the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world, there is a sense of victory, there is a sense of hope--and there is a flicker of God's Light within the eyes as one steadfastly fixes his gaze upon Him.
What you see when you look into the eyes of those that fix their gaze upon the affairs of this life will be burden and defeat. For the day to day grind of getting by and paying bills is enough to make any heart falter who sees no hope beyond a paycheck. But when you look into the eyes of one who looks steadfastly at the Savior Lord, you will see a light and sparkle of joy that seems to remain regardless of the person's circumstances. You will see one who looks beyond the problems and sees the Glory of God. You will see within the person's eyes the freedom we claim to have in Christ and the Victory that Jesus holds for all who follow Him.
When people look into your eyes, what story do your eyes tell? Do your eyes love to tell the story of victory in Christ, or do they say, "I'm weary?"

    Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light (Mt.11:28-30).
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« Reply #44 on: July 15, 2006, 08:39:43 PM »

By What We Judge

    Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in you own eye? How can you say to your brother. Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye (Mt.7:1-5).

Matthew 7:1 has been a popular verse among so many. It has frequently been waved as a flag of defense--held high by those who find it handy to justify wrong or selfish behavior. As with any scripture, the first place of application rests in how it relates to the self. Yet this verse is more often used like a weapon, with little thought given to its true meaning and application. Those who recite the familiar verse often do so with valiant vigor. They would say, "The Bible says do not judge!" while holding little regard in their hearts for the rest of the Bible's standards for life.
On the other hand, those who read to find God's purpose for the scripture in their lives, take heed to the words with cautious respect, and wonder how one can truly look into the eyes of another and not make some sort of judgment. And yet it is not that there is not a need for a judgment to be made, but that the judgment is faulty at best when made by one who cannot see things clearly.
We are warned not to judge or we too shall be judged, and that with what measure we use it shall be measured to us the same. Does this mean that as I judge others, God also will judge me? We should hope not. For then we compare God's righteous judgment to that of ours which is often impaired and inadequate. But God's judgment is true, so we cannot assume that He would judge us by our standards. However, if we judge by a standard by which we do not live, we must ready to be judged even as we judge. And those whom we would seek to judge and to help to deal with their problems, they are those who will look us in the eyes and say, "who are you to help me?" For they will measure us in accordance with our own standard and will judge us even as we have judged them.
The focus is not that we should not judge, but that we should come before God and be made holy each day, so that we can see clearly--and having acknowledged our misgivings and having sought God to help us to deal with our faults--we then find clarity in Christ that will help us to help others find their way as well.
The cares of this life, the problems that bring us to worry rather than to God, and the sin we return to: these are the things that cloud our eyes, impair our vision, and make it difficult to accurately assess another's spiritual condition. If we want to help others, we will have to evaluate them--seeing them through the eyes of God--this could be called a righteous judgment.  But we must first deal with those things which cloud our vision; "then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

It is our place to judge a righteous judgment so that in so doing, we can help ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ to live a holy life--acceptable and pleasing unto God.

    Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment (John 7:24).
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