Sunday, September 30, 2012

Peaceful Thought Life

Peaceful Thought Life
Oct 1, 2012
Philippians 4:8   ". . . whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Our minds are plagued by stressful thoughts.  We worry, think the wrong things, meditate on the worst case scenarios, and make emotional mountains out of mole hills.  It is a common thing among humans, to reason with negative thoughts.  The result is an unhappy life, that is not at peace.  Our thought life, created partially by our own perception, does more harm to us than good.  If we functioned how the Lord intended for us, then we wouldn't feel stressed; we would be at peace. Paul said he was able to accomplish this state of being, always being at peace in this world.  Despite what was going on, Paul said he was able to have the Lord's peace about him at all times.  He left behind his formula, and we would be able to have this same peace in our lives if we simply put his formula into practice.

The first part of Paul's formula is found in Philippians 4:6.  He said that we should not be anxious about anything but bring every problem straight to the Lord.  When we don't feel at peace with everything, we should go into a time of prayer WHILE being thankful and full of praise.  It is hard, when you are stressed, to be thankful for anything, let alone bring praises to the Lord.  But it is an exercise in submitting the flesh.  If you don't have peace, then how in the world are you supposed to have thankfulness in your heart?  Paul wasn't saying that your heart would naturally be thankful; he was saying that we should submit our lives to what we know to be true regardless of the circumstances around us and how they make us feel.  This is further emphasized by the second part of Paul's formula (that OFTEN gets overlooked in Scripture).

Most people stop reading the Bible on a certain topic after they've come to the conclusion of a paragraph.  But Paul continued in his conversation about peace in the following paragraph in the book of Philippians, after he told us to pray during our anxiousness.  He said, after we pray, we should then meditate on the good things in life.  This would further garner the peace of the Lord upon our lives.  He wasn't saying meditate on the good things in OUR lives, but on the good things that the Lord has done.  Paul said to focus on things that are beautiful, wonderful, righteous,  and praiseworthy.  Notice it contained the "praise" word again.  Paul was bringing the topic of peace full circle with his previous mandate regarding the times when we are anxious: to be in a state of praise.

He was telling us that if we fill our minds with thoughts that are "good" then it would create in us a praiseworthy attitude, resulting in the turnaround of a downward thought spiral.  Paul then concluded that if we put all the things into practice the way he did, then we would have the same result he was able to have: being content in all circumstances.  If we are content in all circumstances, then we are without worry, fear, anxiety, or frustration.  AND we would be full of the Lord's peace.  So, don't just stop by praying; re-visit in your mind all the good things the Lord has done, shifting your focus off your problems and onto praiseworthy things.  Then bring the Lord the praise He deserves.  You'll be at peace in your life and a whole lot happier.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Philippians 4

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Save the Sick

Save the Sick
Sept 24, 2012
James 5:15 "And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven."

The Bible offers some unique language that suggests a physical healing is guaranteed if the person praying has enough faith.  It reads, "and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well."  It even goes so far as to say "WILL" and not "might."  If you just read that one verse, out of the contextual writing of James, then you might feel fooled if healing does not come as expected.  You might even become discouraged in your faith, thinking your faith wasn't strong enough.  I've seen many faithful men of the Lord suffer physical illness without healing, yet I can tell you it had nothing to do with a lack of faith.  It is important to understand what James was saying in his letter, and why he said the words he did.

He was writing to Jewish Believers, who had already given their lives over to the Lord; they believed in the resurrection of Jesus.  They were already saved, as far as salvation was concerned.  James said if a person is sick, the church should assemble the elders to pray for him; those who were proven in their dedication to the Lord should be the ones praying.  And he said that the faith-prayer will make the person well, the Lord would restore him, and any subsequent sins forgiven.  It is interesting that James equates being restored and forgiven in the same sentence as prayer for an illness.

In the paragraph before James discusses this faith-prayer for healing, he talks about perseverance during suffering.  He declares that suffering will happen in this life-time and we are to bear up under it.  Suffering would fall under the same category as illness, if it is part of the Lord's design that would bring Him glory.  So then, we must understand healing in this same context, that healing will come (similar to the end of perseverance in suffering) if and when it is part of the Lord's plan.  Until then, unfortunately, we must bear up under the illness as well.  So, why then does James declare that the person WILL be healed?  Remember he also talked about being restored and forgiven.  James was suggesting that illness could be brought on as a result of sin.  If the illness was sin related, then the faith-prayer would restore him in a right relationship with the Lord, his sins forgiven, and his illness eliminated.

I know of a powerful man in the Lord who suffered for years with a physical affliction the doctors could do nothing about.  It was only AFTER the man sought the Lord for clarity and the Lord revealed to him that the illness was a result of his pride.  Once this man confessed and repented of this sin, the Lord healed him.  Similarly, I know of a man who was afflicted because of a completely rebellious sin and once he confessed of this lifestyle, the Lord healed him within the hour.  The point is, the Lord does use illness as a way to get our attention.  It is not meant as a form of punishment but as a form of discipleship to bring the person into the right place with the Lord.  James said the person would be forgiven.  If you'd like to debate this point, first read James 5 verse 13 THROUGH 19.

The reverse of this situation is true as well, should a non-believer become afflicted by illness.  If a person comes to the Lord with enough faith that the Lord could heal him, then he also has enough faith to be forgiven and saved.  James was suggesting there might even be non-believers among us who could be brought to the Lord through faith in healing.  This presents a great case for hospital ministry, as it is an opportunity to discuss faith in the Lord in the desperation for physical healing.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  John 9:1-3, John 11:4, James 5

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Differently Than Expected

Differently Than Expected
Sept 17, 2012
2 Corinthians 5:7  "Indeed, our lives are guided by faith, not by sight."

Have you ever had a situation turn out differently than you expected?  Of course.  Everyone, since childhood, has experienced a turn of events, a twist in the plot, a unique experience that could not have been anticipated.  But for some reason we still think and plan that things will turn out the way we anticipate.  Looking forward is a natural thing to do, but imagining just exactly how it will turn out is nearly impossible.  But we still try, we still envision how things will end up.  The Lord would suggest that this is a fools errand.

Since the first Bible story, throughout the entire set of Scriptures, each real-life tale is full of unscripted events.  They never turned out how the character envisioned.  Abraham was told he would be the father of an entire nation, yet he didn't have any children.  He thought maybe his wife's maidservant would be the ticket for having kids since his wife was barren.  He didn't think about the Lord providing a miracle child.  Years later, the Children of Israel were promised to be given a land flowing with milk and honey.  They never thought they would have to annihilate an entire people group by going into battle.  They established a king but it didn't work out so they eagerly expected a savior.  They were foretold of a savior who would come to deliver them and establish His kingdom.  They thought he would bring a new government but instead they got Jesus who brought forgiveness.

In each instance, the person thought.  That is the only common factor found in EVERY Bible story; the protagonist thought.  Thought requires knowledge and critical reasoning.  These two human concepts cannot come into play when there is the Master of the Universe involved.  He knows what He's doing and what is going on, but He does not necessarily share with us the knowledge of the situation, nor are we able to reason on His level.  Therefore, thought is a moot point when it comes to our situations where the Lord is involved.  Newsflash, the Lord is always involved.  This can be very frustrating if you are a planning type of person or a control freak.  You have to be willing to relinquish control over your own life and submit it into the Lord's hands.  This requires faith, not thought. 
Living a Christian life requires faith, lest you want every situation to turn out differently than you expect.  If you live by faith, you are OK with the unexpected, because you are trusting in the Lord and what He has for you.  If not, you will think, which will turn out to be your worst enemy.  Your own reasoning and knowledge will not prove correct for your life.  If you try, your situation will ALWAYS be different.  Try faith instead of thought and there will never be a twist in expected events.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 15 & 16, Gen 21, Ex 3:17, Num 13:26-28, Num 14:7-9, Is 9:6-7, Lk 22:52, Lk 23:14

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Not in This Lifetime

Not in This Lifetime
Sept 10, 2012
Hebrews 11:13  "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth."

You've been given something to do, a burden in your heart, a promise from the Lord for your future.  But for some reason it isn't done, it isn't complete, it may not even seem started.  Frustration.  Disheartening, even depressing.  But the Lord would say to you today to stay strong, hold fast, and keep your faith in Him intently.  The Lord wants you to keep moving in the direction that He has led you, but He wants you to wait on Him for His timing in it all.  Finality is the Lord's responsibility for your task at hand, you are only supposed to be faithful in the present, though it seems you cannot move forward some days.  It is not what you complete, it is what you maintain that is the key. For a results oriented society, results are important, but the Lord would say to you today that maintaining something is far more critical.

What is it you could maintain that could be so important?  Faith.  Yes, you must maintain your faith in the Lord and His promises for your life, His plan, His path, though it seems confusing, even a detour.  The Bible says that you may not even see the results in your lifetime; this must be acceptable for you.  You are to live for the immediate as if the results will happen tomorrow, however be content if you never see those results.  If this does not resonate well with you, then your faith could be stronger, your trust in the Lord might be weak.  All the great role models found in the Bible, they never saw the finality of what was promised, the complete resolution for their situation, their life's work.   But they maintained their faith in the Lord throughout it all.  The Lord applauded their work before others, despite the lack of clearly defined results.

Abraham was promised to be the father of an entire nation, descendants as numerous as the grains of sand on the beach, yet he only had one son.  But thousands of years later, the authors of the Bible penned about how strong Abraham's faith was, being confident in the Lord.  And right after they lauded Abraham for His faith, there is a noteworthy point.  The Bible says that if Abraham had been looking for his finality here on this earth, then his country and his destination would be here as well.  But he wasn't.  Abraham wasn't looking for his finality in this world, he was looking Heaven bound.  Abraham knew that Heaven was his destination, that Heaven contained his finality and that a home, results, or a resolution would not be his in this lifetime.

You may never see the results you are looking for in this lifetime, but the Lord wants you to stay encouraged, as your faith in Him and His sovereignty are far more important than anything you could accomplish for Him.  If you are looking for your finality, the resolution to your situation on this earth, or that longing fulfilled, then you might be misguided.  Your finality is Heaven bound.  Look toward the Lord and eternity with Him as your prize, your goal, your destination, your results, your promise fulfilled, and your hope realized.  Continue on the path the Lord has for you, only expect the results not in this lifetime but when you reach eternity in Heaven.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 16:11, Acts 2:28, Heb 11:1-16

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Modern Sacrifice

Modern Sacrifice
Sept 3, 2012
Mark 12:33  ". . . and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

What do you give to the one who has everything?  It is hard picking out a gift for someone who has anything a person could ever want.  This is especially true when it comes to the Lord Most High.  He has the whole world in His hands; there is nothing we could give Him that could possibly be seen as a valuable gift.  But I'd like to offer the Lord something, a gift that would warm His heart.  In the Old Testament, burnt sacrifices were quite often a gift viewed as fragrant to the Lord.  It is rather disgusting, but if someone wanted to bless God, he would choose an animal (probably a valuable bull), spill its blood on an alter, and light it on fire.  The bull was obviously rendered useless to its owner as the flames consumed it up.  In this manner, the giver was giving the Lord a precious gift that cost something.

But since Jesus abolished the need to sacrifice animals for the atonement of our sins, the practice of sacrificing fragrant offerings to the Lord as a gift offering fell to the wayside.  It isn't practiced anymore, and is actually not something the Lord wants from us anyway.  Yes, the Lord appreciates when we give Him gifts that cost us something, but He does not appreciate the slaughtering of animals any longer.  A modern day sacrifice to bless the Lord has a whole new meaning.  It should still cost us something, but not what you'd think.  The Lord doesn't want your money, your time, or anything you could offer up through the fire.  The Lord wants you to serve your fellow man.  Scripture says we should love our neighbor as ourselves and the Lord will view this as far more pleasing than a dead bull burned in the fire.

But loving our neighbor should cost something.  Just as the bull consumed in the fire cost the giver a significant amount, so should loving our neighbor.  Love is not a feeling; it is an action.  You cannot feel love for your neighbor, have a warm heart, and not do anything.  This doesn't count as pleasing to the Lord.  He doesn't want you to think kind thoughts toward your neighbor; He wants to you take care of your neighbor just like you would take care of yourself.  This is hard.  If you shovel the snow in your walkway during the winter, you should also shovel your neighbors snow.  This is pleasing to the Lord.  If you prepare a feast at your home, you should invite your neighbor and give him the seat of honor.  This is pleasing to the Lord.  If you would do something for yourself out of self-love, then you should also do this for someone else.  It is hard, probably more difficult than burning an animal, because it doesn't just cost money, it costs money AND time.

Taking time out of your schedule to serve someone else is not easy, but is a sweet and fragrant offering to the Lord.  Loving your neighbor as yourself is akin to sacrificing your self.  The Bible says that Jesus did it as the first example (in the literal sense), and it was a fragrant offering to the Lord, a precious gift.  We are then commanded to do likewise if we want to bless the Lord.  Laying down your self for your fellow man is the only way to give the Lord a gift He would appreciate.  This means laying down your own wants and needs in order to meet the wants and needs of someone else.  I have seldom seen this done, which would suggest the Lord doesn't get very good gifts from us.  It is not comfortable and would require sacrificing something you wanted to do for yourself, but the Lord would appreciate it.  Bless the Lord this week with a gift He would view as fragrant.  Go out of your way for your fellow man, giving up what you want to do for yourself.  Take care of them and the Lord will accept your gift.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Eph 5:2, 1 John 4:10