Is it What We Are For or Against?

Do not take the title of this blog post out of balance.  I understand that it is necessary to stand against evil.  I just want to make sure that I am not always standing against something but standing for something as well.  Often, Christianity is frowned upon because Christians often talk about what is wrong and name only the list of acts that are sins.

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Image via Pixabay by jclk8888.

Of course, the issue of sin is to be taken seriously and dealt with rather than swept under the rug; however, it is important to be reminded that none of us can overcome the power of sin in our own strength.  If we could do that, then, Christ would not have had to come and suffer and die for us.

You Will Know Them By Their Fruit

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In Matthew 7:16, Jesus stated that both false prophets would be recognized by their fruits.  Those who are genuine will be recognized the same way, so, it is important to know what types of fruit we should be looking for.  Galatians 5:22-23 explains what the fruit of the Spirit is.  In other words, if a person has the Holy Spirit dwelling in her, there are certain characteristics that will eventually manifest.  These are love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.

Instead of always speaking out against hate, I should speak out for love.  When depression comes, I should speak up for joy.  I should seek out peace when strife comes instead of simply speaking against strife.  Does this make sense?

Although God deals with sin, it is important to remember that He also deals with us according to our righteousness.  In ourselves, there is no righteousness, but when we accept Christ, He is our righteousness.  Salvation is instant, but sanctification is a process.  When Christ is in me, He will begin to help me cultivate the fruit that is the evidence of the Holy Spirit being in me.

Are You Only ‘Against’ or Are You ‘For’?

With all that was just stated, I come back to my first statement:  Is it what you are for or what you are against?  Do you stand for righteousness, or do you simply stand against what you deem to be sinful?  It is important to give thought to this because if you only stand against what is sin without pointing people to the hope that is in Christ, then, you are in danger of developing self-righteousness.  That type of righteousness is no righteousness at all.

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When we speak out against the things that break God’s heart, it is also in the heart of God to point people to the solution.  The solution is always Jesus.  If we only point out sin, but fail to point out the way to righteousness, then our ministries have failed.

There are times when it is important to show righteous indignation, but there are also times when nothing but love will help.  Displaying the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is what will make a difference.  People will take notice of that fruit which will bring glory to Jesus.  They will notice because it is something different from what they have seen before.

How about you?  Are you only talking about what you are against, or, are you letting others know what you stand for?

Is Worry an Idol?

Worrying is something that comes natural to us all.  As parents, we worry about our children.  As employees, we worry about job security.  Lack of financial stability brings worry.  Marital issues give birth to worry.  In general, potential lack in any area brings worry.

Is it possible for worry to become an idol in our lives? My answer to this question is yes!  Anything that comes before God is an idol.  I can make an idol out of anyone or anything, but worry becomes an idol when it becomes exalted to a position of obsession.

What Does the Bible Say?

worry 1God’s word has a few things to say about worry.  Jesus spoke of worry at least twice during his time on the earth.  In Matthew 6:25-33, He addressed our concern with having our needs met.  Jesus told those around Him to avoid worrying about what they would eat, drink, or wear.  He went on to say that our heavenly Father knows we have need of those things.  In verse 33, Jesus exhorted those listening to seek God’s kingdom first and His righteousness, then all other necessary things would be added to them.

If you back up and read verse 24, Jesus stated that no one could serve to masters.  One would serve either God or money.  I find it interesting that Jesus discusses money right before He says not to worry.  He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knew that money is an issue for many people.  It takes money to have food, clothing, and other necessities.  However, seeking God above all else will result in everything else falling into place.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes that believers should be anxious for nothing.  In other words, rather than worry, we should commit everything to prayer.  He further states that by presenting our requests to God, we would be allowing God to guard our hearts and minds.  Worry begins in the mind, then, proceeds to the heart.  These areas must be guarded in prayer.

Another Area of Worry

Jesus addressed another source of concern for believers.  Of course, at that time, He was directly addressing His disciples. Now, we can apply His sayings to our own lives.  The source of worry that He addressed was worry over what His disciples would say to their persecutors when handed over to them.

In Matthew 10:19, Jesus stated for His disciples not to worry about how they would answer government officials when arrested.  Jesus gave assurance that He would give them the words they would need to speak.

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Although we might not be persecuted as the disciples were, this type of worry can consume us.  For example, if I have to confront someone (this should always be done with much prayer, fasting, and humility), I often rehearse what I am going to say, and I have even planned what I would say if the person responded in certain ways.  When we have to confront issues, it is best to allow the Holy Spirit to guide our words.  If we have to face someone who is belittling us, we must trust God to give us the words to say, or, trust Him if He tells us to say nothing.  He knows what is best.

The Fruit of Worry

Has any good thing ever come from spending time worrying about various matters?  Someone once said that worry is like a rocking chair.  It will take you back and forth but get you nowhere. I have found this to be true in my own life.  When worry surfaces, prayer should be the result.  Once the matter has been committed to God, thank Him for what He is going to do about the situation.

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In Exodus 4, Moses worried about what he would say to Pharaoh.  God assured Moses that He would be with Him.  In Genesis 16, Sarai worried that she would not have although God had promised that she would.  Worry resulted in Sarai taking matters into her own hands and giving her maid, Hagar, to Abram as a secondary wife so they could have children through her.  This was a custom that took place in the East during that time period, but it was not God’s will.  As a result, Abram and Sarai had to deal with the consequences of their actions.

What has you worried?  A child?  A job? An enemy?  A spouse?  Even if the source of your concern is your ministry or church, God has the answer.  Do as the word says, and by prayer and supplication make your request to God.  Allow His peace to guard your heart and mind.  It is not easy if you are addicted to worry, but it is the only way to tear that idol down.

Why do we think we can take better care of issues than God?  We might never make such a statement verbally, but when we worry excessively, refusing to give our concerns to God, we make an idol of our worries and think they are best left in our own hands.  Do not be deceived.  Give your cares to the Lord and let Him give you perfect peace.

 

Life Overwhelming

In John 10:10, Jesus stated that He had come so we could have life and have it abundantly.  Of course, the words of Jesus are total truth, but there are time in which it seems I have life overwhelming rather than life abundantly.  How about you?

Even at its best, life is unpredictable.  We never know what unexpected circumstances will arise needing our attention.  However, even when it is not great, life comes from God, and there are always aspects for which we can be thankful.

A Horrible Day

Often, we have one of those days that just seems off somehow.  Nothing happened that we could not handle, but it just seemed that a few limits had been pushed.  Some days, you and I can be out of sorts and not be sure of the cause.  Jesus is still Lord even on those days.  His grace is sufficient on those “off” days.  Furthermore, He cares about those off days, and we are free to bring them to Him asking for grace.

life 2Unfortunately, there are days that are just horrible no matter how you look at them.  Various circumstances or events can be the cause.  A bad report from a doctor, the death of a friend or loved one, the loss of a job, receiving divorce papers, or a variety of other negative events can change our lives in nearly a split second.  Jesus is still Lord in these times and circumstances.  He is in control.  Of course, knowing He is in control can lead to questions.  How can a loving God allow these things to happen?

No matter how overwhelming life becomes, we can still go to Jesus for healing and restoration.  Even if the circumstances are not that horrible, we can still go to Him and allow Him to take our frustrations.  There is nothing too big or too small for His care.

Dealing with the Overwhelming

There is no perfect, cut and dried answer that I can give you as to ways you can deal with life when it becomes too much.  All I know is that I have learned in every circumstance to go directly to God in prayer.  When I fail to do this, I usually end up taking matters into my own hands.  As a result, a mess of my own making usually occurs.

When life is overwhelming and problems seem to come at you in droves, it can be tempting to take matters into your own hands.  It can be tempting to make rash decisions that bring temporary relief.  1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us that all temptations we face are common to other people.  In other words, other people have been where you are.  We are also reminded that God provides ways of escape through temptation.  As a result, you can run to Him when you are tempted to allow daily life to awaken every negative emotion you possess.  Mercy Seat 2

If you have had an unusually horrible day, or, if you have simply had an irritating day, go to the Lord and ask Him to help you learn from the experience.  If you are facing grief, find someone to talk with who can help you through the process.  God gave other people to help carry our burdens.  Ask those God has placed in your life for help, then, when the time comes, be willing to be of help to others.

Occupy

In Luke 19, Jesus told a parable that served as an illustration of His second coming.  Verse 13 leaves a firm command that says “occupy until I come.”  The parable was a story of a man who left to go on a trip, leaving his servants in charge.  They were to take care of his personal money matters until he returned.  One servant failed to do what had been asked of him.  The results were anything but positive.

The Second Coming

Occupy until I come, Luke 19_13As Christians, we hear often about being prepared for the second coming of Jesus Christ.  Although it is a soon coming reality, we miss an important part of what Jesus was saying in the parable.  He will return, but he wants us to occupy until he comes.  The word occupy in this particular text comes from a word that is speaking of an action similar to a military occupation.  In other words, we are not expected to sit idly by while looking for the Lord’s return.  We have work to do, action to take.

While we are waiting, we have life.  The life we have is by the grace of God, so, we should be living that life in a manner pleasing to Him.  Not only should we do our best in all our undertakings, but we should also point people to Jesus Christ.  Our job is not to be idle or careless, but we should be living lives obedient to the Holy Spirit, then, when He returns, we will not be caught by surprise.

What Should You Do?

The theme of my blog comes from Philippians 1:21 which states that to live is Christ and to die is gain.  When God calls us home, it will be gain.  In the meantime, to live is Christ.  Living my life is pleasing to Christ.  Even when it is mundane and appears to be of no significance, it pleases Christ for me to live to glorify Him.

When you demonstrate His love to others through acts of charity or mercy, it brings glory to Him.  Think about it.  You have at least one opportunity on a daily basis to demonstrate forgiveness.  There are opportunities on a daily basis to bring glory to Christ through the way you live.  Behold, I come quickly, Rev. 22_12

The phrase “to live is Christ” does not indicate a life that is perfect, nor does it indicate a perfect person.  You and I will make mistakes.  When we do, we should repent, then move on.  When those who do not know Christ see us repent of wrong doing and move on, it will speak volumes about the love of Christ.

While we are waiting on Christ to return, we do not have time to get into disputes over various end-time beliefs.  Trust me, I have my own views concerning how it will all take place.  We should spend our time spreading the good news of salvation.  We should live to make a small difference in the life of another person.  It is important that we occupy because Jesus might return during your lifetime or mine, but if He does not physically return, the time will come when He calls us home.  Either way, we need to occupy while we are here.

Unity with Christians

Our unity with Christ and each other, as Christians, is so vital that Jesus labored in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before His death over those who would be His.  John 17 provides a detailed look at the prayer of Jesus.  He labored in prayer to the point that His sweat became blood.

Unity with Christ

UnityBefore you or I can be in unity with each other, we must first be cultivating our own individual relationships with Christ.  In Matthew 22: 37-40, Jesus first instructed those around Him to love the Lord with everything in them.  After quoting these words from Deuteronomy, Jesus finished the rest of the command which was to love your neighbor as yourself.

If you or I fail in loving God, we will fail in loving each other.  God is love, therefore, it is vital that I am found in Him so that I can love Him in return, then, love my Christian brothers and sister.

A relationship with God has to be cultivated through prayer and time in the Word.  If I avoid speaking to God and fail to listen to Him, what kind of relationship would I have with him?  If you avoid communicating with your spouse, friends, or family members, can you truly have good relationships with them?  If you avoid listening to your loved ones, is a good relationship with them possible?

Unity with Each Other

I have heard some Christian teachers say that unity does not mean uniformity.  In other words, I do not have to become just like others in order to love them.  In fact, I do not even have to agree with all they do to love them.  Love is not dependent upon uniformity.  The love of God is so much more.  Love still chooses to seek a relationship with an individual although there are differences.

God made us all unique (see Psalm 139).  He did not want us to become clones of one another.  He knows we all look at things differently.  He knows that we are not going to serve Him in the same way.  I believe He did this intentionally.  Unity 2

When you listen to a band or an orchestra, you notice that the instruments are not all the same.  They have different sounds.  With practice, those who play the instruments learn to harmonize their sounds so a beautiful symphony is heard.  It is the same with God’s people.  Our different gifts can come together and harmonize to accomplish the spreading of the gospel and building up of the kingdom of God on the Earth.

How to be in Unity

There is no magical formula to the challenge of unity in the body of Christ.  It is a matter of working together despite differences.  Accept that there are issues on which you will disagree with your brothers and sisters.  Accept that they are not just like you.  Be willing to work together despite the differences.

It is time for a disclaimer.  I am not saying that we are to accept the message of those who claim there is another way to God besides Christ nor am I suggesting that we go along with teaching that is blatantly false.  I am suggesting that we lay aside those differences that are not a matter of eternal salvation and work with each other to win people to Jesus Christ.  There comes a time when we must decide to only know Christ and Him crucified. The rest can wait while we point the lost to Jesus.

Keep Your Confidence

Having confidence in your identity in Christ can be challenging in our culture.  Society often discourages people from seeking to live a life that is godly.  Society loves to encourage us to be moral, but the morality is set by the standards of people who do not know Christ.  It can make a difference.  Knowing who you are in Christ and maintaining your confidence of who Jesus is to you will be a key to living a victorious Christian life.

Do Not Throw It Away

Faith 2Depending on the Bible translation you are reading, Hebrews 10:35 states that we are not to cast away, or throw away, our confidence.  The same verse goes on to say that our confidence has great reward.  Knowing who we are in Christ and knowing that He is for us will keep us from falling when trying times come.

If you continue reading, you will find that the writer of Hebrews encourages the readers to keep the faith and encourages the development of patience.  The believers to whom the book of Hebrews is addressed had faced a great deal of persecution.  Their homes, property, and personal belongings had been confiscated by the government because they proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Many of them had been imprisoned.  Others had been martyred for the cause of Christ.  The writer of Hebrews commended these people because they had been through a great deal of persecution and remained strong and steadfast, but another trial of sorts had come upon them when the letter of Hebrews was written.

The Scriptures are not specific as to the trial these people were facing at that time, but the writer was encouraging them to keep their confidence.  They were encouraged to remember that God would reward them for their faithfulness.  They were reminded that the just must live by faith.

The Just Shall Live by Faith

Knowing who we are in Christ and keeping our confidence will require walking by faith.  God is pleased with our faith in Him.  He can and will do powerful works through us to bring glory to Himself if we will remain yielded to Him.

As you are reading this post, you might be discouraged.  You might be ready to throw in the towel, so to speak.  I am not necessarily talking about backsliding.  I am talking about giving up on your work for the Lord.faith 1

I am encouraging you to remain confident.  Be confident in Jesus!  Be confident in what He is doing in you.  He will continue the work he began in you when you first believed on Him.  Be confident in who you are in Him but aware of who you are without Him.  Living by faith requires more boldness than living a normal life, but you were not called to be normal.  You were called to stand out.  You were not called to throw away your confidence.  You were called to walk by faith and be confident in Christ.

Be Encouraged

Whatever you are facing, know that your faith pleases God.  Even when your faith is weak, keep pressing on, confessing it to the Lord.  He has ways of strengthening your faith.  He will not forsake you.  Do not give up because the Lord will bring you out victorious!  “The Lord is a warrior.  The Lord is His name (Exodus 15:3).”

Do not throw away your confidence.  There is much that would be thrown away with it if you did.  Keep going on this way because there is no other way that brings light and victory.

 

 

 

Just Ask

Are you unsure of the direction you need to take in a certain area of your life?  Do you need to know the best way to deal with a difficult person or situation?  There are a great number of situations in which we find ourselves that require divine wisdom from God.  The solutions to our problems are not always obvious.  Often, they require that we hear from the Holy Spirit.

If You Lack Wisdom

James 1:4 states that if anyone lacks wisdom, all that needs to be done is ask God.  There is a condition.  We must ask in faith without wavering.  In a previous post, I discussed wavering.  We all waver in faith from time to time.  Read that post if you need encouragement and help for a wavering mind.  Once you have your mind set, ask God.  He will not withhold what you need.  As a matter of fact, Psalm 84:11 declares that the Lord withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly.

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Wisdom is a good thing, and it is a necessity to walk successfully in this life.  God will not withhold wisdom from you.  As for the part about walking uprightly, no one is perfect, but if you are placing your trust in Christ and walking daily with Him, then you are walking uprightly.  You will not be perfect, but you will not be living in a state of sin.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

After you have asked for wisdom, you must wait. Sometimes the answer comes quickly.  Most of the time, it comes rather slowly.

In my own personal experience, I have found that when I am waiting for God to show me what direction I need to take, or what I need to do about a given situation, the answer often comes when I am not even thinking about what I am needing.  For example, I have spent time praying about wisdom and for God to show me clear direction.  I have gone about my business to have the answer come to me when I was cleaning house or working on another task.

If you are waiting for God to show you direction in your life, do not give up.  He will guide you. Often, when you do not know what should be done, it means you should do nothing until you hear from God.  Now, I understand that some situations need an immediate answer.  I believe God will bring the answer as needed.  It is important that you seek Him everyday, and ask Him to prepare you for anything unexpected.  Then, when a need arises, God will show you the answer.

How God Speaks

Just Ask Blog 2When I mention that God speaks to me, I do not mean that I hear Him in an audible voice.  There are several ways I hear from God.  He speaks through His word.  That is why we need to read and study the Bible on a regular basis.  Another way He speaks is a knowing that you will have in your spirit (that is the only way I know to describe it).  He will speak through other people.  When He speaks through someone else, it is usually a confirmation of what you already know.  This is not always the case, but your spirit will bear witness if a word from someone else is from God.

In my own life, I have been seeking God for an answer to my own health issues.  He has been speaking to me for a while, but I was certain that I was not hearing from Him.  Finally, I got it.  The very answer I had been refusing was the one He had for me.  Suffice it to say, I have great joy and peace now that I have surrendered that to him.  (I will share more about this in the future.)

What about you?  Is your situation far from needing a cut and dry answer?  Our God has the answers that go beyond what is obvious.  Keep asking Him!  He will give clear direction.

Being Thankful

There are numerous verses in the Bible about being thankful.  I am not certain of the number of times that we are told to be thankful, but I do know the thankfulness concept appears throughout the entire Bible.  It is easy for me to get so wrapped up in stressful situations and grief that I forget to look at the numerous blessings God has given me.

Thankful for Jesus

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I am thankful for my relationship with Jesus Christ.  This might sound generic, but I must be grateful for that relationship.  Without Him, I am unable to be wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and teacher.  Without Jesus, nothing else works.  Through Him, I have hope beyond this life.  Faith in Jesus brings not only eternal life, but power to live this life through all circumstances—the everyday, the mundane, the challenging, the hurtful, the joyful, and heartwarming.

Thankful for Relationships

Most of us have someone in our lives that encourages us and to whom we can be transparent.  No matter who that person is for you, be thankful.  Where would be without that relationship?  My husband and my children are in my household with me, and it does not take much for me to take them for granted and simply focus on what is going wrong, what is not perfect.  That is when I need to step back and put life into perspective.   The people around me are some of my greatest blessings.

Other relationships that we have are meaningful as well.  We need friends, acquaintances, coworkers, family, and church family.  These people contribute many needful things to my life. Without them I would not be where I am today, so, it is important to stop for a moment and thank God for the people in your life.

Thankful for the Little Things

There are many cases in which people are thankful for what is obvious, but we forget to be thankful for the smaller things in life that we take for granted.  For example, I forget to be thankful for the luxury of showering in hot water.  Many people do not have the option.  Sometimes it takes plumbing and water issues that must be repaired for me to remember not to take those small things for granted.

The ability to move around and remain busy is a blessing.  It might not seem so at the time, but when I am sick and unable to get out and about, I am reminded of the blessing of health.  Although I might have physical sickness from time to time, I do not have it as difficult as I often think.  Sometimes God is using sickness or other tests to remind me that I need to be thankful for my health.

Thankful for Adverse Circumstances

Yes, you read that heading correctly.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to be thankful in all circumstances.  That includes the difficult ones. I can not say that I love adverse circumstances, and I would rather not go through them; however, they are what make me better. When I face the challenges of life, I find that I am a better person.  The trying and testing of our faith brings patience and purifies us.

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I am not saying that we are to love being stuck in a difficult time in our lives, but we can ask God to help us learn something from it.  We can know that God is working for our God, and we can be thankful for His mighty hand that is at work in our situations.

 

What about you?  For what can you be thankful?  Do you have adverse circumstances? Know that God is working in your trials, and be thankful that you have Him to intervene for you.

By Faith

What is faith?  According to Hebrews 11:1, the definition of faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  The phrase “the evidence of things not seen” is an interesting one. Evidence that is not seen sounds impossible, yet, faith pushes us on to believe what is impossible.

Faith Based on What is Not Seen

FaithIn Hebrews 11, many people from the Bible are used as examples of great faith.  They believed the impossible although no physical signs were available to back up what they believed.  Many of the people mentioned in the famous faith chapter were persecuted for their faith.  They believed in a God they could not see with their eyes nor touch with their hands.  They believed what He told them.

God requires us as modern-day believers to walk by faith just as the patriarchs, prophets, and others did thousands of years ago.  Habakkuk 2:4 reminds us that the just will live by faith, and this is quoted in Hebrews 10:38, just before the beginning of the faith chapter.  We are not to be moved by what we see and feel around us.  We are to be moved by faith in God.

Does Faith Ever Doubt?

The people mentioned in Hebrews 11 were not perfect.  They were human beings just like you and me.  There were moments of doubt.  Abraham and Sarah were an elderly couple who were past the age of having children.  To doubt that they could have a child would seem logical.  Sarah even laughed when she overheard an angel speaking to Abraham concerning the promised child.

What about Noah?  He was building an ark and telling people that rain was coming in a world that had never seen rain.  People found Noah amusing, yet, Noah continued, by faith, to do what he knew God had said.

There is a great deal of other people mentioned in the faith chapter.  Some were tortured, imprisoned, or persecuted in some other manner because they believed what God said over what they saw, or what other people told them.  Although they were people of great faith, they were still human.  Doubt came.  What made their faith great?  They did not entertain doubt when it came to visit.

What About Your Faith?

Do you find it challenging to live by faith?  Does it make you nervous when God requires you to step out on what you do not see with your eyes, but only what He has spoken to you in your spirit?  Do you ever experience doubt then condemn yourself for it?Faith 2

You are human.  You can pick up and walk by faith even after having tremendous doubt.  Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus, did.  He denied Christ three times, yet, after the resurrection and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, he was able to preach the gospel and die for his faith.

When your faith is weak, confess it to God.  In Mark 9:24, a man was very honest with Jesus.  The man told Jesus that he believed, but he then asked Jesus to help his unbelief.  What a strange request!  However, it applies to you and me.  When doubt comes in, ask God to help you with your unbelief.

Another way to strengthen your faith is through the Word of God.  Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  Bible reading and Bible study is a great way to combat doubt.

Life happens to us all.  There are devastating circumstances that test our faith.  Disappointments come and go.  Yet, we are still required to live by faith.  Like any other biblical characteristic, faith must be built and cultivated.  We all have some degree of faith, or it would not be possible to be saved.  It is just necessary to keep building that faith because it does get weak from time to time.

 

What about you?  Are you able to live by faith?  Does doubt try to overwhelm you?  You can overcome that doubt by building yourself up in the faith through study of the Word.