Contending for the Faith

Jude 3 contains a well-known phrase that many ministers use for sermon titles.  This one-chapter book of the Bible exhorts us to contend for the faith.  Next, the brief epistle reminded its readers that many false teachings were spreading to a dangerous level during the time period in which the book of Jude was written.  False teachings and apostate doctrines are alive and well today.  Some of the most dangerous of those are prevalent in the western portion of the world, especially in the United States.

What does it mean to contend?

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The Greek word that is used for contend is epagonizomai meaning to struggle for, to combat.  The word is a verb indicating an action that is to be taken.  In other words, we are to be willing to fight for our faith.

When looking throughout the Bible concerning spiritual warfare, it is imperative to note that our struggle is not against people.  Unfortunately, people are involved when we have to stand boldly for the faith in loving disagreement.  Often, people take our disagreement with them to mean we lack love.  Although there are cases in which that may be true, a genuine child of God, learns to disagree yet still love the people involved.

Contending in Deed more than Word

Although standing boldly for the Word of the Lord often requires us to speak boldly, our actions should speak louder than our words.  If we say we believe in a certain principle, we should stand by it.  Saying one thing and doing another is one sure way to make faith-contending less effective.

When we have to speak against the actions of a person, or a group of people, it is important to do so in love.  In Ephesians 4, Paul admonishes his readers to speak the truth in love.  Speaking the truth without love often does more harm than good.  Truth coupled with love brings change.  However, it is important to note that if you have spoken the truth in love, and people are still offended, you have done no wrong.

Beware of a False Gospel

What I am about to write is without malice because I love my country.  I am thankful to live in the United States of America.  With that being said, it is vital that I make it clear that we in the western portion of the world often are used to being comfortable.  Confrontation and boldly proclaiming the gospel demand that we come out of the comfort zone.  The disease of political correctness is plaguing the Christian church in America.  Pastors and teachers will not speak out about controversial issues such as abortion, questioning one’s gender, and so on.

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By remaining silent, we are allowing the gospel of comfort to spread rather than the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  The true gospel saves sinners and sanctifies them.  The agape love of God loves the sinner, but when the sinner comes for salvation, He loves the individual too much to leave him in his sin.  I do not believe we have to beat people down, but I do believe we have to let them know that God has a much better way.

The book of Jude closes on a positive note.  Verse 24 reminds us that Jesus Christ is able to keep us from falling.  Our boldness and ability to contend for the faith comes from Him and not ourselves.  When I am reminded of that, it brings comfort because I am not able to stand boldly without Him.  Neither are you, but the good news is that you don’t have to stand alone.

For a more in-depth study on the book of Jude, check out the study guide I have on Amazon.

Breaking New Ground

Recently, I told my church that I believed God was bringing us as individuals as well as a body of believers into a new season.  Without even realizing what has happened, my church seems to be breaking new ground spiritually.  What do I mean by breaking new ground?

Leaving Comfort Zones Behind

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One of the first steps to gaining new ground from the enemy in the spiritual realm is to be willing to leave your comfort zone.  Often, as Christians, we tend to stay where we feel comfortable and safe, but is that truly Biblical?  In Amos 6:1, the word states the following:  “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and trust in the mountain of Samaria…”

Our trust has to totally be in Jesus Christ, not in things of the world.  When we leave what is comfortable, we are sending a clear message to the demonic realm that we trust completely in God.  That act of faith moves the obstacles in the spiritual realms causing us to gain ground.

Gaining and Breaking New Ground

Some of the ground we gain is territory that we previously possessed yet gave up to the enemy out of fear or complacency.  However, when we break new ground, we step into realms with Jesus Christ in which we have never been.  Although this might seem scary, it is exactly what we were meant to do.  God never intended for us to stay in the same place.  He intended for us to grow and mature spiritually.

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Breaking new ground requires leaving some things behind.  Bitterness, resentment, sexual sin, gossiping, and other sins cannot come to the new level God in which God wants to take you.  In order to be effective for the kingdom of God, we have to be free from distractions.  2 Timothy 2:4 states plainly that in order to be victorious over sin and the demonic realm, we have to avoid being entangled in sin and other distractions that keep our focus in the wrong place.

A New Thing

I believe that in the days we are living in, God wants His people to stand out.  When I say stand out, I do not mean that we should obnoxiously stand out and draw unnecessary attention to ourselves.  This type of behavior does not glorify Jesus. However, we can stand strongly and boldly and without apology for the truth of God’s word and His kingdom and do so in love.

Although God’s character does not change, He sometimes operates in what we perceive to be different ways.  These ways are not truly different of His person.  We simply have not known some of His ways because we have dwelt too long in the comfort zone.  Isaiah 43:19 declares the following:  “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

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If we are not careful, friends, we can fail to know the new thing God is doing.  That is why the question is asked “Shall you not know it?”  Don’t miss what God has for you because you are afraid to leave something behind.  Don’t allow fear of what people think to cause you to miss God’s best for you.

God is bringing His people to a new level, not to make us look wonderful, but to glorify Jesus Christ in all the earth.  He wants to use us to point people to salvation before the return of Jesus Christ.  Will you be part of the new thing God is doing?  Step out of your comfort zone and break new ground!

Love Is…

On my personal Facebook account, I belong to several bible study groups.  Mostly, I enjoy the posts in these groups, that is, when I have time to look at them.  Over the course of the weekend, some people in one group I belong to were arguing over the pagan origins of Easter and whether or not Christians should celebrate it.

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I could detail every argument that was made in this post for you, but that would take too much time.  Instead, I am going to address what I believe to be an extremely important point.  The point is love.

Pride

At the root of most arguments is pride. As Christians, it is easy to take pride in our knowledge.  Of course, we need knowledge.  God’s people perish for lack of knowledge; however, when the display of knowledge supersedes love, then it is nothing more than pride.  In 1 Corinthians 13:4, the word of God states that love is not proud.

When I observe these arguments, I often am tempted to add a few words myself.  Sometimes, I have.  It is then that I must question my own motives.  Do I really want to help people who might be misguided, or do I want to appear “right”?  Of course, there are some issues that are worthy of debate, but most issues are a matter or pride.

Are Religious Celebrations a Sin?

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When I have studied the origins of Easter, I can not deny that there is a pagan influence in the original celebrations, yet, I can say that what I am celebrating is not the Easter Bunny, but the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In my own heart, I know what I am celebrating.  When I am thanking the Lord for His sacrifice and victory, the Easter Bunny does not cross my mind. However, my children participated in egg hunts when they were smaller.

If you believe your children should not participate in egg hunts, then pay heed to that personal conviction.  If you have no problem with it, that is good also.  In our pursuit of righteousness, we must remember that our righteousness comes from Jesus Christ, not our acts or deeds.  There are some matters in which we must be led by the Holy Spirit.  Any holiday or celebration could become an idol to some depending upon the condition of the heart.  What we must bear in mind is that it is the Lord who knows the heart.

Love is the Answer

If you truly believe fellow Christians are sinning by observing the death, burial, and resurrection on Easter weekend, then pray for them.  God is surely able to convict His people of wrongdoing.  Berating people and involving himself in heated arguments is not what Jesus would have done while on this Earth.

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If you truly believe celebrating Easter is just fine, then proceed.  The point is to walk in love and avoid needless arguing.  Read Romans 14.  Paul encouraged believers to take the high road of love with others and follow their own personal convictions for themselves.

Personally, I celebrate and give praise for the death, burial, and resurrection of my Lord Jesus Christ frequently, not just at this particular time of year.  I do this because He has changed my life.  He has changed me!  He has turned around impossible situations in my own life.  He has made me more than a conqueror.  No matter the time of the year, the love of Jesus is worth celebrating!

Truth and Deceit

I want to begin this post by apologizing that it has been so long since my last post.  With so many viruses going around, my husband, children, and I have taken turns with illnesses.  In addition, my children are both involved with school sports. I am not attempting to bombard you with too many of my life’s details, but I want my readers to know that my absence has not been from intentional neglect.

If we are all honest, we have all told what is known as bold-faced lies.  Many of us have omitted information that needed to be in our stories or statements, and, truthfully, many of us have added information that was not accurate to our stories and statements.  However, to be fair, we have omitted facts when relating events to people simply because all the details did not need to be told.  Those omissions are hardly a sin.  People do not want to know every detail of every story we tell.

Wisdom Versus Deceit

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The bible is very clear about walking in lies and deceit versus the truth, but sometimes the line between simply using wisdom in what we tell and willfully operating in deceit can be a fine one and even a bit blurry.  Not only does the Bible tell us what is expected of us, but the Word of God also gives strategies for living out His instruction.  Often, we are not looking for those strategies, or, we do not realize that we have come upon something that is meant to serve as an application.

Romans 12:2 is a perfect example of such an application.  We are told that knowing God’s will is accomplished through being transformed by renewing our minds.  In other words, changing our thinking is a key to victory over sin.  The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament is full of practical wisdom in every day situations.  The Holy Spirit is meant to guide us as well.  John 16:13 states that the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth.  Wouldn’t it be logical to assume that since He guides us into all truth that He will guide our words? Of course!

In other posts, I have explained ways to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.  In a nutshell, prayer and time in Word bring about that sensitivity.  Applying what we learn and obeying God makes us even more sensitive to His voice.  Jesus told the disciples (Matthew 10:19) that they had no need to worry about what they would say when they were facing persecution.  They were assured that God would give them the words to say.

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1 Peter 3:15 states that we must sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts in order to know how to answer everyone about the hope we have.  The word sanctify means “set apart”.  We must set apart time with the Lord and esteem Him higher than all else in our lives.  In doing this, we will be guided as to how to answer people about various issues with truthfulness, yet, without too much information.

Truth Brings Freedom

There are times in my past in which I walked in deceit with those around me.  If I felt it was needed, I would manipulate details in a story to make myself appear favorable.  Mind you, I was a born-again believer at this time.  Trust me, the Holy Spirit convicted me.  I did something dangerous with that conviction.  I did not listen to it.  Eventually, I hardened to the sound of His voice.  A time of repentance had to be taken to soften what was hardened.

Since that time, I have found such freedom in being truthful in all matters.  Of course, I still seek guidance from the Holy Spirit because I tend to blurt out too much “truth”.  Ephesians 4:15 states that we must speak the truth in love.  Love coupled with truth brings just the right amount of information.  Giving too many details, or, speaking truth too harshly can do more harm than good.  Thank God for His word and for giving us His Spirit to guide us.

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As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we want to live with integrity.  Doing this allows others to see Christ in us.  It also maintains good relationships with others.  If you are in the habit of being deceitful, ask the Lord to help you today.  He will never fail to answer.

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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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?

Erratic Emotions

Emotions are a natural part of our human makeup.  People, particularly women, can experience a variety of emotions in one day.  From elation to depression, our emotions can take us on a wild roller coaster ride through life if we do not find ways to manage them.

Types of Emotions

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Although human beings can experience a wide variety of feelings, some of the most basic types of emotions are happiness, sadness, pride, fear, disgust, anger, surprise, excitement, shame, and embarrassment.  The Bible even speaks of people’s various feelings.  Scripture never promotes suppressing emotions and refusing to deal with them, but we must learn to control them with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Happiness is seen as a positive emotion, and there is certainly nothing wrong with being happy.  The problem comes when I expect other people to do for me what only God can do.  What I am about to state is certainly not popular, but the Lord never promised that we would always be happy.  He did, however, promise that we could have joy.

What is the difference between joy and happiness?  Although the two words are used interchangeably, happiness often depends upon circumstances while joy goes much deeper.  The joy we experience from God is a part of the fruit of the Spirit.  In other words, joy is the result of having the Holy Spirit (given to us at salvation).  Happiness can only take me so far, but joy gets me through all circumstances, good or bad.

Fear and anger are considered to be negative emotions.  A healthy fear, such as being afraid to walk out in front of a moving vehicle, is not negative.  It is needful, but a terrifying fear, such as always fearing the future, is not of God.  In fact, His word teaches us to overcome such fears (2 Timothy 1:7, 1 John 4:18).  Anger is not always negative. There are times when we need to have anger in order to act; however, anger that is not dealt with properly is dangerous and leads to other sins.  Anger is another emotion that the Bible teaches us to control (James 1:20, Ephesians 4:26-27, and Proverbs 29:11)

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Emotions Out of Control

I must admit that I have days when I am easily angered, or, my feelings are hurt very easily.  Sometimes, there can be physical explanations such as lack of sleep or hormonal imbalance.  Other times, out-of-control emotions can be a symptom of something that is lacking spiritually.

Earlier, I stated that people often expect others in their lives to make them happy.  I have made the mistake of placing responsibility for my emotional well-being in the hands of my husband, children, friends, or family.  I am certainly not saying that the people in my life do not want me to be happy, but I am saying that it is not their responsibility to manage my emotions.  The responsibility is mine, and the only way I can assume it is to go to God for emotional healing when my feelings seem to be wreaking havoc.

Once you let others off the hook for your emotional stability, and you give this to the Lord, you will begin to see more balanced emotions displayed.  The things that used to irritate you or hurt your feelings will not have as much power over you.

Godly Response

When negative emotions arise, as they often do, you should not suppress them; however, you should not give full vent to them either.  First, go to the Lord in prayer about them.  He is neither surprised nor perplexed by your emotions. Next, find a trusted friend with which to speak.  Ask other believers for prayer.

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Most of all, you need to spend time with God on a daily basis, both in prayer and in His word.  I realize I sound bossy, but, trust me, I have had loads of experience in the emotional realm.  Unfortunately, I have given full vent to my emotions which have never brought about good results.  Thankfully, there are also times I take them to God and ask for His intervention.  The latter choice is always best.

As I mentioned earlier, happiness is a wonderful emotion, but if I believe I must always be on an emotional high, I will eventually bottom out to depression.  Emotions must be stabilized and balanced so as to avoid either extreme on the pendulum swing.  I am not suggesting that managing emotions is an easy feat.  I know better, but I also know that nothing is impossible with God.  He gives us grace for all areas of our lives, including our feelings.

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.

 

Why I Need Jesus

Everyone needs Jesus.  It does not matter if you are a good person with impeccable morals.  Why do you need Him if you are good?  Even at your best, you are not perfect.  Neither am I.  There is no way that we could live by every word in the Word without Jesus.

The Way, The Truth, The Life

No Confidence in the Flesh 2Although it is politically incorrect to say so, Jesus is the only way to God the Father.  There is no other way.  Of course, there will be people who say you can get to God and heaven by your own merit, or, by finding another way.  The fact is, the Bible says something different.

John 14:6 declares Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to God except through Him.  In John 10:1, Jesus said the following:  “Amen, amen I tell you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber (TLV).”  Jesus is the door, so to speak, and you can only enter by Him.  If you attempt to go another way, you will not make it in.

There is no desire for me to sound self righteous or facetious, but I have to tell the truth.  As for me, I would go no other way.  Jesus has been everything I have ever needed.  He saved me.  He has healed me physically and emotionally.  He has delivered me from dangerous habits.  He has set me free from myself (at times, I can be my own worst enemy).

I Need Him

I need Jesus because I have a tendency to wander off in dangerous directions when I go on my own.  When I attempt to live without Jesus, I am mean, hateful, and cruel.  My life falls apart when I attempt to put anything before Him.

As a wife, mother, daughter, church leader, teacher, family member, and friend, I need Jesus to make those relationships work.  In Christ, I can do all things. Without Him, I can do nothing.  That is why I need Him.belief featured image

After the birth of my youngest child, I nearly suffered a nervous breakdown.  Not only was my body in limbo, but my heart and mind were too.  My sister and only sibling had passed away unexpectedly about three weeks before my daughter was born.  The reality of the loss began to hit shortly after my daughter’s birth.  Had it not been for Jesus, I would have lost my mind.  He kept me sane.  He helped me to see what He had given me (husband, children, family).  He walked with me through grief.

When I fell into seasons of sin, He drew me back where I needed to be.  Sometimes, He had to get tough as I am very stubborn.  He never gave up on me.  That is why I need Him.

You need Him too.  No matter how good you are, your goodness is not enough to have eternal life.  You must accept the fact that He went to the cross and died for you, then rose on the third day defeating death.  When you accept Him and acknowledge your need for Him, peace and joy come in abundance.  No Confidence in the Flesh 2