Friday, February 26, 2016

It is for Your Good

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. (Jeremiah 29:11 AMP)
It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:26, AMP)

It is for Your Good
Since about four weeks ago that my wife decided to nurture the chicks that suddenly became motherless through the mysterious death of their mother hen, I have continued to learn more lessons of life. One of such lessons is the way God handles our situation, especially when we do not like such way.

My wife does not allow the motherless chicks to move freely around outside our residence when she is not at home to monitor their movement. Therefore, she normally confines them to an enclosure. Whenever this happens, they normally make pathetic noises. The moment they are released, the joy of freedom is seen in them as they move freely around our courtyard to look for what they could eat on their own. One day, when my wife was not at home, out of pity for these chicks, one of our children released them from their enclosure. Alas, one of the chicks fall prey to a hawk. If the other chicks could reason, they would have blamed the person that carelessly released them, and appreciated my wife that always confines them to safety and allows them to move out freely under her watchful eyes. They would have known that their confinement is for their good.

God, at times, relates with us in a similar way! He "confines" us into His will and purpose so that no evil will befall us. He releases us to be free to do what we want when He knows that there is no danger ahead of us, or when He is ready to watch over us. In such cases of "confinements," we may be groaning and praying that He should release us, but He will not if it is not for our good. Any attempt for us to do things against His will and purpose may have adverse consequences.

Have you been praying that God should do something for you, and He has not done it? Probably He is keeping you in His will and purpose for your life, and He may be waiting for the appropriate time to answer the prayer in His own way. Do not be dismayed. It is for your good!  Bayo Afolaranmi

Friday, February 19, 2016

Is it Worth it?

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 KJV)

Is It Worth It?
A fellow I attended school with once asked me the following question. "Is being a Christian really worth giving up all that you are not allowed to do?" It was a rhetorical question, but I gave him an answer regardless.

Is being a Christian really worth giving up the things of the world and denying yourself? I would say that depends on several personal preferences. Here are a few things to consider in determining whether or not the Christian life is for you.

1. It depends on how much you value your soul.

2. If you desire peace of mind and assurance and hope, the Christian life is for you.

3. It depends on your choice between deep, satisfying joy and contentment—OR—a short life of pleasures that never really satisfies and leaves you hungering for more.

4. There is also the choice between darkness—OR—light, either truth—OR—error.

5. Do we desire the worlds definition of love—OR—God's love in our heart?

6. How about a close relationship with your creator—OR—eternal separation from Him?

7. Do we prefer having lots of money and goods and popularity for the few years of our life on earth—OR—have treasure and riches that cannot be taken from us and that last forever, and also have favor with God?

8. Do you want to struggle to make ends meet here and now—OR—be assured that you will always have everything you need provided for you by God in this life and in eternity through faith in His provision?

9. As a follower of Jesus I receive constant direction. Before that I was sort of wandering aimlessly.

10. Many today sense a lack of purpose in their life. Jesus gives us great purpose.

For me, life with Christ is far better! I have been a non-Christian, and now I am a Christian. I have experienced both. Eternal life is a free gift. As with anything else, the more we put into our relationship with him the more we will receive in return.

There is a choice that every soul ever born must make. There is no middle of the road, it must be yes—OR—no. Our eternal destiny is determined by our answer. What do I believe about Jesus Christ, and will I trust my life to Him?

Old Christian Proverb: He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. Sheldon Bass

"... Now, choose life, so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him..." (Deuteronomy 30:19b-20a NIV)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Built on Rock or Sinking Sand?

Built on Rock or Sinking Sand?
If you’ve ever been to Vacation Bible School as a child I’m sure you remember the song “The Wise Man Built His House Upon A Rock”. The other day as I was standing at my kitchen sink doing dishes, that song from my childhood popped into my head. I began to sing it out loud. I won’t quote the whole song but the gist of it is that the wise man built his house upon a rock and when the rains came down and the floods came up, the house on the rock stood firm. The foolish man built his house upon the sand and when the rains came down and the floods came up, the house on the sand went SPLAT. 

In Luke chapter six Jesus had been up on the mountain teaching His crowd of disciples and a vast throng of people who had come to listen to Him and be cured of their diseases. He gives the Beatitudes, teaches about loving your enemies, judging and criticizing others and about fruit in people’s lives. Then in Luke 6:46 (NASB) He says, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” 

Jesus goes on in the next few verses to describe the difference between the wise man and the foolish man. This wise man is the one who hears the Word of God and acts on what he hears. Jesus says this man is like someone who in building his house, dug deep and laid his foundation on the rock. Because he built his house on a solid foundation, when a flood occurred and the torrent burst against the house, it could not be shaken because it was well built. (See Luke 6:47,48)

James teaches us that if we merely hear the Word of God, but do not do what it says, we deceive ourselves by reasoning contrary to the Truth. (See James 1:22-25) This is like the foolish man who built his house without any foundation. He heard the Word but he didn’t act on it. This man’s house collapsed immediately when the flood came and the torrent burst against it. (See Luke 6:49)

It’s interesting to recognize that both the wise man and the foolish man were building a house. I can’t imagine anyone building a house knowing that if a storm came, the house would not be on a sturdy enough foundation to withstand the storm. We are foolish and deceived if we do not recognize that the only way we can build our lives to withstand the storms of life, is by obedience to the Word of God. We can read the Word of God all day long, listen to teaching tapes and read all the best Christian books that teach us the principles of the Word, but if we don’t do what we hear, we are on sinking sand and we will not be able to remain stable through the storms of life that are sure to come. 

Being obedient to the Word of God isn’t always easy. It will cost you something. It may not be easy to tell the truth when to tell a lie would seem easier. It may not be easy to submit to authority when you feel you are being treated unjustly. It may not be easy to love your enemies and to bless those who curse you, but we will be blessed when we submit to the Word of God as our final authority. Our house will be built on the sure foundation of the Word of God which will never fail.

May His peace be multiplied to you as you grow in the knowledge of Him. Pam Frey

Friday, February 5, 2016

Is Holiness Relevant for Today?

Is Holiness Relevant for Today?
Holiness has become a lost concept in today’s Christianity. If we don’t do something about it now, we will lose future generations to the enticements of secularism in the world.

Flowing robes, stiff collars, pious expressions, these are a few thoughts that come to mind when you think of the word Holy. Many people think holiness only applies to those that live in seclusion or who have chosen to live chaste lives. Holiness is often identified with religious people who are saintly and untouchable allowing the common man to flow with the current culture with very little consequence. This way of thinking eases the sinful conscious of the “common” man by determining that holiness is not required for everyone. By their honoring what they “perceive” as holy they feel at ease, while their own lives continue unchanged. Sadly this approach is very often seen in the church today. In many congregations, the pews are filled with carnal Christians. Although the leadership is expected to represent holy living, and rightly so, the congregation continues to indulge in secular delicacies. When did it come acceptable for Christians to claim to be faithful followers of Jesus, but live their lives in complete contrast? The line between sin and righteousness has been erased. Instead, we do whatever we feel like doing. The instruction in the Bible is there for us, but it hasn’t become a way of life. The world’s entertainment has become much too delicious for us to pass up.

Every future generation is affected by the previous generation’s complacency. We owe it to future generations to get serious about God; otherwise, they will not only follow our same nonchalant attitude but do it in excess. We must change the course of our lives and break this pattern of apathy that is in the church today.

Was God only looking at the present day culture when He commanded His people... 'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy. Leviticus 19:2(NIV) and again here, Peter exclaimed ... what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 2 Peter 3:11(NIV) Knowing that God is the same yesterday, today and forever and He does not change, we can all agree that the same guidelines of holiness that were set thousands of years ago are still relevant for today’s culture. I used to think to myself if only I lived a few hundred years back, holiness would have been a cinch. Reading late century books, most had religion tucked in them somewhere. There were no movies, television shows, magazines or music to be enticed by. When compared with today’s pull, it seemed doable. I’m sure those living in that time had their own struggles, their own obstacles, their own short comings.

Today’s television programs tell all, say all and show all. Reality t.v. has hit the airwaves and is becoming increasingly popular. The price people pay for the exploitation of their family’s life is devastating and the repercussion it plays is usually beyond repair. The sacredness and respect of their private lives have become front page news. The dirtier the scandal, the more we tune in to watch. Much entertainment from movies and television use our God’s Holy name as a curse word and delight their viewers with scenarios that contradict our Biblical believes. Yet, we sit there soaking it all in as if it doesn’t even faze us. We are drawn to these things and we gladly indulge in them.

The question is. How does God view all this? Does He really care what we watch, what we read or what we listen too? Many of us never even consider God’s thoughts in these areas. We just assume that as long as we’re not out there doing things we see, then we must be fine.

If holiness is what is required of our lives, let’s find out exactly what the Bible says about the subject. Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (Corinthians 7:1) When we become Christians there is a change that goes on inside us. Our spirit becomes new (born again). Our past sins are forgiven and the Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. Our spirits are much like a newborn baby ... sensitive to its surroundings. There is an awareness that God is with us. Committing sin at this point brings conviction to the heart. The more conscious we are to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, the less likely we are to indulge in sin. Sin is much more identifiable when the Spirit is present. At the same time, the more we resist the Holy Spirit’s conviction on our hearts about sin, the more we indulge in sin until eventually we loose discernment between right and wrong or what is pleasing and unpleasing to God. This brings us to worldly entertainment. The more we partake of it, the less we will be convicted about it. The Bible says without holiness we will not see God. (Hebrews 12:14) Living holy is not just a suggestion, but a beneficial command.

Holiness is simply living our lives in a way that is more pleasing to God than to our own flesh. If I were to make a detailed list of what is holy and what is unholy, it would provoke insincere devotion. Holiness is not that. True holiness comes from a passion for God. Apathy comes when our passion for God begins to cool until it is nonexistent. This is a place where sin in many forms is unrecognizable. Worldly entertainment being the greatest downfall of our spiritual lives, with its anti-Bible implications, becomes accepted. This is a dangerous place to be in because many of us are blinded to it.

So where does one begin? Holiness isn’t a set of rules and regulations we must follow. It truly begins with a heart change. Once our heart comes in line with God, our actions will follow in succession. Repentance is the antidote for holiness. It must begin with acknowledgement of our wrong choices and our apathy before God. Like I mentioned before, when we are in this state, we cannot always discern right from wrong. Just because something seems right doesn’t mean it is. I once heard a friend say concerning R rated movies. “It’s ok if I watch them because they don’t have any effect on me.” His discernment wasn’t there. Without God’s word we would not know right from wrong. A 2-year-old doesn’t understand what is right and wrong. They must be taught otherwise they will grow up to do whatever they please. In the same way, we too must search God’s word to find out what truth is and what is not. Without the Spirit’s convicting power and the truth that we find in the word of God, we will not know what it means to live holy.

Once we have gotten our hearts right with God, then our desire for holiness will grow. The closer we come to God, the deeper our hunger to live pleasing to Him will develop. It’s only because of our desire to please God that we will turn the television off when we hear God’s name used blasphemously; or avoid a movie because of its playful acceptance of sex before marriage; or change the radio station because of a song’s casual reference to getting drunk and partying.

Holiness will challenge us at times. It is in contrast with our sinful nature, but with continual seeking of God we too will see the Lord. Holy living is a direct fruit of a heart that is devoted to God. Unless our hearts are fully devoted to God, holiness with be absent from our lives. Seek Him with your whole heart. Naomi Cassata