Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Convictions - What are they?

Convictions – What Are They?
Read: Genesis 39:1-18
“Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.  It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.’  But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house then I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife.  How then could I do this great evil and sin against God.” (Genesis 39:6c – 9 NASB)
          Joseph was a man of principle and conviction.  When Potiphar’s wife attempted to get Joseph to commit adultery he refused and defended his actions by claiming such action would be a great sin against God.  Not a sin against her or her husband, but a sin against his Holy God.  (Gen. 39:8-9)  It is apparent from this context that Joseph believed in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman for life. 
          Around the lake where I live there are approximately forty or fifty ducks and geese.  Whenever it rains (we’ve had a wet spring) puddles of water gather on our sidewalk and in the back yard.  A beautiful Mallard duck and his mate (they mate for life) spend most of their time splashing around in the water.  The male does not allow any of the other ducks or geese  to interfere with his relationship.  The same holds true for the mating of the geese.  I have watched male geese chase their counterparts away if they get to close to his mate. 
          Joseph held the same conviction as our duck and geese friends.  He had no intention of interfering with the relationship between his master and his wife.  Of course, the same was not true for Potiphar’s wife as she persisted in her attempts to seduce Joseph.  Joseph made a final refusal and ran away from her leaving her with a vindictive spirit whereupon she accused him of rape.  Without being given an opportunity to defend himself against the false accusation, Joseph was thrown into prison. 
          What do we mean when we say, “\We have convictions?”  We are claiming to have a system of belief about certain issues in life.  Upon what should our convictions or beliefs be based?  Biblical convictions must be based upon truths found in the word of God.  In order to undergird our Biblical belief system, we must be saturated with the word of God.  God’s word is our standard by which we compare and judge truth or untruths.  Without a knowledge of the truth, we will be unable to spot error.
          Periodically we need to stop and check our belief system.  What do we believe about the sanctity of marriage?  Is it God ordained?  Is marriage between one man and one woman?  Is it for life?  Or do we believe it’s okay to bail out whenever it comes inconvenient or something better comes along?  And what about our obligation to children?  Friends?  Finances?  Morality?  Church?  Is there sufficient Scripture to deal with all these issues?
          What should we do if doubt arises or questions persist?  When that happens it is time to set down with the Bible and do some research until we come to a solid conviction concerning each area. 
          The mistake that I’ve made in the past, and many others make, is we ask God to help us interpret his word to suit our preconceived ideas, or the worldly philosophy of relativism.  This can only lead to more confusion and uncertainty.
          Trust the Holy Spirit indwelling with you for guidance in finding the truth, and allow him to mold your God given convictions in such a way that truth will prevail. 
Thought for the Day: God promotes truth; Satan is a liar and promotes error.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to stand upon convictions that are based upon the truth found in the Word of God.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Brotherly Love Reaches Across the Aisle

“If you see a Christian brother or sister sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life…”  (1 John 5:16a NLT)
          It is obvious from verse 16 that the Apostle John is concerned not only about our own obedience, but also about the obedience of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  If we love God, John says, “We should love our brother also.” (1 John 4:21)  (my paraphrase)  In other words, brotherly love should reach across the aisle to those who are struggling with sin in their daily lives. 
          Prayer is not only a resource to be used in meeting the needs in our own lives, but is also to be directed to God on behalf of our brothers and sisters who’s need may far exceed our own. 
          Paul encouraged this practice in 1 Timothy 2:1; “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people.  Ask God to help them; interceded on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” (NLT)
.         Eternal death is not the issue in 1 John 5:16.  Once a person has believed in Jesus as Savior, he receives the gift of eternal life and his name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life with a non-erasable Sharpies indelible ink pen.  His position in Christ before a Holy God is eternally secure.  Jesus said, “I give eternal life to them (who believe) and they shall never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28 [parenthesis mine].
            We might better understand the meaning of John’s message if we place the word “premature” in front of each use of the word “death” as suggested by Dr. Constable in his notes on 1 John found on Sonic Light Ministries. 
          What can you expect to happen if you pray for a situation where the sin is one that does not lead directly to death?  John says in verse 16, “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to (premature) death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to (premature) death [parenthesis mine].  In other words, our prayers may play a part in God relenting of his judgment and extending the life of the sinning brother.  This was the case with king Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-6.  The king was mortally ill and facing death, but he turned and opened his heart in prayer to God.  God saw his tears and heard his prayer, and said, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you.  On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord.  I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”  (2 Kings 20:5b)
          Thus prayer and restoration of a sinning brother may secure a prolonging of his physical life.   
          Praying for a brother or sister entangled in the web of sin is evidence of our love for them.
          If you know of a fellow believer, family member, co-worker, or friend entrapped in a sinful lifestyle that is ruining their testimony and bringing shame and reproach on the name of Christ – by all mean pray for them that God will get a hold of their lives and turn them around before it is too late. 

          Ask God the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction in how you might show the love of Christ to them.    

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Face to Face with God

Face to Face with God
Read: Exodus 33:7-11
“So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”    (Exodus 33:11a NASB)
          Can you visualize the scene in Exodus 33:11 – Face to face with God?
Here’s Moses, the one who said to Jehovah at the burning bush, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)  He also gave several other excuses, one being, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 4:10). 
          Moses had plenty of speech training when he was attending the educational institutions of Egypt.  He had received the best education the Egyptian universities had to offer, but forty years in the backside of the desert attending lazy dirty sheep had apparently stripped him of his eloquence.  “I can’t talk,” he moaned to God.  How ridiculous!  What a flimsy excuse! 
          Now we see him standing in the door of the Tabernacle carrying on a friendly conversation with the Holy God of the universe face to face.  What a change!  How does a tongue-tied sheepherder become such a dynamic leader and conservationist? 
          If you had to deal for forty years with a congregation full of grumblers and complainers like Moses did wouldn’t your life change?  Would it be for better or worse?  How would you react to a disobedient and obstinate people?  Consider what effect spending forty days and nights in the very presence of God would have on your life.  Would you expect changes from that experience?  
          I’ve always admired Moses for his fiery leadership and humble attitude.  He faced unparalleled criticism and bore the brunt of the people’s sinful ways for forty years; yet he remained compassionate and humble before God.  Yes, he grew angry, showed frustration, and acted impulsively at times, but his heart remained in tune with Jehovah.
          When God wanted to annihilate the people because of their idolatrous sin, Moses interceded for them, even suggesting that the Lord blot his name out of the book rather than destroy His heritage.  That, my friends, speaks of true humility and compassion.
          One of the most profound statements regarding Moses’ relationship with Jehovah was penned by the psalmist David, “He (God) made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the sons of Israel” (Psalm 103:7 NASB).  The “ways” of God are the innermost secrets of His being.  Moses had a special relationship that few Old or New Testament servants could claim. 
          Bible characters such as Enoch (who walked with God and was not because God took him), Abraham (who was called the friend of God), Noah (who was the only righteous man on the earth before the flood), Abraham (who was called the friend of God), David (who was regarded as a man after God’s own heart), and the prophets were noted men of courage and strength, but Moses is the only one who the bible says talked to God “face to face.”
          What would a face to face experience with God be like?  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and have been washed in the blood of the lamb, and have your name written in the lamb’s book of life, you will get that opportunity when you enter heaven’s gate. 
          The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”  (NASB)
Thought for the Day: God is waiting to carry on a friendly conversation with you.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I can hardly wait for the day when I will see you face to face and carry on a father/son conversation. 


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Stiff-necked People

A Stiff-necked People
Read: Exodus 33:1-6
For the Lord God said to Moses, “Say to the children of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people.’” (Exodus 33:5a NKJ)
          How would you like to be called “stiff-necked?”  What an awful thing to say about someone!  Where did this term originate?  What is it referring to when used in the bible? 
          The term originated in ancient Israel.  The farmers would plow their fields by using oxen.  If the ox didn’t want to follow the guidance of the farmer, it would stiffen the muscles in its neck.  This would make it impossible to guide the ox where it needed to go. 
          The dictionary defines a “stiff-necked” person as one who is stubborn, haughty, obstinate, insolent, and arrogant.  When a person or a group of people are characterized as “stiff-necked” in the Scriptures it means they refuse to follow the guidance of the Lord.
          Was God justified in referring to his people as “stiff-necked?”  Yes indeed!  Multiple times the leaders and people who left Egypt grumbled and complained about Moses’ leadership.  At the Red Sea they said, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?”  (Ex. 14:11)  Again, in the Wilderness of Sin between Elim and Sinai, “the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness” (Ex. 16:2).  The straw that broke the camel’s back, as the saying goes, happened at Mt. Sinai while Moses was up in the mountain getting the Ten Commandments.  The people grew restless and came to Aaron demanding that he make them a god to worship in place of Jehovah.  How foolish!  What arrogance!  Unbelievable!  This was truly an example of stiff-necked people.  God was so outraged that he wanted to eradicate the people, but Moses entreated for them and reminded the Lord of His greatness, grace, and mercy.  The Lord relented of his wrath, but warned the people that they would not go unpunished.  Moses also grew anger as he approached the revelry and slammed the tablets on the ground indicating that the people had already broken the Law
          Have you ever had to deal with stiff-necked people?  Sad to say, I’ve experienced that in the ministry on several occasions.  People who were so determined that their way was the right way that they would not bend or compromise.  It’s like the person who says, “It’s my way or the highway.”  How many times has that happened in the ministry of well-meaning servants of the Lord?
          Unfortunately, stiff-necked people are not only found among the Jewish people.  There are plenty of folks in our churches today who are stubborn, obstinate, and unwilling to follow the leadership that God has placed over them.  I know of church situations where the influential members hold back their tithes because activities aren’t going the way “they” think they should.
          What are the marks of a stiff-necked person?
1.     Refusal to listen to reason.
2.     Insistence on having one’s own way.
3.     Defensive when criticized.
4.     Making excuses for short-comings.
5.     Lashing out at others.
6.     Prayer without repentance.

          One of Stephen’s accusations in his defense of the gospel is found in Acts 7:51, “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” 
          Let us replace our attitude of stubbornness with an attitude of conciliation, compassion, and love.  

Thought for the Day: God is gracious and merciful, but opposes the proud and obstinate.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to have a conciliatory attitude of grace and mercy towards others.   

Friday, July 19, 2013

Jehovah Alone is Worthy

Jehovah Alone is Worthy
Read: 2 Kings 17:7-41
Worship only the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt with such mighty miracles and power.  You must worship him and bow before him; offer sacrifices to him alone.  (2 Kings 17:36 NLT)
            Disaster came upon the nation of Israel because the people worshipped the gods of the pagan nations around them.  They turned away from the God of their forefathers,  built shrines, set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles, sacrificed their sons and daughters in fire, consulted fortune-tellers, and used sorcery arousing the anger of the Lord. 
            Is this how the people of Israel thought about worship?  Their actions reveal that they rejected God as the object of their affections and substituted worthless idols.  What was the result?  The Scriptural record says, “They worshipped worthless idols and became worthless themselves.  They followed the example of the nations around them, disobeying the Lord’s command not to imitate them.”  (2 Kings 17:15b NLT)
            Therein lays the danger for us today.  We live in a world full of idols and false worship.  No longer are God and his Son Jesus Christ the center of worship around the world.  No longer is Jesus the object of man’s affection.  He has been relegated into obscurity by secularism and humanism.  Feel good and prosperity gospels have replaced the good news.  Sin is only a figment of the imagination and rarely mentioned in public debate.  Greed and lavish lifestyles have replaced modesty and reverence. 
            It is a well-known fact that our style of worship shapes the character of the worshippers into a likeness of the object worshipped.  Though created in the image and likeness of God, when we worship false gods of any kind, our souls become infused with the substitute deities.  As a result, our worship becomes a mockery to the very God who created us. 
            “Holy, Holy, Holy,” a hymn written generations ago is our call to worship.  “Only thou are holy; there is none beside Thee, Perfect in power, in love, and purity.”  It is God alone whom we worship.  He alone should be the object of our affection.
            Are you worshipping the great Creator God?  Is his son, Jesus Christ the object of your affection?  Jesus is lord of all and Lord over all --- including you – including me – He alone is Worthy.
Thought for the Day: God is a jealous God and will have no other gods before Him.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for revealing to us that you alone are worthy of worship.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Finding Treasures within God's Word

Finding Treasures within God’s Word
Read: Psalm 119:1-16
“Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts.  You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.  Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!  (Psalm 119:2,4-5 NLT)
          What intrinsic value do we place upon the Word of God?  What treasures are contained within its pages that will make us a better person, or provide us with a foundation for living a meaningful and purposeful life? 
          We are living in a digital age.  Every day it seems a new electronic gadget hits the marketplace.  As soon as we manage to master one device another one appears.  Learning to use the latest technical jargon leaves one intimidated and confused.  I find myself overcome with an overwhelming sense of apprehension and dread. 
          This is the way many people – even believers – feel about the Bible.  For many centuries the common people were told that only the church fathers were qualified to read and interpret the Scriptures.  To the laity it was a closed and forbidden book.  Along came John Wycliffe who translated the Latin Vulgate bible into English.  He was declared a heretic and condemned by the Roman church.  The Lollards spent countless hours making copies by hand.  Then Gutenburg invented the printing press, and bibles reached the hands of the common people.  Today millions of people own one or more bibles, but many still do not know how to use or interpret its message.
          For many the bible is still a closed book.  Their failure to realize its value and the treasures contained therein leave them with the attitude – why bother!  They ask: “What does this book have for me?”
          Consider this: If someone gave you an old discarded and outdated map, you’d wonder, What am I supposed to do with this?  But if you knew that the “X” on the map was the location of a treasure trove, wouldn’t you want to examine it further and follow its directions? 
          Likewise, there are treasures galore in the word of God ready for the seeker.  The question is: “How do I find them?  Let me suggest some ways to accomplish this task:
1.     Take time to read the bible every day.  The morning when you get up is a good time.  Use various translations to help explain the meaning of words.  (Joshua 8:34-35)
2.     Take time to meditate and allow the treasures within to soak into your soul.  (Psalm 119:148)
3.     Take time to pray over passages that seem difficult to understand.  Ask the Holy Spirit for His help.  He promises to be your teacher and guide.  (John 14-16)
4.     Take time to draw upon its transforming power.  (Romans 12:1-2)

          You’ll find yourself becoming a walking treasure house filled to overflowing with the promises of God’s word.

Thought for the Day: God’s word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to saturate myself with the treasures of your Holy word.   

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Is Anyone Listening?

Is Anyone Listening?
My child, listen when your father corrects you!  Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.  (Proverbs 1:8 NLT)
            The Greek philosopher Zeno made a statement that parents have used with their children down through the ages: “The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the less.” 
            If Zeno were living in today’s culture, he might have revised his philosophy from listening with open ears to covering his ears to protect them from all the noise. 
Most of us have had at least one experience with noise so loud that it hurt our ears. Having said all this, a far greater tragedy occurs when there is so much noise around us that we fail to hear the voice of God when he speaks to us. 
            A similar situation existed in Solomon’s day when he wrote the book of Proverbs.  God was trying to speak to the children of Israel, but for one reason or another, they weren’t listening.  He mentions two voices in Chapter one, vv. 8-19 that were trying to get their attention.
            First, there is the voice of a godly father as he seeks to instruct his children:
            “My child, listen when your father corrects you!  Don’t neglect your mother’s instructions.  What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck.”
            Please take note that both parents are involved in the teaching process.  There is an old adage that says: “Families that pray together – stay together.”  Perhaps the failure on the part of families to heed this sage advice has led to the breakdown of the home.  Nevertheless, the combined teaching effort will ultimately pay off in rich dividends.
            Second, there is the voice of a father warning his child to watch his path and steer clear of wrong associations.  The temptation of going along with the crowd is strong, and it takes courage to avoid the traps that lead to sinful consequences.  He uses the illustration of a bird who watches a trap being laid:
            “If a bird sees a trap being set, it knows to stay away.”  In essence he is saying, “Aren’t you smarter than a bird?” 
            Finally, the writer sums up his instruction by saying, “But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.”  (Proverbs 1:33 NLT)
Thought for the Day: In order to hear God speak, we need to turn down the volume.