There are two things that most of us understand in this life, these are commitment and dedication. Haven’t we as parents encouraged our children to commit themselves to getting a good education and to be careful who they pal around with or the company they keep, telling them as they get older to pick certain goals, commit to these goals and pursue them? If you don’t follow these basic rules of wisdom, then you will divert your attention to some other area of involvement, be it good or bad. They may completely leave their former goals and direct themselves to something different.
I would like to notice two examples of this area of commitment and dedication. The first being the quarterback of a very recognizable football team. He is probably the best and most successful quarterback of any football team in the world today. Let us ask the question: How do you suppose he got to where he is today? I’ll tell you how, “commitment and dedication”. He set his mind to the challenge and diligently pursued his goals. Suppose this quarterback quit practicing and communicating with his coaches and fellow teammates. Let’s say he stopped all community affairs and meeting. He removed himself from all football related involvement and became involved in something else totally separate and apart from football. Doesn’t he cease to be a football player?
The next example is a farmer, a “tiller of the land.” He raises crops to feed his family and provide food for the hungry. He makes a living from farming and supports the local farmers co-op and even brings visitors to the meeting. He is dedicated to his chosen field. Let’s say this farmer stops preparing the soil, stops planting seeds, stops all cultivating; therefore no harvesting. He stops paying his dues to the co-op and farmer’s organization. When he stops doing these things that identify him as a farmer, doesn’t he stop being a farmer?
Now let’s apply this line of reasoning to a Christian. He is committed to serving Christ. He attends all the services of the church whenever possible. He uses his talents to further the Gospel, honors the leadership of the church and brings visitors to the services when he can. He studies his Bible and prays daily. He gives as he has been prospered. He is a positive influence to those around him. But in time he stops studying his Bible, he stops praying, stops attending services, ceases to do personal work. He stops giving as he has been prospered. He stops living a faithful Christian life. May we notice; just as when the quarterback quit playing football, he was no longer a football player and when the farmer quit farming, he was no longer a farmer, we may surely say that the Christian who stops living and serving as a Christian, he effectively ceases to be a Christian. If we are not serving Christ, we are serving our own desires and the things of this world.
James 4:4 says, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” This verse does not speak of God’s attitude toward the believer but the believer’s attitude toward God. Notice Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinks in his heart so is he.” Consider the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:4, “We are buried with him in baptism…we should walk in newness of life.” Notice the last part of Romans 6:6, “That we should no longer be slaves of sin.” Romans 6:12 says, “ Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies, that you should obey it in its lust.” Romans 6:16 says, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slave whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” You cannot serve two masters; for you will hate the one and love the other or else you will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore, the most recognized football player, the dedicated farmer and the committed Christian can leave that to which they were so dedicated and committed. Let us consider who we are serving in this life. It is ultimately our decision.
God’s word places great importance on TIME.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season, and a TIME to every purpose under the heaven.”
Ephesians 5:16 “Redeeming the TIME, because the days are evil.”
Psalms 89:47 “Remember how short my TIME is.”
James 4:14 “For what is your life? It is a vapor, that appeareth for a little TIME and then vanisheth away.”
Today’s society is very TIME conscious. We have our bedside alarm clocks, watch alarms, cell phone alarms, day-timers, Blackberry meeting reminders, and on-line schedules to remind us of important meetings and appointments.
In light of all this emphasis on TIME, how do we prioritize our TIME for meeting with our brothers and sisters to worship God or to study his word?
When was the last TIME you were late for:
Movie at a theater
Kick-off or tip-off of a sporting event
Dinner with friends at a restaurant
Business meeting with your boss or a client
In contrast, how often are you late for :
Bible study on Sunday morning
Worship services on Sunday
Bible study on Wednesday night
Special services where God’s word is being taught
Accidents happen, sickness occurs, but be honest with yourself, most cases of being late, anywhere, are due to poor planning in advance and bad habits which could be cured by leaving the house five or ten minutes earlier. Being late to services or classes disrupts the concentration of the teacher and the other students or audience. Give your spiritual life as much importance as your secular and social life and TIME will not be an issue.
In our country, we seem to be in the grasp of a culture of negativity. We are discontented about nearly everything. We have two major political parties who seem to be more interested in opposing the other’s agenda than doing what is right for the country. If they are for it, I have to be against it. In the sports world, if a team has one bad season, the boosters begin to complain and seek a quick dismissal of the coach. They do this by grumbling among themselves then to the management or school administrators until the negativity grows, and the program has no choice but to make a change. We feel we must find and expose all the errors a person has made before we examine if there has been any correction of those errors. We must be right on every issue. The media seems to delight in tearing down the image of anyone in the public eye.
I fear this same culture of negativity has infected the church. It is not something new. God’s people, like most people throughout history, have fallen prey to this type thinking. The children of Israel had not been out of Egypt very long before they started murmuring. Moses was a target of the people, yet God told him that it was He they were murmuring against, not Moses. Of the twelve spies, only two had the confidence that God’s people would prevail in taking the Promised Land. The others only saw the negative.
In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul warned the church not to participate in grumbling or murmuring, but seek the good of others and not merely look out for their own interests. Nothing can destroy the unity of a congregation quicker than discontented brethren who seek to find fault in everything done in a congregation. It can be the simplest things. The song leader is not very good, the preacher is too firm in his presentation or the prayers are too long. I have even heard people complain that there are too many prayers and too many songs. How can praising God through song and approaching Him in prayer be laborious? It seems to be a major catastrophe if the worship assembly goes five minutes too long. Some might say, “The elders actually made a decision without consulting me first.” So, if there is something we disagree with or dislike, we simply start talking to our closest friends in the congregation about our discontent. Then, the seeds of discontent are planted and the growth of disunity will surely bloom. If we have a complaint about someone, we will not go to them. We treat an eldership or the preacher as the congregation’s “complaint department.” We complain to the elders or preacher about someone else and are essentially saying, “I don’t want to hurt his feelings, so, I am telling you so you can hurt his feelings.”
Christ gave the principle regarding disunity in Matthew 12:25; a house divided will be brought to desolation. Paul wrote about brethren biting and devouring one another in Galatians 5:15. In the same context he goes on in verse 20, while listing the works of the flesh, to list rivalries, dissension and divisions as it is described in the English Standard Version. Those who sow discord among the brethren is listed in Proverbs 6 as an abomination to God along with pride, lying, shedding innocent blood, wicked planning, running to evil, and false witnessing. This is no small matter to our God. In dealing with the many problems facing the Corinthian church, Paul wrote first about their division in chapter one. Unless they were unified, they could not correct their other problems. He chastised them for their party spirit.
If there is someone in a congregation with whom we have a complaint, go to them and resolve the complaint. If there is a spiritual problem, go to them. In doing so, you may save a soul. Take no delight in their frailties. Do not adopt the attitude of being the sole source of truth. Even in dealing with an errant brother, we must do so with humility. Listen to the warning of I Corinthians 10:12 and not think too highly of ourselves, lest we fall. And, do not let your knowledge inflate your ego and cause you to sin as we are told in I Corinthians 8:1. If your complaint is he never polishes his shoes, either talk to him or keep it to yourself. If your complaint is based on your personal opinion, I suggest you remain quiet. Avoid discord and avoid something God hates.
When I attended worship services in the fifties and sixties, 95% of sermons preached were negative. By that I mean that the preacher covered a myriad of things we could not do. To illustrate this point, they would say you can’t pitch a song with a pitch pipe, because that is a type of musical instrument, and we cannot use musical instruments in our worship services. You cannot attend movies, they are of the devil. (Note that movies in the fifties had no profane words, no sex or nudity, very little violence. There was not a system to rate movies, but if there had been one, 98% would be rated G.) Television was also condemned, even though we only had 3 black and white channels that were strictly censored. Preachers and teachers would not be allowed to use a slide projector as a teaching aid because it “was like showing a movie” during the worship service. This resulted in very few teaching aids being used to help illustrate the speaker’s points. The audience would have to sit and listen to preachers talk (many times for an hour or more). Young ladies’ dresses were immodest if they did not come well below their knees, and they could never wear slacks or pants (men’s clothing).Young men’s hair could not be long enough to touch the collar of their shirts. If their hair was “judged” too long they would not be asked to take a public part in the worship service.
I heard countless sermons on the subject of hell. The individual that preached for the congregation I attended would illustrate how long sinners would suffer in “burning fires of hell.” He would say if the earth was a solid piece of granite rock, and a bird would fly by and brush its wing against that rock once every hundred years, when the earth was reduced to a small stone because of the friction of the bird’s wing, eternity would just be beginning. Obviously, he would use this illustration to frighten everyone. I would wake up in the middle of the night worrying about being in hell, with no escape. When I was fifteen I decided to obey the gospel, not because I wanted to spend eternity with the Lord in Heaven, but because I wanted to escape eternal punishment in hell. I knew very little about heaven and God’s loving grace. I find it interesting that the preacher never mentioned eternity when describing how long we will be with the Lord and the beauties of heaven.
I now want to fast forward to present day. What are preachers now proclaiming from the pulpit? Many preachers today, in fact one that preached for our congregation, would never preach on negative subjects. Ninety five percent of many current preachers’ sermons now focus on God’s love and grace, the word “hell” is never mentioned, it is considered too negative. Very few, if any activities, are ever condemned. The beauty of heaven is often preached, which is not bad in itself. A concern with this preaching philosophy is that members, especially young people, never hear that they are going to be held accountable for their transgressions. Preachers defend their preaching style by saying negative preaching discourages and depresses people. They want them to be happy and upbeat no matter how they live.
Of the two preaching scenarios described above, which one is right and which one is wrong? Both are wrong. Let me explain. The answer lies in the scriptures. Luke wrote, in Acts 20:27, a statement Paul said: “ For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” This means preachers and teachers should balance their teaching. When parents successfully raise children sometimes they need to praise them (positive) when they do good things, and discipline them (negative) when they have misbehaved.
In the Bible there are over forty verses devoted to the topic of heaven, and over fifty dealing with the subject of hell, these subjects are balanced. It is quite apparent from this that God wants a balance between positive and negative topics (Heaven and Hell). The preachers and teachers in the fifties as well as the ones in the present day are not always balanced. It is easy to fail to do as Luke writes and declare the whole counsel of God. Today, preachers and teachers should follow the Apostle Paul’s example and not hesitate to proclaim the whole counsel of God.
Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV) “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
I’m going to key in on the “heart that devises wicked plans”. This is a total self serving attitude with evil motives toward splitting up a church or trying to get their way over matters of judgement and doing and/or saying about anything, in order to reach their goal. When someone looks for things to complain about and criticize constantly over matters of opinon, then they have a heart that is not pleasing to God. It’s one thing to criticize in a construtive manner, but when the Bible talks about building each other up and looking for the good in others including giving people the benefit of the doubt over things, we should look for ways to strengthen the body of Christ every way possible. I Thess. 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing”. Paul said in Phil. 2:1-2, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind”. Let’s quit pushing our own agenda, and think about what’s good for the whole body of Christ and that which is pleasing to God. People as a whole, avoid the troublemakers at congregations, and for good reason, negativity is contagious, and the troublemakers seem to gravitate to each other because nobody else wants to be a part of their heart that devises evil plans. What kind of reputation do you want to exhibit among God and Christians?
I would like to ask a question for your consideration and study. After a sermon or Bible study or even a conversation with someone have you ever said, “that lesson or sermon was great, a very good presentation,” when really we thought the sermon or lesson was not as good as we indicated? Don’t we express our thoughts sometimes as positive when in reality our thinking about them may be more or less negative? We can voice our opinion about the matter and the person hearing it will think that is exactly what we meant when it really wasn’t. Will they know that what we said was not really what we meant? No, of course not. We are not given the ability to know the thinking of others. Our thoughts are our own, unless we reveal them.
I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about my prayers to the God of Heaven, trying to search my mind and select the proper words as I approach Him in prayer, are they too long, too short or repetitive in content. Do we sometimes listen to the prayers of others and ask the same questions?
May we consider Prov. 23:7? “For as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” I cannot know what is in a man’s heart; neither can I judge a man by his prayers. Notice with me what these Scriptures say. In Luke 24:38, Jesus said to them, “Why are you troubled? Why do thoughts arise in your hearts?” He knew the disciples thoughts. They didn’t tell Him; He knew their mind without them even speaking. In Matthew 9:4, “Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’” These Scriptures tell us that God knows our mind before we even express it.
Romans 8:26-27 is very comforting to us when we think of how we express ourselves in our prayers. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” As we pray, choosing words that we feel are appropriate for praying to the God of Heaven, it is a great comfort to be assured that the Spirit speaks to God words that cannot even be uttered by us.
May we search the Bible and apply the teaching that it contains to our daily lives.
At this time of year many Christians struggle with how to deal with Christmas among their family, friends, co-workers and other Christians.
How do we present the story of our Savior’s birth, a true and essential part of our faith?
How do we deal with “gifting”, why do we give gifts to others at this time of the year?
As a family, do we have a tree in our home or not? How was this tradition started, is it appropriate for Christians to observe this tradition?
What do we tell our children and grandchildren about Santa Claus (St. Nicholas), is there a place for fairy tales and myths in the life of a Christian?
Can we as Christians sing traditional spiritual songs associated with this Christmas season?
As a congregation, do we avoid any preaching, teaching or songs that would lead our visitors or others to believe we condone the religious celebration of this season?
I will not attempt to answer all of these questions.
We do have scripture that cautions us about observing special days, Galatians 4:10.
We do have scripture that teaches us to do good unto all men, Galatians 6:10.
We do have scripture that teaches of the Greatest Story Ever Told; Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of our Lord.
We do have scripture that teaches of the Greatest Gift ever given, John 3:16.
We do have scripture that teaches that our Savior died on a tree (cross), different from this traditional tree.
We do have scripture that teaches us to teach and admonish each other in song, Colossians 3:16.
At this time of year I am always reminded of Paul’s teaching in Philippians 1:15-18. ” not withstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached, and I therein do rejoice, yea and will rejoice.”
In whatever way Christians choose to observe the traditions of this season, let us seize every opportunity to teach Christ!
The old Scouts motto of “be prepared” has stood the test of time. In whatever endeavor one undertakes, preparation is of the utmost importance. I think of two of the all-time greats in professional football: Peyton Manning and Jerry Rice. When anyone who is knowledgeable about the sport speaks of these men, their unsurpassed work ethic and relentless preparation in plying their craft is mentioned. Peyton Manning, according to the experts, spends more time in film study of his opponents and his own team than any other current quarterback. He understands the talents of his team and knows the tendencies of his foes. When he enters a game, he has a firm grasp on what plays he needs to call without being greatly surprised by what he sees on the field. Jerry Rice had a workout routine during the off-season that made him a superior physical specimen, which complimented his skill as a receiver. When others attempted to adopt his workout, they often felt it too tough, and quit. These men prepared themselves to be the best they could possibly be and the results prove their efforts were worth the work of preparation.
Most of the religious world is under the belief that getting to heaven requires little or no preparation or hard work on an individual’s part. God, they think, requires little or nothing on our part to be saved. God told Israel in Amos 4:12 to prepare to meet their God. It was not for the good but for evil they had done that they needed to be prepared. Are we prepared to meet God in victory or in defeat?
We are not in a battle with the Green Bay Packers. Satan is our opponent. He has proven throughout the history of man’s existence that he is a formidable opponent. In the beginning, Adam and Eve had not prepared themselves for the cunning of their opponent. They sinned. When we are poorly prepared, we sin. Paul wrote the Ephesians about our warfare that takes place with the prince of this world, Satan. In his encouragement to them about putting on the whole armor of God, he told them “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15, NASB). This phrase is in the past tense. We are to do battle with our feet already shod with the preparation of the gospel. When we prepare ourselves, there should be no real surprises when confronted by our vicious enemy; who is not only vicious, but also relentless. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us the devil is like a “roaring lion” prowling around to find someone to devour. Peter admonishes the reader to be sober (clear thinking) and alert (watchful). In other words, be prepared.
As relentless as the devil is in trying to devour our souls, we need to be that much more diligent in preparing ourselves to preserve our souls. If we are to attain the victory, our preparation is not going to come from any other source than the gospel. Not with self-help books, textbooks, or any other research books; only the gospel which God has graciously given us. It contains the game plan from God to gain the victory. If we will see victory, it will only come through our knowledge and obedience of the gospel. We cannot fight this battle alone. Jesus is the ultimate victor. According to Romans 1:16, He has given us the “power of the gospel” to guide us. He has given us prayer to call on Him “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NASB).
Peyton Manning and Jerry Rice did not read the game plan and automatically have success on the playing field. They studied it until they thoroughly understood it and were prepared to execute it without flinching at whatever the opponent threw at them. Paul told the Ephesians to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17, NASB). It can be understood! To not have the understanding of the gospel by diligent preparation, according to Paul, is “foolish.” Ephesians 5:15 tells us we have a choice to be wise (understand His will) or to be unwise (not understand). It is up to me and you; He allows us to choose. Joshua chose to follow God. God told him to be strong and courageous and He would give him the victory. Joshua and the Israelites were required to fight, but God gave the victory. The victory was attained only by following God’s plan and going to Him for consultation. When they did that, they were victorious; when they didn’t, they experienced defeat.
Let it not be said of us what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 78:8 (KJV) of Israel’s forefathers; “And not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
Let us prepare our hearts with the gospel and have a spirit to be faithful to God. Let us be prepared and enjoy the victory that God promises us through His son Jesus.
-by Ron Adams
I worked at Vanderbilt Medical Center for over forty years. The medical center had a number of specialty Clinics. One of the most popular centers was the Nutrition Clinic. At this clinic patients were taught how to manage their special diet. One day I was going past that clinic and saw a sign over the door that said “WHAT YOU EAT IS WHAT YOU ARE.” I got to thinking, what exactly does that mean? Then it came to me that the nutritionists were trying to get over the concept that if we eat unhealthy food that has high fat content, a lot of salt or sugar, and low fiber we will most likely be obese and very unhealthy. The nutritionists were trying to get their patients to eat healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Meats that we eat should be low in fats like fish and chicken etc. This diet will lead to a healthy body.
This concept applies to our spiritual health (What You Think Is What You Are). Think about it, when we spend a great deal of time watching adult themed movies, read adult books, spend time on the internet watching adult websites, we are poisoning our spiritual lives. We will be sick and unhealthily spiritually. There is an old saying “Garbage in, Garbage Out.” In 1 John 2:15-17 we read, “Love not the world. If any man love the world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” When we watch and read this filth, we develop a lustful attitude. We read in James 1:14-15, “but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed then when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
It is easy to see when we consume all this garbage, our mind as well as out spiritual life will be very unhealthy and sick. Paul tells us in Philippians 4: 8 what to meditate on: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things.”
In order to live the life God would have us to live, we must not simply refuse to eat whatever is found in a garbage bin, but actively seek to eat of the finest delicacies available. These finest (spiritual) delicacies can be found by spending time in God’s Word. When we do this we will develop a healthy spiritual life. 2 Peter 1:4-8 defines the growth of a healthy Christian. “By which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
If we want healthy physical bodies, we will eat good healthy food, and if we want healthy spiritual lives, we will spend time in God’s word and think on principles found there.
“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue rightousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverence and gentleness” (I Timothy 6:10-11; NASB).
Many a christian has ruined his or her reputation by pursuing money in a sinful way. When I took my first job in the insurance business, an older, wise man that I worked with, told me the importance of making money honestly and having a good reputation. The consequences of a Christian using deceptive business practices, eliminates their influence as a disciple of God.
We must teach people, especially the young, to make an honest living and place their priorities in the right place to make a successful life on earth which is pleasing to God. By placing faith, family, and work in the proper perspective, we can live fuller and more productive lives, being the kind of examples God wants and expects us to be.
Giving on the first day of the week, as Paul stated in I Corinthians 16:1-2, with the proper attitude is an act of worship and as important as any other commandment God has given us. A clear test of seeing how much we love money is in how we contribute financially to the Lord’s work. How many Christians living in luxurious homes are either not giving, or giving the Lord the same amount as their lunch money after the Sunday service on the first day of the week? What does the Lord think about a person who lives in a gated community, drives luxury cars, has country club memberships, makes a six figure salary, and yet puts the same amount of money in the collection plate that they would spend on one meal at Red Lobster for 2 people? Sounds rather ridiculous, but it happens every first day of the week at many congregations. The next time you think about buying a luxury item, consider the leftovers you might be leaving to God. II Corinthians 9:7 says, “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.” Something to think about kind friend!