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Finish the Race

Consider the story Jesus tells of the man who had the demon cast out, only to have it return with more. In Matthew 12 Jesus says, “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

I was contemplating the acts of Jesus and his disciples when they drove out the demons from different people and a thought came to me I had never considered before.  There is nothing in the scriptures that indicates that for every person who is delivered from these evil spirits they became a disciple of Christ, or that they even remained free from demons. What a sad thought.

Every instance we read of Jesus or his disciples driving out the demons demonstrates for us his absolute power of evil. They cannot stand against him. But God is a God of justice and if a person rejects God and wallows in the mud of evil, even though they may have demons driven out, the evil spirit has a right to inhabit their life.

The Israelites grumbled and complained in the wilderness after having seen such incredible demonstrations of God’s power. Ten lepers were healed, to have only one return and say thank you.

So many people have had so much done for them by God,only to turn to their old ways again, “like a dog returning to its own vomit”. This is not what God has for us. He came to give us life, and that more abundant. What will it take in a person’s life to surrender to Him? Finish the race.

 

Why Gather for Worship

All over the world Christians gather for worship on Sunday. There are lots of different ways we express our worship. Is this gathering a big deal? Is it important? Are Christians told to gather together by the Lord?

Why Sunday, isn’t Saturday the Sabbath? Christians gather on Sunday because it is the Lord’s Day. We do so to commemorate His resurrection. The resurrection is the keystone to Christianity and should not be taken lightly but rather commemorated and celebrated – together.

Is it required we get together for worship? Paul tells us not to forsake gathering together like some are in the habit of doing. He gives us instruction on how we should conduct ourselves when we do gather together for worship.

Jesus died for the church, the entire Body. the body is supposed to work together. Believers are never told to isolate themselves from one another but rather to work together as one Body.

I heard a story years ago about a preacher that went to visit a man that had stopped being a part of the gatherings of the church. The preacher entered the man’s home and sat down by the fire with him. He told the man they missed had missed in their getting gatherings and wished he would return. The elderly man told the preacher he didn’t see much need in it. As they sat by the fire the preacher grabbed the tongs and used them to pluck a cola from the fire. He sat the hot coal on the hearth. As they sat there together looking at the coal it gradually cooled until it was noting more than ash, with no fire in it at all. The preacher had made his point and needed say no more. Removed from the fire the coal became nothing more than ash with no fire or heat. Like us, the coal found its fire and heat by being a part of the larger fire.

Worship together provides for our health as Christians. It provides benefits that are unavailable to us individually. We are to build each other up while we are together. We are to be instructed in the Word together. We are to pray together. We are to show acts of love together. Jesus died for the whole body and the body as a whole. The body works together, not separately.

We are fooling ourselves when we think we can do this alone; when we stay at home we rob ourselves and our fellow believers of the blessings of God

 

Worship

The living church, described as the body of Christ, by its very nature MUST worship God. It is impossible in our relationship with God, because of who He is and who we are, to call ourselves the church and not worship.

So, what is worship? Is it simply singing songs and putting money in the offering plate on Sunday? Or is there more to it than that?

Worship is to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission.’  Webster’s Dictionary, 1828)

 ”Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of the mind with His truth, the purifying of the imagination of His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to His purpose.”  William Temple

True worship values and treasures God above all things. In John 4:20-24 Jesus, as he is talking to the Samaritan woman tells us that we are to worship God in spirit and in truth. Worshiping god requires a right mental grasp of who God really is along with a spiritual, emotional affection for His worth. To worship God in spirit and in truth means having a right understanding of God’s nature and a right valuing of God’s worth (his worth is limitless). To worship God is to value and treasure him above ALL things.

“For worship is, essentially, the reverse of sin. Sin began (and begins) when we succumb to the temptation, “You shall be as gods.” We make ourselves the center of the universe and dethrone God. By contrast, worship is giving God his true worth; it is acknowledging Him to be the Lord of all things, and the Lord of everything in our lives. He is, indeed, the Most High God!”   Sinclair B Ferguson   Think about that for a second. Worship of God is the reverse of sin. It answers the question, “who will be the God of your life, yourself or God almighty?”

Worship has both an inner essence and outer expressions. The inner essence of worship is an ever-present attitude of love, admiration and awe; a sense of and desire for extreme submission to the object of worship.

  • The inner essence of worship creates the outer acts of worship
  • If the outer acts are missing or minor, so is the inner essence
  • If the outer acts are not done solely as fruit of the inner essence then they are vain,fake (Matthew 15:8,9)

Hebrews 13:15,16 says that true worship WILL live in expression and demonstration; both in acts of the mouth – acts of praise, repentance, confession, singing; and acts of love – carried out by the body, the hands in service. Worship is an attitude of the heart and soul that absolutely has to overflow into outer expressions.

Is God Almighty the Lord of our lives or are we? Do our lives center on the worship of God with demonstrations and expressions of that worship?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time, a Valuable, Misused Resource

Ephesians 5:15 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

Most if not all of us have probably said something like, “I just don’t have enough time.” When asked how we are doing we say to each other, “I’m so busy.” But are these accurate statements?

Are we really more busy than those who lived before us? Think of the farmers in the field with their horse or mule drawn plow getting the fields ready for planting. Think of the dairy farmer milking by hand rather than a machine. What about the factory worker or the person working in the mines for 12 hour days?

Many of the tasks we do today can be done much more quickly than in days past. To cook a meal today often involves simply getting it out of the package and warming it up in the microwave. Even the more complicated meals are made faster by bread-makers, mixers, food processors and more. It is certainly easier to turn a knob on an oven than to start a wood or coal fire. We use to write a letter by hand, place it in an envelope, write the address and place a stamp on it, before we took it to the mailbox to send. Now we type a text, a Tweet or Facebook message and hit send and it is there instantly.  It’s actually quite ironic that one of the things that was supposed to give us more time has become a major consumer of our time. We stare at our phones or tablets for hours and then wonder where the time went.

Do we really not have enough time or do we just not use our time properly?

We struggle to find time to really study our Bibles and search God’s Word, while we can carry on a conversation about the new popular TV show. We know how to fix the problems of our favorite sports teams, but not always so much the problems in our lives or our families. Answers to those problems aren’t on TV or at the ballfield or arena.

Some of us work far too much as we find our identity in what we do at our jobs or in how much money we can make. We are absolutely called to work to provide for ourselves and our family but we are also called to work at our relationship with God. Actually our jobs are supposed to be a part of this effort to glorify God and grow in Him.

I hear it all the time that we are too busy or we don’t have enough time, but in most cases this just isn’t true. As the scripture says, “making the best use of the time” and “Teach us to number our days aright,” from Psalm 90:12  God allows us to choose how we will live our lives, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” Joshua 24:15. Will we choose our phones or our TV? We will choose our jobs or the ball field? God lets us choose everyday. The answer is not to never choose some of these things, sometimes they can be good distractions for a moment, but when we find ourselves saying we don’t have enough time or we are just too busy, then we probably should change our choices. We have enough time.

Doing What is Right

Sometimes what we want does not line up with what is right. We all would probably agree we should do what is right. Problem is, we either feel powerless to do it or we don’t know how or maybe even it just doesn’t seem worth the effort. The Bible tells us the flesh is at the root of this problem.

So, 1) how do we know for sure what is right and 2) how do we do it?  In Galatians 5:16-17 Paul says we should walk by the Spirit and if we do we won’t gratify the desires of the flesh. He tells us our flesh (think selves) and the Spirit want different things, even to the degree that they are opposed to one another. This matter is so serious that in Colossians 3:5 he writes that we should put to death our earthly nature (the flesh). In other words it no longer is in control, but rather our life is literally in the Spirit. By the same Spirit, the Spirit of God, we can know what is right and perform it. God’s Spirit gives us both knowledge and power.

Consider this triplet; with Romans 12:1-2 in mind…

Doing what is right is more important than doing what we want
We should want to do what is right
If we do what is right for long enough, eventually it will be what we want

Protesting Sin

Recently I have seen several events focused on putting an end to some type of negative issue and it brought to my attention something that is missing. There are Walks to End Alzheimer’s, 5K Races to End Breast Cancer, A Walk to Stop Bullying or a March Against Hunger. On top of all of that there have been heated and controversial protests and gatherings about various social issues. If you listen to some people, everyone is either an Anitfa member or a White Supremacist; when in reality the percentage of either is actually really small. People are protesting in marches and speeches, even kneeling during the National Anthem. The value you place on any of these things depends in large part to your experiences and opinions. For someone who has had a family member fight Breast Cancer that issue holds an extremely important place in their lives.

Standing up and speaking out for what issues you believe in can be noble and positive indeed. However, when was the last time you saw a March Against Sin or a 5K for Godliness? When was the last protest against adultery or lying or stealing? When was the last time groups of people stood together against idolatry and for loving God with all your heart, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself? Aren’t these the things Christians should be passionate about?

Every single human is infected with the disease of sin. It is fatal in all cases; “for all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” and “the wages of sin is death”; 10 out of 10 die. Yet there seems to be little concern and effort for addressing this deadly disease. And there is already a cure. Jesus is the cure for this disease. While “the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life.” This gift is in the Son, Jesus Christ and need only be received by all who are infected to be healed.

Why aren’t we marching for Jesus, running for salvation, walking for godliness and righteousness? Why are we not protesting adultery, lying, stealing, covetousness and idolatry? Aren’t these the real issues facing our culture?

Bearing Fruit

In Luke chapter 13 Jesus warns the people they must repent or they will perish. It begins when someone mentions a tragic event, the death of some Galileans at the hands of Pilate. Jesus relates another tragic event when a tower built for safety becomes the means of death instead eighteen people. Jesus uses both of these events to address a mistaken notion that those who suffer greatly must therefore be great sinners. He sums it all up when he says, “but unless you repent, you too will perish.”

He then shares a parable to make the point more clear. This parable presents a challenging point for us when we consider the idea of repentance. In his parable, Jesus shares the story of a vineyard owner who has a fig tree that hasn’t produced any fruit for three years. Having had enough of it he tells his servant to cut it down as there is no reason for it to use up the soil. The servant asks that the tree be given one more year with some extra care and attention. The owner agrees, but only for one more and if it then still produces no fruit it is to be cut down.

So how does a tree not bearing fruit relate to repentance? Jesus told the parable in order to illustrate what he was talking about in regard to repenting, lest you perish. through this parable Jesus makes it clear that we should be bearing fruit and if we are not we need to repent of our barren state. To repent means more than merely saying we are sorry. It is a decision to follow up that sorrow with true change in our lives. Those who bear no fruit are to repent and begin to bear fruit. In Luke 3:8, john the Baptist tells the Israelites to bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance. The lack of fruit shows no repentance. The lack of repentance causes the barren, fruitless condition. the barren fruitless tree will perish. Jesus said in Luke 15:8, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”  Is there fruit of godliness in your life? Is it easily visible?