Thursday, July 31, 2014

4 PILLARS OF TRUTH FOR CHRISTIANS! (Christian Growth Series)

LEARNING TAKES TIME!
Growing as a Christian is a life-long process. Through personal time with God studying His Word, praying and listening to His voice we grow in the knowledge of Him.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
John 17:3

When Jesus spoke of knowing the Father and Himself, the word He used implies intimate knowledge - not second hand, not a casual acquaintance, not mere "head knowledge" - but a deep, close intimacy with God. In fact the same word is used in intimate relations between a man and his wife. Adam "knew" Eve and Abel was born... (You get the picture!)

It is that depth of intimacy that God longs to have with us and that we desperately need with with Him!

BUT I DON'T HAVE A LIFETIME!
Yes - intimacy takes time. A newly born-again Christian knows God but has a great deal yet to learn about God, His ways and His thoughts!

Let's be clear - the Holy Spirit is living in every true Christian! Perhaps it can be compared to a person who lives in our house. We definitely know this person but if we are coming and going, we have may not get much opportunity to know him intimately. When we see him or her, we ask, "How was your day?" and talk about sports, hobbies and world events - but we never get to know the deepest feelings of that person!

Unless we apply ourselves to an imitate relationship with God, it will never happen!

But if this process takes a lifetime, what will we do in the meantime? What about issues that confront us today? What if I can't answer every question or offer an informed opinion on every issue? You and I cannot become theologians overnight! We can't all become experts on every verse of the Bible or answer every difficult question that someone may ask.

That's OK! We do not all have the same starting point and therefore cannot always finish at the same place!

What is important is that we do make diligent effort to develop intimacy with God! We don't have to know everything instantly but the sooner we learn some basic truths, the more our intimate knowledge of God will grow!

You may develop your own list but I have found that the more I burn these four truths about God into my mind and heart, the more confidence I have that I getting closer to understand His mind, will and purpose!

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:2

FOUR THINGS EVERY CHRISTIAN
SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GOD!

(Remember - intimate knowledge - not merely memorizing  repeating these four things like answers on a test but having them deeply engrained in our hearts!)

1. Know that GOD LOVES YOU!
Even as Christians, the acute awareness that God loves us seems to come and go. We can however read, study, meditate and memorize Scriptures which speak of His love for us and the great price Jesus paid to prove that love!

A deep sense of God's love for us will put a spring in our step and a joy in our hearts - no matter what is going on! But we must rekindle that awareness by renewing our minds daily to its reality!

TRUTH #1:
WHEN I TRULY AND DEEPLY KNOW THAT GOD LOVES ME, I CAN OVERCOME EVERY  NEGATIVE THOUGHT ABOUT MYSELF!

2. Know that GOD ALWAYS KNOWS BEST!
When I first walked with God, I highly questioned whether He always was doing what was best for me. I had my own ideas about that!

As I began to seek Him more deeply and walk through the experiences of life, I began to trust Him more. I still complain, like the children of Israel at the Red Sea, saying, "He brought me here to die!"

Each time I came through a trial I learned that He ALWAYS had, and has now, my best in mind!
No I do not always "feel" that He has my best in mind, but it has become so deeply engrained that I refuse to give up when I doubt. I KNOW He is working what's best for me even if I can't see how it can possibly be!

TRUTH #2:
WHEN I AM CONFUSED AND SEE NO ANSWER, I CAN TRUST THAT GOD WILL ALWAYS DO WHAT IS BEST FOR ME!

3. Know that GOD ALWAYS REWARDS THOSE WHO DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM!
Becoming a strong, mature disciple of Christ is not as popular as it used to be. In America, we seem to worship fun, personal fulfillment and our own happiness above all!

1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
2 Timothy 3:1-5

But it is important to know that there is no greater life than intimacy with God! We were created and designed to have intimacy with God and He is the only source of true, pure joy! David understood this joy when he wrote Psalm 16:

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11

I love getting a new car or cell phone but the joy never lasts! Nothing created can fill the "God-shaped-vacuum" that Blaise Pascal spoke of! Only intimacy with God can do that!

No sincere efforts to seek God will go unrewarded! Conversely, we cannot find the fullness of God if we do not diligently seek Him!

TRUTH #3:
WHEN I AM WEARY, AND SEEKING GOD SEEMS TO MAKE NO DIFFERENCE, I CAN KNOW BY FAITH THAT GOD WILL ALWAYS REWARD MY EFFORTS!

4. Know that GOD IS IN CONTROL!
I personally don't understand how I can be responsible my actions and the corresponding consequences in my life and God can be in control at the same time - but I absolutely believe it is true! We must do our part but ultimately God can make up the gap between our lack of perfection and His will in our lives.

This truth is often misunderstood to mean that everything that happens is designed and approved by God. God didn't create the world or intend the state of chaos the world is in today! He has handed a great deal of responsibility for the world over to man!

Yet in spite of that, we do not have to achieve absolute perfection for God to move in our lives!

Think of a child. We reward them according to their diligence in whatever stage of life they are in and according to their abilities. If we see our child did the best they could, we pat them on the back even if they have not been perfect! If our child is lazy or rebellious, we do not reward them - not because we do not love them but because we want them to be able to differentiate between good and evil and right and wrong!

In the same way, God will not simply take control of everything in our lives while we float around on beds of ease! But He will make up the gap when He sees diligent effort on our part.

He is also merciful with us! He is not looking over our shoulder waiting for the least lack of effort so He can squash us like an insect! I believe God knows we have days when our efforts are not up to par but covers them in His mercy!

13 As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 103:13-14

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5

31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.
32 “ Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Luke 12:31-32

TRUTH #4:
I WILL DO MY PART BUT WITH THE KNOWLEDGE THAT I DO NOT HAVE TO ACHIEVE ABSOLUTE PERFECTION OR DO EVERYTHING MYSELF FOR GOD TO MOVE ON MY BEHALF! 

GOD IS ULTIMATELY IN CONTROL - HE CAN AND WILL MAKE UP THE GAP WHEN I FALL SHORT!

You may not be able to become a theologian overnight but you can begin to implant these four pillars of truth into your heart.

You may not be able to answer every question but as these truths grow in your heart, they will encourage you to keep pressing through in trials and draw closer and deeper to intimacy with God!

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

WHAT IS YOUR SOURCE?

TRANSFORMATION!
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you 
may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
ROMANS 12:2

According to Paul, we are to be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of our minds!

You know how it works. The team is getting killed - then the head coach makes his fiery half-time speech and inspires the team to a come-back victory. You thought your bank account was empty and you realize you were looking in the wrong place and you actually have a lot more than you thought! You are going through a rough time but a friend's encouragement lifts you! A thought came into your mind which transformed your thinking for the better!

This also works in a negative sense. We can also become discouraged by negative input.

The bottom line is that whatever we feed on is going to effect us. It will transform us into the image of God's Son Jesus Christ or it will conform us to the thinking of the world.

THE WORD OF GOD!
God's written Word is the main source of transformation for the Christian!

It has a power beyond human inspiration and can impart God's nature into our thinking in a unique way! Someone said that the Bible is the only book we can read where the Author is always present!

Jesus spoke of the power of His Words:

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
John 6:63

ALTERNATIVE SOURCES!
In today's world, we have many alternatives to God's Word to choose from. The author Richard Wurman once wrote that "A weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person in 17th-century England was likely to come across in a lifetime."

What is your source? How much time and energy do you devote to the input alternative sources compared to God's Word?

Paul gave the reason for a renewed mind:

...that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
ROMANS 12:2

Absorbing the Word of God renews our minds and transforms us into His image! Alternate sources conform us to the inferior thinking of the unbelieving world!

Some may keep their radio tuned to their favorite "talk" station. All day long, they are absorbing the opinions of the hosts and guests into their minds!

Others watch the conservative news channel - still others, the liberal news channel. Is it any wonder, we are having so much trouble finding and proving the good, acceptable and perfect will of God? No wonder there are so many opinions floating around the Church of Jesus Christ!

If we "Google" a current popular issue, we will come up with a huge number of dogmatic opinions. Where did all these people get their facts? From studying the Word of God? On the contrary, anyone can post his or her opinion! Not only do they not need to be avid students of the Bible, it is not even necessary that they had ever read a Bible or even went to church once!

Do not think that misinformation comes only from listening to discussions or reading about issues. It perhaps most often comes from more subtle sources such as music, TV movies, video games, etc.

There is no way that you can allow all of these thoughts into your mind and not have it affect you! What are the messages or suggestions that you are allowing to be implanted into your mind?

Only the Word of God has the pure thoughts of God that will allow us to correctly understand Him and His Ways!

The Word Greek word "transformed" is the same one used of Jesus when He went up on the mountain and was "transfigured" before Peter, James and John! His clothing turned bright white and His face shone like the sun!

Do you want to be transformed into the likeness of God? It can only come by doing two things:

1. Limit the input of ungodly messages, concepts and suggestions that you allow to come into 
    your mind!
    - How do I know what to limit? The more you know the Word of God, the better you will get at
      discerning false information!

2. Renew your mind by diligent reading, study and meditation in God's Word seeking God's   
    approval instead of man's! 

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.
2 Timothy 2:15-16

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

THE TOP OF THE LIST!

SEEK!

But seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

"Seeking first the Kingdom of God" may suggest:
  • Giving God the first part of the day.
  • Having "devotions" every day.
  • Praying, "Not my will but Yours be done, Lord" before we act.
  • Being aware that He is the most important thing in our lives. Therefore if we lose our home, jobs or security, we still have God.
The Greek word used here  for seek, zēteō is much stronger and it means to "desire, enquire, endeavor, require, seek in order to find, strive after and crave."

Seeking is not merely an acknowledgement that God is first and foremost in our lives but a determined whole-hearted action!

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

Jesus told us to seek two things:

1. THE KINGDOM OF GOD
So many times when I am seeking God for something I have sensed God pointing me back to the highest priority of prayer - to present ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice!

I believe that persistent, effectual fervent prayer changes things! Yet I have found that it is easy to drift from this top priority - seeking first God's will and pleasure and the glory of the Kingdom of God!

I want something. It may be a good thing. I may want wisdom, guidance or help for another. I may ask God to show me something or give me the power to do something. These may all be good and godly requests. "God change this situation at work." "God help me to pay this bill." "God solve this problem."

Yet God will bring us back to seeking His Kingdom FIRST! God does want to answer these prayers and move on our behalf in these situations but he wants to deal with something first - where we stand in relation to the Kingdom of God!

The love of my heart for the Kingdom of God and my willingness to surrender all for His sake are much more important than having my prayers answered!

We have all cried out in prayer, "God I must have this." God's response?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 But SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, and all these things shall be added to you.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:31-34

Our heavenly Father knows the things we need! He encourages us to pray for them but FIRST - pray that we are lined up with the plans and purposes of the Kingdom of God!

2. HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS!
Whose righteousness? God's!

This part of the verse is often neglected!

We all have preconceived and tainted concepts of right and wrong. We all come to Christ with a lot of baggage from the world.

...all our righteousness (our best deeds of rightness and justice) is like filthy rags or a polluted 
   garment... Isaiah 64:6 (Amplified Bible)

But as we seek to know Him, humble ourselves before Him and learn His ways, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds! (Romans 12:1-2) We begin to understand that His ways are not our way and His thoughts are not our thoughts!

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways
   and My thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

Until we come to Him empty of our own righteousness, we cannot begin to be filled with His righteousness!

We are to lay down all of our own concepts of righteousness and present ourselves to Him as blank pages!

TWO QUESTIONS!
As you come to God in prayer, before you ask Him to meet all your needs or the needs of others, ask God to search your heart and honesty reveal where you stand with Him! Ask Him two vital questions:

1) Am I dedicated heart, soul, mind and strength to the glory of the Kingdom of God as the first   
    and top priority of my life?

2) Am I righteous according to Your standards Lord - not my own, not in comparison to others  
    or by the current trends - but according to Your eternal ways?


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