Friday, October 25, 2013

Trusting God in the Hard Times

Trusting God in the Hard Times
2 Corinthians 1:3,4
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 

How many times have you thought, “Why this trial, Lord? Why the broken heart or painful illness? Why has the one who called me, friend, rejected me and turned his/her back on me? Why am I being slandered or wrongfully accused?” Unfortunately, God does not ask you how or when you want to grow. You, Christian, must understand that through adversity you will grow in some way for your own good and for His glory.

The book of 2 Corinthians was written by Paul in defense of his integrity, and his apostolic authority. He did not write it for his own gain, or popularity, but for the protection of the church and the truth. Behind the scenes of this letter, was a strong and growing assault on the Apostle Paul in an effort to destroy his credibility and undermined his message. There were false teachers in Corinth and they wanted to preach another Jesus and bring another gospel. False teachers were doing everything they could to destroy Paul’s reputation and discourage the church.

The city of Corinth was filled with immorality and the church itself was battling with such prevalent sin. The false teachers questioned Paul’s authority and they said he was a self-appointed apostle. They questioned his honesty, his purity and accused him of doing what he did for sexual favors from women. They questioned his love and affection for the church. They used every imaginable angle to attack his character. They even accused him of embezzling the money that was given for the poor and putting it into his own pocket. (Remember the old adage, “Don’t tear someone else down so you can build yourself up?” That is exactly what they were doing. False teachers, hypocrites, were afraid of loosing their authority over the people in the church and were doing anything to keep their influential, self-appointed, positions while preaching another gospel.

These false teachers, false apostles were attacking Paul and portraying him as a sinner who was suffering for his sin and claiming that God was pouring out His wrath upon him. During this onslaught of attacks upon Paul’s character, there were divisions among the people at the Corinthian church. Paul hears of this and pens what is known as the “severe letter” and sends this letter with Titus to Corinth. Paul was very anxious to hear about the response the Corinthian church would have towards the letter he sent with Titus When he hears that the majority of the Corinthian church had repented of their rebellion against him, he expressed joy and relief. Paul then pens 2 Corinthians to portray God as the merciful comforter in times of severe tribulation.

The Greek word for “comfort” is related to the word paraclete, meaning, “the one who comes alongside to help.” The word paraclete is also another name for the Holy Spirit, our Great Comforter. Paul used this word in saying that God came to comfort that we may also come alongside and be comforters to others as well. The Corinthian people had taken Paul’s heart and stomped all over it yet, Paul knew that God was allowing him to suffer and then be comforted by the God of all comfort. He also understood that he could come to the Corinthian people and comfort them when they went through the same suffering. 

Thought: Do you see how all of your sufferings enable you to minister to another? What a partnership in suffering to know you're not out there on your own. When you represent the Lord Jesus Christ and suffer persecution or suffer rejection in your family, at your job, in school, wherever it might be, that persecution you receive for the sake of Christ and not for your own sin, God will enable you to comfort others and in return they will be able to comfort you. Paul was willing to suffer for Christ. It was his afflictions that would mold and shape him into the man that God intended him to be. When we share in Christ's sufferings, we partake in His abundant comfort as well. Sufferings and afflictions make you into the person God wants you to be and strengthens you for the work of the ministry in sharing Christ with a lost and hostile world.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Holding on to Grudges

The Problem with Holding on to Grudges 
A grudge is "a strong, continued feeling of hostility or ill will against someone over a real or fancied grievance." (Webster).

Ephesians 4:31
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking (slander), be put away from you, with all malice:

If we carry a grudge, it means we are unforgiving and unloving, leading us to bitterness, wrath, and hatred. Anger is the fuel from which grudges spring up and hatred is put into action. Grudges in a Christian's life are evidence that the old man is not “put off.” Colossians 3:8-9 ~ But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.  Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds. Grudges promote gossip and slander and the repeating of a matter is typical of a person who holds a grudge showing neither love or forgiveness.

Holding grudges can disrupt the unity of friends, family, and the church. Relating to the family, in the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:25-30), the older son, symbolizes the Pharisee, the hypocritical religious person, who has no interest in repenting sinners. This son’s self-righteous behavior was more socially acceptable than the younger brother’s sinful debauched life, but was equally dishonoring to the father and also called for repentance.

When a grudge continues in the church and Christians continue to assemble under one roof, there is division. Such division dampens the enthusiasm and hinders the work. The closeness that should exist is destroyed. Sometimes the division is so bad one will leave and go elsewhere, and sometimes some will pull others off and begin a new congregation, not for need, but for the sake of a grudge. These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:16,19).

A grudge means we are not committing things to the judgment of God. Some Christians want to know, “Must I forgive, if a person wrongs me and doesn't repent?” “Yes!” We must have a forgiving spirit no matter what the offense, and judgment must be committed to God. There is no room for grudges or bitterness in the Christian's life. Satan is looking for a gap in our life or opportunities to stir up anger, producing bitterness or a life long grudge. This violates the instructions given to us in Romans 12:17-21. We are not to repay evil for evil or take our own revenge, but we are to overcome evil with good. If it is at all possible, we are to live peaceable with all men, which does not always come, because it also depends on others’ attitudes and responses.

Harboring a grudge may mean that someone is not truly born of the Spirit of God. A Christian, bearing the name of Christ is to be like Him, having the same mind as Christ. While on the cross  suffering for our sins, Christ said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” We have noted that those who hold grudges have bitterness and hatred in their heart, they are unforgiving and unloving, they sometimes gossip and disrupt the unity of friends, family, the church, and they fail to submit to God's judgment. How can one violate so many commandments of God and claim the name of Christ?

Bearing grudges can rob us of happiness and steal the joy we are to have as Christians. How can one be joyful when he knows he is at odds with God and his fellowman? How can one who is a Christian be at peace when he fails to be Christ like? I rather think that some who bear grudges and say they are happy are only pretending, and they can pretend only so long before true feelings erupt. We are to be imitators of God as His dear children and walk in love as Christ also loved us––––the supreme example of self-sacrificing love for sinners (Ephesians 5:1-3).

Conclusion: What do I do now? Each one of us needs to look deep into our own heart and ask, "Is it I, Lord?" Take a good look around you, does the sight of someone bring hostile feelings to the surface? Do you avoid someone just to keep from having to speak to them? Can you think of others that are not here for which you have these emotions and treat them in this fashion? You need to rid yourself of any grudges you bear while there is time.

Jesus did not hold a grudge against those who crucified Him, nor does He hold a grudge against you now. God's instructions are given to help you rid yourself of grudges or to prevent them from being carried out. To put off the old man is a picture of stripping away the filthy old clothes and putting on the righteousness of Christ, the new man. The renewal of the mind in salvation brings a transformation from the old life to the new (Ephesians 4:22)!  We are to put off, lay aside or lay down the old man and be renewed in the spirit of our minds portraying a loving, tender heart––-forgiving one another.

My friend, lay aside the grudges that steel your joy and with the mind of Christ, forgive, press forward, and forget those things that will hinder you from spiritually maturing as you walk in the love of Christ. 

Ephesians 4:32
 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Ephesians 5:1-2
Be ye therefore followers (imitators) of God, as dear children;  And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

Read Matthew 18:21-35 and Matthew 5:21-26

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Ugliness of Jealousy and Envy

The Ugliness of  Jealousy and Envy

Galatians 5:24-26
And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

A great deal of good can be done in the world if one is not too careful who gets the credit. 

On their way home from a lifetime of service as missionaries in Africa, an elderly couple found themselves on the same ocean liner as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from a big game hunting or known as Safari expedition. The couple watched in wonder at the fanfare given the President and his supporters. When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet him, the mayor was there to welcome him, and the newspapers announced his return.

Meanwhile, the missionary couple disembarked quietly off the ship and checked-in in a cheap apartment. They had no pension, they were in poor health, and they were discouraged and fearful. The husband, especially, could not seem to get over how the President had received such praise, while their decades of service had gone without notice or reward. In plain words, he was envious. "God isn't treating us fairly," he complained bitterly to his wife. "Why don't you pray about it?" his wife advised. A short time later, the wife noticed a change in her husband's behavior. "What happened?" she asked. The man replied, "The Lord put His hand on my shoulder and simply said, 'But you're not home, yet!"

Author Unknown

Have you ever thought, “I did all the work, and they got all the credit?” Were you needing the praise of men? For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:43). The world loves the praise of men and they feel they get their credibility from being honored by men. Not so for Christians. We receive our “credibility” from the Lord. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10).

What is the difference between jealousy and envy?
The main difference between envy and jealousy is that envy is an emotion related to coveting what someone else has, while jealousy is the emotion related to fear that something you have will be taken away by someone else.

Envy means "to bear a grudge toward someone due to coveting what that person has or enjoys." In a milder sense, it means "the longing for something someone else has without any ill will intended toward that person."

Jealous means "apprehensive or vengeful out of fear of being replaced by someone else." It can also mean "watchful," "anxiously suspicious," "zealous," or "expecting complete devotion." The last is normally applied to God.

Easy way to remember:
Envy is the emotion when you want something someone else has.
Jealousy is the emotion when you fear you may be replaced in the affection of someone you love or desire.

Although we sometimes use the words jealousy and envy interchangeably, there is a difference. Jealousy can be used in a good sense. Its root is zelos, the same word from which we also get zeal, or zealous. When the word is applied to God, saying He is a jealous God means He demands that we worship and love Him exclusively.

In a bad sense, jealousy is a fear of being displaced by a rival in affection or favor. To be jealous is to be anxiously suspicious or vigilant. Proverb 27:4  implies that jealousy is hidden. It corrupts our motives, thoughts, and actions. It can be one of the most uncontrollable sins. 

While jealousy can be positive in one sense , envy, on the other hand, always has a bad meaning. Envy is defined as "a feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by another's desirable possessions or qualities, accompanied by a strong desire to have them for oneself." Scripture reminds us, "A sound (tranquil) heart is the life of the flesh (body): but envy the rottenness of the bones” (Prov. 14:30).

Thought: Jealousy and envy are emotions we all feel from time to time. But if they are allowed to become dominant in our lives, they warp our perspectives, and in some cases, lead us into destructive behavior. Without question, jealousy and envy impede our growth to spiritual maturity. I Corinthians 13:4-8a says that Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends or fails.

 Our example, the Lord Jesus Christ, who humbled Himself and made Himself of no reputation, nothing, and became obedient to the death of the cross. Our lives are to consider others more significant than ourselves, and we are to do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility, having the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:3-8)

Colossians 3:24 ~ Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. Our great reward is not the praise of man in this life but knowing that from the Lord we will receive the inheritance, His inheritance, as our reward.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Is Devotion to a False God Addiction?

Is Devotion to a False God Addiction?
Exodus 20:3
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

What is the problem that so many people struggle with today? Why is temptation so attractive, unrelenting, and powerful? Does God shield us from circumstances that might provoke us to sin? Does God tempt us like Satan or does He test us? James 1:12-14 ~Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 

The challenges of temptation are great. We live in a sinful world. We are sinned against and we sin against an holy God. Every day we are confronted with temptations, difficulties and overwhelming battles. God does not tempt us as Satan tempts but He does allow testing in our life to prove our loyalty to Him. The temptation to devote ourselves to anything other than loving the Lord Jesus Christ is known as IDOL WORSHIP! Addiction–––that is idolatry–––is a life-dominating sin. No matter how hard one tries to prevent it, every area of their life is touched by the worship of a false god. This false god dictates the friends they choose or the ones they abandon and rules their bank account, distracting them from their responsibilities to their family or employer. 

Why is life so hard? Why do the addicted suffer so? The person who is addicted to drugs and alcohol especially, chooses to serve themselves (idolatry) and accomplish their own purposes. They do this by choosing to use the substance or engage in the behavior that has become their IDOL. They seek false comfort in their idol and that idol delivers, almost immediately, what the addict is seeking to gain: an escape from the realities of life in a sinful world. They experience euphoria, gratification, pleasure or comfort for a time but with a vengeance and overwhelming consequences for wrong behavior, reality will return. Wrong choice, after wrong choice, the addict soon discovers that they are in a downward spiral. They begin to build around them a defensive wall of denial, blameshifting and rationalization holding each prideful brick in place.

Here are some idols of addiction. The list is thorough yet hardly exhaustive.

drugs,  exercise,  anger,  cigarettes
alcohol,  prescription medication, food,  spending money
nose spray, over-the-counter-drugs, chocolate, coffee
gambling, homosexuality,  sex,  pornography
shoplifting, gossip,  ministry,  relationships
work,  television,  romance novels,  entertainment              

Addicts can use great mental thought and physical energy in the pursuit of their idols. The addict, enticed by their own lusts, embraces the lie that this false god they need and now hold dear, is somehow profitable to them. Their heart is deceived and their eyes are spiritually blinded. Deceit is a characteristic of their addiction and they close their heart to the truth and open their minds to deception and delusion.

To simply tell someone that is addicted they have a problem, is not enough. We as believers, who are strong in the faith, must help them break through their blindness and assist them in recognizing the reality of what they are doing to themselves and to others. Scripture tells us that the idolater is unproductive or futile and the idol unprofitable becoming a snare making them void of life and power (Psalm 106:36). The addict is someone who chooses to ignore the truth about God and does not acknowledge His character forgetting that He alone is worthy of worship. Romans 1:25 ~ Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

When a woman or a man is an addict they attempt to accomplish one or more of the following rituals in their life every day.

     They avoid responsibility that is rightfully theirs and resist              doing what is honorable.
     They attempt to dull emotions that they feel are too painful or unpleasant, such as loneliness,      
     fear, grief, rejection, failure, guilt, anger, stress, and there are many more.
     They try to satisfy consuming lustful desires and then attempt to escape reality with its   
     genuinely difficult circumstances.

Thought: Overindulgence of any kind can become a sinful behavior when it becomes more important to us than doing what we know God wants us to do. Often Christians began their sinful behavior before they became Christians, and continue to struggle with their addictions afterwards. Becoming a Christian does not negate the desire for or the consequences of addictions, but does give us a spiritual outlet to help us deal with and become free of our addictions. The first step in overcoming addictions is to recognize that it is a problem both to themselves and others around them.

There is hope for the addict, but we must understand that this biblical reconstruction is a process, and not a simple one at that. There is not a formula for how to go about this biblical restoration but there are some principles for helping someone with an addiction.

1. We need to understand the routine someone has established around their worship of their idol. What are the circumstances they find themselves in when they are tempted to sin and then, what happens?

2. We need to help them sever their relationship with their idol. The Bible says; we are to “put off” the deceitful desires of the flesh and “put on” the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).

3. We need to help the addicted re-establish their relationship with God or lead them towards having a relationship with God. We need to help them reconcile any broken relationships with their family, friends and their church family and build a strong network of accountability for them.

4. We need to give them hope and help them to know they can be confident in the Word of God that it contains all that is needed to loose the addict/idolator from the bonds of sins.