Friday, November 22, 2013

Surviving Troubles

Surviving Troubles
Philippians 4:6-9
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

"The art of living is the least learned of all arts. Man has learned the art of existing, of getting by somehow with the demands of life, of escaping with half-answers, but he knows little about the art of living with all its demands." Quote by E. Stanley Jones.

Most people can't cope with life because life to them is just existing or filled with too many problems. Some people believe life is a horrible experience and they will let you know that in an instant, if they are given the opportunity. Some of these miserable people don't like their families, they don't like the one they're married to and, they don't like their jobs, their income or themselves. They live an unhappy life with nothing ever changing for them.

Job said, "Man is born into trouble, as the sparks fly upward (Job 5:7). Everyone has problems but the question is, how do you deal with your problems? Do you break down or fall apart when things happen to you that you don’t understand? Do you get angry, or pout inwardly when hard times come? Have drugs, alcohol, overeating, or other things been your way of escape? The Biblical answer would be for you to work through the trouble and come out victorious before God. Philippians 2:12,13 says, ... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. It is God who is at work in you to do His will for His good pleasure. 

Paul, in Philippians 4:9 said, Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. Paul was brave enough to give himself as an example of coping with life in a godly manner. You may think this sounds prideful or that he was boasting but he was doing neither. Paul was saying, "Now you watch me and the way I do it, you do it." He learned the secret of surviving trouble and the secret to victory. He was so secure in knowing that God was in control he could sing in jail and stand boldly before the Greeks on Mar's Hill declaring his faith without hesitation. Paul stood in confidence before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa with his life in their hands and did so fearlessly.

What are the things that Paul taught that would help you through hard times? Philippians 4:6 teaches that you are to pray about everything and pray specifically with a thankful heart. When any burden arises, you are to ease your mind by prayer, seeking wisdom and direction to lead you through the trial victoriously. Prayer is making not only your desires known before God, but also your hurts and pains. Not that God needs to be told about your trails or wants, for He knows them better than you do, but you need to express your total dependence upon Him for everything. This, in the end, will give you peace or as Paul writes, “will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). It will keep you from sinning during your trials and from sinking under the load of them. Peace is a calming affect without confusion or anxiety and brings satisfaction to your soul. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee (Isaiah 26:3).

Thought: We are exhorted to have a good name before God and man and have a high regard for the truth with our words and behavior. Paul encourages us to “think” on things that are true, honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. We as Christians should walk a virtuous life before men that they may see our good works in our difficult times and glorify God through them. We should not only survive troubles but grow and mature in them  with a renewed mind to, prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2b).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Who Is Your Hero or Heroine?

Who Is Your Hero or Heroine?
Dictionary definition: a man/woman of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his/her brave deeds and noble qualities. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.

Many men and women may come to mind as we ponder the question posed, “Who Is Your Hero or Heroine?” The men and women of our armed forces, who have fought for our freedoms throughout the many wars, were recently remembered and honored for their valor, courage and willingness to go into battle. We thank them for their bravery and dedication, and to those who gave the final sacrifice, we are especially thankful, and cherish the freedoms we hold so dear. May we never forget those who have given their all, that we may have the privilege of liberty for all.

Throughout the Word of God, we find the most unlikely men and women whom God used to be the heros of our faith, and accomplish great things for Him. One unlikely person is Rahab, the harlot, as the Bible describes her, a most unusual woman of faith. As we recall the story of Jericho, we remember, they were instructed to march around the city for six days. Seven priests would carry seven trumpets of ram’s horns before the ark, then on the seventh day they would march around the city seven times and the priests would then blow the trumpets. When they heard the trumpets sound, all the people would shout with a great shout and the walls of the city would then fall down flat and the city of Jericho would be overtaken. Rahab, before that great day, was promised safety along with her household because by faith, she hid the spies that Joshua sent earlier. She believed in the true and living God and she believed fully in all the revelation that was available to her. She was a courageous woman to show such faith during very dangerous times and was rewarded for her faith and obedience by the great God of Israel. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace (Hebrews 11:31). 

Gideon, in Judges chapter 6, is again, one of those most unlikely people that God will use to accomplish great things for Him. We find Gideon beating out the wheat in the wine press when the angel of the LORD appears to him and says, “The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.” Gideon then says to the LORD, “If the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Meaning, “Why is Israel oppressed by Midian?” We know through Scripture that Israel did that what which was right in their own eyes and evil before the LORD and God gave them over to the hands of the Midianites for seven years. 

God provided Israel with judges who were men and women elevated to a place where their leadership and their wisdom put them in a ruling position somewhere in the life and the land of Israel. Gideon was chosen by God to be one of those judges and through God’s power, he was asked to fight against an enemy of God, the Midianites. Gideon was asked to chose only 300 men out of 10,000 soldiers by having them drink from the water as a dog, scooping water with their hands, as a dog uses its tongue. There was nothing special about the way they drank, it was just God’s unique way of choosing soldiers for the task. With 300 men against thousands of Midian soldiers, God would receive the glory due His name and Gideon would be assured that they, the Midianites, were given into his hands. The battle tactics were not militarily what man would have considered but God, in His Wisdom and Strength, gave Gideon courage to fight. The men held trumpets and torches concealed within clay pitchers. When they threw the clay pitchers down and the torches were seen the impression caused by this blasting noise, along with the shouts of the army of Israel, and trumpets sounding, woke the sleeping giant, the Midianite army.

Confused by the lights and noise, the sleeping army awoke to what they thought were thousands of soldiers ready to overtake them. Panic followed shock and every soldier was on his own, in the darkness of night and with crashing sounds they believed an incredible host had moved in against them. These soldiers could not distinguish between friend or foe and by their own swords made a way of escape by killing their own men Judges 7:22-23.

Thought: The power of God is most certainly incredible and when the obedience of a man or woman proves to be in harmony with what God has ordained, it is an remarkable feat. Gideon obeyed God and with a small army of 300 men, overturned the Midianite army. Rahab, by faith, trusted God to save her and her family through dangerous times. Rahab’s name is found in Scripture many years later naming her in the lineage of Christ (Matthew 1:5). God does use the most unusual circumstances along with the most unlikely people, to bring glory to His name and perform the most extraordinary and unbelievable deeds. 

Who is to be the Hero of all Heros? Our LORD and Savior, JESUS CHRIST. He is the Hero of our faith. Though God may use and name unusual men and women, He is still the Hero of the story and without His inexhaustible love and immeasurable mercy and grace, we are without hope and are men and women most miserable (I Corinthians 15:19). 

I want to give thanks to my LORD and Savior, the Captain of my faith, and Defender of my soul, for the ultimate sacrifice He so freely gave. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8). Christ is the Hero of my faith for which I will be eternally grateful. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Measuring the Strength of Your Faith

Measuring the Strength of Your Faith
James 1:12
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. 

True joy is an attitude that is characteristic in the life of a genuine believer, even in the darkest of trials. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (James 1:2). In other words, count every trail as a joyful event knowing that the trying of your faith employs patience and that the testing of your faith produces an unwavering devotion to God. True faith will persevere because trials can never destroy true faith, or alter God’s eternal design. Therefore, we can find joy in the midst of any trial. 

In James 1:3, the Bible says, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” This verse is actually saying, “You must go into this trial with an understanding mind that the trial or testing of your faith produces endurance.” This is the power you need to endure, to stay, and not give up. You might even say, “Let the trial come and bring with it the endurance I need to grow in knowledge–––producing spiritual maturity. Without trials, we cannot be strengthened to persevere, for in a trial the true measure of our faith is evident.

During the hardest trial of your life, allow God to do what He wants to do. Let this trial humble you and teach you the value of God’s richest blessings. Don’t fight against what God is trying to do in your life–––it is the pathway to strength, endurance and maturity. Trials come to make you into the image of Christ and enables you to help others that are undergoing similar trials in their lives as well.

Are you going through a trial right now and trying to do your best to keep a joyous attitude, but having difficulty really grasping what's happening? You might be saying to yourself, "I want to have a right attitude, but I’m lacking the wisdom and power to remain joyous through this trial. I am struggling to keep my heart right and struggling to be submissive to this trial. I need some help. What do I do?"

When you're going through a trial, wanting to understand, wanting to know how to be joyous, wanting to be willing to endure the trial, you're not going to find the answers you need in human reasoning. You need to seek after and ask for God’s wisdom. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally (generously), and upbraideth not (without reprimand); and it shall be given him (James 1:5). When you're going through a trial, don't lean on your own understanding; “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7).

Trials drive you to your knees and make you realize how bankrupt you are in your own human reasoning. The supernatural wisdom that only God can give helps you to understand that in the trials of life answers are not readily available in the world around you. When you go through a trial, the best place you can go is to the Lord. One of the greatest promises God gives in His Word is that you can go to Him and ask for His wisdom. What more could we want than the divine insight to understand and respond properly to every trial of life?

Thought: Whatever the trial is, you are to have a trusting heart that God allowed it for His purpose, and that He will give you the wisdom you need to endure it. Realize you will be better than you ever could have been, if you had not endured that trial. When you go through a trial and do not turn away from God and His will for you, you prove your salvation to a lost and dying world and to other Christians–––measuring the strength of your faith.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Don't Violate Your Conscience

Don’t Violate Your Conscience
Acts 24:16
And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.

Have you taken great pains to have a clear conscience before God and man? Or, have you allowed the culture we live in to train you to ignore your guilt feelings–––making your conscience weak? This is a dangerous position in the life of a Christian. If you have found your conscience to be contaminated by this fallen world, you are certainly not alone. Many just like you have come out of all kinds of sinful backgrounds, and praise be to our God and Savior, He has "cleansed your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14).

As a Christian, you have the capacity to walk before God with a clear conscience, your daily privilege and joy. God graciously implanted something powerful within you to aid you in the battle against sin. He gave you your conscience, and that gift is the key to bringing you joy and freedom. Examining your guilt feelings in the light of Scripture and then confessing and forsaking your sin will cleanse your conscience. This is an on going characteristic of the Christian life and it is important that you deal with the sin God’s Word reveals–––immediately.

Sometimes people put off dealing with their guilt, thinking their conscience will clear itself over time. This won’t happen. Procrastination allows the guilt feelings to become infected generating depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems. Guilt feelings may persist for long periods of time and could show up in other areas of life making people feel guilty and not knowing why. This could be a signal that something is very wrong spiritually. Titus 1:15 ~ Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

A weak conscience that is easily grieved is a result of a lack of knowledge of the Word of God. Always respond to your conscience, even if it's weak, and continue to learn from God's Word so you and your conscience can begin to function in the light of Scripture. Never ignore your conscience and don’t live on feelings only. If your conscience looks at only your personal feelings, it can accuse you wrongfully. Discouraged or melancholy feelings will provoke unnecessary doubts and fears in your soul when not kept in check by a conscience that is well-advised. The conscience must be influenced by the Word of God, not by your feelings.

The conscience is a precious gift that God has given every living soul. So, don’t violate your conscience! To violate your conscience means you are willingly doing what you think to be wrong. The conscience is a voice that speaks deep within you. It cries out when it’s being spoiled by sin. With a bad conscience, your faith becomes withdrawn or damaged, causing doubt to manifest itself along with insecurity and fear.

Many who were once among us, but today find themselves a part from God and fallen in the world, rejected their conscience, because "...the spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron..." (1 Timothy 4:1-2) With a good conscience, we have conviction to enter the "Holy of Holies" (Hebrews 10:19-22), like we also have the conviction to: "... proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound," (Isaiah 61:1).

Thought: What is your conscience saying to you? Can you say with Paul, “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1) or, “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 9:1)? Christian, fight to keep a pure conscience, by sanctifying yourselves every day, in order to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth. (2 Timothy 2:15).