Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Live What You Believe

The direction of our lives reveal the condition of our hearts.

Our character is determined by the things that we do rather than the things that we say.

This is why I like what Henry and Richard Blackaby wrote in Hearing God's Voice:
“Whenever God speaks, what we do next exposes the condition of our hearts.”
Jesus taught about this very thing in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.  You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.  So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.  Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” (Matthew 7:15-20; NLT)
Here Jesus taught how we are able to identify false teachers. One method is to observe their behavior. False teachers may teach truth, but they do not live by the truth.

Truth is truth no matter what the source is, we should withhold our endorsement of teacher we haven't had the opportunity to meet. Their lives will reveal more than their teaching ever did.

On the flip side, this teaching of Jesus should get us to examine our lives. We should ask ourselves the question: "Does my live align with what I believe?"

Our obedience to God's word reveals the love and trust we have in Him. It also shows those around us what it looks like to follow Jesus.

The more we love God and love our neighbor, the more we become the "light of the world."

This raises the question: "How can I consistently live what I believe?"

The problem many of us face isn't that we are unaware of the importance of  living authentic lives, it is that we find it difficult to do.

If we are going to live authentic lives we need to:
  1. Follow the guidance of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23 the apostle Paul wrote, "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" (NLT) Following the Holy Spirit will produce in our lives the type of fruit that is consistent with the life of Jesus.
  2. Be in community with other people. The author of Hebrews wrote, "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25; NLT). A Christian community offers the encouragement and opportunities we need to love others and live in obedience to God's will. We are stronger when we are in a community.
  3. Focus on doing good. The apostle Paul offered this encouragement; "So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith." (Galatians 6:9-10; NLT). We can be discouraged when doing good because it appears that it is making little difference. The reality is that we can't see all the things God is doing behind the scenes. It is an act of faith and hope to continue to seize the opportunities to do good, trusting that God will honor our efforts and bring transformation.
To live lives that honor Jesus and align with his teaching requires intentional action. It isn't going to happen by accident.

It is crucial that we read and study the Bible. We need to know truth.

Knowing truth is not enough. We need to live the truth. When we live the truth we demonstrate that not only can we recite the truth, but we also believe the truth.

Know the Bible. Live the Bible.

Monday, November 11, 2019

What is the Bible?

For us who follow Jesus the Bible is a very important book.

It provides the fundamental truth for us to believe. It forms our faith. It teaches us how to follow Jesus.

Since the Bible is such an important book for our spiritual formation, we should know what it is.

 

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Law is Incapable

"Law is always external. It is always imposed from outside. It can never make man good. It can only make him wish he had been good." ~ W. Carl Ketcherside; The Death of the Custodian

Law is incapable of changing people.

It would be great if it did. That would mean all we needed to do to rid the world of evil is to make new laws.

The reality that the law is incapable of changing us doesn't mean that law is useless. It does mean that we need to understand the limitations of law, so we don't put unrealistic expectation on it.

The law does have the ability to stop some people from doing certain behaviors. It  is capable of doing this because they are afraid of the punishment. In the back of their minds is that voice that is whispering, "What if I get caught?"

The restraint these people experience is not from the desire to do good, but the desire to avoid getting into trouble.  They wouldn't hesitant to do evil deeds if they could be assured there would be no consequences for their actions.

Their outward appearance appears to be good, but their hearts remain dark.

Consider these snippets from the Sermon on the Mount:

"You have heard that the law of Moses says, "'Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.' But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell" (Matthew 5:21-22; NLT). 
"You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28; NLT). 
"You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Love your neighbor and hate you enemy.' But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!" (Matthew 5:43-44; NLT).

Jesus taught that what mattered more than our obedience to the law is the condition of our heart.

The law cannot fix a heart twisted by sin!

Our only hope for a true change of heart is Jesus. Our faith allows Jesus to heal our hearts and empower us to overcome the sin in our lives.

Obedience to the law is powerless to take away the consequences of sin in our lives. Law can inform us what is right and wrong, but once it has been broken, it remains broken.

What does that mean?

One thing it means is that law can't change us. The law can point us in the right direction, but it can't make us obedient. If we are interested in the transformation of lives, then we have to look at things outside of law. We need to use things like love, truth, faith, and sacrifice.

A second thing it means is that everyone is in the same boat. We have all disobeyed God and broken the law. We are powerless to make amends on our own. We need God's help to change.

Yes, the law is important, but it is incapable of making us good. Only God can do that.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Be a Praying Boyfriend

In our culture the way we find a marriage partner is through dating. This whole ritual of boyfriends
and girlfriends is littered with potential pitfalls, which means that very few people escape the process unscathed. Many of us carry the scars and broken hearts of dating relationships gone bad. Some of those wounds we received while dating will be with us the rest of our lives.

Because dating is so dangerous it is essential for Christian guys to approach dating with wisdom, guidance, and love. Guys, please remember that you are not out on a great hunt trying to find meat for supper, but you are in pursuit of a life partner who you can love, cherish, and lead. Dating, as exciting as it is, is also a huge responsibility.

As you date you need to keep in mind that the girlfriends that you have are, first and foremost, daughters of God. If you are a Christian, this means you have the responsibility to help her mature in faith, to encourage her to use her talents in ministry, and not to become an obstacle as she follows Jesus.

In other words you need to hold her life as a sacred trust for as long as she is a part of your life. Her life is not yours to use however you want or to destroy. You are responsible for protecting her as long as she is in your care.

As a Christian, your dating experiences cannot be all about fun, but they also need to be about mutual encouragement as both of you grow in faith. I believe that it is the man who is to lead the relationship in this aspect. If you are not leading your girlfriend spiritually it is your responsibility to stop dating until you are spiritually mature enough to lead.

How do you go about leading your girlfriend spiritually? You begin to lead your girlfriend though prayer. I don’t mean some wimpy little prayer that many people like to pray: “God, I would just like to ask that You will just be with my girlfriend and just grow her spiritually…”

I am afraid that such a prayer isn’t going to do too much. You see prayer doesn’t start with the words you say during prayer, but it starts with your motivation for praying. For your prayers to be effective you have to believe that God hears your prayers, and that He has your best interests at heart. Prayer also has to become important enough to you that you set aside time to pray each and every day. If you are just praying to mark “prayer” off our religious to do list, well then your prayers aren’t going to accomplish much.

When it comes to praying for your girlfriends you have to answer the question: “Do I want my girlfriend to grow in her relationship with God?”

Don’t be so quick to answer that question. The quick Sunday School answer is, “Yes, I do!”

I think you need to stop and consider some of the potential consequences of your girlfriend maturing in her faith.
  • What if God shows her that the next step in her journey of faith is to break up with you? Would you be okay with that?
  • What if God uses her to bring up issues in your life that you would rather remain hidden? Would you be okay with that?
Your prayers will be more effective when you can honestly say, “God whatever Your will is I surrender my life to it.” Remember your will is not always the same as God’s will, that is why one of the purposes of prayer is to help people align their wills with God’s will.

When it comes to praying for your girlfriend, I think it is important to remember that you need to pray for them with them. You need to pray for her during your quiet time of prayer, but you also need to hold her hand and ask God to bless and guide her. She needs to hear this because she needs to know that you want God’s will for her no matter what happens in your relationship. Make sure you set aside time on your dates to pray with her and for her.

I want to offer a word of caution. Do not do this in the early stages of your relationship. It could freak her out because she might think you rushing things. It could also create a false sense of intimacy that your relationship has not yet reached. Wait for the right time to start praying together, just as you would with holding hands and kissing.

With that being said I want to give you a few practical prayers that you need to pray for your girlfriend if you are going to help her grow spiritually.
  1. Pray that God will keep both of you on the same page. This has proved essential to me in the last three relationships that I had before getting married. In the two cases where the relationship ended, God revealed that truth to both of us. While there was sadness that accompanied the end of the relationship, we both knew that God wanted us to go our separate ways, and we were able to part on good terms. There is no way to avoid the pain of a break up, but with God’s wisdom and guidance we can make it sting a little less.
  2. Pray for the knowledge of God’s will. The apostle Paul at the beginning of his letter to the Colossians reveals his prayer for them; And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10; ESV). Ask God to fill your girlfriend with a knowledge of His will that comes through spiritual wisdom and understanding. Remember the important thing in her life isn’t that she will become your wife, but that she will live a life that is worthy of Christ Jesus. This is such an important prayer for you to pray, not only for your girlfriend, but for everyone you pray for, because everyone is in need of God’s wisdom.
  3. Ask for her to be clothed in the Armor of God. The Armor of God is found in Ephesians 6:13-17. The apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that we are in a battle, a spiritual battle, and that means your girlfriend is out in the middle of battle field. Daily you need to ask God to put His armor on her. To do this you need to take time to walk through this passage and mention each specific piece of armor. The reason you need to pray this prayer is to help her to have the ability to stand firm in the face of the enemy’s attacks. This is also a prayer that I use for myself each day, I need to be clothed in God armor otherwise I will fall.
  4. Ask for God’s Kingdom to come into her life. This comes from the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:10). The way I use this prayer is to focus on God’s Kingdom and ask that she will be a part of it, and for His will to be done for her as it is in heaven. The best life that you can live is lived in accordance to God’s will, and so you want your girlfriend to know God’s will, and receive the strength and courage she needs in living out His will for her life.
  5. Thank God for the opportunity. Each relationship is a gift from God. This is especially true with romantic relationships. Thank God for bringing such a beautiful woman into your life. Because you are thankful, ask God to give you the wisdom and guidance you need to be an encouragement to her. A relationship with a beautiful Christian woman is a great blessing, so you need to thank God for that wonderful blessing. Like all blessings there is also responsibility, and that responsibility is to lead and encourage her in her walk with Jesus. In order to do that effectively you need God’s wisdom, and as James wrote (James 1:5) if you lack wisdom you need to ask God for the wisdom you need to spiritually lead the woman you call your girlfriend.
Dating is dangerous and it leads to a lot of wounds. That is why the wise Christian man will take the time to pray and invite God into the dating relationship that he is in. As single Christian man, you want to make the dating relationship a positive and encouraging experience that will help both of you to grow in your relationships with God. So if you are really serious about being a Christian boyfriend, you will be a boyfriend who prays.

Live What You Believe

The direction of our lives reveal the condition of our hearts. Our character is determined by the things that we do rather than the things...