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Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Job 14:1-6 and Psalm 139:16 teach us that God has determined and numbered our days before we were born. In other words, God knows exactly when we’re going to die, which begs the question, “Is there anything we can do to change or prolong that date?”
 
I believe there is and I’m slightly dogmatic about it because God has said that if we walk in obedience and keep His decrees and commands, He will give us a long life (1 Kings 3:14) and if we honor our parents, we may live long in the land (Ex 20:12). When we consider that God is omniscient, knowing the beginning from the end, we can trust that He has factored in our obedience, or lack thereof, before He chiseled our obit day in stone.
 
Taking it a step further I believe we can prolong our lives if we stop smoking, doing drugs, and abusing alcohol, and start exercising, eating right, and taking care of our bodies, because God, again knowing all future events, has factored in both our harmful and beneficial behaviors, before we were born. That is to say, our favorable activities and obedience to God are not merely things that may improve the quality of life in the time we have been allotted, but rather things that God has considered in determining the length of our lives.

Of course we must also remember that God considers things we know nothing about that may result in a long or short life, and Godly obedience and healthy living are not the sole factors that decide how long we live.

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When we are sharing the Gospel we must include the Law in our conversations. Our listeners need to see their guilt, their helplessness, their depth of sin, their opposition to God, and their only solution in Christ Jesus. They also need to know the consequences of their sin, but we will leave that for another post.
 
The Law and it’s Purpose
 
1) GUILT: “The law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God.” (Romans 3:19)
 
2) HELPLESSNESS: “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” (Romans 3:20)
 
3) ANTI-GOD: “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God.” (1 John 3:4)
 
4) SIN-FILLED: “Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin.”(Romans 7:7a)
 
5) SOLUTION: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)
 
Do not make the mistake of sharing a squeaky-clean Gospel – merely saying that Jesus died for our sin is not enough. People need to know what sin is, accept their guilt, learn the consequences, recognize their inability to do anything about it, and acknowledge that Jesus is their only solution for their sin problem. I have seen data that shows that when we omit this information, 80% to 90% of people who received Jesus eventually reject Him and return to their sinful ways.

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“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
 
When you are in the midst of a trial, have you ever heard someone say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle!” You want to smack them, don’t you. The truth of the matter is that quaint expression is not in the Bible. People think it is, and they will quote 1 Corinthians 10:13 as their proof text, but they’re only presenting half of the passage, “God…will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able,” and they omit the second part.
 
But There’s a But
 
And an important but it is. The rest of the verse reads,

“But will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
 
Who makes a way to escape? God makes the way to escape and if God didn’t make the way to escape, we would not be able to handle the temptation. Therefore, a more accurate rewording of the passage would be,

“God won’t give you more than HE can handle!”
 
What Would Paul Say
 
The Apostle Paul would never have uttered, “God won’t give me more than I can handle!” How can we be so sure? Because he said this instead:
 
“And (God) said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
 
And again Paul comforts us,
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
 
If we were able to handle trials and temptations in our flesh, Jesus would not have told us to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses. (Luke 9:23). And did our Savior ever say, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; YOU have overcome the world.”

No! He declared that He has overcome the world! (John 16:33)

 
Fact: God wants humility and desires that we present ourselves as empty vessels. King David understood the principle, for he wrote:

“But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.” (Psalm 70:5)
 
So let us abandon this foolishness that God won’t give us stuff we can’t handle. That notion is ridiculous and contrary to Scripture. When we find ourselves in a trial or a temptation, look to God for He alone has provided the escape!

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“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
(2 Chronicles 7:14)
 
If you move in Judeo/Christian circles you have heard this verse quoted by pastors, politicians, and proselytes more than a few times, especially in times of regional tragedy or national sorrow. Although an encouraging portion of Scripture that strikes a harmonious chord with all true believers, let us be mindful that it is primarily a directive and an admonition from God.
 
A Promise to Israel
 
Cite the verse or post it on social media, and it won’t be very long before some imperious theologian, qualified or amateur, chimes in that the verse is contextually a promise for Israel and not for the United States or any other nation. Well, we can’t argue the point; it is a conditional promise that God made to Israel.

Here’s the entire account in the New Living Translation:

 
“So Solomon finished the Temple of the LORD, as well as the royal palace. He completed everything he had planned to do in the construction of the Temple and the palace. Then one night the LORD appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you.”
 
God continues:
 
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart. As for you, if you faithfully follow me as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty. For I made this covenant with your father.”
 
God’s final warning:
 
“But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the decrees and commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot the people from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make it an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled. They will ask, ‘Why did the LORD do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’ And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why he has brought all these disasters on them.’” (2 Chronicles 7:12-22)
 
For the Church or Not?

Clearly, both contextually and historically, these words of God were for Israel. So the question then becomes, is God’s wise counsel and warning applicable to us today, and more specifically, are they applicable to the Church? The answer is, of course they are.

 
First Things First
 
When God said to King David, “One of your descendants will always rule over Israel,” it was a ‘now-fulfilled,’ prophetic reference to our Messiah, Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is the integral part of this equation, and because Christians are grafted into the vine that is Israel, the verse applies to the church. There is no question about it: if Christians, as in the warning to Israel, abandon their namesake Christ Jesus, and disobey His decrees and commands, we will be uprooted and rejected. 
 
“But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”
(Romans 11:17, NLT)
 
Healing for Israel Only?
 
No one in the body argues that if believers anywhere or at anytime, humble themselves, and pray, and seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways, that God will hear those prayers, and forgive their sin. The issue with some folks is the implication found in the final portion, ‘that God will heal their land.’ 
 
Let’s back up. What does God mean when He says that He will heal their land, and what’s wrong with the land that it needs healing to begin with?
 
For starters, God cursed the land back in Genesis because of Adam’s dirty deed, but arguably that is not what’s being referred to here. However, and as it pertains to our scriptural reference, God said, “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people,” (2 Chronicles 7:13).

In other words, on occasion and for varied reasons known and unknown, God allows turmoil, and God-allowed turmoil is not unique to Israel. Therefore, when God says He will heal the land, and when Christians apply His promise to the land they happen to be most closely associated with, it is a proper application. No one is saying anything more than that and certainly no Christian I associate with is suggesting that the United States is somehow replacing Israel as the apple of God’s eye. That notion, along with replacement theology in general, is a sick interpretation of the Bible (a discussion for another time, perhaps).  

 
Simply put, and as it pertains to the Vine of American, if folks who are called by His name, get off their high horses and humble themselves, if they would pray and seek God’s face, His guidance, His equipping, and His power, and if they repent from their wicked ways, then God will hear us; He will forgive us, and the turmoil of the land will be healed. Take note: the agnostics, the atheists, and the followers of false gods and idols don’t have to do anything! The admonition is to the church alone. If we would just start acting like the church, that is to say, in a God-prescribed manner, the promise will come to pass.
 
And the Naysayers Say…
 
“It’ll never happen!”
 
And of course they cite Biblical prophecy that God’s wrath is ultimately going to be poured out on America and the rest of the world. I get that and cannot dispute the prophetic and specific inevitability of those words. However there is another element that cannot be disputed: we do not know God’s timetable; we do not know the day or the hour of Christ’s return, and nowhere in the Bible is it suggested that we should abandon every good work and wait for His return. The mere thought of that is absurd and dare I say, blasphemous. God would never have us reject our Christian duty! Never!
 
So with that, let us humble ourselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, and see what God will do! To ignore God’s warning is to reject God Himself.

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“(Jesus) spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down…And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” (Luke 13:6-9)
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Our first reaction to fruitlessness in a Christian is to cut him or her down, but have you ever stopped to consider that this brother or sister in the faith just might be your responsibility?
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Three Things to Consider
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1) Do you know this person?
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It’s amazing how quick we can be to notice a lack of productivity or spiritual growth in a person we just met. I have done it to others and I have had it done to me and it’s shameful, arrogant behavior. Having said that, is this a friend, a close acquaintance, or a family member? If so, the Bible reminds us, “[I]f a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)
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2) Have you dug around them?
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What have you been doing this past year? You prayed for them? Have you attempted to dig into deeper conversations? Have you removed stones and thorns, loosened the soil, and exposed their roots so they could better receive nutrients?

For whatever the reason, many Christians reject this type of work. Don’t you be one of them. Remember: it’s not about how you feel and it’s not about growing fruit – it’s about honoring and pleasing God with our submission and obedience. If there be blessings or fruit as a result, they are byproducts of spiritual compliance.

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3) What are you spreading?
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Cultivating the soil is not enough. Just as plants need nutrients to grow, so do Christians. The best thing for plants is manure, but not so with people. Keep your manure to yourself and spread liberally prayer, the Word of God, encouragement, and correction when needed. While I don’t believe you can pray too much, be aware of applying too much Bible, especially in the beginning.  If you’re in prayer you’ll know how much fertilizer to use and when to use it.
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After One Year
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If you don’t see fruit, should you cut the person down?

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The short answer is no. This person, as with the fig tree in the parable, does not belong to you. In due time the Lord will deal with them. But having said that, if you’ve been in prayer and in His Word, the Lord likely show you something about this individual that will guide you in how you should proceed. The truth of the matter is that if this person has allowed you to pour into to them for a year, they are probably maturing in their faith and the fruit will be evident.

So the next time you notice a Christian without fruit, don’t be so quick to assign blame without first asking yourself, “Have I done my part?”

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“But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:25)

 

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Jesus doesn’t tell us to go out there and do the best we can. He said, Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

We naturally say, “Impossible!”

To which Jesus replies, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

See the Bigger Picture

Without Jesus we cannot save ourselves, we cannot cleanse ourselves, we cannot heal ourselves, we cannot changes ourselves, and we cannot be perfect, but in Christ Jesus we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13). That of course means all things that are pleasing to Him, bless Him, and are of His good will and pleasure.

But we lament, “We will fail.”

Two things: Making a mistake does not negate perfection, nor is making a mistake failure. Failure is when we make a mistake and refuse to learn from it. Failure is when we fall down and refuse to get up. Failure is when we make one mistake and think two good deeds will balance the scales. Failure is when we reject God and try to fix it ourselves. Failure is what negates perfection.

Perfection is Already Ours

“He has clothed (us) with the garments of salvation; He has covered (us) with the robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10) In other words, we are dressed to perfection. Yes, we are works in progress. Yes, we are being changed daily. Yes, we are being sanctified. But in all these things if we err, He has us covered. No longer should a brother or sister in Christ declare, “I’m not perfect,” because in Christ Jesus we are, so we should start acting like it.

Sharing Our Perfection

Our most perfect possessions are our salvation and the ‘Good News’ of the Gospel message. I suggest this is what we share.

“Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

(Matthew 28:19)

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