It’s OK to talk to Yourself…if You Do it the Right Way

talking 2

When we look in the Bible, we see that Paul went through many trials.  He had been shipwrecked, spent the night on an open sea, and gone days without food.  He was falsely accused, beaten with rods, and thrown into prison.  If anyone had a right to be negative, bitter or complain, it would have been Paul.  He had been through and seen a lot.  Amazingly though, his faith for God never seemed to waiver.

Paul’s attitude was, “I can handle it.  I am ready for and equal to it.  Why?  Because Almighty God, the Creator of the universe has infused me with strength.  He has equipped me, empowered me, anointed me, crowned me with favor, put royal blood in my veins, and called me to reign in life as a king.”

Paul wrote many books found in the New Testament, including Philippians.  This was a book that he wrote specifically to the church found in Philippi.  In chapter 4 of the Book of Philippians, Paul writes these amazing two verses:

Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

We can do all things since we have God within us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  We are all set up for greatness.  All we have to do is be willing to take it and that means doing it through God.  We won’t get very far by ourselves, but through God, who gives us strength, there are no real imitations to what we are capable of.

When we face difficult times in our lives, like Paul did, it is important that we talk to ourselves right away.  If we don’t talk to ourselves, our thoughts will talk to us.  We can’t let those negative, self-defeating thought play in our minds or we might be tempted to believe them.  Instead, declare that you are more than a conqueror, and you will boldly embrace the life of victory God has in store for you.

 

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Help Me I’m Falling

falling

We all know people in our lives who proclaim to have given their life to God.  It is a joyous event when they step over the faith line.  They are all revved up about Jesus and you can see their lives change dramatically.  It is an awesome thing to see someone go through.  Sometimes though, with time, their excitement for faith seems to fade and their lives start going back to the way they were before they gave their lives to God.  Sometimes these people still proclaim to be a Christian and still say they believe, but the way they are living their lives does not reflect that talk.  Some people end up turning away from God completely and may even go so far as to stop believing in God.  One thing I have always wondered is do the people who are saved but then fall away from their faith still go to heaven?

This seems like a simple enough answer, but it is not.  It is very hard for anyone to know the answer to this question because only God and the person who dies know if they go to heaven.  The problem is that God isn’t talking and that person is not coming back here to enlighten us.

Let’s start by taking a look at what God tells us in the Bible regarding this subject.  Peter addresses this in the 2nd chapter of 2 Peter.

2 Peter 2:20-22 (NIV)

20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

It would seem to me that the Bible sees it as a very bad thing to fall away from God.  It uses some very strong imagery like a dog returning to its vomit and a sow wallowing in the mud.

There are basically two positions people take on this question.  Some people say that the people in these verses were saved, but by falling away, they lost their salvation.  They support their view by observing that:

  1. These people had a relationship with Christ.
  2. These people had escaped corruption.
  3. These people had since become entangled in sin again, worse than they were before.

People who hold this view also see the tragic results of falling away from God as reasons why the New Testament warnings against falling away are so vital.  Here are two examples of this:

Galatians 5:4 (NIV)

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Hebrews 6:4-6 (NIV)

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Other people have a different position on this question.  They see salvation as an irrevocable gift.  They believe people can appear to be saved.  These are people who know about Jesus and their lifestyles appear to improve.  But this view concludes that such changes are merely superficial and that such people were never truly saved in the first place.  Those who hold this position see a distinction between genuine Christians and those who merely dabble in Christianity for a time.  Here are two good examples found in the Bible:

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 2:19 (NIV)

19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

There is a third view on this and it incorporates elements of both of the above positions.  This view says that some people fall away because they were never sincere in their faith while others fall away because they neglected their faith.  The dividing line in these various opinions seems to depend on one’s own view of God’s grace.  The question then becomes: Are God’s promises irrevocable or do they depend on our response?  Do we have eternal security in Christ or do we have conditional security in Christ?  These questions will never be fully answered this side of heaven.

So what view do you have on this idea of falling away?  I would love to hear your responses to this.

I would say that I would lean towards the third view that incorporates elements of each position.  People do fall away.  Some people were never sincere and were never saved in the first place.  God knows the state of each person’s heart.  You can’t put on a good cover and fool God.  If you are not sincere, you will not receive salvation.  Other people are sincere and do receive salvation, but for whatever reason, neglect their faith and can lose the salvation they once had.  I believe that God gives each of us free will and we ultimately choose our own destiny regarding whether we go to heaven or hell based on our response to God’s gift of grace.  I believe we have eternal security in Christ as long as we believe in Him, but if we don’t believe in Him, we are on our own and we will not be in heaven.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people walking around who think they are saved and they really are not.  That is pretty scary stuff.  I think we all need to work on developing a deeper submission to God.  We can do anything with Him, but alone, we can fall so easily.

Each day you live you either are walking towards God or you are walking away from God.  There is no staying the same.  Let’s keep walking towards Him each day and everything else will take care of itself.

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I Am Powerful

declaration

A few weeks ago I was exposed to a declaration at one of my weekly Bible studies I participate in.  I decided to do an experiment in positive affirmations and their effect on our lives.  I kept this with me and I read through it 3 times each day for a whole week.  I read it when I first got up in the morning, again over my lunch break, and finally again at night before I went to bed.  I would follow reading it with about a 2-3 minute prayer to God thinking about the things I had just read.  I can tell you that the effect was very powerful for me.  My attitude that week was more positive than normal and I felt more empowered than I had in quite some time.

I would like to share with you this positive affirmation.  This was written by someone in the children’s ministry at Bethel Church in Reading, CA.  This declaration was designed for the children in their church to help call out the powerful potential within each of them.

Obviously, this is not just for children.  We all have powerful potential within each of us.  Kids have the same Holy Spirit inside of them that we do.  I think we need to do a better job of tapping into that power on a daily basis.  We need to live out this power in our daily lives.  But first we have to believe it.  I’m not talking about simply agreeing with it in our minds, but about living like we believe it.  We need to read this declaration, believe it, and live it.

I want each of you to commit to copying this down and reading it at least once each day for a whole week.  At the end of that week, ask yourself if you felt more empowered or more positive during that week.  Please comment back to this post after you have completed this little experiment and let us all know how it went for you.  What did you learn from this experience?

Here is the declaration:

I am powerful, and what I believe changes the world! 

So today I declare:

God is in a good mood.

He loves me all the time.

Nothing can separate me from His love.

Jesus’ blood paid for everything.

I will tell nations of what He has done.

I am important.

How He made me is amazing.

I was designed for worship.

My mouth establishes praise to silence the enemy.

Everywhere I go becomes a perfect health zone.

And with God, nothing is impossible!

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This Thing Called Sin and Being Born of God

sin

I would like us to take a look at the following chapter of the Bible found in 1 John:

1 John 3 (NIV)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

I wanted us to read this whole chapter so we could look at the context of what John was saying surrounding the verse that I want to focus on in this blog, which is 1 John 3:9

1 John 3:9 (NIV)

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.

I find this verse to be very confusing.  I thought we were all born of God and created in His image.  At the same time, because of Adam and Eve’s sin, we are all born with a sin nature and no one lives a sinless life.  This verse seems to be saying that anyone who is born of God will not continue to sin.  I think we need to look a little deeper into this.

Without getting into a language study here, there are difficulties in conveying the idea that was trying to be conveyed here in the original language into the English that we can understand.  As a result some readers may feel that this passage indicates that God doesn’t recognize our struggle with sin.  They might think that committing one sin causes them to lose their place in heaven.

In reality God sees our struggle with sin all too well.  He does not expect  any new Christian to mature and bear fruit over night.  What I think John is emphasizing here is an increasing conformity of a person’s will to the will of God.  To put this in simpler terms, when a person grows closer in their relationship with God, they gain a stronger desire to do what God would want them to do.  If, however, a person shows no sign of change in how they live their life after stepping over the faith line and trusting God.  If, in fact, a person steps over the faith line and continues to live a life filled with sin, John is saying that the person has not been born of God.  The question has to be asked if this person has really given their life to God at all.

Let’s look a little closer at one other verse from this chapter.

1 John 3:6 (NIV)

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

The key word in this verse is the word “continues.”  This would mean that we continue to sin like we did before being born again or after stepping over the faith line.  In other words, if someone’s life does not change, it is doubtful that a person really was born again at all.

We all have a sin nature and we will all continue to sin throughout our whole lives.  What we are talking about here is the decision that is made to try to avoid sinning because you have been born again.  As your relationship with Jesus grows, a person will naturally try to avoid sinning more and more.  Sinning will not disappear from someone’s life, but if they are born again, you will see a drastic reduction in the amount of sinning they do.  Giving your life to the Lord changes people from the inside out.  I think if you ask just about anyone who has given their life to the Lord, they will say that the change has been for the better.

I think when we look back at 1 John 3:9 through this lens, the verse makes a lot more sense.  As long as we have God inside of us and we have a relationship with Him, we will work to try to avoid sin to please Him and only Him.  We change for the better and it is usually noticeable to those around us.  We also call this “growing up.”

We can be a testimony of God and His greatness through how we live our lives.  Others, who don’t know God, might see God inside of us and want to know God too.  That is when God is really working His magic.

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One Solitary Life

one solitary life

Do you ever feel like the whole world is against you sometimes?  I know that I do sometimes.  Days like these are days that I call my bad days.  It can be very frustrating when you are trying to do the right things and it just seems like nothing is going your way.  It seems like every person is against what you are trying to do even though by doing it you could actually be benefiting them in the long run.

In today’s society you can read all kinds of self-help books and learn how to make yourself a better person and how you can have a powerful influence on those around you and the world you live in.  The history of our country is filled with the stories of people who when from having nothing to riches.  People who went from complete anonymity to being remembered long after they passed from this world.

What I find really amazing is that the one person who had the most influence on the this world of anyone who has ever lived on it was a man who was disliked, even hated, by far more people than those who liked and loved Him.  What He stood for and accomplished has affected the lives of every person who has been on this planet since He was alive.  He never did anything mean or wrong to anyone and yet he was found guilty of a crime that He never committed.  He was murdered even though He had never committed a sin His entire life.

I few weeks ago I ran across this writing that Dr. James Francis wrote back in 1926.  Jesus, the person Dr. Francis is writing about is the single most important and influential person who has ever walked this earth and the majority of the people did not like Him one bit.

I think that we need to remember that it is more important for us to lead a life done the right way with purpose and meaning than it is for us to be liked and accepted by those around us.  On days, when it seems like the whole world is against you, there is another man who was feeling the same way over 2,000 years ago.  The best part is that Jesus is with us always so we never really are alone.  The most influential man who ever lived is on your side and loves you for exactly who you so take comfort in that.

 

Here is the writing of Dr. James Francis from 1926:

 

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty

He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where he was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but himself

He was only thirty three

His friends ran away
One of them denied him
He was turned over to his enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing
The only property he had on earth

When he was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind’s progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life

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Mushroom Bisque

Here is another recipe that is very healthy for you and still has a lot of taste.  If you like mushrooms, you will love this recipe, if you don’t then you probably won’t like this.  This would be really good dish to make on a cold day.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

Mushroom Bisque

What you will need:

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup light cream
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons flour
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon marjoram)
1/3 cup sherry
Chopped parsley (for garnish)

How to make it:

In 3 quart saucepan heat butter until melted. Saute onions and mushrooms 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Sprinkle with lemon. Blend in flour. Gradually stir in chicken broth. Cook, stirring until slightly thickened. Stir in cream and sherry. Heat and serve.

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Living the Sermon (Part 4)

mount 4

In Part 1 of this blog, we talked about the Sermon on the Mount and a little of the history behind this historic teaching by Jesus.  We also read Matthew 5, which is Part 1 of the Sermon on the Mount.  If you missed it, you can read it here.

In Part 2 of this blog series we read through Matthew 6, which is part 2 of the Sermon on the Mount.  If you missed this blog, you can read it here.

In Part 3 of this blog series we read through Matthew 7, which is the final part of the Sermon on the Mount.  If you missed this blog, you can read it here.

One of the problems in understanding the Sermon on the Mount is that we tend to break the sermon into segments without understanding that the colors of the whole transcend its individual parts.  The Sermon is a total and compelling word-painting.  It is a complete canvas. It begins with the Beatitudes.  The Beatitudes are a description of the one who follows Jesus; the Beatitudes are also a description of Jesus Himself.  In the Sermon, Jesus moves from this prologue to the Law of God and reveals what God had intended His Law to be from the moment of its revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai: It was to be the spirit of the Law that was to define one’s life, not legalistic encrustations of human tradition that it later became.  Many of the religious Jews of Jesus’ day were much more interested in their elders’ interpretations of the Law then they were in its original intent; their traditions painted over the bright, primary colors of the Law and dulled them with none essential dos-and-don’ts. God intended that the devout Jew through the Law would live his or her life.

If we say red to fifty different people, each individual will have their own specific mental image of red.  This is because colors can be deceptive.  A special collector’s edition of the magazine Scientific American Mind explored 187 optical illusions.  One article in this collection written by Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde entitled “Colors out of Space” revealed how colors can change with their surroundings and spread beyond the lines.   Two figures of the same color can appear absolutely different when featured upon backgrounds of different colors.

The Sermon on the Mount must be placed in its proper background in order to be properly understood.  If the Sermon is imposed upon an alien background, its colors will become distorted.  This true background for the Sermon consists of this: The Law of God was given out of God’s love for us so that the Law could reveal the sinfulness of the heart, drive the heart to grace and through grace conform the heart to the true image of God that originally comprised male and female.  When the Law does this, then we enter into a state of blessedness.  Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-18, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but fulfill them. 18For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

How, then, has Jesus fulfilled the law?  The Law of God consists of moral, civil and liturgical codes.  Many of the laws of the civil code applied to Israel and do not necessary apply today, at least not in their literal sense, although these laws do contain principles that are timeless; the laws pertaining to slavery have application to employer-employee relationships, and the laws of cisterns and ramparts contain principles pertaining to liability, to name a few.

The liturgical code, the laws of sacrifice for sin, all pointed to the future fulfillment of Christ’s one-time, perfect sacrifice on the cross (see Hebrews 8-10).   Perhaps it is theoretically possible that one could earn one’s salvation apart from grace by living the total Law of God perfectly, but, because of the Fall, not one of us could actually live up to this standard; it is an impossibility.  But Jesus did the impossible and lived the Law perfectly; He did it for us because none of us were capable of doing so.  He lived what we could not live so that we might become righteousness in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).   As Paul says in Romans 5:19, For as by the one man’s disobedience [Adam’s disobedience] the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience [the obedience of Jesus] the many will be made righteous. So Jesus fulfilled the Law by being the perfect sacrifice on the cross for our sins and by living the Law perfectly for us.

Jesus also fulfilled the Law and the Prophets by His having given us the Holy Spirit in our lives (John 16:7).  This fulfills the prophecy of Ezekiel 36:27 which says, And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules, as well as fulfills the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:33 which says, I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.  And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Paul states in Romans 8:2, For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:21 and Galatians 6:2 speaks of the “law of Christ” whereas James in 1:25 states,  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Jesus thus fulfills the Law three ways:

  1. in His perfect life lived for us because we could not live it
  2. in His work on the cross as the atonement for our sins
  3. in His now enabling the Law to be written in our hearts by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.

As Paul says in Romans 10:4, For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.  The Greek word that Paul uses in this passage for “end” means “goal,” “completion,” “perfection.”  Jesus is thus in all respects the perfection of the Old Testament Law.

The background for the Sermon on the Mount is this: The Law of God was given out of God’s love for us so that the Law could reveal the sinfulness of the heart, drive the heart to grace and through grace conform the heart to the true image of God that originally comprised male and female.  Jesus in this heart-penetrating sermon does not reinterpret the Law nor does He do away with it but reveals that the Law rips away all defenses of the heart and reveals its true motives.  The Law was never to be just simply a matter of obedience in and of itself, but to be a matter of obedience expressing one’s love and gratitude to a God of mercy and grace.

When God revealed His Law to Moses, He had already blessed Israel by delivering it out of the bondage of slavery and darkness.  God has now blessed us in Christ Jesus by delivering us from the domain of darkness and transferring us to the kingdom of his Beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).  We are now to view the Old Testament Law through new transplanted eyes, eyes that see through the lenses of the law of the Spirit and the law of Christ. When we do so, the principles embedded in these Old Testament Laws, the perfect law of liberty, become God’s instruction, or guides, to us; they teach us how we can love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength and how we can love our neighbor as ourselves.
If we are to become wise, we must heed God’s instruction as given in His Law because it is colored red with the blood of Christ.  When we learn and apply the principles embedded in the Law, we will be blessed with the blessings Jesus describes in the Beatitudes, as well as the blessing that the Psalmist describes in 1:1–2—provided we do what David says we must do in order to enter into this blessing: Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Put on Jesus, as we see Him in the Sermon on the Mount, and you will gain wisdom in the process.  Simply put, we need to study the type of person Jesus was and the life He lived and try to emulate that in our own lives.  In doing so, we will grow closer to Him and live to the full potential God has in mind for our lives.  We can’t be everything we were meant to be apart from Him.

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