Monthly Archives: May 2012

Beware, Lion ahead

The temptations of Jesus make for an interesting lesson but a major lesson (often forgotten) is what happened afterward.

Temptations are those enticements to sin and violate God’s will in our life. While many may consider that Satan is the source of these sins in our lives, the Scriptures are clear that sin begins in our heart, within ourselves.  Here are two passages:

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  (Mar 7:20-23)
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. (Jas 1:14-16)

These two passages indicate that the source of sin comes from our heart. Satan may inflame those desires, but he does not generate them. If temptations are from our own desires, then it follows that if our desires are under control, that temptations will not have as much pull upon us. One of the ways that we remove the temptations is by removing the desire.

Desire, when it comes to temptations, is not simply “wants” but “wants” that are beyond God’s boundaries. The English word is “Lusts”.  One of the things Jesus had working for Him was that He did not desire things that went beyond doing God’s will. This is why Satan’s temptations did not have an effect on Jesus.

But what about after the temptations? Was that it? Satan just gave up and said “I can’t beat you?” No! not at all.

And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luk 4:13)

This is an important point to see. The Devil did not simply give up, he waited for another opportunity.  Examples of such other opportunities may be seen in Peter’s insistence that Jesus should not die (Mt 16:23), when the people wanted to make Him their King, (Jn 6:14-15) and even in the hours leading up to Crucifixion. (Lk 22:41-44)

In our lives, we sometimes are able to overcome desires that God does not approve. However, we must never think that Satan is done with us.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1Pe 5:8)

While we should always be endeavoring to overcome our weaknesses, we should never think that Satan is done trying. If he did not stop tempting Jesus while He was here on the earth, one should not think that we will also fail to endure more temptations.

 

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Godliness: not the action only.

From my last post, you may have gathered the idea that godliness is something that cannot be defined by form only. The motive of your action has as much to do with it being godly as the action itself. In other words, where is your heart? As an example, the Pharisees prayed in public seeking the honor of men. This makes an action (prayer), which is something a godly person does, into an action that is not godly but merely a form of godliness.

It seems obvious that Godliness has to do with God. But as such it is solely a “facing God”, “directed towards God” or, “motivated by God” action. “God-ward” is a word I have seen used. You might even say “This action is dedicated to God”.

No one should dedicate something to someone which would disappoint them or with which they would disagree.

Google images

I recently saw an episode of Undercover Boss where the CEO of the flower company named a flower display after one particularly inspirational employee. She was honored.  It was a cheerful arrangement like her. Imagine if he had dedicated a “funeral bouquet’ to her. That would not be pleasing.  Many years ago, I named a calf after a friend of mine and she was not flattered. (Lesson learned!) Likewise, we need to be equally careful what we dedicate to God.

Godliness does not take into account what other people will think, it takes into account what God will think.  David danced before the ark of the Lord as it came to Jerusalem. (God approved, his wife did not.) Abraham picked up and traveled, not knowing where he was going to wind up, just because God told him to. (I wonder what his family thought about that.) Moses left the riches of Egypt in order to serve God and deliver Israel. While the 10 commandments movie may not be accurate in all accounts, I can imagine his Egyptian family trying to talk Moses out of leaving, as they did in the movie.

It doesn’t mean that godly men are perfect men. Abraham lied twice about Sarah being his wife, David committed murder and adultery, Moses got angry without cause and the list of sins committed by our heroes can be multiplied. This is an important point to notice because we sometimes elevate these heroes and then judge ourselves by them, concluding that we cannot live up to their example. Wrong conclusion!

Godliness fits well into this list of qualities that Peter emphasizes because it brings the heart and motivation into the mix. We may have the virtue, knowledge, self-control, and perseverance but so, it seems, did the church at Ephesus. To that church, Jesus said that they still had the problem of having lost their first love: they had become ritualistic. They had the Form but not the heart.

Heart is one thing that makes up godliness. Desire is the other, desire of the right thing. All of the Godly men and women, not only wanted to serve God but had a strong desire for something unique. That unique something was not in this world but in the one that they could not see.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Heb 11:13-16)

Their mind was not set on the things of this world but on the things of the world to come. They could have gone back. Perhaps they could have said, “I want to serve God but please let me do it from where I am at”. Abraham did not do that, Ruth did not do that. Even Jesus left where he was at to serve not just God but us. Paul tells the Colossians:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3)

This seems to be the heart of godly living, a focus that is on God and not on this world. We are pilgrims here and we not only need to live like pilgrims but talk like pilgrims. What we have in this world is nice, and some of us have really nice things, but what we will have in Heaven is so much more. Godliness will get us there.

Adding Godliness

Peter provided a list of 7 characteristics that he, basically, says are necessary qualities for the Christian to have in order to get to Heaven. Having worked with the first four, we now look at Godliness.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2Pe 1:5-7)

There is a lot to think about with the characteristic of godliness. For example, what exactly is godliness? I like to ask that question because godliness seems to be a little vague. In the Greek, there is a word used that sometimes is translated “pious” or “piety”, in the Hebrew there is a word that started out meaning “kind”  but evolved to “religiously pious”. (I am not a Greek or Hebrew expert, mind you, I am simply using Strong’s concordance.) But to say that godliness is “piety”, a word that most of us do not use too often does not really help us.

One way you might learn what a word means is by learning what it is not. Perhaps you might remember when Gilligan was adopted by the Howell’s on the TV show “Gilligan’s Island”. Suddenly, he was not able to associate with the common folks: his old friends. In a humorous way, we see that being called by a certain name requires a certain lifestyle. The same is true for those of us called by the name of Christ.

Godliness cannot be defined by it’s form. Paul warns us about those who have a form of godliness but have denied the power of it.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2Ti 3:1-5)

Appearing to be godly is not the same as being godly. Not that these people would appear to be godly if they actually acted like Paul says, so they hide those characteristics and adopt a form of godliness. Perhaps they are a bit like the Pharisees:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. (Mat 6:5-7)

Both types of these prayers (of the Pharisees and Gentiles) have the form of godliness. One is done publicly, but not internally, and the other is done as if repetition alone would be of some value. Neither examples of prayer takes into consideration that there must be a sincerity that comes from the heart in order to make the actions which appear to be godly to actual godliness.

One more passage that talks about godliness and shows the opposites of it is this one:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works. (1Ti 2:8-10)

If I am correct, the “likewise” ties what Paul says about men and women together; both need to have godliness (even though it only specifically mentions it in the section about women). What would not be appropriate to godliness for men is “anger or quarreling” and for women focusing on “braided hair, gold, pearls, costly attire”.  The opposite then, of prayer with holy hands, and respectable apparel and good works should be considered part of godliness..

Yet, there is more that can be said about godliness. Lord willing we will tomorrow.

Building a sermon

This next Sunday, Lord willing, we will be discussing the characteristic of godliness, continuing our look at the qualities that Peter mentions in 2 peter 1.  We will look at the text from Timothy to illustrate godliness where Paul writes:

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.  (1Ti 4:7-10 ESV)

from google image

The focus of this post is to ask a question concerning “Train yourself”. When one goes into training, there are several things that he needs to do (or stop doing) or have, or get rid of in order to make the training effective. For example, two items that come to mind real quick are diet and encouragement. You may give up certain foods in order to provide the body a more healthy choice of nutrition. You may hire a Personal trainer (if this were a gym setting), a Drill Sargeant will do nicely in the army to encourage you to prepare better to meet the goals needed.

While the idea of a Gym work out might be a good setting, an soldier setting might be more appropriate to the overall feel of a spiritual war.

The question is: What do you think is necessary to engage in a good training? If you were going to have someone help you train, what would it look like?  I would like your thoughts.

Thinking like God does.

I was thinking about my posts on self-control and thinking and it brought to mind another thought.

When God says in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts…” one might be excused for saying “No kidding!” The one thing we do not seem to do naturally is think like God does.  I suppose that “Amen!” would be a better response since “No kidding!” might appear to be a little sarcastic.

We need to develop a thought process that is like God’s.  We need to think about things, what God thinks about things!

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!  (Isa 5:20-23)

This world has lost its sense of God-thought. His is the opinion that we most should want to imitate. However, we decide that we are going to celebrate the bad and chastise the good. Even though there are many movies where we do root for the good guy, there are plenty where we root for the villain. And if it is not the villain, it is the good guys doing something  wrong and we ‘justify the means by the end”. We cloud the lines of how our heroes should be, from Professional sports players who are role models (despite their protestations) and get sent to jail for drugs, fighting, evading taxes, pick your crime to fictional characters like Vampires and Warlocks that we swoon over.

Do we root for the couple on our favorite sit-com or evening drama show to move in together or do we cringe when the lights dim and the clothes start coming off….For those of us who would turn away from shows that promote a pro-homosexual relationship, we should be consistent enough to do the same for relationships that are heterosexual the parties are not married. (Even so, there is way to much NOT left to the imagination in most of any of those shows)

Do we think more about how to fund our 401k so that we can retire wealthy or do we think of how we can use our money for promoting the Kingdom of God? Do we consider our things to be ‘our’ things rather than a loan from God where we have a stewardship?

Or are we more like those who refuse to have God in their knowledge. The end of those people is seen in every generation:

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 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. (Rom 1:22-25)

God knows who He is. God knows what is the right thing to do. We are the ones with the questions and fortunately, God is not sitting up in Heaven withholding answers. He has shared them with us both in His Bible and in His Son.If we follow His lead, we will learn to think about our life, our purpose, our money, our time, our family, our relationship to all mankind in the way that He does. We will think about the things that world has to offer as the insignificant, temporary, unappealing, unprofitable, soon to be burned up things that they are and with that type of thinking, we will shy away from it.

We can’t avoid the world but we can avoid becoming like the world. Let’s think about things the way God thinks about them. In that way, we will truly be able to be lights in a dark place.

Perverting Grace

I always like it when a Scripture generates an idea or a thought and in it’s own way teaches me, reminds me, and confirms to me that there is much to be learned by constantly reading, or in this case listening to, the Bible. As I was preparing to go through Revelation on my CD, Jude is the first track. I almost skipped by it but thought “why not listen to it”….I mean, it is only one chapter and it is part of  God’s word too. This verse struck me:

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jud 1:4)

Jude wanted to write to them about other things but he found it necessary to remind his audience that sometimes it is necessary to contend for the faith.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  (Jud 1:3)

You see, sometimes, we need to stand up for the faith. However, Jude was not writing about those outside the group of believers but some of those from within. Which is not to say that they were necessarily much better than those in the world, but it is to say that the truly faithful had not been paying much attention; they had let their guard down.

These people who Jude mentioned were Perverting the Grace of God. Other versions use “turning” or “converting” the Grace of God. Which is to say, sadly, that God’s grace can be perverted. How does one go about doing that? By turning it into what it never was: A blanket covering for all sin, a get out of jail free card, a blank check.

You see, if you properly understand the doctrine about grace, you will come to realize that God is very willing to forgive us for our sins. In fact, to the Christian, we have the blood of Jesus to forgive us our sin as John says in 1 John 1:9

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1Jn 1:7)

Or as Paul says:

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Rom 8:1)

Those who pervert the grace of God focus on the blood that cleanses or the lack of condemnation but tend to omit or deemphasize the other part of the same verse: Walking in the light or walking after the spirit. They do this so that they can focus on the freedom that is in Christ and take it to the extreme.

Jude says that they convert the grace of God in to sensuality, an excuse to enjoy the pleasures of this life. “Oh I can go forward Sunday and ask for forgiveness” this person thinks. Or simply pray for God’s forgiveness.

One day at a previous job, I had the occasion to walk by a co-worker who looked a bit sad. I knew him more from some of the Bible studies that had taken place at work during lunchtime. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that his family was not so happy with him. Why not you ask? Well, it seems that they were not happy that he was living with his girlfriend and they were getting on his case about it. Sounds reasonable, right?

However, his next statement shocked me: His defense was “They just don’t know how the Spirit is leading me!” What was that?

You know, I really don’t try to make judging statements but I can say one thing for real sure: God’s Spirit was not leading him into a relationship of fornication. Try as he might, I know, and any rational person knows, that God is consistent in His character and the character that He wants from his followers. This co-workers action was neither walking in the light nor was it walking by the Spirit.

We need to be on guard about those who would promote this life of sensuality while saying that God’s grace will take care of it all.

 

Helping a person persevere.

I asked the question in my last blog: What do you think is the best way to help a person continue to persevere? Maudie says to be there, listen and to help them fight (summarized) and that is a good answer. Since that answer has been taken, I will offer a different one. (I am glad more of you didn’t respond, I might not have had a different one to offer)

In order to help a person persevere, you have to be able to show them either hope or purpose and those two things sometimes get intertwined. We need to know where we are going in order for a clarity of purpose to emerge in our lives.

When Job was suffering due to Satan’s torments, he first lost his possessions and family, then he lost his health, the joy of living and was only left with his wife and three rather unhelpful friends. While they could have been a help, his wife was encouraging him to let go of his integrity and “curse God and die”. His friends were more interested in finding some fault in Job–he must have done something really wrong.

But Job was a man who trusted God and he knew that life and even death are only worth facing if God is with you. That is the answer.

Christians are sometimes told that their lives are a contradiction. Living holy lives is being selfish, that we only do so because we want to go to Heaven and not to Hell. This misses a very important point. Christians know that without God in their life, they dare not die. Because to do so would truly be death indeed.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Rom 3:23 KJV)
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 6:23 KJV)

Christians know, need to be reminded, that without Christ’s sacrifice that the only destination for them is Hell. To be reminded that they recognized that they are dying and so they grabbed  on to the one chance that they had to live. Now they are reminded to not let go! Is that selfish? If it is, then you must condemn the drowning man who grabs on to the life-preserver that is tossed to him. That man knows that he is dying and when it is tossed to him, his only chance is to grab hold and let himself be pulled to safety.

Both the drowning man and the dying sinner understand one thing: Life is preferable to death.We all know this.

When we fully grasp that we only have one way to go into eternity as a living soul, then persevering will not be a drag, it will become a necessity. The difficulties of this world will seem as nothing compared to the riches of the life to come.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.  (Heb 11:13-16 KJV)

We always have an opportunity to return to the world but we are those who do not turn back. We persevere because we know that Heaven will be worth it. We remove the thorns from our little patch of soil and let the good seed that is implanted into our hearts produce fruit and salvation in our lives. We look to Jesus who also suffered the temptations we do and yet did not sell HIS soul for the porridge that the Devil offered him.

Having been redeemed, how can we turn back? From the poem by Robert William Service “Carry on my son, Carry on”.

From Revelation: Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. (Rev 14:12 ESV)

Fight on! Don’t give up! As my brother Dee Bowman has said so often: If you miss Heaven, you’ve missed all there is. Once I again, I say “Persevere, my brother, persevere!”

Adding perseverance

This morning’s lesson dealt with the quality of perseverance, sometimes translated steadfastness, patience or endurance. Keeping in mind that Peter’s list of qualities which we need to add to our faith includes perseverance, we might ask why he includes this one. I think that perseverance is the quality which best compliments self-control because anyone can exercise self-control for a short period of time, maybe seconds, hours or a few days but to live a life time of self-control takes perseverance.

The idea of perseverance is that you do so willingly, not out of force. God does not force us to serve Him; we choose to do so. Also, while we persevere under the circumstances that befall us, we are not to go looking for trouble. When I was in 3rd grade, my dad told me that if a bully tried to beat me up I should go find an “equalizer” (e.g. a stick or piece of wood to help out). What he did not tell me to do was to go get an equalizer and then go knock on the bully’s house and challenge him to a fight. Which is exactly what I did! I did suffer for that but Peter also tells his audience not to endure suffering for doing wrong.

For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. (1Pe 2:20)

Another idea to keep in mind is that persevering just for the sake of persevering is not a good thing either. John writes in Revelation that the Ephesian church was a persevering church:

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. (Rev 2:2-3)

However, they had a major problem: Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (Rev 2:4)

It seems as if the Ephesian church was all about the mechanics of being a church of God and not about the Love of being that church. Perseverance without the other qualities that make a Christian life Christian will not avail anything in the end.

The implication in saying that we should add Perseverance to our Self-control is that there will be resistance to our Self-control. I mean, how hard is it to persevere when there are no obstacles in your way? Perseverance is a fruit of the trials we go through, which is why, not only do we hear that we will go through them, but we are told to count our trials as a source of joy, knowing that it will help our faith.

And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”  (Act 14:21-22)

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (Jas 1:2-3)

It can be easy to quit but we need to continue to persevere as Christians in our service to the Lord.  Jesus warns us about starting and not finishing:

And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luk 9:61-62)

The Hebrew writer says:

For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “FOR YET A LITTLE WHILE, AND HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME AND WILL NOT TARRY. NOW THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; BUT IF ANYONE DRAWS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb 10:36-39)

When we look at the examples of perseverance from the Scriptures, we see plenty of examples that we can follow. In another post, I would like to look at those examples and see what we can learn from them. Here’s a question for you:

What do you think is the best way to help a person continue to persevere?

Self control in thinking. How do to it! Part 2

This week has been a week of thinking about thinking, striving to understand the need to control our thinking, what thoughts lead us from God and finally, how to control the thinking process.

I quoted this passage in yesterday’s blog. Today, I want to look at it a little more.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Php 4:4-9)

Before discussing it though, this is not an appeal to “Just think positive thoughts and it will all be ok”, it is more along the line of the song from Jungle Book “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative”. I am not naive enough to think that this will be an easy process. Simple (as I said yesterday), but not easy.

I think that if we apply this passage, it will help us control our thinking:

First, We will rejoice in the Lord! (shall I say it again? Sure, if Paul can, so can I!) Rejoice!

It is not easy to focus on things that get you down, cause you problems, or tempt you away from God if you are rejoicing in the Lord. This, to my mind, means that if we are properly thankful to God for the gift of salvation that He gave us, we will be rejoicing because of it. If we are truly thinking about the joys of going to Heaven, we will be anxiously looking for and waiting for our Lord to return.  Even when we go through the inevitable trials of life, we will do as James said and “count it all joy” and agree with Paul that the difficulties of this life are not to be compared to the riches of the life to come. In other words, it is hard to be thinking about sinful, gossipy, angry thoughts if we are rejoicing in the Lord. There is only room for one thought at a time.

Second, let your gentleness be known to all men. (“reasonableness” NKJV). This deals with how you treat others. It is hard to be focusing on your self wants if you are being kind to others, especially those who are not Christians. Your light (which you should always let shine “let it shine, let it shine, let it shine”) will reflect to them that there is a God and in chapter two of this book, we are called lights: reflective like the moon. How do you know that the Sun is shining bright when it is night-time? Because the moon reflects the sun’s light. How do you know the Son is shining in this world of darkness? Because WE reflect His light!)

The Lord is at hand.  No kid steals a cookie from the cookie jar with Mom in the same room. Remember the song “There’s an eye watching you” ?  Well, there  is!

In nothing be anxious. Still, there will be times that even with all of the intent of our hearts, we may still wind up being anxious or perhaps fearful and those are times to turn to God in prayer to remove the anxiety. Make those requests known! Even Jesus made a request just before going to the cross. However, we are to do so with thanksgiving and realize that everything we have is from Him, and that whatever path He leads us on, even should it lead to death, only takes us closer to being with Him.

With those steps, Paul says, the peace of God will guard our hearts and thoughts. If God is guarding them, then I would say they are in good hands. But Paul does go on and says that we should also THINK in a certain way. Those things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue or praiseworthy are the  things on which we should meditate. Not the conspiracy emails, the gain of riches, the gossip at work, the latest games our friends are playing on FB or their status, and as for the TV shows….oh don’t me started on the many different TV show messages that run contrary to the heart of God and therefore, should run contrary to  our heart as well!

What do you meditate on? David said the righteous man, meditates on God’s law (Psalms 1).

Then Paul says in different words but with the same thought “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ”. What better goal could we have than to attempt to bring our thoughts under control so that our actions, which proceed from those thoughts, will be godly and wholesome and God honoring.

Comments anyone?

Self control in thinking. How do to it! Part 1

This whole week I have been posting about controlling our thoughts. Up until now, I have discussed the difficulties in doing so. I think we all understand that we need to. However, the problem is in doing so.

It is from the heart that a man’s thoughts originate. But in order to produce the same actions that God does, that heart needs to be facing in a certain direction or made of a certain caliber of material.  Getting our hearts to be more in tune with God’s will is simple but it is not easy. It is simple because we simply need to learn more of him, spend more time with him, and get to know Him better. This will cause us to take on His characteristics.

I am sure we have witnessed this phenomenon in ourselves or in others. As we grew up, we may have wanted to be different from our fathers or mothers but as time goes on, we adopted their characteristics: their manners, laughs, phrases, gestures, etc. Even though there is plenty of room for a variety of unique qualities in our own life, still some minor and sometimes major qualities were passed to us by our parents through a variety a means: discipline, example, and simply spending time with them.

In the wilderness as God was revealed to Israel, there is an interesting passage that helps us understand why God did not take on a particular form.

“Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice. (Deu 4:11-12)

“Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. (Deu 4:15-18)

If you read that like I am reading it, you will conclude that God did not appear to them in some specific form because He knew that they would make an image to try to capture what He looked like.  But what image does LOVE take on? God is love. In a sort of “I told you so” way, even when Jesus, God in the flesh, came to show us the Father and how He would live, we see numerous attempts to capture His image. I little doubt that the paintings and carvings bear no resemblance at all to his physical appearance but more importantly they do not capture His character.

So the simple part is to spend as much time with God as we do with our parents until His characteristics ‘grow on us’. Of course, as simple as that is, it is not easy with all of the things that are tugging on us, trying to pull us away, capture our imagination and entice us into a life that is more self-centered than God-centered.

One of the many passages that will help us to control our thinking comes from the book of Philippians.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Php 4:4-9)

I will note a couple of things in this passage today and finish tomorrow.

First, Paul says that the “peace of God” will guard your hearts and thoughts and then in the end says that the “God of peace” will be with us. Peace of God, God of peace, either way there will be peace and I would suggest it includes peace of mind.

Second, Paul says in both cases that if we do certain things we will have this gift and I want to talk about those tomorrow. However, in the mean time, read that passage again and see if you might be able to determine why the actions Paul tells us to have will result in a peace that will guard our hearts and minds.

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