July 27, 2013

I Can’t Have Both? – P. J. Anderson

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:31 pm by sranderson0103

Today is your lucky day kiddo! Your mother has randomly decided to spoil you because that is just what good mothers do. She is taking you to your favorite place in the world…the candy shop! The minivan is parked, and you are walking into the candy store.  Wow, look at all the thoughts racing through your mind!

As I enter the sweet haven of sugary goodness that some call diabetes, I try and not smile and giggle at the array of sour and chocolaty candies at my selection. Aisle by aisle and row by row of candy, the decision of picking candy is overwhelming. My mother being the smart and wise woman she is, senses this debacle and tries to help by saying I can only pick one piece of candy. But what is she thinking? Could she not see that I have my two favorite candies in my hand? In one hand the classic Charleston chews and in the other my mouthwatering warheads. How is a kid supposed to choose between two tempting candies? So I flutter my cute eyelashes up at my mom and say, “I can’t just have both?” She smiles with her deceiving dimples showing and sweetly says, “You only need one”.  I only need one, but I want both! Why can’t I have both?

For many of us, we just read an account of a moment from our childhood where we wanted more, but only received what we needed. Embarrassingly, this is not a problem that we only faced when we were younger; it is a spiritual problem that many Christians struggle with today.

If we are not for God, then we are against Him. We cannot be two faced with God. Sin and righteousness do not go together. We need to all live for Christ, or we might as well be against Him. 

“He who is not with Me is against Me”

Matthew 12:30

Are we trying to keep the bad with the good? Trying to take some of our guilty pleasures and sins into heaven with us? Being a Christian is the highest title that a human can be called to, wearing the name of Christ. As a Christian we are to put off our old ways of sin and do those things no more. Not just put off our former conduct, but also put on the new man and live in a way righteous and according to God.

“…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

Ephesians 4:22-24

If we have put on the new man of Christ, then we need to start acting like it. The new man is able to let go of the sins and pleasures the old man was addicted and clung to. The new man will instead cling to God and God’s way of life. The new man will not want his old ways; for that is why he changed into the new man he is today. He does not want both, because the old way was the way of hell, but the new way is the walk worthy of Heaven.

 

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July 21, 2013

How Do You Wake A Hibernating Bear? – P. J. Anderson

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 am by sranderson0103

Some people are very heavy sleepers. They can sleep through anything and not be disturbed at all.

“Hey Frank, you hear that tornado rip through town last night?”

“There was a storm last night?”

“Yeah, but how did you not hear it? It tore your roof right off!”

My grandpa is one that can sleep through a hailstorm, a train barreling across his backyard, or even one of his grandkids tapping him on the forehead. This sound sleeping led my cousins and I to call him the “Hibernating Bear.”  Being the old sport that my grandpa was, he would always go to bed around ten o’clock, hours before the other grandchildren and I would go to sleep. We never really had to worry about waking him up because that was impossible! I mean, how could one wake a hibernating bear?

Sadly, I have met some “hibernating Christians”, Christians who have fallen asleep and become spiritually dormant. I scratch my head at why they insist on calling themselves Christians when their actions are much to the contrary. The hibernating Christian starts by getting sleepy and tired of the demanding work that comes from being a follower of Christ, and decides to miss one Sunday for an early afternoon nap. But oh how we all know how one small nap can turn into a slumber, and how that laziness can soon turn one into a hibernating bear.

Missing that one Sunday leads to missing Wednesday nights. Then the game of phone-tag begins with other members calling and checking up on their sleepy brother. The sad part is the phone call does nothing because it is not enough to wake the lost member. What does it take to wake a hibernating Christian?

All it should take to wake a believer who has fallen away is reminding them of bible verses such as I Peter 1:4-8.

“to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time…(vs.8) whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

Verses like this should make Christians burst with excitement. When we read passages that talk about the incorruptible inheritance that is waiting for us in heaven and the prize of Jesus, we should rejoice with inexpressible joy. This should be enough to wake any sleeping Christian.  However, I am sad to say that even if you show the lost brother or sister verses like these and there is no change, then you may have a serious case of a hibernating Christian.

How do you wake up a hibernating bear? Well, one easy way to do that is fire. Add a little bit of heat to the den the bear is sleeping in, and immediately that fire will send signals to the bear that it is time to wake up. Fire is a very effective way to wake up a bear…but take extreme caution. The bear will be ready to bite and attack once it is awakened.

The same is true with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes they do not need another hug or loving card. They are sound asleep. Instead they need a fire to be lit within their heart to turn them back to the Lord.

“but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” Jude 1:23

One of the hardest things for us to do as humans is correct a fellow brother or sister in Christ, but when someone’s soul is on the line, it needs to be done swiftly. Use fear, use fire, and use the knowledge of God’s word to get them to wake up before the fire burns them forever. Remember, if you wake a sleeping bear it is going to attack; but if you save a Christian from Hell, then you will have covered a multitude of sins.

“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”

James 5:19-20

 

 

July 13, 2013

Hearts That Are Set – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:03 pm by sranderson0103

 “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel…” (Ezra 7:10).

Our hearts are not “totally depraved,” at birth as John Calvin claimed. We are born without sin (“transgression of the law,” I John 3:4). Our hearts are ready to be “programmed” for good or evil. Solomon urged, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov. 4:23). Therefore, like Ezra, we need to work hard to “set” or prepare our hearts.

The Hebrew word for “set” means, “to be established, be steadfast, be firm, be prepared;” Mounce Dictionary Of The Old Testament.

Ezra grew up in Babylon as a scribe of the Law. Artaxerxes, king of Persia, was now in control. Under the rule of this pagan king, the Israelites were allowed to practice Judaism. Under the direction of Ezra, the Israelites were taught the Law. In the midst of the idolatrous enemies of God’s people, in a far country, among the apostate Jews, Ezra determined to serve God and was successful in teaching and influencing his people to worship Jehovah.

The exiles observed the Passover on the fourteenth of the first month. For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were pure. Then they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, both for their brothers the priests and for themselves. (Ezra 6:19-20)

How in the world was Ezra able to accomplish this? The Holy Spirit explains: He prepared his heart to study, to practice and to teach God’s law. Do not imagine his actions were without extreme difficulty or fierce opposition. Nevertheless, his heart was “established … steadfast … firm … prepared.” The result? As we say in Arkansas, he “got ‘er done!”

But, worshiping in Babylon was never the ultimate goal. The Israelites dreamed of worshiping on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. An impossible fantasy? Not for one whose heart is set, who believed God’s promise of return and restoration.

The short version of this story is Ezra asked the king and “the king granted him all he requested…”  (Ezra 7:6)

Now this is the copy of the decree which King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, learned in the words of the commandments of the LORD and His statutes to Israel: “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace. And now I have issued a decree that any of the people of Israel and their priests and the Levites in my kingdom who are willing to go to Jerusalem, may go with you.” (Ezra 7:11-13)

Unimaginable, to most, but not to one whose heart is set firm on the laws and promises of God. Consider his response.

Blessed be the LORD, the God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to adorn the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, and has extended lovingkindness to me before the king and his counselors and before all the king’s mighty princes. Thus I was strengthened according to the hand of the LORD my God upon me… (Ezra 7:27-28)   

The significance of preparing one’s heart is emphasized by the opposite example of King Rehoboam, whose rebellion and sin led to the dividing of Israel into two kingdoms and eventually into the captivity. These judgments came when, unlike Ezra, “He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the LORD…” (II Chronicles 12:14)  Ezra “set his heart….”  Rehoboam “did not set his heart…”  The word translated “set” is the same in both passages. Rehoboam’s actions led Israel into captivity. Ezra led them out.

The New Testament gives Christians the same responsibility that the Old Testament gave to Ezra: study, practice and teach God’s word. Ezra’s example is recorded to encourage us to follow.  Set your heart!

 

July 6, 2013

A Devine Lamentation – James W. Adams

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:16 pm by sranderson0103

“O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments, always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (Deut. 5:29.)

The statement above is Jehovah’s response to the children of Israel’s promise, made at the foot of smoking, quaking Sinai, to “hear and do all that He would speak unto them.”

It is threefold in character. First, it has the character of a lamentation because God knew that Israel would not keep her promise, that she would in fact repudiate the covenant through idolatry and immorality and bring upon her His wrath and punishment. Second, it has the character of a wish or desire upon God’s part. If men are lost, they are lost because of their own free choice and not because God willed it so. Paul said, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3, 4.) Third, it has the character of parental solicitude, an expression of Divine love. God “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all” thus indicating that he yearns over lost humanity with the tender care and concern of a loving and heartbroken father over the wayward ways of a recreant and prodigal son.

True Religion Defined

In Jehovah’s lamentation, there is contained a definition of true religion as to its seat, its motivation, and its expression. The seat of religion is the human heart, God said, “O that there were such a heart in them…” True religion, therefore, is religion of the heart. It cannot be inherited, practiced by proxy, nor expressed by mere outward observance of ritualistic forms. It must emanate from the heart, hence must engage the intellect, the emotions, and the will. It is at once intelligent, sincere, and purposeful.

True religion must be motivated by the fear of God. God said, “That they would fear me.” The fear of God is not the craven fear of a condemned criminal, but a deep-seated respect and reverence for God as our maker, our ruler, our judge, and our savior. Every act of religion must spring from reverence for him, his laws, and his institutions. Conversely speaking, every human innovation that has plagued the people of God from the beginning has been born of a lack of proper reverence and respect for Him. Its originator may have made loud protestations of sincerity, love and devotion as the basis for his invention, but at its root has been, consciously or unconsciously, a lack of reverence for Jehovah.

True religion must express itself in the keeping of God’s commandments. God said, “That they keep all my commandments, always.” This suggests that one cannot separate religion and revelation. There is no way man can know the will of God apart from revelation. Man does not and cannot know the will of God intuitively. Well did the weeping prophet say, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps.” (Jer. 10:23.) Paul corroborates his statement by saying, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1 Cor. 1:21.)

It is likewise evident from God’s statement that he permits neither human preference nor situational modification and application of his law. Divine grace provides for human imperfections in man’s compliance with the will of God, but not partiality. Imperfections result from man’s being “weak through the flesh” (Rom. 8:3.), whereas partiality –choosing to do or not to do — results from a willful rejection of God’s right to rule over us. God expects and has provided for the former through the offering of his own Son, but he will not tolerate the latter. To do so would be subversive of the majesty of his law and the vitality of his government.

The expression, “all my commandments,” precludes man’s regarding them with partiality. The word, “always,” rejects the possibility of situational modification and application. A situation could only modify divine law when the law itself provides for contingencies or choice. In the absence of such provisions, the law is immutable. It is, therefore, neither legalistic nor incompatible with true religion to demand a “thus saith the Lord” for every act of work or worship.

On the other hand, the blessings of religion are also relative. The practitioner of true religion wields a righteous influence upon others, particularly those of his own house.

God said, “And with their children.” Someone has said, “It only takes one generation of young people who have not been taught the truth to bring about complete apostasy among the people of God.” If we are careful to practice true religion, it will be well with our children as well as with us. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) Verily, we are “our brother’s keepers.”

Finally, the blessings of true religion are eternal. Being spiritual in character, they are as eternal as God and the human spirit. They are, as our text suggests, “forever!” This being true, whether or not our religion is true religion is a matter of greatest concern to us. Do we “have a heart to fear God and keep all his commandments, always, that it may be well with us and our children forever?”