Pure in Heart

Image result for pearl

I pray all will re-familiarize themselves with Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13: 45&46 — The Pearl of Great Worth. 

 

In eastern cultures, the pearl is a beautiful simile, which affords us an opportunity to discover significant symbolic value in Jesus’ parable. There’s a lot more to this parable of the Kingdom of God, but for now, we pluck up this up one thing that we may elucidate its truth.

 

Momentarily we set aside the aesthetic and artistic desirability of pearl and instead discover its symbolic worth, by discerning the spiritual truth it represents. By doing so it may aid us in discovering the true interpretation of Jesus’ parable of “The Pearl of Great Worth.” I hope to offer that interpretation more fully in a later post.

 

The pearl is produced by a living organism. Its manufacture is the result of injury or harm to the life—to the health of the creature. Some foreign thing such as a grain of sand intrudes, and becomes lodged within the oyster or clam. The shellfish then secretes nacre, or mother of pearl, coating the harmful intruder with layer upon layer, until a pearl is formed.

 

It’s very suggestive that the equivalent word for “pearl” in New Testament Greek is margarites, meaning purity. That word was likely derived from the Sanskrit word for purity. The pearl is a symbol of purity and innocence.

 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

 

Purity (pearl) is the response of a living organism to the introduction of something harmful into its being. Think of the introduction of sin into the human heart in the Garden of Eden—certainly a very injurious contamination.

 

Perhaps it’s a person’s response to the harsh realities of life in a sin cursed world which will determine whether or not the production of purity begins? By response, I’m intimating “faith.”

 

“For it is by grace you are saved through faith…” Eph. 2:8a

 

We can see the similarity between a grain of sand entering a clam, which is first an irritant to the shellfish, but later on, if not dealt with, it can actually destroy the life of the clam. God has purposes for allowing evil to temporarily enter into the world, of which, we are woefully incapable of comprehending. Knowing the end from the beginning, God allowed sin to enter every human heart, for a purpose. Remember, He has the cure for sin, paid our penalty for sin, and makes a way for us to be sin-free again, through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

As a former weight lifter, I can attest to the fact that resistance builds strength. And, “…Suffering produces perseverance…” (Ro. 5: 3), and, “the trying of our faith works patience.” We see this principle demonstrated throughout scripture and in our lives on this big spinning rock called earth.

 

God uses hardships, difficulties, trials, persecution, etc., as tools in sanctifying us (making us pure, or holy). And all of these bad things result because of sin.

 

There’s much more I could say, but I wanted to leave you to ponder the simple thought I’ve presented. For though simple, I believe it sublime. Comments welcome.

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Categories: Bible, Christian Doctrine, Christian Living, Jesus' Parable, Sanctification, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Phases of Salvation

 

Been Saved, Being Saved & Will Be Saved

 

Without a lucid understanding of God’s entire and perfect plan for the redemption of mankind, certain scriptures could possibly be confusing. There are three phases to salvation; hence, the bible uses three tenses in delineating the doctrine of salvation. For me personally, it took many years to understand this—I was saved at 12 years old.

 

Briefly, let’s lay the following stone of truth that we may clear a path to our main topic.

We are saved by a free gift from God called Grace. Grace is bestowed upon those who believe and place their trusting faith in Christ Jesus— the truth. And forever after that, God’s grace continues working for the soul who is saved. Grace is not a once and done kind of thing. When the Lord regenerates us (2 Cor. 5:17) we’ve been born again, and a magnificent transformation has begun. All that we shall be discussing here is included in the works of God’s amazing Grace. In fact, all of God’s dealings with every soul He has regenerated (saved) is included in the works of His grace, even His discipline. All the various giftings for service and for glorifying Him, and for the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are gifts of grace and works of grace: God’s work, not ours. His grace even fulfills every one of our needs and provides love, peace, joy, bodily provisions and inner strength, etc., etc.. When it comes time for our bodies to turn back to dust, the Lord even gifts us with grace to die with inner peace and assurance, looking forward to where we’re going.

 

SALVATION

 

The study of salvation, known among theologians as soteriology, includes all three tenses of past, present and future. The bible uses all three in referring to those of us who’ve been redeemed and are heaven bound. Some verses indicate that we who are in Christ have been saved. Other passages say we are being saved, while still others say we will be saved. The truth in Christ reveals all three to be correct at the same time. The past tense is true because God is doing this work of saving us, and that which from our perspective is yet to be done, is so certain that we can speak of it as already having taken place. If we have truly believed, then we have been saved, and the next two phases or stages both: are happening, and will happen, just as sure as water is wet. God is not bound by time—He is the creator of it and is outside of time, so He sees the completed products of His grace. He sees you and I as we will be in heaven. Time is for us, though it serves God’s purpose. He does not need the differing tenses, but we do, because we are bound within time, until it, at a final point, shall cease to exist. From our current perspective we could say that eternity is one exceedingly long and never ending day.

 

In view of demonstrating the varying tenses scripture employs I’ve cited three verses—each refers to salvation and each uses a different tense.

 

First, we have Past Tense.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” Ephesians 2:8–9.

 

Next, we move to present tense.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

 

Finally, here’s an example verse containing both the past and the future tense of salvation.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! Romans 5:9

 

This last verse is the perfect launching pad from which to discuss all three tenses. Because the doctrine of salvation, known in theological language as Soteriology (repetition deliberate) makes it exceptionally clear that there are 3 Phases to Salvation.

Those who have been born again of the Spirit, and who belong to Christ Jesus, AKA the redeemed or believers are right now in the middle, or current phase of salvation.

The gospel of Christ discloses:

  1. What has already taken place in the past for those who believe.
  2. What is currently taking place within those who believe.
  3. What will happen to those who believe when Jesus returns.

 

At this point we should identify the biblical terms for each of these 3 stages of salvation. They are as follows:

  1. Justification
  2. Sanctification
  3. Glorification

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JUSTIFICATION

Through the atoning blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, that is, through His sacrificial death, we are forever justified before God. Justified means our sins have been forgiven.  A simple way to remember what justification accomplishes is “It’s just as if I never sinned!” Our sins are taken away and we are covered (covered is the meaning of the word atonement) by the righteousness of Jesus. We are given the righteousness of Christ as a covering. The blood of Christ cleanses us and His righteousness covers us. We are made right in the sight of God, by God Himself. To justify is actually a legal term and is important in keeping with God’s nature of being a “just” (right and good) judge. Jesus took our sins upon Himself, and in return covered us with His righteousness, making us right with God. We are straight up and down, perpendicular or justified before God. As a good judge God has seen to it that justice was done when He poured out His wrath against sin as Jesus hung on the cross. He saw to it that the penalty for sin was imposed and carried out. Jesus became sin for us, so that He could take the penalty that we deserved. Now that our sin debt has been paid, we have been (past tense) justified in God’s sight.

Jesus Christ is our deliverer! He delivered us from the penalty for sin. The penalty is death. This is being Justified.

 

But wait, what about the real us on the inside? I’m only covered with righteousness, viewed that way by God, but not righteous in actuality. We still sometimes sin! God did not pay our sin debt for us just so we could continue being such horrible sinners. On the contrary, He has justified us so that He could give to us His Holy Spirit, that we may have the requisite power to say “No!” to our sin nature, and overcome it in this life. Simply being justified is not the final product of salvation. Once justified we begin the growing process of sanctification. We are becoming holy, like Jesus. He is our perfect and exhaustive deliverer. God’s power in the form of His Holy Spirit doesn’t only give us the ability to do what pleases God, He also gives us the desire to do what is right and what pleases God—the urge to do His will, and the power to work it out.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13 NLT

 

I’ve been saving this point for right here, but first allow me to preface it with the following. I myself still have urges to do what the sinful flesh wants, like to be noticed as someone of importance. Vanity and pride still wage war against my new life in the Spirit, and this conflict will continue for you and for me until we are glorified. Romans 7 & 8 make this clear. But I am saved. I love God and all that is good. But my flesh still loves the world. I have to deny myself (the flesh), take up my cross and follow Jesus. I must decide daily to die to the flesh and choose to love God more than myself. See Luke 9:23, and Galatians 2:20.

I’ve stated that to ask, which do YOU love more? Oh wow, yes, I just shifted to a personal and pointed voice, because I love YOU and I don’t want to see you be eternally lost. But this is between you and God, I’m just a messenger. I believe a true test for whether or not we are saved could be: which do we love more—God or ourselves? Has God given you the DESIRE to please Him? If so, you are saved. If you choose to follow the flesh over the Spirit most of the time, you probably do not have saving faith. But you still can be saved by TRUSTING Christ with your life. Among other things, this involves doing things His way, knowing that He is going to give us everything that is good. I can humble myself because God has promised to exalt me. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

 

SANCTIFICATION      pho2

To sanctify in the biblical sense means: to set apart as holy, to be used for holy purposes. The words; Saint, Holy, Set-apart, and Sanctify all come from the same root word in the Greek.

Currently, those who are in Christ are saved, and also are being saved, by undergoing sanctification: maturing and growing in holiness. True believers live in the resurrection power of Christ. We are buried with Him by baptism into His death, identifying with Him in His death, so that we may also rise with Him to walk in a new life by His power. We are being conformed to the image of God’s holy Son, Jesus. During this sanctifying process Jesus delivers us from the power of sin, giving us His Spirit. Holy Spirit is the dynamic employed to overcome personal sin, and live in a way that is pleasing to God. Jesus and Holy Spirit are both praying for us.

 

 

GLORIFICATION

When Jesus comes and calls us home to heaven and the saved are raised to life, we shall receive new spiritual bodies that do not sin—ever! The bodies we have now will be raised and radically changed from fleshly bodies to spiritual bodies (see 1st Corinthians chapter 15). We will be delivered from the very presence of sin. This is the final phase of salvation and it is called glorification.

 

“For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined He also called, those He called He also justified, those He justified He also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30

Did you notice how the “glorified” is in the past tense? That’s because it is so certain to happen! And God sees the completely saved you—after the 3rd phase.

 

Jesus saves us in three ways.

  1. He has delivered us from the penalty of sin—Justified (past).
  2. He is currently delivering us from the power of sin—Sanctifying (present).
  3. Jesus will deliver us from the very presence of sin—Glorified (future).

 

Once glorified we will never again sin, we will never see a sin committed—we will be completely taken away and separated from all that is sinful, evil and wicked—in a utopia known as heaven in the very presence of God with all His splendor and glory. God’s plan for the redemption of mankind is flawless, genius, and displays His love and patience with mankind in an extremely poignant manner.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I pray that you hunger and thirst to know the Lord God with increasing passion, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has saved me and set me free from sin.

pho3 

 

If you would like to go a bit deeper and do a proper study of what we’ve discussed here, I recomend prayerful study of the New Testament. But the following is a resource that may help you further. Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.

Blessings!

 

 

Categories: Bible, Christian Doctrine, Church, Faith, God's Faithfulness, Salvation, Sanctification, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Learning Spiritual Insights

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At a church I attended some time ago there was one guy who would say things about me, and to me, that sounded like veiled criticisms. It had the same affect on me as fingernails on slate—it was really irritating. His words came out as feeble attempts at joking jibes, and this was a constant thing. But underneath it all, I could detect a hurt feeling, as if I made him feel a little “less-than.” I didn’t realize this in the beginning, but thankfully I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and He is super wise. Cutting me down, while making it sound as if he was only kidding was a way for the poor fellow to express what was going on inside, without anyone calling him on his badmouthing.

Lots of people suffer insecurities, and often those feelings will rise to the surface in both word and actions, often distinguished through facial expressions and body language. These feelings, though usually unfounded, do stem from legitimate needs that are not being met: such as the need for self-worth—healthy self-esteem. Sometimes there are deep rooted emotional injuries from childhood that have never been addressed, hence, have never healed.

At first, his words hurt my feelings and stirred a bit of anger. My knee jerk response was to let fly right back at him with a wittier slam than his, and being a writer I’m quite able in that respect. In fact, I actually did that, and later felt really bad about it. So I repented, and then told the man I was sorry for saying what I did.

A couple days later, while in prayer, God’s Spirit of wisdom showed me that there were underlying hurts and heartaches in that man—some past trauma at the root of the problem. This is something God teaches us to do—be discerning. The Lord has even given us His Holy Spirit so that we’ll have the power to know and understand things that are going on in the spirit world, in our own spirit, and in that of others, like my criticizer. God knows all things, even our most secret motives, and often He shares needed information with us, if we will remain open to receive it. God then affords us the power to respond in the right way, with discernment, discretion and healing love.

God has taught me to pray about everything, and this was one of those things I definitely needed to talk to the Lord about. For one thing, I had to be certain I wasn’t saying or doing things that would perpetuate this man’s feelings of some form of inferiority.

“Lord, why does he feel that way in response to me? Have I said or done something wrong to him?”

Well, as usual, God did not answer in the way I wanted or expected Him to. Perhaps I was hoping for something like, Oh no, you’re fine, Sheldon. It’s that man’s problem and he should not be talking like that.

But instead, I was simply given direction as to what I should do. I sensed God speaking inside me. You may be wondering, ‘How do I know it was God talking?’ Because it’s not what I myself would have thought of, or done in response to the situation. And, it was in keeping with God’s very nature of love and compassion. And, it was in harmony with other things that, as my educator, God has instructed me to do in the past. I’ve already told you what my own human response was, which came from the sin nature. Yes, I’m still growing, but so are all believers.

The Lord said something to the effect of “Ask him to do something for you—something that you don’t know how to do yourself.”

Hmm, that makes sense, I responded. Yes Lord, I will. It’ll make him feel better-than, instead of less-than, and I’ll get a lesson in humility.

“Now you’re thinking,” is what I believe the Lord was saying at that point.

As it turns out, the guy is a whiz with computers, and I owned a laptop that had crashed. Fixing it would require a set of skills that are completely out of my purview. Now I can fix a car and sell it too—I can write some pretty fancy words and even pitch some woo. But when it comes to computers: software, malware, Tupperware; all that jazz, I have to leave it to those nerdy types with skinny necks and pocket protectors who look as if they may take over the world some day.   Sorry about that, I got distracted by my funny bone.

He did a great job fixing my laptop, for free, and he even gave me a beefed up hard drive. That guy was tickled rosy to show me how smart he was, and I made sure to stoke that sensation in him. Ever since that day, he has stopped criticizing me and sometimes he even asks me questions about the bible. I think he and I are becoming friends outside of church too. Now, if I can get him to open up about his past, maybe I’ll have the opportunity to counsel him, and get him to seek the Lord’s help in addressing whatever the root of his dilemma may be. God sure does know what He’s doing. All I have to do is pray, then listen…and then do.

Blessings.

Categories: Christian Living, Faith, Growing in Faith, LIstening to God, Uncategorized, Wisdom & Discernment | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rosy Prose

Sailing

 

I’m sailing away,

Into this painting,

Unfurling the canvas,

Rolled out in my mind.

The waves crash silently,

My ship rolls in a gentle sway,

Like two lovers on a dance floor,

Two moving as one—united in heart.

Pulsating rhythms of this dream,

Rapture me into the rays of the sun,

As it, sizzling, kisses the sea’s horizon.

I have company here,

Attending my mellow whims:

The clouds are all puffy,

Azure turns red, and then blue overhead,

Feathery wings tip in salute,

The waves are waving at me,

The dolphins smile at me,

I like it here,

Just me, my friends, and the sea.

 

 

While the real beauty of art lies in the viewer’s, or hearer’s personal perceptions, sometimes the artist is aiming at something specific. Whether it be a painting, a poem, prose, melody,  or another form, we hope to inspire, or to solicit deeper thought, and sometimes it is simply meant to encourage and appeal to pleasantry. Here, I am aiming for a certain pleasant sensation that one may experience when paying heed to the awesomeness of God’s glorious creations.

I felt the same way as I stood on a high precipice gazing down into the Grand Canyon at the Colorado River below. It’s as if God sets off a spark in the soul which seems to say, “Can you see me now?”

Perhaps, you too have felt it before. Maybe you weren’t sure what caused you to feel that warm embrace—it seemed so spiritual, as you beheld beautiful wonders on the earth, in the sea, or in the skies above?

 

 

And you shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

 

 

 

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Waiting in Hope

waiting

 

Leading Israel’s army, Joshua waited seven days for something to happen as they marched around the walls of Jericho. It must have felt like a silly thing to do, but this is what God had told them to do. Their patient trust was finally rewarded as the walls fell down, just as the Lord had promised. Without the hope that faith secures, waiting on God can often seem a difficult task, and can give rise to doubts. But that’s only when we’re not operating in faith.

Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for the promised pregnancy with Isaac in their old age. God had promised to make David king over all of Israel, but it wasn’t until waiting about 18 years before that happened. The Jews waited centuries for Messiah to come, but then He came. For ten days, Jesus’ disciples waited in Jerusalem for the power of God’s Holy Spirit to come. My own mother waited for several decades for her prayers to be answered. But finally, I fully surrendered my heart to Christ.

A person who lives in submission to Jesus Christ is someone who is often called upon to wait. And yet there are many good things we can be doing while we wait. Waiting time is not wasting time. With eager anticipation we all wait for Jesus to return and take us to our home in heaven. Yes, these are things that, as Christians, we must learn to do well—trust, hope and patiently wait.

 

They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

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Alcohol For Christians

alcohol

According to Google, among the most frequently asked bible questions have to do with what it says about drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and getting tattoos. Today I’d like to focus on the first one: Alcohol.

Let’s say I drank a couple fingers of 18 year old Macallan scotch. Have I sinned? Answers from pastors around the world are as plentiful and varied as the shoes in Nick Cannon’s closet. But we can’t settle for fallible people’s opinions. As believers we want to know what God has to say, and so we look to the bible under the Spirit’s guidance for answers. After all, God is the one we want to please.

 

If you wonder how God feels about you drinking, I strongly suggest you take a moment right now. Pause from reading this post, and pray—ask God for discernment and clarity on this issue once and for all. And then continue reading. My own prayers before, and while preparing this post, consumed much time, and I fervently sought the Holy Spirit’s counsel. The optimal means of gaining absolute certainty on this, as with any issue is to prayerfully excavate truths from the bible under the Spirit’s direction. I’ve provided several passages from which I hope to offer perspective. But you may want to buckle up; it’s going to be a bumpy ride with a few switchbacks along the way.

 

Is alcohol evil and sinful? No. But what we do with alcohol can be sinful. So, is drinking alcohol sinful? Yes and No. Clear as mud, right? Stay with us.

 

It’s a no-brainer that ALCOHOLISM IS SIN. Just about anything done in excess is sin, e.g. gluttony. A myriad of passages condemn being a drunken sot, or a glutton.

“…nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1st Cor. 6:10

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 1 Peter 4:3

 These are but two out of a plethora of passages that unequivocally identify drunkenness as sin.  So if we habitually get drunk…then yes, it’s sin.

 

I’ve included bible quotations that cover both the pros and cons of this most ancient of beverages. As with all spiritual issues, we must also look to passages that do not mention alcohol specifically, and yet, they set a spiritual precedent.

 

The following verse mentions wine, and we must apply it correctly, viewing it through the lens of the bible in its entirety. Scripture interprets scripture.

He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts. Psalm 104:14-15 (emphasis mine)

God created the earth primarily as a habitation for mankind. He told us to subdue it, to manage and utilize it. God wants us to enjoy what He has blessed us with—it’s all for our benefit and enjoyment.  Other verses, however, give strong warnings that expose the dangers of drinking too much wine. Anything, when combined with human weakness can become sinful.

In this last passage, the Holy Spirit indicates that alcohol, specifically wine, gladdens our hearts. It has the ability to make us glad or happy. But we can’t simply drive in a peg right there, or wave that verse around as validation for drinking any time we get the urge. There are other considerations—it doesn’t always make us glad, in fact, sometimes it can make us sad. The devil is in the details. Here’s another positive verse.

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Eccl. 9:7

Honestly, I don’t yet feel qualified to exegete that verse—I never fake it when it comes to passages I’m not real solid on. I included it only because I was led to do so.

 

Jesus & Wine

We’re all familiar with Jesus’ miracle of changing water into wine at a wedding celebration in Cana of Galilee. (See John 2:1-11) Throughout the bible we see wine used in joyous celebrations. Can you imagine how good the wine Jesus made would taste?

Many well-meaning, but woefully misguided people of God have assayed to perform a little miracle of their own. They attempt transforming the wine of this passage to mean unfermented juice. Come on now, let’s stop trying to change what the bible says. It says wine—it means wine. Jesus drank wine, but this in no way makes it right for everyone to do so in every circumstance.

 

I remember my strict grandmother who attended church every time the doors were open. She was a very devout Christian woman, for which I am deeply thankful. But I was surprised when I learned she took a glass of Mogan David wine before bedtime to help her sleep.

Medicinal Value

In Paul’s first letter to his protégé, Timothy, he advises him to “Stop drinking only water and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” 1 Tim. 5:23

Here, we see that alcohol has medicinal uses that God approves of. It’s also good for use as an antiseptic, killing most every germ and bacteria known to man. But alcohol also kills skin cells in your; mouth, throat, stomach and digestive tract, and we know that habitual use damages internal organs.  As the redeemed, we are now the temple of God, so we want to respect our bodies and take good care of them. We’ve already established that God has given us many things from the good earth to utilize, but we must do so wisely. Remember, alcohol can be a slippery slope, and that’s why we get so many differing answers. There are several spiritual precepts we should consider before we opt for a bottle of Bordeaux, or whatever kind of scamper juice you happen to choose.

 

In Christ we have freedom—liberty. Under grace we are freed from the written code, and now obey God out of love for Him. The Spirit of Christ resides within believers, affording them the power of God—to give them power over sin, so they have the capacity to live godly, pleasing Him while conforming to Christ.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. 1st Corinthians 10:23-24

 

Enter the Law of Love!

During my spiritual infancy I heard a great sermon on the Christian’s freedoms by Chuck Swindoll, and then another by Charles Stanley. Subsequently, I read books by both men about it. “Liberty on a Tightrope.” The title itself is revealing—sometimes it’s a real balancing act to know when it’s okay to exercise our freedoms. It requires wisdom and discernment that can be procured only through a close relationship with Jesus. Yet our sin detection is based upon love, and I’ve learned that love has many faces.

It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. Romans 14:21

Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall. 1st Corinthians 8:13

I’m simply going to say, “That’s love,” and allow those two verses to speak for themselves. They are commands that we are to take literally and very seriously.

Here’s a PDF for an excellent article on this subject of our freedoms, and those who would deny us our freedoms. It’s by an astute Doctor of Theology: “Tyranny of the Weaker Brother.”

 

Caution: speed bump ahead! Do you have your seatbelt buckled?

Sinning Against Conscience

When our consciences question whether or not what we’re doing is sin, we should take heed. Whatever you believe to be sinful, for you, it actualy becomes sin, no matter what it is. If I think it’s a sin but I do it anyway, it is sin. Even if some misguided person believes using musical instruments is sinful, for them it’s a sin to use musical instruments. To do so would go against their God-given and God-governed conscience. They believe it is wrong and yet choose to do it anyway. That’s called willful sin against the conscience. Personally, I know God approves of musical instruments, so for me, I can use them with a clear conscience. For me it is not sin, and the same goes for alcohol. But out of love, I will not do so in the presence of a weaker brother or sister in Christ who thinks otherwise, or else I could cause them to violate their conscience, and sin.

 

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 1 Peter 2:16


God knows our hearts and our consciences. When we’re saved, the Holy Spirit directs our consciences, but we must remain attuned to Christ for this to be so. We can be deceived by false doctrines. We can be lured into participating in something that could tarnish our testimony for Christ. Or, we can have our freedoms chained up by wolves among the flock. And… Heaven forbid that by my drinking, I should embolden a brother or sister in Christ to drink, who has been enslaved to the old loony-juice in the past.

 

Consider this. Though slight, just one ounce of alcohol impairs our judgment, enervating our decision making prowess. We are commanded to be self-controlled. How can we be certain we’ll know when to stop drinking? If you’re going to indulge, you may want to determine the amount before you drink. If you’re at home, pour your set amount, and then put the bottle away.

 

Grandma used to say, “All things in moderation.” We shouldn’t be given over to anything, or to anyone, except to God. It’s easy to deceive ourselves into thinking we’re controlling our drinking when it could be the other way around. Again, we are to exercise self-control. It’s difficult enough to control our fleshly urges without having our commitment weakened by alcohol. We’re talikng about a fruit of the Spirit here, meaning, that God’s Spirit helps us maintain control so we can follow Him. “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16) The Spirit provides for us the genuine article, not the false relief alcohol provides.

 

I cannot tell you whether or not using alcohol is okay for you, unless you are an alcoholic, and then it IS sin. This is something that’s between you and the Lord. He will give you the answer that’s right for you, as an individual. You will need wisdom and spiritual discernment. And you must consider all the variables, of which, I’d like to add one more.

 

Idolatry

When I turn to other things instead of to God when He has all we need (peace, joy, comfort, etc.) it is a form of idolatry.  If I turn to alcohol to help alleviate my hurt feelings or depression, anxiety, or because I’m angry, instead of seeking God’s provision for relief from these, then I’m turning to an idol. Anything we put in the place of God is idolatry. He provides peace and joy, security and wisdom and guidance and anything else we could ever possibly need. Every so often, that may include a tall glass of wine. Always seek God’s counsel on all decisions in life, and at all times. The following verse illustrates the truth of these things.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit…”(Ephesians 5:18).

Noteworthy in this verse is the fact that our beloved comforter, Holy Spirit, provides for us the supernatural gifts of joy, contentment and inner peace. It is, however, often that believers have not yet learned how to call upon these helps, and will instead reach for an artificial means of feeling better, like drinking alcohol.

The following is straight from the bible’s book of wisdom.

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Proverbs 31:6

 

When experiencing deep grief, the loss of a loved one, you’re dying, or when enduring tremendous pain, God has provided a little additional relief in alcohol. This verse appears to indicate we can use (but not abuse) alcohol for these purposes.

 

In conclusion

We’ve disclosed how wisdom, discernment and self-control, coupled with personally seeking God’s counsel make all the difference in discovering what’s right for each individual. Sometimes drinking alcohol is sinful, and other times it’s not. Alcohol is sin for some, but not for certain others who may lose their self-control by drinking. There are benefits of drinking and there are many hazrds of the same. So I pray I’ve left you with some pertinent truths to ponder. As you take this issue to the Lord, ask Him for enlightenment concerning each of the variables we talked about.

 

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. Proverbs 20:1

 

God Bless You!

 

Categories: Addiction, Alcohol, Bible, Christian Living, Uncategorized, Wisdom & Discernment | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trust & Obey

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All people have short comings—we are fallible beings, and that’s why it’s sometimes difficult to trust those who may have rule over us. But with God it is much different. He never makes a mistake. The Lord is perfect, holy and filled with love. 

 

“O that there were such an 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 forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29 KJV) 

 

What have I gotten myself into?  That was the predominant thought in my mind at basic-training for the Army. A drill-instructor was demonstrating his control over the men under him. On the roof of a three-story barracks, the drill-sargent ordered a young private to dive head first onto the rocky ground below.  

 

Without hesitation, the trusting soldier took two steps towards the edge, bent his legs for the leap, and sprang up and out to his certain death. Swiftly the Sargent reached out and grabbed the back of the private’s breeches and belt, catching the soldier just in time. 

 

My second thought: There’s no way Id obey such a futile and dangerous order. Observing the imperfections and failings of superior officers stimulated the rebel in me. I didn’t follow every order I was given as a soldier.  

 

Yet, years later I grew very close to my first love. He’s now my Commander in-Chief: Jesus Christ. It wasn’t always easy to trust Him the way that Private trusted his drill-instructor. I have learned, however, of God’s perfect love for me, and of His all-knowing and all-powerful nature. I can trust my life to Him. He’s not a man, who might make a mistake, or tell me to do something futile or foolish.  

 

There are times I don’t understand the Why of a command from God. But I can obey with confidence, knowing He has my best interest at heart. His purposes are flawless.  

 

Thank you, Lord, for your wise leadership. In hindsight we’ll always see the wisdom of trusting and obeying you in all things. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

 

Categories: Christian Living, Devotional, Faith, Military, Self Improvement, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Be With Me Lord

Be with me Lord

The darkness of night surrounds me

Like smoky tendrils its spectral fingers grip

My courage is but a flicker, a spark in winter’s cold

Remain with me and proffer strength

I am but dust without Your Spirit, Your might

So small a thing was I, a lonesome soul adrift

My father’s son, born of Adam’s fallen race

A simple man who loves your truth, your word

When your Son bought me by your grace

You gave to me a name, and to my spirit, wings

Stay with me Lord—finish making me

That a giant I may be

In Christ my Savior

By this love that you have spawned

The One who works such fruitfulness in me

Be with me Lord, until the day has dawned

 

 

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Gore & Love Intersect

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“The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:22 

 

As a boy of ten years, I kept a scrapbook filled with images of lions and tigers hunting. Many of them depicted gory kills. Several decades later, I can still picture the blood covered faces of those vicious beasts. One day my mom happened upon the bloody pictures I’d been saving. Understandably, she became concerned that I might be turning into some sort of twisted, sadistic kid. Blood has a tendency to make us recoil in horror. But my fascination had to do with a compulsion to understand death.

 

Many old Christian hymns include references to the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. Here’s one example—an old favorite performed by some promising musicians. “Nothing But The Blood” 

 

It’s the blood of Christ which cleanses us from our sins. What picture could better display the awful consequences of sin upon the world than grisly blood? God has a good reason for the use of blood in the bible. The blood used in the old sacrificial system of temple worship was a foreshadow of the blood of Christ. Justice demands blood.

When Adam and Eve sinned, it drastically changed mankind—even the earth was changed by a curse. The consequences of sin are exceptionally horrific. “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23a  

And, God says that life is in the blood. “For the life of a creature is in the blood…” Leviticus 17:11a  

And so, spilled blood is synonymous with death—and death is the penalty for sin.

 

As a lasting and stark expression of sin’s staggering cost, God clothed Adam and Eve with dead animal skins. This signified the horrors that the world would experience as a result of sin. Sin brought with it; sickness, war, a curse, slavery to sin, and death for every person since Adam and Eve. Some of the animals changed from herbivores into carnivorous creatures—the images of which I kept in that childhood scrapbook.

 

God has taught me that I should be aghast and horrified at the prospect of sin. It should make me shudder in horror—the same response one would have to a bloody, gruesome death.

But it’s in man’s fallen nature to trivialize sin, rather than to acknowledge its true devastating make-up.

 

Because of God’s awesome love for you and me, Jesus allowed His own blood to be spilled, taking that awful death penalty in our place. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord, (from John 10). The macabre sight of His blood flowing down to puddle in the dust, proclaims God’s monolithic love for you and me. Do you see the importance of the blood? If not, you do not yet understand the way of salvation that God has provided for us. His blood equals love, atonement, propitiation, forgiveness and salvation.

Bloody gore and love intersect at the Cross of Jesus. ©

 

Below is Alan Jackson singing  Are You Washed

 

Categories: Bible, Christian Living, Cross of Christ, Devotional, Faith, Salvation, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Children Need Acceptance

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Most folks hate these social ailments, which often act as triggers for disparaging tragedies.

Bullying, shaming, varied prescribed medications and illicit drug abuse, among other uglies, have been blamed for a tremendous rise in teen-aged suicides. Another horrifying stat is how many children become active members in violent youth gangs, or simply develop behavioral issues. It’s my belief that teen suicide and gang involvement are two maladies that share roots in the same detriments.  

Results (of polled police departments) contradict the long-standing perception that gangs are primarily an inner-city phenomenon. Granted, the prevalence is highest in large cities, with 74 percent of those jurisdictions acknowledging the presence of gangs. But suburban counties aren’t far behind, at 57 percent, which is considerably higher than small cities (34 percent).”—Healthy Children Organization 

Come back to this link to an organisation in-the-know: Healthy Children Org.

 

It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. There are many teens who find no other escape from their heart wrenching emotional agony than ending their own lives. It’s like a bandit stealing off with the soul’s sense of self-worth—as a valueless object to be discarded by society as worthless. Many suffer this malady and spiral down into deep depression, even developing physical illnesses. Some of them become criminals, maybe even psychotic killers.  

 

Below’s a link to just one of thousands: News reports on teen-aged suicides. There’s just as many on the increased danger of children joining street gangs. But you can come back to this later. 

Teen-Suicide

 

Imagine feeling that nobody wants you, nobody loves you—you just can’t seem to find any place where you fit in, a place to belong. It’s a hollow ache. Have you ever experienced being totally convinced there’s no group of people anywhere with whom you could have a sense of belonging? Street gangs prey upon young boys and girls who have this belief and offer them a sense of acceptance and camaraderie. Sometimes, it’s excitement and action that draws kids into gang life. But their emotional and social needs are legitimate. A healthy Psyche’ includes a sense of belonging—everyone possesses a need to be loved.  

 

I watched several videos of little orphan children from all over the world, many of whom lived on the streets. They were picking through garbage bins trying to find something to eat. Their little melancholy faces stirred my heart—I wanted to break down and cry. But some orphans reside at orphanages or missions. At least they are fed a little. All of them apparently have the exact same hope of acceptance, and to have a family. They need to belong somewhere, with someone—other souls. Love is a fundamental need. 

We have an extensively vast foster care system here in America. Dismally, many of the people who serve as foster parents only do so for the money. Unscrupulous ones even use the orphans as a free labor force, treating the children like slaves, as objects to be manipulated into profits. 

 

What do you suppose every orphan hopes for? 

 

That’s right, to be adopted by someone who will love them, protect them, and give them a home, and care for them. Someone who will give them a place to belong. Just one person to accept them would be enough, but better a group of people who would say “You’re one of us!” What they need—what they hope for, is a family. 

 

Well then… 

 

When a couple has a child born to them they have no way of choosing what that child will look like. They can’t even choose whether it will be a boy or a girl. Parents try to teach their children moral values and rear them in a way that they’ll turn out to be good people, but there are no guarantees about that either. So, I want to share something with you about ADOPTION.  

 

Those who have been adopted have been chosen over other people. There’s a whole lot of children to choose from. That makes a child feel very special. Adoptive parents have looked out across the whole world at the many thousands of orphaned children. Think of it, out of all of them, they choose YOU! That makes you pretty special. 

 

To God, all of us are just like young Children. 

 

My point here today, besides drawing attention to these social ills, is to highlight a stellar fact. If you trust the God of the bible, and you have made Jesus the Lord of your life, and you’ve taken Him as your Savior, then:  YOU’VE BEEN CHOSEN BY GOD TO BE ADOPTED INTO HIS FAMILY. 

 

I’ll begin an explanation, but then, I’m asking us to follow the reasoning of the selected scriptures provided below. 

 

When you’re born into a family on earth your parents cannot choose you, you’re just born to them. But God knew all about you before you were ever born, and He chose you to be His child. (Later on, read Psalms chapter 139.) 

This, and other passages reveal that God knew everything there is to know about you, before He chose you. And the following scriptures assure us that God did in fact, select us, and it tells us at what point in time He did so. 

 

For He chose us in him before the creation of the world… He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. Ephesians 1: 45.  

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 NLT 

Jesus said, “For the Father himself loves you dearly, because you love me and you believe that I came from God. John 16:27 

 

So what is it to love Jesus? What does it really mean to love Christ? He tells us. 

 

Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. Let that part sink in for a minute.

Then it continues: 

And I will love them and will reveal myself to each of them.” John 14:21 NLT 

 

Think about this: How has Jesus revealed Himself to you? 

 

So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Ephesians 2:19 

 

When we are saved, or, born again, we’re born into the family of God, and that’s what the bible is talking about when it says He adopted us. It also calls us “Children of the light.” 
 

Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 1 John 3:9 

 

Now then, what are some of the benefits a child receives by having a family? 

I’ve listed several of them. We’ve already established that they will be loved. 

 

LOVE 

 

Provision for every need 

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19. 

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25-26  

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11  

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. Malachi 3:10 (There’s many more). 

 

Protection  

Psalm 144:2, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”  

“The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” Psalm 121:8  

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10  

“(You) who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:5  

 

Inheritance  

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17 

“The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.” Psalm 37:29  

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32  

“And giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” Colossians 1:12
  Romans 8:32 Eph. 1:18, 

 

Security  

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Romans 8: 35 

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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.” Romans 8: 38-39  

And Jude 1:24 “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.”  

 

There are other benefits too, of course, such as guidance, wisdom, a name, and lots more! 

If you’re not already a part of God’s wonderful family, you can be! Feel free to contact me via Email at Penman4u@gmail.com. I will be happy to share with you how to do that. God Bless You. I hope you enjoy this version of a great old hymn as much as I did: “The Family of God.” 

 

Categories: Addictions & Suicides, Christian Living, Faith, Family, People, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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