Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Carry Them Up the Mountain

Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Matthew 15:29-31

With what difficulty they must have climbed that mountain to see Jesus! For many of the lame, the crippled and the blind it was a trip they could not make on their own. They had to be carefully guided or even carried up the mountain. The passage clearly states that they were brought to Jesus by the crowds and laid at His feet. Those needing healing are not the actors in the passage. They are being acted upon by their good friends. They had friends who exerted great energy to bring them to Christ. Oh, but with what ease these same men, women and children must have gone skipping back down the mountain they had been carried up! Upon meeting Jesus their eyes were opened, their deepest hurts removed, and their injuries healed. Take careful notice of the outcome on the people as whole: worship. The crowd was in awe of Jesus' power and they praised God!

The Bible tells us that sin has an amazing power to blind and deceive us, so that people who are still lost in their sin do not know to come to Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). They do not know that healing can be found in Him unless we tell them, unless we bring them to Him.

Who are you working to bring to Jesus right now? What friend or family member are you inviting to church? Who are you telling all that Jesus has done for you? You must bring people to Jesus. When you do, the powerful working of the gospel in their lives will lead to greater worship for the Lord both now and in eternity. 

I know that sometimes it feels like pointing your friends to Jesus is an impossible task. Sometimes it may feel like you are carrying them up a mountain, but press on! Don't give up. Continue to encourage your friends to turn to Jesus, for if they will look to Him in faith He will surely heal their every hurt and pour out on them the life that only He possesses.

For further reading...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Jealous God

Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
Deuteronomy 4:23-24

God has made a covenant with us that is no less significant than the covenant He made with the people of Israel. The old covenant was established with the blood of goats and bulls, but this new covenant has been established with the precious blood of man's only Savior Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:13-14). If God was jealous for the worship of those living under the old covenant, how much more will He be jealous for the worship of the redeemed living under His new covenant bought with the blood of Christ?!

God is a jealous God. By that I do not mean that God is a paranoid stalker. He's not like some celestial boyfriend who constantly steals your cell phone to read all your text messages. No. God is like a righteous husband who rightly refuses to allow His spouse to cheat on Him. God has gone to great lengths to purchase believers for His own. He will not allow us to begin bowing down to the god of money now. He will not stand idly by as we worship at the altar of lust and sexual promiscuity. Nor will He remain silent as we act as though other gods and religions are equally valid. Allah is not God. The Hindu Brahman is not God. Judaism's understanding of God apart from Christ is an incomplete and inaccurate understanding of who He is. Mother Nature is not God; He is not in the trees or the grass all around us. Nor is He a myth thought up by man. God is real. He is alive and He will not be ignored by His own followers. He is jealous for the Christian's love and faithfulness.

So if you call yourself by the name of Christ, ask yourself this: Are you giving God a reason to be jealous? Are you worshiping false gods either literally by courting other religions or figuratively by bowing to sin in your life? The Bible says draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8). If the believer does not do this, if he forgets that He is God's betrothed and begins to run after other gods, then he will soon experience the judgment of the God who is a consuming fire. 

For further reading...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Persevere in Obedience

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way...but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king... The king would then have my head because of you.”

Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
Daniel 1:8, 10 (selections), 11-14

In today's passage Daniel is put forward as a biblical model of persevering in obedience. Obeying God in a world that pressures you constantly to disobey Him isn’t easy. There are always people ready to stand in your way, so you must persevere like Daniel did. Daniel had purposed in his heart not to defile himself with the king's food. (For more on this decision read this blog post.) You would think that God would make it easy for Daniel to obey him, but He doesn't. Daniel hits an obstacle. The chief eunuch isn't willing to risk his head for Daniel to obey. So what does Daniel do? He perseveres and tries another tactic. He goes to another official (one who is under the chief eunuch but still over him and his friends) and asks for a ten day trial. "Give this a chance," Daniel says in essence and the steward relents.

When I think of persevering in obedience, I think of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand who lived in Romania during the rise of Russian communism. As the anti-Christian communist government took hold in Romania, Wurmbrand boldly and publicly proclaimed the gospel. When Christians were forced into hiding, Pastor Wurmbrand worked in the underground church sharing Jesus secretly not only with people on the street but even with communist officers. Inevitably Pastor Wurmbrand was imprisoned. In 1948 he was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. During this time he was brutally tortured, even spending three full years in solitary confinement! Afterward he was released and warned not to preach the gospel any more.

Knowing exactly what tortures awaited him if he were arrested again, Pastor Wurmbrand persevered in obedience to God and resumed his work with the underground church. Within a few years he was arrested and imprisoned a second time. This time he was sentenced to 25 years. By God’s grace Richard was released after serving only five years of his second sentence. He was ransomed out of Romania by foreign believers and Pastor Wurmbrand spent the rest of his life traveling the world, raising awareness and support for the underground church. He wrote a book about his ordeal entitled Tortured for Christ and began a ministry that continues to this day named The Voice of the Martyrs.

Christians like this are an example for us. We must not cave to the pressures of this world or to the obstacles we face. We can persevere and trust that God will make a way when our road is blocked. How often do we just give up on obedience because it’s too hard? What have you given up on? Perhaps you have given up on sharing the gospel with your friend because he gets a little touchy when you talk about Jesus. Or maybe you have given up on prayer because it just isn't "your thing." Most of us have given up on fasting. Jesus clearly expects us to do it (Matthew 6:16-18 & 9:14-15), but it just seems too hard. We have too few Christians like Wurmbrand or Daniel today. Resolve to be different. Persevere in obedience.

For further reading...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Little at a Time

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.
Daniel 1:8

A dripping faucet may not seem like a major problem, but given enough time it will fill an entire bucket one little drop of water at a time. Think of the choices we make every day. Most of them seem as insignificant as these little drops of water. But they add up over time, especially as they relate to a believer's relationship with the Lord. 

Do you obey God in the little things? Or do you think He only cares about the big stuff? I guarantee you He does not. There is no small act of disobedience against the one and only God. When we're tricked into believing that the little things don't matter, when we chose to disobey God day after day, then we are moving away from the Lord a little at a time.

The Old Testament character Daniel understood this. He was taken captive by the Babylonians when he was only a youth and placed in the royal court of King Nebuchadnezzar. They tried to force him to assimilate to Babylonian culture. They changed his name and made him learn their language and literature. They even tried to make him eat the king's food. Daniel had very little choice in all of this, but he resolved not to cave to the great pressure being put on him.  He wasn't in control of his own destiny but He served the God who was and he decided to do his best to obey that God. Daniel knew that God had commanded the Israelites not to eat certain kinds of meat, and that any meat they were allowed to eat had to have its blood drained in a certain way (Leviticus 17:10-14). None of the food given to him by King Nebuchadnezzar would meet God's standards for His people so Daniel purposed in his heart not to eat the king's food. He endangered his life in order to obey God in what seems like an insignificant command to us. This small act of obedience meant much to the Lord and He blessed Daniel for his obedience. He became the wisest man in the kingdom. Over the next seventy years kings and empires came and went in Babylon but one thing stayed the same: Daniel was a servant in the royal court who was renowned and respected for his wisdom and his dedication to his God.

God still blesses obedience. Sometimes a small act of obedience is just the thing we need to get us back on the right track. Making the right choices in the small things can really add up over time. Don't cave to the tremendous pressure our world puts on you to rebel against God and disobey His commands. Make up your mind like Daniel to obey God even in the little things. Over time, little-by-little, your small acts of obedience can help you become more like Jesus.

In what small ways do you need to obey God today? Do you need to flee from sexual immorality? Do you need to stop foul language from coming out of your mouth? Maybe you need to stop watching TV shows and movies that are not in line with your Christian confession? Whatever the Lord lays on your heart, resolve in your heart not to defile yourself with disobedience today.

For further reading...
  • I Peter 2:11- Did you know the New Testament asks us to live as exiles in this world?
  • James 1:27- Somehow we always seem to forget the latter half of this verse.
  • Romans 12:2- Be a non-conformist!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Companion of Fools?

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
Proverbs 13:20

Growing up in the South I heard an old proverb that goes like this: "When you hang out in the barn, the animals don't come out smelling like you." This may seem like an odd saying, but almost anyone who has spent time on a farm understands it. Animals smell bad, especially when there are a bunch of them in an enclosed space with their own feces. No matter how good you smell when you go into a barn, you tend to come out smelling like the animals, not vice versa. It is the same in our friendships. When we surround ourselves with a great number of bad influences, the chances are high that our friends' bad habits will rub off on us.

The book of Proverbs rightly warns us to choose our friends wisely and to choose wise friends because our friends have a profound impact on us. Over time we tend to become more and more like them. This principle is picked up not only in the proverb above but in several others as well:
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. (Proverbs 22:24-25)
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

I am not suggesting that we should avoid non-Christians altogether. In fact, the Bible has more to say about avoiding Christians who do not live up to their confession of faith (1 Corinthians 5:9-13) than it does about avoiding unbelievers. No, we must associate with unbelievers and engage in relationships with them in order to share Jesus with them. But we should choose carefully with whom we engage in friendships. We don't have to sit in judgment of people, but we should honestly acknowledge that some are better influences on us than others are. We must choose our companions on the road of life wisely, because they tend to affect not only the quality of our travel but also the direction we are headed.

All of our friends have an impact on us. So the question isn't "Are my friends influencing me?" The question is this: "Is the impact my friends have on me positive or negative?" Are your friends sharpening you as iron sharpens iron? Does their presence in your life draw you deeper into Bible study, prayer, and church? Or do they tend to draw you into drunkenness, immorality, anger, conflict, and envy? If your friends impact your life for the worse, then perhaps it's time for you to find some new friends. Finding new friends isn't disloyal because a Christian's primary loyalty is always to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For further reading...
  • I Kings 12:1-24- Rehoboam is a classic biblical example of how having fools for friends can lead you astray.
  • 1 Corinthians 5:9-13- Read what the Bible says about associating with Christians who do not live up to their confession of faith.
  • James 4:3-5- Friendship with the world?