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Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Amen!
Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving
and honor and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.
(Revelation 7.12)

Doors have always opened for me, and I praise God for that. I am not the kind of guy who grabs life by the throat and forges my own way through life, though I’ve often wished I were. Rather, I tend to plod along my path until a different one opens. Sometimes I take the new path, and sometimes I don’t. There have been times in my life where I wondered if another door would ever open. But God has created a world full of opportunity and good things to fiddle with.

You can probably look back on your life and trace the bends and forks in the road. Perhaps you thought you had hit a dead end from time to time, but those always turned out to be stop signs or U-turns. There was always more road to travel.

Some of us lost close loved ones along the way, and we had to ride some bumpy roads. Some of us are hitting bumps right now, and they hurt. Yet, even with the bumps in the road, we see God’s blessing and favor towards us.

Thanksgiving Day is upon us, coming up this Thursday. No matter what our current situation, we always have a stack of blessings to count and a multitude of reasons to thank God.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4.4–7)

Thank God for your salvation:

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6.17–18)

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15.57)

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2 Cor. 2.14)

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service (1 Tim. 1.12)

Thank God for all people:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Tim. 2.1–2)

Thank God for your brethren:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (Eph. 1.16)

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you (Phil. 1.3)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints (Col. 1.3–4)

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, (1 Thes. 1.2)

For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? (1 Thes. 3.9–10)

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing (2 Thes. 1.3)

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 Thes. 2.13)

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. (2 Tim. 1.3)

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints (Philemon 4–5)

Thank God for everything:

giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5.20)

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Col. 2.6–7)

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3.15–17)

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Col. 4.2)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes. 5.16–18)

Thank God for your food:

The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Rom. 14.6)

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer (1 Tim. 4.4–5)

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

How Do I Love My Neighbor as Myself?

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

brother and sister

Recently, someone admitted to me he wasn’t sure we could actually obey Jesus’ command in John 15.12–14: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Can we really love people the way Jesus loved us? I mean, he walked the road to Calvary and surrendered to the executioner’s hand – for us.

Doesn’t Romans 5.7–8 reveal the truth about us: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”? That basically admits God did something for us that no human would have done for another human—especially not for one we don’t think worthy.

Yes, Christ has called us to a love so high it could properly be called “impossible.” We must remember Jesus taught us, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19.26). Christ has called us to do the impossible, and we can do the impossible through him.

It’s often said, “Whom the Lord calls he also equips.” That is true. I’ve also been told, “God won’t tell you to do something you are not able to do,” but that puts the shoe on the wrong foot, doesn’t it? God often commands us to do things which we cannot do on our own power…but we can obey by submitting to the direction and power of his Holy Spirit. For instance, God tells us not to sin, but that is impossible. He tells us to love our enemies, but without him we would have no reason or power to do so. “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5.48).

He has told me to love my neighbor as myself, to love my brother as Christ has loved me, and even to love my enemy. How can I possibly do this?

Understand, godly love is not driven by emotion. God has not commanded me to feel warm and close to my neighbor or my enemy (my brother is another story – see Romans 12.10). God uses the Greek word agape to tell us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22.39) and to “love your enemies” (Matt. 5.44). The “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) is all about agape love:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Cor. 13.4–8)

This description of love does not lead us to think love is easy, but at least we can get the picture of what God is calling us to do. He’s telling us to do good to our neighbor.

Isn’t love the first fruit of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5.22–23? Doesn’t that mean we don’t have to really do anything; we can just sit back (let go and let God) and the Holy Spirit will make us love people the way he wants us to? No! God certainly works in us to love others, but not without us doing the work. He commands us to love, and he equips us to love while we work at it.

This teaching is too practical, isn’t it? If we are honest with ourselves, it’s easy to examine our love towards others. Are we genuinely patient? Let’s see…I was irritable towards my kids yesterday because they were so slow in getting to bed. I sometimes resent what I have or have not been able to accomplish or what I feel is not fair—usually comparing myself to others. Sometimes I insist on my own way, not caring about others in the process. I have a distance to go in this love business. And that’s with the people to whom I feel the closest and in whom I have the most invested! How shall I then love my neighbor and my enemy properly?

I should constantly pray: “Lord, help me love others like you have loved me.”

Exposing the Myth of Neutrality

Monday, November 07, 2022

Child-centric parenting has been the rage over the last couple of decades. An article extracted from Alfie Kohn’s book Unconditional Parenting is presented online entitled “Let Our Children Decide for Themselves.” The author says, “Our fundamental position should be to allow children to make decisions about things that affect them.” Kohn ends with: “Give them as many choices as possible.”

Many parents have incorporated this parenting methodology, including when teaching their kids about religion. They want the little children to decide for themselves one day, so they don’t want to tell them what religion to choose. They want to remain neutral in their parenting, they say.

These same parents, presumably, do not remain neutral when their child chooses to go naked to preschool or steal Grandma’s iPhone. But they want to remain neutral on what to believe about eternal salvation or damnation. Makes sense, right?

We have been told we should expect this neutrality from our schools. Miss Frizzle should not hold one moral position or another. She should only teach math, science, history, etc. Just the facts, Ma’am. Leave your moral worldview at home.

Professors at major universities—religious departments included—tell their students they give all sides of arguments equal weight and examination so the brilliant young men and women can make up their own minds. I recall the professor in my moral philosophy class at UAB attempted this. He would present the facts of some moral issue or another but would never say if it was a true or false argument. He tried to present all arguments as potentially having equal weight and value. I did not understand at the time that his worldview was pluralism, the assertion that there is no absolute moral truth but that all moral reasonings can be considered true at the same time. In his attempts to stay neutral with morality, he exposed his worldview of pluralism. He taught us we should (a moral statement) consider all moral reasonings as equally valid. One of my moral reasonings was that his moral reasoning spawned from the depths of hell. Make those compatible, Sir.

What are the problems with neutrality? The most glaring issue is…it’s impossible to remain neutral. Everyone takes a position, and everyone starts from some truth platform. Even the pluralist, who says all moral teachings are true, is making a truth statement. The fact that some take an opposite moral position (asserting all moral positions cannot be true at the same time) invalidates pluralism because it shows there is at least one position which cannot logically coexist with it. Of course, to hold the pluralist’s worldview, one must abandon logic.

Does God Want Us in Neutral?

Should we “fairly” examine all the evidence before we make up our minds? The young man who has never examined his faith gets to college, and his professor says, “You’ve never fairly examined what you believe. You need to act as if you don’t believe it for a while and examine all these other religions to make sure you are believing in the right thing.” This makes sense to the young man, and he abandons his faith for a while…perhaps forever. Was that fair of the professor? No, he was fighting dirty.

This may sound counterintuitive, but I’ll ask anyway: “What does God say about this?” Immediately, someone calls foul: “You can’t ask that question because first you have to figure out if there is a God before you can ask what He would say about things.” Here is the muddle mess. I already believe in God, and I already believe the Bible is His word. I have good reasons for believing this: (1) the Word itself is accurate, internally consistent, powerful in content and (2) by it, my life has been radically changed for the better. I have come to know God through His word. I will go to that word to see how God would have me interact with this world.

Does God tell me to have blind faith? No. Does He tell me to test the spirits? Yes, but I’m to test them to see if they are from God (1 John 4.1). If they are not from Him, I’m to reject them. Does He tell me to test everything? Yes, but I’m to test everything and hold fast to what is good (1 Thes. 5.20-21). That implies a standard by which to measure everything and categorize them as “good” or “bad.” God’s word provides the standard.

I find in Jude 3 that God wants me to “contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” To contend earnestly is to fight with a passion, and Christians are called to fight for the faith. We are not to abandon the faith and try out everything else to see what else might be true. We are to hold fast the faith and fight for it. This includes instilling the faith in our children.

Peter said we should “be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3.15). This includes the schoolteacher or university professor who challenges us to “objectively” step away from our faith and examine it with all the questions and criticisms they hand us. We should be ready to give them a reason for the hope that is in us.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 4 that Christ has given the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers who teach the word of God in such a way that the church will mature, and “we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” God would have us grounded firmly in our faith, absolutely assured of the hope that is within us by the power of Christ and His Holy Spirit.

Our weapons are not fleshly (2 Cor. 10.4-5). We fight against arguments and opinions which are raised against the knowledge of God. We must first bring our own thoughts captive to Christ. Then we fight against the false reasonings around us. We are to love God with heart, soul, strength, and mind.

The Purpose of Education

Education should teach us how to think rightly, how to defend the faith, how to rightly divide the word of truth, how to understand the world, how to fight correctly against the powers of the other side.

But isn’t education about getting a job and making a living and supporting a family? The world would have us believe that is the main purpose, but they know it’s not! The forces we fight against are cunning and crafty—they have taken the mention of God out of our schools and convinced many that it's not a big deal. After all, the schools should remain neutral on religion because we are a pluralistic nation. It wouldn’t be fair to rank any one religion as more valuable or virtuous than another, right? So they say, “We’ll just teach math and history and science and reading – don’t worry, we won’t teach religion.”

But they do. Humanism is religious to its core. Religious thought drives the theory of macro evolution.

Neutrality is a myth. We must expose the wolves who teach it by stripping them of their sheep-wool cloaks. No one can or should remain neutral, and Christians should not fall victim to this false teaching.

God does not want us to study in neutral. He does not want us to parent in neutral (Eph. 6.1-4). He wants us fully engaged with our faith in the spiritual fight. He wants us to take up the whole armor He has prepared for us and for us to use it!

Remember, that armor includes a sword.

How to Study God's Word

Monday, October 31, 2022

What methods should you follow when examining God’s word? How should you read it to get the most out of it, and how should you read it to truly understand what God’s actual intent is?

Much has been said and written on this subject, but I’d like to share some simple, practical pointers. Perhaps the following suggestions will ring true with you and help you in your discovery of the most blessed of all Books.

Read the Bible as You Would Other Books

The Bible is different from all other books because it comprises words not only written by men but also directed by the Holy Spirit. Thus, we understand it to be God-breathed: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3.16). “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1.20-21).

However, God communicates to us through men and uses methods of communication which are common to man. There is nothing mystical about reading His word; anyone may understand it. As Jesus told the Father, “You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Luke 10.21).

God has always communicated to man in the common language of man, so we do not need special university training before we can understand it.

Seek to Understand What the Author Was Saying to His Audience

If you started to read something by Aristotle or Shakespeare, you would know the man had written in a completely different time and culture. He uses words in a different way than you are used to. How will you understand him? You will need to study the man’s writings and perhaps other literature from his era to get a good feel for how he thinks and communicates.

It’s also helpful to understand the author’s audience. Was he writing to a friend, a foe, the public? Was he attempting to persuade, reprimand, instruct? Who received his work, and how would they have read it? This takes work, but it helps greatly to understand the whole communication.

Every author writes to be understood. Despite current trends in how to read books, the message of the book is not up to the reader. If you misunderstand what an author has to say, you have not rightly interpreted the book. No, everyone cannot have his own valid interpretation. We do the author a disservice and treat his work with contempt and ingratitude if we do not really attempt to pick up what he’s put down. That’s how I hope you are reading my article right now.

Find Instruction for Your Present Walk with God

The last step of solid study is application. The author is teaching something or relaying some message to his original audience. How does it connect and apply to me? Is there anything useful? When dealing with the word of God, there is always something useful because God’s word is living and active and deep beyond measure. For instance, once we understand what Paul was saying to the Colossian brethren, we can then ask, “Does God intend for me to follow this rule or this principle today? If so, how should this be worked out in my day?” It was addressed to specific Christians, but God preserved it for the future church to own and in some way follow.

Summary

Follow these three main steps in your Bible study:

  1. Observe: Read the Bible as you would other books
  2. Interpret: Seek to understand what the author was saying to his audience
  3. Apply: Find instruction for your present walk with God

God bless you as you plumb the depths of His sweet and powerful Book.

Fathers, Teach Your Children

Monday, October 24, 2022

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,
but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6.4)

God chose Abraham for a specific purpose: “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18.19)

When David returned from successfully bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 6.19-20 says, “Then all the people departed, each to his house. And David returned to bless his household.”

Solomon writes of the relationship between fathers and children in many of his Proverbs:

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,

and forsake not your mother’s teaching,

for they are a graceful garland for your head

and pendants for your neck. (Proverbs 1.8-9)

And now, O sons, listen to me:

blessed are those who keep my ways. (Proverbs 8.32)

Whoever spares the rod hates his son,

but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Proverbs 13.24)

Discipline your son, for there is hope;

do not set your heart on putting him to death.  (Proverbs 19.18)

Discipline your son, and he will give you rest;

he will give delight to your heart. (Proverbs 29.17)

Does the burden of bringing up children in the Lord fall only to fathers? No, mothers also do this excellent work. Moses spoke to the people of Israel, men and women, when he said, “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children…” (Deuteronomy 4.9). “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6.6-7). Timothy’s mother and grandmother worked hard to teach him the Scriptures through his boyhood years (2 Timothy 1.5; 3.15).

But Fathers are primarily tasked with teaching their children about God and His paths of righteousness.

We should be thinking generations down the line. What will my great-grandchildren be taught? Will my influence continue to the next generation…and even beyond? What a sweet thought, that grandchildren I don’t even know may one day bless the Lord’s name and fight in His kingdom.

Fathers, let us command our children to keep the ways of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice. Many fathers today act as curses to their families. Let us return to our homes to bless our families by leading them in paths of light and guiding with godly wisdom and instruction.

To the work!

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