Word of the Day

Friend or Enemy

James 4: 4              NIV

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

On a recent trip out of town I visited a YMCA in that city. Of course, many of you know the YMCA is a Christian organization. This particular Y says of its mission: “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” A noble mission statement, you would agree. You know, as well, that I am a fan of the YMCA organization and its mission. Ivey Ministries, in fact, has donated to the Y and I have personally too. It is a great organization which is helping many people.

Even the Y, though, is vulnerable to the wiles of the world. Each of us is susceptible to becoming so friendly with the world that we become enemies of God. On this day I rode a bicycle spin class. The instructor gave each song title as it began to play. Imagine my surprise when she announced the song playing as, “Summer of the Occult.” Really? I said, “What?” So, she repeated it. Yep, that’s what she said alright. I just knew I misheard her. After class I approached her and mentioned that, in my humble opinion, songs of the occult are not appropriate for a Christian organization. She immediately looked threatened and began walking away but answered me saying, “Well, it’s just music.” Of course, that is not a sufficient answer. That is called friendship with the enemy which puts us at enmity with God, or hostile to God.

You know, for the first time in my life I had a very clear picture of what it must have been like in the story of the Gadarene demoniacs from Matthew 8. Verse 29 reads, “And they cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’” That woman could not get away from me fast enough. The spirit behind that song selection could sense the Spirit in me and it wanted no part of Jesus’ Spirit.

We need to exercise caution in our lives because that easily could have been you or me. For all I know, that instructor may love Jesus intensely. This is not a criticism of her or the YMCA but if this is happening in a declared Christian organization, don’t you think it can happen other places too? Our homes and our churches are not even immune.

The problem is that we fall in love with the things of the world, such as the world’s music. We may say to ourselves, like the instructor said to me, “It’s only music.” Well, first of all, few things have the power to move our spirits more than music which is exactly why this is problematic. As it is, we use worldly music at the Y for our classes but occult music goes too far. It makes me wonder, though, if we have tolerated or befriended too much of the world’s music.

For some of us it isn’t music but rather television shows and movies. Their very themes fly in the face of holiness and godliness, but we enjoy them. So, bit by bit we sequester our Christianity to give lee way to the things of the world. We court the world and its many enticements, but the price is very high. Look at today’s verse from the Passion translation, “You have become spiritual adulterers who are having an affair, an unholy relationship with the world. Don’t you know that flirting with the world’s values places you at odds with God? Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy!”

This is a big problem which, I think, needs attention brought to it. Our Christianity is often more worldly than holy. Just a little of this or a bit of that and the next thing you know, we are more heathen than Christian. It is a challenge. We live in this world but we are not to be a part of it. We are supposed to be sanctified, which means set apart. We shouldn’t look like, sound like or sing like the world.

I do not want you to react in fear over this, however. This is a call to faith, prayer, and devotion. It is a caution too. We should pay attention to ourselves, our churches and our church programs, especially youth programs. Most of us want to be cool but at what price? I hear pastors saying things that make my skin crawl. It is not that they are bad people. They have just been enticed by the world. Guard yourself. Guard your family and home and guard your church and all its programs. Pray for your workplace and your workout place. Pray for the stores you frequent and every place you go. All these places need the presence of God in them.

The enemy is on the move and we are fools if we don’t understand that. He is infiltrating our Christian sanctuaries. We must awaken and get our heads out of the sand. We have floated around too long in the comfort of worldly pleasures. Now we are about to pay the price and a very high price at that if we don’t awaken and become the vigilant force we were always meant to be. The time for fat, cultural Christianity is at end. Take up your sword, which is the Word of God, and stand for your God. And by all means, push back. Don’t just tolerate this heathen infiltration of your life and organizations. Pray but also do not be afraid to speak up. Even if you are the only person willing to stand, stand just the same. Write to me and I will support you. You are not alone.

Friends of the world are enemies of God. We are forced to choose. Don’t tell me your choice. Show me!

Celebrating Independence

 

What does Independence Day mean to you?  We honor our currently serving service people as well as all veterans.  We have cookouts and fireworks.  For many of us it is about food and family.  Let us not forget, however, that this holiday is a celebration of our liberation from Colonial Great Britain and while Great Britain is a great friend of ours, we should recall that the nation many of us call home exists because people had a vision from God of what their lives and this land could be.  As we recall the price generations of people have paid for our liberty, let us not forget the original struggle for independence that is at the heart of this celebration.  Take it into your heart.  Think about the early framers and the men and women who made perilous journey’s to their “promised land” and gave us all the chance to live in a free country.  This is a great privilege and not one to be taken lightly.

Today we celebrate our independence.  We fought for our independence from Great Britain so that we would be answerable to only one authority, our God.  He is our king.  He is the original framer of this country.  Give Him worship for all He has done!

Kingdom Fruit

Matthew 21: 43

Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

This discussion on bearing fruit is an important one. It is quite easy for us to slide into complacency as regarding our faith. With the weight and urgency of so many things pressing upon us, focusing on our spiritual growth may not always get the attention it requires. From there it is an easy slip into carnality. I think so often, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” It is so easy to slip just a bit, and then more and we have all experienced it. The next thing you know, the fruit on your tree is beginning to wither. People see it on us. You can tell just being around me if I am having enough time with my Father or not. It just shows.

This lack of production of good fruit is a problem for Jesus, well, not so much for him as for us because he has already revealed how the problem is handled from his end. He will give the Kingdom of God to those who are producing the fruit of it. Does his statement cause a little trepidation in your heart? It does mine. So, what is the test? Do you remember from last week? The best test I know for checking our fruit is to ask how we are treating people around us.

Does the checkout clerk at the grocery store feel the negative emanations coming off of you? Or, conversely, do you try to cover it up with platitudes and she senses how fake and superficial you are? I know I have been guilty on both accounts. Or do you see folks with Jesus bumper stickers on their cars cutting off other people in traffic? Don’t you sometimes wish they would remove the stickers? What message is conveyed about our faith when our actions are self-oriented and inconsiderate?

And here is the big test. If you could be completely honest with yourself, what do you honestly think your family members would say about the things you do and the way you speak to them? Do your words edify or demean them? How are people going to believe in our Christianity if we do not bear good fruit?

Jesus said the Kingdom of God has been reserved for those who will produce its fruit. Actually, what he said is worse than that because he said he would take the Kingdom away from us and give it to those who will produce the fruit of the Kingdom. I think we should ask ourselves, and our Lord, what the fruit of his kingdom is. Secondly, we need to learn to walk by the Spirit daily so that he can lead us in the way.

Let’s take this fruit inspection seriously. If we evaluate our own fruit, of course with the Lord’s help, then we will not be disappointed. He will lead us in the path that will bless us and others.

Milk or Meat?

Hebrews 5: 12

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

It is so easy to end up right here, still requiring the milk of the Word instead of the meat. In fact, sometimes it is comfortable. It is a place of little responsibility. Someone else has the responsibility of feeding us. Our job is to listen. We want people to sit under teaching ministries and absorb all they can. However, there comes a time when each of us must arise and put all of it into use. We must pursue maturity even as we continue to absorb the teachings of those who have gone before us.

Eventually, too, we should graduate to meat from milk. Why are our teachers still having to teach kindergarten? The writer of Hebrews says by this time we ought to be teaching and yet we are still suckling. It’s time to step up and grow up.

No one wants a 40 year old baby, not even our teachers. Of course, in the body of Christ there is no age specific parameter. Rather, we all begin knowing very little and grow in our knowledge and wisdom. After a while, though, we ought to be able to stand on our feet and walk. We no longer need someone to hold our hands every step of the way. We always have our elders for those issues which are outside our experience or knowledge but we ought to come to a place where we can handle the milk of the Word with grace.

This is not a call to arrogance or independence. It is encouragement to grow to the full maturity of the Word in Jesus, our Christ. It is time for some of us to stand up and use what we have been given. I believe in soaking in the Word and in teaching but I also believe in doing what we know to do without being coached day in and day out. As long as we stay babies, we have an excuse but God is calling us into maturity, where “I didn’t know,” will no longer suffice. Grow into your full stature while remaining humble and subject to instruction for it is not maturity if you cannot still receive instruction. That is called arrogance and it is dangerous. Rise up and be who you are destined to be. Quit playing at being a Christian and instead put on the full mantle of God in Christ Jesus.

Fruit Check

2 Samuel 10: 2 – 3

But when David’s servants came to the land of the Ammonites, the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think that David is honoring your father because he has sent consolers to you? Has David not sent his servants to you in order to search the city, to spy it out and overthrow it?”

So, we were talking about fruit yesterday. This is an interesting example from the Bible and certainly a circumstance that everyone has encountered. We’ll see how to evaluate it and how to deal with it.
Let’s begin with some background. The king of the Ammonites died and his son, Hanun, took his place. David sent his condolences to the son, “Then David said, ‘I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.’ So David sent some of his servants to console him concerning his father,” (v. 2). Now look back at today’s verse. Some of the king’s entourage cast a negative pall over David’s act of kindness.

Have you ever noticed there always seems to be someone like this in the group? They turn everything into a negative, always have the negative spin. This, my beloved friends, is not the fruit of the Spirit. You can spot, immediately, that these people are not speaking from the Spirit of God. Whatsmore, their advice, almost always, leads to a bad result. In this case, it led to a war with the most powerful army and warrior in the region. They badly mistreated David’s envoys, so David sent his army. Hey, if you don’t like the messenger who brings the glad tidings, perhaps you will like those who carry the sword better.

People who always bring out the negative, are not speaking from a heart of love. We have to be wise, we need to use the discernment from the Holy Spirit, but we need not speak from fear or suspicion. Just confront the issues and deal with them openly and honestly. God cannot get a blessing to a person who sees negativity in everything. In this case they didn’t receive David so they were never going to benefit from his blessing either. Sometimes God is trying to get a blessing to us, but we act suspicious and turn it away. You can have faith and wisdom. We are meant to. If you have concerns, take them to your Father and let Him speak to the situation. It is a much better course of action.

Show Me

Matthew 12: 33             Voice Translation

Good trees produce good fruits; bad trees produce bad fruits. You can always tell a tree by its fruits.

This is not a farming tip today, though I guess it is a good thing to know. Actually, Jesus spoke this verse in teaching that our words reveal our character. We can no more hide the health of our hearts than a bad tree can camouflage its bad fruit.

This goes to the heart of our evangelical message because it is hard to convince people about the good fruit of Christianity when they perceive rotten fruit on our trees. However, there is another group we should bear in mind because not all evangelism is to strangers. Let’s think about our families, friends, neighbors and co-workers as well. What are our actions and words saying to these people about Christianity?

In the United States, the state of Missouri is known as the “Show me state.” So, if we were all from Missouri we might say, “Show me your Christianity!” You see, if our words are not in keeping with our fruit they will have no weight. The fruit on our trees speaks much more loudly than our words. Our Christianity can best be measured in how we treat other people. People see how we treat each other and they judge all of Christianity by that simple measure, and perhaps rightfully so.

If Christianity is about anything, it is about loving others. This love, is an action verb. It’s not about having a feeling. It is about demonstrating and expressing kindness, gentleness and all the other character traits of our dear Father. Without the outward expression of selflessness and consideration for others, our Christian message fails.

Think about the children we are raising. They hear a lot of messages out there and we are trying to compete with our message of Christian love but are we modeling it? What does it do to an impressionable heart when you claim you are a Christian but do not produce fruit? I tell you it confuses our young people. Even more, it alienates them from the Christian message. And what is the Christian message if not love. But this is not a message which can be conveyed in words alone. It is in our actions, and, as I’ve said, most notably in the way we treat others. These children are saying very loudly to us, “Don’t tell me about your Christianity. Show me.”

I believe they have a right to expect Christianity to be demonstrated to them. They ought to see Christianity in action. Believe me, they will not follow someone who is not authentic and sincere. It is okay to make mistakes. We all do, but there is so much persuasion in admitting fault to your children, even in apologizing to them when we err.

I hope you will give this some thought and let it sink into your heart. We must produce good fruit if we want our Christian message to have any credence at all. The fruit is most noticeably demonstrated, and weighed, in how we treat others, including our children, friends, and associates. We evangelize every day with our actions. The question is, what message are we sending?

Targeted

2 Samuel 17: 2

And I will come upon him while he is weary and exhausted and will terrify him so that all the people who are with him will flee. Then I will strike down the king alone.

What does this have to do with our present day existence, you may ask. I have found this to be an instructive verse for daily life.

Many of us live in cultures that are rushed and hectic. That can pose a problem. First, it is hard to hear the leading of God when hurried and stressed. God speaks to our inner quiet. He does not shout into the chaos. That is why He told us to be still and experience Him as God (Psalm 46: 10).

The other issue, of course, is that our chaotic lifestyle paints bull’s eye targets on our foreheads and hearts. I noticed many years ago that when I was tired, weary and exhausted I was susceptible to attacks. If you don’t think your enemy is looking for opportunities to bother you, you are deceived. The enemy is always looking for someone he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). So, don’t volunteer to be his chow. When you are exhausted, you look like prey. And, you probably actually are. Your defenses go down.

The answer, of course, is to take time to rest your spirit, especially. Take that quiet walk with Jesus and let him give you the refreshing waters that he offered the Samaritan woman. Let him rejuvenate you in body, mind and spirit. He can restore you but only you can set the appointment with him. If “busy” is a word you use often to describe yourself, then you need a check-up from the neck up, as a friend of mine says. Change your priorities. Say no to some events or even to some people. Let’s be honest, as uncomfortable as that can be, we have none the less, grown very adept at saying “No,” to Christ. It makes me wonder, sometimes, why we call ourselves Christians since he seems to be rather low on our priority list. If you will put him back in first position, he will guide you in setting your priorities and he will give you strength for the things you need to do.

Please hear this with your heart. If you are too busy to slow down and spend some time with Jesus in the resting and restoration of your soul, then you are too busy, period. Shall we go so far as to say that busyness is a sin? I know it is a problem in my life and one I have to battle constantly. Sometimes I need to just kick back. Other times I have to get up an hour earlier so that I have time for things that need doing.

Don’t weary yourself with much doing and don’t train your children to do the same thing. Your spirit, your soul and your body need rest. Go to a yoga class, spend time sitting in your garden or take a walk along the water and pray. Make it a priority to care for your triune self. Guard against busyness and overworking yourself. Word hard when you work but then take time to allow Jesus to restore you. It is really important that you do. Otherwise, you become a target.

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