Saturday, October 5, 2013

Why You Do What You Do

What do you do?  The truth is that you do what you value.
You spend 3 hours a night watching television or surfing on the computer because you value that stimulation or lack of it.  You go to church or you don't go to church because that is something you value.  If you play a musical instrument at some point you valued learning and being able to play that instrument to create music.

If you take time to chart out a 24 hour day or better yet, a 168 hour week, you will discover what the true values in your life are.   A person who loves football may actually spend 3 hours watching the game, listen to the announcers wrap up the highlights of the contest, and then listen to 30 minutes on the coach's show the next day.  He may read 15 minutes of news story about the players the next day and even read ESPN summaries and previews for next week.  In short his 6 hours of attention demonstrates that he values the entertainment and stimulation of football. On the other hand, a person who states that he values time with God but spends less than 10 minutes a day is trying to fool himself into believing that is something he treasures.

What if you want to change your values to include something that you have chosen to make important to you?  Let's suppose you wish to learn how to improve your golf game or get better at some activity.  The first step would be to seek out classes or someone who could give instruction, then schedule the time to work on it, and finally take a certain amount of hours to practice or be involved in the activity until you make progress or master it.  The same principle applies if you wish to know God.

In order to live for God, to place the highest value in your life on glorifying Him, you have to make some deliberate choices.  It all starts with the realization or revelation that Jesus Christ is worth your everything, your whole effort, and your greatest attention.  Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.  Human nature just won't or can't do this without God Himself accomplishing it in us.  Scripture tells us that in His light, we become light.  We are changed by beholding His glory.  In short, man only changes when we see God.  What is it worth to you to see God?

If seeing Him and knowing Him is a high value, then you choose to set aside time to be with Him, to seek teachers who can explain spiritual principles, and to put yourself in a place and disposition to receive His revelation.  The time you give and what you do shows you value this relationship.  We invite you to choose to make knowing God a higher value in your life.  Give greater priority and time to seeking God and let Him work through your new desire.  As you treasure getting to know Him and His great love, you will begin to find time and to reflect on His character more each day.  Gradually this desire will reshape the things you do, until your actions demonstrate the greatest value in your life.  The awesome, beautiful, holy, all-wise, worthy Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus is worth your time and effort.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What does God look like?

A little child turns to her daddy and asks "What does God look like?" Not only is this a good question, but finding the answer is a worthy lifelong pursuit for everyone of us.  Unfortunately, often the cares and struggles of life can distract and steal that child-like hunger to know God.  

God is so good, and His love for each one of us is so awesome, that even a small revelation of His character will make a major difference in how we look at ourselves and at life. 

The truth is that most people have a very limited view or understanding of what God is really like.  Yet great Christian writers like A. W. Tozer point out that there is a direct correlation between how well we know God (as He really is) and our moral practices and inward attitudes.  Our current moral depravity only demonstrates how far we have come from an active knowledge and respect for God.

So the obvious question is how do we get to know God.  In Matthew 11, Jesus points out that no one knows the Father except the Son and no one knows the Son except the Father and those whom He chooses to reveal Him.  To whom does He choose to reveal Him?  The best answer is to those who really want to know Him and take the time to seek Him.  All of life and its challenges are opportunities to discover how great and complete God is, whether it is provision, healing, peace in the storms of life, direction in hard places, or forgiveness when you need it. God never changes.  The same God who answers these needs continues to show Himself to those who are open. Likewise, the Word of God is meant to "line by line" reveal His nature and heart.

So return to your child-like heart and start looking for God.  Ask Him to give you "wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Ephesians 1:17) every morning and expect God, who desires to have fellowship with you, to breakthrough in big and little ways.  He is faithful.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Continue in My Word, You Will Know the Truth

What do you want?  You answer that question by the time and effort you give to a certain definite activity.  God calls you and has given you the ability to choose the fullness of life He originally planned when He created you.  Nothing can take away the promise this amazing opportunity provides.  The question is "How do you handle the Word of God?"

"If you continue in My Word, ... you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32   Considering that Jesus said that He was the Truth, it clearly follows that continuing in the Word releases the truth (or Truth) that makes you free indeed.  Can something so simple be so life changing?

Lets take an ordinary example.  Perhaps someone feels that they are worthless, unattractive, and always a failure.  These are pretty strong negative thoughts or persuasions that often control not only the inner perceptions but also the outward actions or choices.  If such a person begins to read and consider what the Word of God reveals, he would discover that he is made in the image and likeness of God and as an image-bearer of God Himself is extremely valuable and destined to overcome every negative that holds him back.  Furthermore, he is wonderfully and fearfully made, and is so precious that God is pleased to have Jesus His Son bear all the hurt and offense for him.  This Word or declaration begins to unveil a powerful truth in the mind of the reader.  The more he continues in this truth, the more he become free from the bondage of the old condemning patterns of thought, and is released to become the son of God that was originally intended.  Scripture says, "He sent forth His Word and healed them" or in our example, made them whole.

Man is not able to grasp all of God.  God is so good, so awesome, so holy, so glorious, and so totally other, that the best man can do is "line upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little" until the light dawns in man's soul, which is his thoughts, emotions, and choices.  In spite of man's condition, clearly God wants every man to know Him.   He desires to reveal Himself to all who call on His name.  God has made a way to accept God's invitation to literally know what the Bible calls "a mystery that has been hidden," of Christ Himself being revealed inside of us, through taking time to read and receive with meekness the Word of God.

This revealed way is allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal His "setting free" truth by choosing to focus on God's thoughts and ways.  So obey Jesus' invitation, "Continue in His Word, come to know the Truth, and this Truth will set you free.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Many Will Be Deceived vs. Love of the Truth

One of the most terrifying statements Jesus made about the end times is that many will be deceived.  No wonder whenever the disciples asked him about what will happen, as in Matthew 24, his first words were, "Take heed that no one deceives you."

While there are many areas in which a believer may be deceived, there are three glowing areas that are rapidly becoming the focus of the battleground.
First, Jesus is God, and the Son of God.  You would think this would be elementary, but in the intellectual, accommodating world, many are trying to say He was a great teacher, or just a man, or one of many spiritual leaders to help us find truth. 

Second, Jesus is the only way to heaven.  People want to accuse Christians of saying that "their religion" is better than others.  The point isn't the argument over whose religion is better, but rather there is only one perfect man who rightfully could pay the price for man's sins.  Jesus is the only one who qualifies to justly take away our wrongs

Thirdly, that God who is love will also be a righteous judge.  Even well known pastors with large followings are beginning to question God sending someone to hell.  Sometimes people like to act as if they are more merciful than God.  Jesus shows the absolute love of God for us in paying an incredibly awesome price for sin.  Clearly He did it to forgive man's sin and to bring us back to the Father.  His infinite mercy is shown in not only taking every single person's sins, but also in opening the doors of heaven and inviting everyone to "Come to Me."  Even though He desires everyone to be saved, He respects the decision of those who choose to reject Him and all the mercy He extended in taking their place in suffering the consequences of their sins.  God will not and can not cheat.  Every sin is paid for, either by Jesus Christ's death, or by the offending person himself.  God is just.   Man will get what he sows. God is absolutely merciful carrying and putting to death the consequences of every man's sins.  His nature is both perfect love and perfect justice.  Otherwise He could not be who He is. 

The Word, in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, stresses that Satan will come with all power, signs, and lying wonders to deceive many.  Notice why: BECAUSE THEY DID NOT RECEIVE THE LOVE OF THE TRUTH.   Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, including the truth about Jesus.  He will do this for everyone who is teachable.  One of my favorite short Scripture verses is "Let God be true and every man a liar."  Romans 3:4    Our theme at CedarWood for this year, "Got Truth" is based on Proverbs 23:23  Buy the truth and do not give it up at any cost.  Ask God to give you a love of the truth, and a refusal to never compromise it.  Otherwise, you will be deceived.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What is Truth?

An atheist, in an argument with a believer, declared that there were no absolute standards such as truth, right or wrong.  The believer asked, "What about Hitler slaughtering 6 million Jews?  Surely, you admit that was wrong.  Killing innocent people must be wrong."
Rather than agree with the obvious, he replied, "I would say that is your opinion, not truth.  From the German regime's viewpoint, the Jews were a threat and they were only protecting themselves."  The atheist continued, "In order for it to be truth, everybody has to agree it is true."
All of a sudden the Christian became aware of the problem.  According to the atheist and modern liberal thinking, only those principles that everyone acknowledges such as gravity or scientific phenomena that can be demonstrated are truth, everything else is subjective.  The believer, on the other hand, understands that what God says is truth, not what man thinks.
Amazingly, Jesus told Pilate (in John 18:37) "for this reason I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth."  Pilate's answer was the same as modern liberal thinking, "What is truth?"  So the obvious dilemma is whether God has the right and authority to establish truth.  Are things exactly as God says they are, or are we actually just a chaotic civilization with no true values or principles, and living a life with no ultimate goal or purpose?
Jesus claimed to be the Truth and the Father bore witness to what Jesus did and said with signs and wonders.  Furthermore, Jesus promised that the Spirit of God would continue to bear witness to the truth. The litmus test that determines whether someone comes to know the truth is beyond our natural mind and thinking, but rather revealed to those who honestly come to Jesus admitting they need a savior to deliver them from their sins. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit and we "know" the truth of Jesus and the principles given in His Word.  God invites us to know truth, and be set free from the uncertainty and insanity of the world's confusion and philosophy. This Truth endures forever.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Got Truth?

"What do you know for sure?" is a favorite greeting of a friend of mine.  It always causes me to stop and think.  The problem is that so much of what we "know" is from the media, a second-hand report, or someone else's opinion given with authority.  Many of us are just "sheep" following the latest news that someone has tweeted or shared on Facebook.  How much is fact and how much is just subjective perception?
    Every time we hear of a famous celebrity or person with academic credentials pontificating some philosophy, and then later the information fails the test of time or the person's life falls apart at the seams, we realize again how foolish it is to assume popularity means it must be correct.  Things are not always the way they seem.  We certainly want our lives to be built upon a rock of truth rather than the sinking sand of man's opinion.   
   The world is changing so fast, things that were considered immoral are being proclaimed openly as acceptable, standards of life, marriage, sex, drugs, etc. have all undergone huge shifts and transformations.  How far will it go and when will it end?
   However, one truth will never change.  When this life is over and this present age comes to an end, only what can last for eternity will matter.  God will only validate what is really true and right and good.  However, because of what Jesus has done to pay the price for sin, judgment should be a time of great reward as Jesus declares, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of My Father."  Obviously all things will be tested by fire, maybe the fire of God's all-knowing eyes, and regardless of politically correct opinion and society's approval, only truth will stand.  Everything else will burn up.
   Proverbs 23:23 advises man to buy the truth, and not to give it up at any cost.  Surely Solomon understands the value of truth and the attitude of treasuring it above all things.  Jesus said He is the Truth.  He further stated "if you continue in My Word you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." (John 8:31-32)  Consider the foolproof promise of God: Anyone who seeks truth will find it.  God alone knows whether one is content to follow the "sheep" doing what he pleases and holding on to whatever "truth" is popular; or on the other hand, whether the person is honestly seeking truth and ready to follow it at any cost.      
   The purpose of this article is to invite you to be wise, get truth, and never let go of it.  Truth has eternal fruit and rewards. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Trials, for what purpose?

"Count it all joy when trials come your way!" is one of the great impossibilities of Scripture, unless God intervenes and reveals some higher purpose.  So this leads to the question, why are there trials?

Let's start from God's perspective.  He saved you and me for the express purpose of having intimate fellowship with us or as Ephesians 1 reveals "that we might be holy and blameless before HIm."  His whole purpose in dying on the cross and sending His Spirit was to change us into a new creation that conforms to the nature of Jesus Christ.  Simply stated, He wants us to be like Him and this will only happen when He becomes all in all.  He invites us to share divine nature (2 Peter1:4).

So what is the holdup?  That's easy, it's us.  We don't realize how much we need to change and often really don't want to do so.  We get complacent where we are at, much like the people of Laodicea who thought everything was fine rather than realize how poor, wretched, and naked they really were.

This is where trials come in. When we have problems the circumstances often open us up to realizing that we need help. Failure makes it clear we need to change.  James 1 instructs us to let patience have its complete work that we might become "perfect lacking nothing."  God gives grace to the humble.  Every mistake, every problem, every "impossibility" opens the door for us to cry out for God to take over.  Yes, count it joy when trials come and rather than complain, choose to submit to God.  He has a beautiful work to do in you.