Am I Responsible for Their Behavior?

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-10

In this passage, Paul is teaching Timothy how to teach the people in his church.

Modest apparel is clothing that does not call attention to itself, but conforms to morally acceptable standards.

Does that short skirt draw attention……the skimpy bathing suit…..the low-cut neckline…then, according to the Bible (not my opinion) it shouldn’t be worn.

Why?

So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. ~ Romans 14:12-13

and

But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. ~ 1 Corinthians 8:9

This question was posed to me a while back, and it was interesting to hear the other responses. This is a very clear example of why we need to know what God’s Word says about issues like this.

God gives us clear instructions. The problem is not with not understanding what He is saying…but, rather with not wanting to do what He is saying.

It’s almost like we don’t mind “consulting” with God’s Word, but we just want to add that to our “decision making process”. That is not obedience.

When we tell our kids to do something, do we accept for them to “reason” the pros and cons of doing so….well….okay, I guess there are many parents doing that these days, but, to raise a child who understands Biblical obedience (you know the punishment used to be stoning for disobedience?)them “reasoning” it out would not be acceptable.

God is perfect. He is holy. He expects us to be holy (mature, whole) and obedient.

So, according to God, we will be held accountable if we cause anyone to stumble. That responsibility goes above and beyond the choices that we make for ourselves, and invades the choices that we make for the benefit of others (as we are told to do).

 

Allergy Warning!!!

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. ~ Psalm 4:23

Do you know anyone who has a peanut allergy? If so, then you are familiar with how vigilant they have to be.

Not only must they avoid foods that contain peanuts, but also other foods that are processed where peanuts are processed, to be completely sure that their systems are not exposed to the contaminates that will trigger a life-threatening allergic reaction.

They can never let their guard down.

How much better would our relationship with God be, if we were as vigilant to avoid contamination by sin.

In fact, each and every one of us are allergic to sin, in that contamination by it will cause death.

Praise God, He, in His wisdom, provided the Treatment.

Now, let me ask you this: If you had a peanut allergy would just eat peanuts anyway, assuming you’d be able to receive medical attention in time to save you life? Would you be careless about it?

Probably not…..

A large reason that you would not do that would be that, even if you could be “saved” if you got medical attention in time, each and every reaction, every attack would weaken your body.

Sin works in the same way.

So….as with any allergy, the best remedy is to avoid contamination in the first place.

How much more pure and holy would our lives be, how much more effective would our testimonies be, if we were as vigilant to avoid sin, and everything associated with it (processed with it, if you will) that could contaminate our lives?

“Pop” Gospel vs. Jesus’ Gospel

“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” ~ John 8:11 b

As I was driving down the road listening to the radio the other day, something struck me.

As anyone that knows me can testify, I really struggle with today’s attitudes of “entitlement”. You know, the phrases like, “You deserve it”, “It’s your right”, etc. that encourage everyone to look out for their own interests first.

One of the things that I noticed was how a lot of radio personalities focus on the “positive and encouraging”. Not that I think that’s altogether wrong, it does need to be tempered with moderation.

As I thought and prayed about it, later that night, a lot of things came to mind. Here are a few.

Pop gospel tells us: “Don’t feel guilty for your sins.”

Jesus says, “Don’t continue in your sins.”

Pop gospel says, “You are only human, created with a sin nature.”

Jesus says, “You are holy, re-created with a divine purpose and nature.”

Okay, so I’m not talking about past sin here….I believe that once we accept Jesus Christ, those sins are forgiven and we should not feel guilty about them any longer. but, neither should we continue in them.

I heard a well-known (though not accurate) preacher say the other day, “the Holy Spirit will never convict you of sin.” Wow. I was shocked.

One thing I do know, is that when we ignore the Holy Spirit’s prompting and conviction of sin, we become hardened against His voice. Putting off that still small voice one time, often leads to another and another, until we are so complacent in our sins that we no longer see them as sins, but as merely more of what grace covers…….

It’s crucial to understand and never lose sight of what we deserve….We deserve eternity in hell, separated from God forever. I think we would do well to remember that the next time we start touting, “I want what I deserve.”

Why does any of this matter?

It matters, because when we think we are okay, continuing in our sins, we become stumbling blocks in the lives of others who desperately need Jesus Christ in their lives.

We can live a holy life, but only when we have a clear understanding that sin causes death. It’s not some “harmless” play thing. It’s an infectious disease that reaches epidemic proportions in the blink of an eye.

Only by being on guard vigilantly can we keep it from our lives. Not to earn, or to deserve our salvation, but out of sincere gratitude because of our salvatoin!

We Have The “Cure” – Why Do We Keep It To Ourselves?

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. ~ Romans 5:5

As someone who counsels a lot of people, and am often baffled by their response (or lack thereof) to some of the Bible-based answers I give them, I’ve prayed for a long time for God to show me, in some tangible way, how to understand this.

Here’s what I got:

Picture an ebola clinic – Patients that are ravaged with the disease are coughing uncontrollably, running fevers, and suffering from massive headaches. As a doctor in this clinic, I would not walk up to one, point to someone who has just succumbed to the disease, and tell them, “Stop coughing, right now, or this is going to happen to you.” or “If you insist on keeping that headache, you will end up like this.” or “Stop running that fever, right now, or you’ll be dead, too.”

Why? Because those who are ravaged with a disease cannot stop, or control the symptoms of that disease, no matter how hard they try.

No, as a doctor in such a clinic, I would go to the patient and say, “I have the cure for this disease. Once the cure is administered, the symptoms will subside, and eventually will leave you completely. Do you want this cure, or do you want to continue your suffering from the symptoms, until the disease ravages your whole body and leaves you dead.?”

In the same way, we need to see people who are dealing with major issues in the same way. Things like addiction to alcohol, drugs, porn, attention, etc. are all merely symptoms of a deadly disease known as sin. Oftentimes, we tend to only address the symptoms, then become frustrated by the lack of progress in dealing with them.

When the cause of the symptom is not addressed, that cause, along with the symptoms, will only worsen.

It’s easy to look at someone’s symptoms, and focus on them, without looking for a cause.

In the case of someone who is plagued by addiction, the “cause” of course, is sin, but there are many ways that “germ” is carried, just as with a physical disease. Some of these “carriers” are hopelessness, anger, disappointment, despair, bitterness, resentment, pride, arrogance, complacency, etc.

In dealing with someone in such a situation, our response should be to offer the “Cure” (Jesus Christ), thus eliminating the carrier, and ending the symptoms, not to focus on eliminating the symptoms.

So, how do we “administer” the “Cure”?

We do so by introducing the patient to Jesus Christ, and the hope, love, forgiveness, peace, mercy, grace, joy, and contentment that can only be found in Him. And then, we must follow-up, teaching them how to grow in Christ. As they do so, the symptoms will go away, because the source of the infection has been removed.

So, rather than feeling the hopelessness that comes from trying to address the symptoms (with poor results), let’s remember that we do have the Cure. We know, for a fact, that He can cure them, so let’s start dispensing Him freely!!!

Disclaimer: (Please read): There are side effects of this Cure. They may include, but are not limited to: unconditional love, relentless forgiveness, passionate pursuit of Jesus Christ, amazing grace, undeserved mercy, unspeakable joy, unfathomable hope, indescribable peace, and unimaginable contentment.

If you experience any of the side effects, please share them with those around you immediately!!!

A Conversation With the Master of the Universe

Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”

But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” ~ Matthew 8:25-27

How many times have we all been in a place where we feel like the disciples did in this passage?

We voice these feelings to the Lord with questions like:

“Where are You, Lord?”

and

“Don’t You see that I’m hurting?”

or

“Don’t You care what happens to me?”

That’s exactly what the disciples were saying here. They ask for salvation from the storm, but then have to go on to add (as if the Lord didn’t know) “We are perishing!”.

How many times do we feel like God is “sleeping” on the job? Like maybe, somehow, this situation “slipped up” on Him, and caught Him off guard?

I want us to take a close look at what the Lord’s response is to these statements.

First, He ask them “Why are you fearful?” (What are you afraid of?)

Then, He calls into question their faith. “You have little faith”. (Why do you doubt?)

The key to understanding exactly Who This Man is can be found (and should positively reassure us) in the last verse of this passage: “Who can This be?”

We have a benefit here that the disciples did not have at the time. Yes, they had seen Him perform miracles (including this one), but we have a whole Library of the things that He has done – so, we should be more sure of Who He is. So, why do we still doubt?

Think about looking through a telescope, both ways. When you look through the small end, the things on the other side appear larger. When you look through the large side, the things on the other side appear smaller. We need to grasp that image, because it is the key to how we view our circumstances.

When we have the large side focused on ourselves, God can seem very, very small.

But, when we peer through the small end (humbly looking to Who God is), we get a clearer perspective of Who this God is that we serve. He is the Master of the Universe, the Creator and Sustainer of all things.

So, why in the world would we ever doubt what He is capable of???

Fruit Bearing

The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” ~ Matthew 13:23

I’m always amazed at the spiritual lessons that one can learn in a garden.

Yesterday, as I was watering my garden, I noticed something kind of interesting.

I have 2 apple trees that I got as cuttings about 6 years ago. They look identical. They are both about 10-12 feet tall now. What caught my attention was that when I started looking at one of them, checking for fruit, I found that it was loaded with really nice-sized apples. I was so excited, thinking of applesauce, apple butter, apple pie jam, etc.

So, after praising God for the fruit-producing tree, I started to look at the other one, just sure that it would be filled as well. Imagine my disappointment when I couldn’t even find 1 apple on this tree. The tree was just as beautifully adorned with leaves as the other one, but it was all “looks”. There was no fruit. Nothing.

It really reminded me of how we, as Christians, can look really healthy, can actually be flourishing in our relationship with Jesus Christ, but, still, we have no fruit to show for our lives. The difference is taking the time to minister to others, to talk to them about Jesus Christ, to encourage them in their faith, to really teach them about walking with the Lord.

The secret is found in this verse from Matthew, “Those who truly hear and understand God’s Word”.

God tells us to live a life that honors Him. If we do not do that, those that we minister to will not receive the “seed” of the Gospel. Only when we grasp that God calls us to holiness – so that our ministry is effective, will be not only “look” like healthy Christians, but we will be fruit producers!

A True Friend?

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other. ~ John 15:12-17 (NLT)

Okay, first, let me clarify that, in no way, am I questioning the “trueness” of Jesus’ friendship with us. He’s proven Himself a worthy Friend, over and over to all of us.

What I am asking is, have we done the same?

What standard can you measure the “true-ness” of our friendship to Jesus Christ? I think there is a very clear standard here in this passage,

“You are my friends if you do what I command”.

It’s very popular right now to lay claim to “being a friend of God”.

We all know what the measure of a true friend is in our worldly relationships.

We chose friends who will be loyal, faithful, loving, kind, encouraging, helpful, supportive, etc.,

We avoid “friends” who stab us in the back, turn on us when we need them, are cruel, are not there when we need them, etc.

So, knowing that Jesus is the most faithful Friend, I must ask,

What kind of friend are we to Him?

Do we turn on Him, rather than defending Him to others?

Do we show His love to those in need?

Are we faithful to Him in our thoughts, words, actions and reactions?

It’s one thing to lay claim to being a friend of God but quite another to prove it with our lives.

Who Do You Look Like?

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. ~ Ephesians 5:1-3

I remember, as a teenager, I was told that I must have gotten my looks from my Daddy and my brains from my Mama. I recall rolling my eyes at the time, but now, I’m blessed to have many attributes in common with both of them. (Yes, even  especially their stubbornness).

Thinking about this recently got me to thinking….

Do I look more like my Heavenly Father or do I look more like the world?

I know that God judges the heart more than outward appearance, but, He also says that what is in the heart overflows into who we are and what we like on the outside.

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” ~ Matthew 12:33-35

A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thorn bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” ~ Luke 6:44-46

The bottom line is that while, yes, God does accept us just as we are. He loves us too much to leave us as we were when He accepted us. Just as we want the best possible life for our kids, He wants the best possible life for us. He, being the Creator of this life, wrote the Manual on this life, so that we could experience optimal effectiveness in our lives and our ministries.

So, I want to look like my Heavenly Daddy, not like the world.

Here’s what I think that looks like:

Hands that never tire of giving…all that He gives me to give.

Feet that never tire of going…everywhere that He sends me.

Eyes that never tire of looking on everyone with compassion…even the ones that are deemed “unlovable” by others.

Ears that never tire of listening for His prompting…to do anything and everything He tells me to.

Lips that never tire of sharing His Gospel with those who desperately need it…anywhere and everywhere I am.

and

A Heart that never tires of praising Him for all that He is, all that He’s done, all that He is doing, and all that He is going to do!

My prayer is that I will always “check” myself daily in the mirror of His Word to make sure that my likeness matches His more than it does that of the world. After all, we are called to be “peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9).

Mis-directed Compassion

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. ~ James 1:27

I was on facebook recently, and was watching a conversation among some of my friends. It went something like this:

“Saw a great episode of (*a famous soap* – I don’t watch soaps, and am not “endorsing” them) today.”

“Yeah, an emotional rollercoaster – a lot like real life”

“Yeah, real-life is just like this.”

Okay, it really got me to thinking.  How can we get emotionally invested in a work of fiction?

There are many tragedies in real life. So many people that truly deserve our compassion, that could be encouraged by our investing time in their lives. So, I got to wondering what the world would look like if the women (I know men watch soaps, too – but I’m just addressing women right now) (millions) who tune in to soaps on a daily basis would spend that time ministering to those who are hurting in real life.

Although it’s “safer” to invest your time and emotions in someone who won’t reject you, or misuse you, what are the eternal benefits….zip…zilch…zero.

The eternal benefits of ministry to the real hurting – now that costs – time, love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, humble servanthood, self-less giving, possible rejection…..it costs a LOT! – BUT – the eternal benefits – only God can measure.

So, ladies, if you dedicate the time that you would normally be watching your “soaps” for the day – to ministering to hurting people around you – what an impact you could make!

So, what are you doing with the time you have…..NOTHING matters but eternity – whose have you changed today?

Did you change it for good or bad?

Just a challenge – just a thought!

4 “Simple” (though not easy) Steps to a Passionate Relationship with Jesus Christ!

“Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

~1 Timothy 4:15-16

Christianity is about your relationship with God, not merely a religion.  Your salvation depends on accepting Jesus sacrifice for your sins.  It’s a free gift.

You were created to have a very real, personal, intimate relationship with God. That relationship is blocked by the barrier that sin creates, since God is holy. The penalty for sin is death.

God still loved you enough to want to pursue a relationship with you. Period. It meant so much to Him that He was willing to sacrifice His Only Son, to shatter the barrier that sin created, and allow you to come into His Presence, and fellowship with Him.

When you accept His forgiveness for your sins, it’s important to learn all that you can about obeying His ways (which are all designed for your best life ever!), and honoring and pleasing Him, out of gratitude and love because of your salvation, not to earn your salvation.

The way that we do this is by following what God says in His Word. I’d like to share with you how to have that relationship with God that you were created for, once you have accepted Him as Lord and Savior of your life.

Living a God-honoring life is not only do-able, but is crucial. When God gave so much to make this relationship possible, we owe it to Him (out of love and appreciation, not grudgingly or out of terror) to follow the path that He established for us to follow.

Here’s how to live that life:

It starts with diving into God’s Word (His Personal Love Letter to you!!!)  There is so much in there to learn – Who God is, what He’s done for you, the plans that He has for your life, the “owner’s manual” of this life – including eternity, etc.  

Life is full of distractions and it’s so easy to let time slip away.  I’d like to share with you how to please God by developing a deeper relationship with Him.  There are 4 things that I highly recommend (all 4) to do just that.

1 – Spend the first 1/2 hour (at least), and the last 15 minutes of your day with God.  Set an appointment with Him, time and place, and keep it! In this place, have a notebook or paper, a pencil or pen, and your Bible. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, and meet with your Creator, Friend, Lover, Savior, and Lord!

Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” 

Use this time to pray in preparation for your day (the opportunities and obstacles that you know you will encounter – difficult situations, people who need Him, etc., as well as any unplanned problem that may arise) In praying in preparation – God is already preparing our hearts for what we need to encounter, but when we “team up” with Him on it, we are more in tune to what He wants us to do in any given situation than how we want to handle it.

Then, open your Bible, pray for Him to reveal Himself to you through His written Word.  Then read a passage. As you read, ask these questions (and write the answers that apply – this helps to solidify the thoughts in your heart).

* Does this passage tell me something about God that I already knew, knew but hadn’t thought about in a while, or didn’t know?  If so, what is that attribute, and how does it affect my relationship with Him?  What will I do now in light of this characteristic?

* Does this passage tell me something pleases God?  If so, is this “something” an everyday part of my life?  If so, make note to keep it there and grow in it. If not, decide to add it (not if you should), and make note of how to do that.

* Does this passage tell me something that displeases, disappoints, or angers God?  If so, is this “something” in my life?  If not, make sure to put barriers up to keep it out.  If so, decide to remove it immediately (not if you should), and make note of how to do it.

When you leave your appointment, take Jesus with you through your entire day.  Picture Him right there with you. Imagine yourself wearing a name tag that says, “Jesus Christ, as portrayed by ……….”.

For the last 15 minutes of your day, get alone with God, and give Him an account of how you spent the resources that He gave you for the day (time, energy, love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, money, talents, etc.).

Maintaining this step keeps us accountable to God for our daily lives. Don’t miss this time even (especially) if you feel you have failed Him. Knowing that this accountability time is coming, makes us truly mindful of what we do with our resources for the day.

Don’t forget to thank Him for Who He is and what He’s done.

2 – Find a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Bible-reading, Bible-living church, and become part of it. God established the church for many reasons.  Among the most important are, fellowship, encouragement, opportunities to learn, opportunities to teach, and accountability. All of these areas are crucial in your walk with Christ.

Hebrews 10:25 says, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

3 – Saturate your home and life with the things of the Lord, carefully guarding the shows/movies, music, and reading material that you allow to enter your heart.  When we watch shows/movies, or listen to music that glorifies or even justifies, or accepts sin as “okay”, we become desensitized to how God sees sin – as an abomination.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

1 Timothy 4:15-16 says, “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

4 – Find a mature Christian (of the same sex) to be a friend/confidant/accountability partner. This is very important. Someone who knows you, can sometimes see things “creep” into your life subtly that you may miss yourself.  This type of encourager is very important.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” 

I hope this helps you as you study God’s Word to grow closer to Him.

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