Annual Strategy Planning Session

I  will go back to our regular study tomorrow, Lord willing.  Today, let’s take time to consider where we are in our experience of discipleship. What about this past year? Taking a hard look, has there been spiritual progress? No discernible growth would mean lack of nourishment from the Bible or no life, spiritually. (No life, no growth!) Take time to make sure you are truly saved! Growth may be very slow for many but growth there will be. What is your present experience? Do you have more love for Jesus, right now, then ever before? Is your life more holy than it has been? If you are allowed the time, what are you planning to do to make 2008 a year of real spiritual progress? Ask for and accept His forgiveness and cleansing for any past failures and then forget them (except to learn from them) and move on. Start today and determine to keep right on all through the days ahead, absorbing and applying God’s Word. Listen to Him! Talk to Him! Share Him and interact with His people. Now, being honest, we start off well but keep getting away from these commitments. How many times do we keep trying? Keep trying as many times as you fail, plus one! You have a fixed amount of time. Use it wisely!  In Ephesians 5:16 we are to be, "redeeming the time".   Selah!  Understand and do this! "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."  Psalm 90:12.       Ron

The Too Often Missing Ingredient

When you need it, you don’t have it. When you have it, you don’t need it. In our world today and perhaps especially in the good old U.S.A. it is largely a missing ingredient. The tragedy is that it is carried over into the lives of many Christians. I am talking about patience! Romans 5:3b-4a informs us that, "tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience" and James 1:4a states, "But let patience have her perfect work". Why?  God does not operate on our timetable very often. We look to God for instant answers and when they are delayed we conclude that He doesn’t hear or care. God is not a puppet to jump every time we pull the strings. Sometimes He takes years to answer! When this "fruit of the Holy Spirit" is being produced in and through us, we learn to trust God when there is no apparent reason why we should. When we see the long-range picture, we discover what we should have known all along, i.e; God knows what He is doing and He frequently works quietly behind the scenes. When we trust during tribulations, when we trust His control, His timing and even His "no’s", our faith is matured and our experience demonstrates that, "He hath done all things well." Mark 7:37b.   Caution: Some answers will only come when we reach Heaven. Trust is not a feeling but a decision that we make; we won’t trust Him unless He does it the way we think He should or in the way we want Him to do. We will trust Him, no matter what takes place. Will you trust Him, no matter what takes place?  Selah! Think about this! "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."". Isaiah 30:15b.     Ron

Cessation of Hostilities

"Coming to Jesus, my Saviour, I found… Wonderful peace, wonderful peace. Storms in their fury may rage all around; I have peace, sweet peace." (Haldor Lillenas). So goes the hymn and so is the experience of every true disciple of Jesus Christ, if he or she is faithful in applying the Word of God. Peace is the next kind of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Before we can experience this fruit, we have, first of all, to be saved. Isaiah 57:27 says, "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." When a person comes to Christ, being justified by faith, he has "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1. As the believer is discipled and subjects himself to the Word of God, he experiences "the peace of God which passeth all understanding." Philippians 4:7. What is this peace? It is a calmness of soul in the midst of trials, knowing that his heavenly Father is in control and he is sheltered in His almighty love. As he abides in the center of the will of God, he has confidence in God’s control and direction of his life. He knows that whatever the circumstances, God’s watchcare and protection are his. When difficult times come, the child of God knows his Father has a purpose in the trials,  and he can rest in the knowledge of God’s strength and protection. This peace can only be disturbed when we get out of touch with God because, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee." Isaiah 26:3.

Selah! Carefully consider: Only when our eyes are on our ourselves or others or circumstances, is our peace disturbed. Therefore, keep your eyes on Him and His love, and trust Him.   Ron

I Don’t Want to be Happy!

Who wants to be happy? Happiness depends on what happens. If what happens is good, then it is O.K. If it isn’t good, well……..!  On the other hand, joy, the next kind of fruit in the nine-fold cluster of fruit, produced by the Holy Spirit, is intended to be constant. This is available to true disciples. Joy is a deep-seated pleasure, a thrill of the soul at peace with and trusting in the Savior. Joy about what?  Let me mention a few things: Peace with God. The peace of God. Forgiveness of sin and sins. God has a purpose for my life. God Protects. God strengthens. God comforts. God sustains us in trials. God makes "all things work together for good" for His children. God provides. I could go on and on! What could you add? How does one possess this joy? The answer, constant exposure to, meditation in, obedience to, and basking in God’s Presence in, the Bible! The words of an old hymn says it well: "I’m rejoicing night and day, as I walk the narrow way, for the Hand of God in all my life, I see. The reason for my bliss? The secret, all, is this: The Comforter abides with me." (Source unknown)

Selah! Consider and appropriate, "Whom, (Jesus) having not seen, ye love; in Whom though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable (inexpressible) and full of glory" I Peter 1:8        Ron

“Love”- Not the Mushy Kind!

Love is, essentially, not an emotion. Love is commanded! John 13:34  We can’t command emotions. I can command you to be glad but, if you are in a sad mood, my command will fall on deaf ears. Love likely will involve emotion but it is basically a commitment. As it is impossible to fit all that I would like to share in the alloted space, may I urge you to carefully study the Bible references?

  • The Source of Love: Galatians 5:20; Romans 5:5
  • The Substance of Love:  Romans 5:6-8
  • The Strength of Love: I Corinthians 13:4-8a  (Read "Love" for charity.)
  • The Scope of Love:  Proverbs 10:12
  • The Subject (and/or object) of Love:  John 3:16
  • The Service of Love:   John 21:15-17

This is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit!

Selah! Think through: I John 4:19 and John 14:23.

Feeding on and obeying the Word of God will produce real love in and through you!   Ron

Gift of a Lovely Fruit Basket

Have you ever been given a basket of fruit that not only looked good but was delicious? Most people would love a gift like that. (There will always be some who won’t be thrilled with a gift like that). Good fruit is nice to look at and tastes good and is healthy! Where can we find a tree that gives that kind of fruit for our gift baskets to offer to people? God has trees that are meant to bear nine different kinds of wonderful fruit. Those trees are His disciples. The life in that fruit is His resurrection life. Only His life can produce all nine fruit in each tree. When the world sees a tree like that, many will be tempted to partake. If you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, are you bearing that kind of fruit? Let God tend His tree to produce a bumper crop. Starting tomorrow, we plan to examine the different kinds of fruit. Selah! Contemplate how many people might be drawn to a tree that has nine wonderful, mouth watering, varieties of luscious fruit! Carefully read and consider, Mark 11:12-14; John15:1-8; and Galatians 5:22-23  While you are doing this, know that God can make you a very fruitful tree!!        Ron

The Bogey-Man of “Legalism”

Legalism, thinking Biblically, is pressure from the outside to conform to certain laws, quite often God’s laws, or else! This is, we are told, the only way to avoid God’s judgment. It is the way, we are told, to be in favor with God.   Legalism, today, is trying to earn God’s favor by good behavior and compliance with externally imposed regulations, usually by some group or individual(s). Now, the problem is, Biblical separation today is equated with "legalism".  How do we sort all of this out? God hasn’t lowered His standards! The answer is motivation. If I am impressed that certain things are wrong according to God’s Word and I don’t do these things for fear of God’s anger or rejection, that is being legalistic. On the other hand, if my not doing those things is out of motivation for my desire to honor God in all of my living, and out of gratitude for God’s love and grace; and I do or do not do something because I love Him, that is separation. Don’t let a phony fear of what some call "legalism" rob you of the joy of a Godly lifestyle and the privilege of being a positive advertisement of our Savior’s "abundant life."  (John 10:10b).  Selah! Consider the implications of  Philippians 1:20: According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also, Christ shall be magnified (honored) in my body, whether by life or by death."      Ron

Let’s Take a Walk!

Yesterday, we talked about "being filled with the Holy Spirit". I pointed out that being filled with the Holy Spirit is actually being filled with the Word of God ( the Bible ). Of course, that involves letting the Bible govern our lives, not out of duty but out of love for our wonderful Lord. ( More on this "duty" matter tomorrow, I hope ). Another facet of this experience of the Holy Spirit is walking. By the way, "walk" is a very interesting study in Scripture. Try it!   In Romans 8:1, we read about, "walk not after the flesh ( our sinful humanity ) but after the Spirit." and in Galatians 5:16, we are further instructed to, "walk in the Spirit". How?  If you are walking after somebody, you are following that person. You will follow them to where they are going. Where is the Holy Spirit leading the disciple? The answer to that is found in John 16:13a, "Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth."   Now connect this with John 17:17b, "Thy Word is truth."   God’s Person, Presence, and principles ( and much more ) are all provided for us in this marvelous, miraculous Book!  Have you been missing something in your life? Why not take a good walk with God every day?  Selah! Caution: There are many tempting "sidetracks" along the way of our walk with Him. Watch out!  They are dead ends!    Ron

How to tell what you are running on.

If you are in your car and you look on your dashboard, there is usually a way to tell how much gas you have to go on. How does a Christian know how full he is of the Holy Spirit?   Would it surprise you to discover that you can have an idea of where you are at with the Holy Spirit’s filling? (I am not implying a precise measurement but a general idea.) 1). Look in your life for values, actions and attitudes listed in Ephesians 5:19-6:9 and Colossians 316b-4:2.    2). Look for the nine-fold fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Look at the gifts of the Holy Spirit in Romans 12:6-8. Are you manifesting the nine-fold fruit ( All nine )?  Incidentally, look for a diminishing of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. Caution: Satan can counterfeit the gifts but not the nine-fold fruit. 3). Do you recognize your gift(s)? All Christians have at least one. Using your gift for the Glory of God is part of your function as a disciple. Hold your life up against these guidelines and see if there is discernible growth. If so, don’t forget to give God the credit and thank Him. Selah!  Keep in mind, it is not how much you have of the Holy Spirit but rather how much He has of you!   Ron

 

Running on Empty?

We wouldn’t go very far in our car if there was no gas in the tank. We won’t make any progress spiritually if our lives are empty or filled with "self".  We won’t go far if our lives are mostly empty. We who know the Lord as our personal Savior need to be full.  Full of what?  No, the question really is, Whom are we to be filled with? The answer is,  God Himself, God, in the person of the Holy Spirit!  Now, there are countless theories as to how this happens. Actually it is quite simple! Compare Ephesians 5:17-18 with Colossians 3:16-17. Being filled is a command. This filling is an ongoing process. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with the Word of God.  It is not a matter of just taking the Bible into our heads  It is letting the truths of God’s Word be internalized. It means that the principles of the Bible will be operational in our lives. We will submit our lives to obeying God’s Word. We cannot do this without the Power of the Holy Spirit. This is where prayer comes in. Ask God for enabling and depend on Him for strength. This does not happen all at once. It is a learning and growing experience. The more we yield, the more we are filled. When we keep on being filled, it will bring wonderful blessings! Selah! Consider! If we are truly saved, The Holy Spirit is resident. Is He President?!   Ron