“F” Series: Fear

The word fear is found in many places in Scripture. Today, let's examine a few. I pray that this will give us some valuable insights. There is the fear of death. Jesus came to "….deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (From Hebrews 2:15). Fear can put us in bondage. It can paralyze our emotions and reason. What comes after death is most frightening to a thinking but unsaved person. For the believer, however, fear is banished when we in faith apply II Timothy 1:7 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, (It comes from the enemy of our souls.) but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

 Cowardice gives way to courage when we remember that "The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." (From Hebrews 13:6).

Fear and worry are first cousins. Worry can damage and destroy its victims. For the genuine Christian, worry is assuming responsibility that God never intended for us to have. (Read carefully Matthew 6:25-34). Peter admonishes us: "…casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you" (I Peter 5:7).

There are two kinds of fear that are appropriate. For the believer, "….and in Thy fear will I worship….." (From Psalm 5:7). This is not a cringing fear but a sense of awe of and respect for God. Many have lost sight of God's holiness and greatness. Undue familiarity with God is something that we should studiously avoid. For the unbeliever, failing to fear is an eternally fatal mistake. unsaved people only have Hell to look forward to: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God" (Hebrews 10:31).  Selah! You have nothing bad to fear, if you truly fear the God Who loves you.    Ron

“F” Series: Flow

Today Begins a New Series

Our first look at this word presents a startling picture. In Isaiah 64:1 & 3 we read of God's Presence making the mountains flow down. God's Holiness is so awesome that were He to "rend the heavens," mountains would melt, as it were, in His Presence! The peoples would know that God is indeed very real! However, there is another facet to this picture. If God came down to confront the lost, He would at the same time comfort the saved in revival. Mountains of unbelief and ungodliness would melt away in the white-hot heat of His Holiness.

 Jeremiah 31:12 speaks of Jacob (Verse 11) (i.e; Israel) flowing together to the goodness of the LORD. The closer Israel came to God, in recognition and trust, the greater their blessings. It is the same today, for us who are His!

The next look at flow is in John 7: 38. "He that believeth on Me (Jesus), as the scripture hath said, out of his belly (i.e; heart, innermost being) shall flow rivers of living water." The mighty flowing rivers of earth provide life giving refreshment to vegetation, people, and creatures. These rivers often wash away corruption in the wake of their flow. Just so, the blessed Holy Spirit brings life, blessing, fruitfulness, and cleansing to those caught in His current. He flows into and fills a life with joy and flows out and on to bless others. Selah! Are you lined up with the flow?    Ron

Using Salt Wisely

 

When Salt Becomes Poison

WORLD Magazine editor Marvin Olasky once wrote that “truth without love is like sodium without chloride: poison, not salt.” He refers to two well known verses from New Testament Scripture; the command to be “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), and the declaration that Christians are “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13). Both statements point to how believers are to communicate the Gospel to the world around them. Olasky’s words warn us what can happen when our “salt” has one ingredient, truth, but not the equally vital other one, love.

It is easy, as a Christian, to look at the moral chaos in the world around us and become frustrated to the point of anger. We know from Scripture what God’s design for human society looks like, and the stark contrast between the spiritual ideal and the secular reality of our everyday surroundings tempts us to feel resentful of those we regularly come in contact with who do not share our world view.

From there it is a short distance to the kind of bitter, arrogant preaching and conversation that has alienated so many non-believers who might otherwise have listened respectfully to our witness. At that point whatever truth is mixed in with our bile has little hope of getting a fair hearing. What should be salt and light in a world desperately in need of the seasoning embodied in the good news of Jesus Christ becomes neither. It becomes instead the poison Olasky speaks of.

We should never dare to put forth the tenets of the Christian faith if our attitude towards our hearers is angry or bitter at what we perceive to be their ungodly lifestyles. For one thing we ourselves have often been guilty of the same sins we so readily identify in our worldly friends, or if not those exact transgressions some other equally evil ones. Beyond that some of us continue to struggle with those sins as believers which make us doubly hypocritical. The bottom line is that our primary duty regarding “calling sin, sin” is to do so with fellow Christians in need of admonishment, not non-Christians in need of salvation.

Of course, any real presentation of the Gospel includes affirming that there is something profoundly wrong with human beings, something that God became man to redeem us from. This does not mean, however, that we are free to tell our secular friends how personally disgusted we are with their desperate wickedness and then presume to offer them an alternative as if we are somehow better than they and didn’t need that alternative ourselves. Such an attitude on our part is self-righteousness at its worst and is guaranteed to push people farther away from our Lord.

One has to wonder how many people have been radically turned off to any of the truth claims of Christianity by Christians behaving badly in this way.

Before we open our mouths we need to check our hearts. If we cannot tell the truth to those who need to hear it in a humble, loving spirit then we do best to keep those mouths shut until we can. This applies to every Christian who presumes to be a witness to Jesus Christ, whether they are a televangelist with access to millions or a simple layperson with access to just a few.

 If our truth-telling is in any way bitter or resentful then our supposed salt is poisonous and needs to have love re-introduced as the antidote. Otherwise we will only do others harm and be complicit in perhaps the greatest sin of all, turning people away from their only hope of salvation.

© 2009 by Shea Oakley
All rights reserved

Shea Oakley is a freelance Christian writer from Ridgewood, New Jersey.

“Originally published in Pulpit Helps Magazine, used by permission. www.pulpithelps.com.”

Fighting on Two Fronts

We are engaged in spiritual warfare, whether we are conscious of it or not! Satan and his agents are after the souls of individuals and nations. Conquering either one aids in conquering the other one.  When we fight on only one front, we leave the other front vulnerable. If winning people to Jesus is our sole concern, a degenerating society will make it increasingly difficult to evangelize. On the other hand, if we fight evil in society to the neglect of winning souls, we have only accomplished something for time and little, if anything, for eternity. We have a dual responsibility! Winning souls is the major battle; taking territory in our world for God and righteousness is also essential. We can't handle either front or both fronts, without help. God has provided defensive and offensive aid in Ephesians, Chapter 6, Verses 11-18. Witness by life, lip, love, and literature. Devote a portion of your time to praying for our country, voting, educating, challenging others, writing letters, using the media, and influencing politicians. (Don't forget that politicians can be impacted by your testimony and gracious but firm pursuit of that which is right). Keep your balance. Fight the good fight. Take ground for time and eternity. Be vigilant. Light scatters darkness, salt retards corruption. Let's be about our Father's business. Selah! If not you, who? If not now, when? Tomorrow might be too late!  Ron

Regarding Satan, Peter writes "Whom resist steadfast in the faith…." (From I Peter 5:9).

"When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him." (From Isaiah 59:19). The Word is the standard. Let's let Him use us to lift it.

Can America be Salvaged?

The answer to the question in today's title depends on what God has decided as to the judgment of our nation. If He is through with America, nothing can be done. There are hints of this possibility all around us. However, let me remind you that many times it appeared that it was all over for Israel but when the nation cried out, in repentance, for God, His mercy spared them. When God's people engage the culture, when they confront and combat sin, there is hope. We are where we are today because, by and large, too many Christians have given up on America. We have abdicated our responsibilities. We have failed to seize our opportunities to make a difference. I'm speaking generally. There are notable exceptions! God's Old Testament spokesmen frequently engaged governments, the religious establishment, and civil leaders and rulers, sometimes risking suffering, torture, and death. We have a golden weapon with which to reverse the downward spiral of America. It's called prayer. We have another golden weapon in our country. It's the ballot. If all Christians and others who have moral standards would vote for what is right, we would see this country turned around. Anyone who isn't blinded by lack of critical thinking can easily discern that we are moving more and more toward socialism. I heard a perceptive quote recently. It went something like this: "Socialism is the pitstop between Capitalism and Communism." I believe that when time is done and eternity is upon us, the blame, if America collapses, will be laid more on the Church than anywhere else. We can't expect mentally anemic and spiritually dead liberals to be salt. That's our job! Selah! Salt, in the shaker, is worthwhile only when it is poured out.    Ron

"By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked" (Proverbs 11:11).

Duties of Dual Citizenship-Part Two

We are still thinking about disciples' citizenship responsibilities. Above all, we are to be maturing Spiritually. A part of that maturing is learning, in God's strength and enabling, to bring Heaven to bear on earth. Yesterday, we considered the implications of reflecting His Light into the lives of those within our spheres of influence. Today, what are the implications of being "salt?" First, salt purifies. It is, in many places, a means of preserving meat. It does this by retarding the destructive work of bacteria, it keeps meat from being spoiled by germs. Secondly, it enhances flavor and adds zest to food. Both of these are illustrations of the potential impact of a disciple who promotes righteousness in the public arena. If, in the power of the Holy Spirit, he or she is an example of Godly character and conduct in our sin-laden world, this will retard and interfere with the advance of unrighteousness. A life lived under the leading of the Holy Spirit will be an advertisement, in the eyes of world, of a life that is fragrant with His love and that gives meaning and purpose to a person's life. In short, it adds zest to life. This kind of life has a purifying influence on others. As people are won to Christ by means of a Godly example, the "unsaved" population of a fallen race is decreased proportionately. The ranks of the righteous are increased. The more this happens, the greater the impact. Selah! Are we good citizens of Heaven and earth?     Ron

Remember Jesus called for dual responsibilities on the part of His disciples. "….Render, therefore, unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things which are God's" (Luke 20:25).

Duties of Dual Citizenship-Part One

If we are born again, we are citizens of Heaven. We are also citizens where we reside. As disciples, we need to know how to meet our responsibilities in both places of citizenship. We tend to extremes, if we are not careful. Some are so occupied with Christian pursuits that, by default, they leave the door open to the entry of "the cloven hoof" to damage our country and our world. When there is no resistance, the enemy advances!  On the other hand, it is even more tragic if we become so involved with impacting society that we neglect our Spiritual responsibilities. A true Biblical approach is to major on the Spiritual and bring God's Word to bear on our fallen world. Being lights, we are to expose what is wrong. Incidentally, our light is a reflection of Him, Who is the Light of the world. Light, in Scripture, is often the bringing of understanding to sin darkened minds. How we do this needs to be properly understood. We do it by modeling life as God desires it to be lived. True abundant living (John 10:10) is letting His character be developed in us and then lived out through us. We need to vote for that which is right, according to His Word. We need to graciously, firmly, Scripturally, resist Satan's encroachments. We need to defend God's standards and the inerrancy of His Word. We need to vote. We need to educate ourselves and others on what is right to vote on and what is wrong that we need to vote against. We need to bring well reasoned appeals to our political representatives to do the right thing and resist their re-election if they vote for wrong things. This may mean that God just might want some mature disciples to run for office. Not buying from those that support sinful things sends a message, if enough people do this. Lest we mistakenly believe that our efforts will succeed, let me remind you that unless they are bathed in prayer, we can't expect God's intervention. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we'll discuss "salt." Selah! We need to be sure that our lens are clean for the Light to shine through.   Ron

"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world…." (Philippians 2:15).