If someone was told that they had five to ten years to live, that would be a hard thing to bear. As people get up in years, many of them will have only a few years to live or could even face death momentarily. Someone very much alive in the morning may be dead by evening. From the cradle to the grave, the hot breath of death is breathing down our necks. This inevitability should cause us to reflect on a simple truth: this life is only a place to prepare for our eternal future. How we prepare determines where we will be forever. Let me mention four men in the Bible and how they died. These are representative of all of us in certain ways. The rich fool lived for gain (Luke 12:16-21) and lost everything. Herod lived for glory (Acts 12:21-23) and suffered the indignity of having his body eaten by worms. (He may or may not have been aware of what was happening. However, the body royally arrayed was consumed by mere worms). Contrast this with two others: Stephen lived for God and preached God's indictment of a rebellious people and was granted a royal homegoing. (Acts 7:2-60). Paul was a trophy of God's grace and died confident of God's rewards. (II Timothy 4:6-8). Which way do you want to face God? Selah! Those famous words of martyred Jim Elliot are a searching reminder of how important it is to live Godly. "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Ron
"Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works" (Matthew 16:24-27).
Digging is usually hard work. The deeper we dig, the harder we work. Is it possible that the reason many gain so little from the Bible is that they just scrape the surface? Digging deep in Scripture is highly rewarding. How do we get down to the treasure? Before I share the way to unearth the gems, let me ask candidly if you are open to making the effort? If so, here are some tips. Pray, asking God to open your understanding. Read the portion carefully, thinking on every word and phrase. Make notes and/or an outline. Listen to some true servant of God preach on it. Use a reliable commentary and use a Bible dictionary and/or Bible encyclopedia. Challenge the conclusions of a commentator. How does the commentator's teaching measure up against God's Word? Is the author "off" somewhere? Discuss your study portion with some serious Christian friends. It's worth doing some research on the people named in the text. What about the conditions in the culture in which they lived and ministered? What about other related portions of Scripture? Check conclusions against basic doctrines. Reading through the Bible regularly gives the broad picture. Reading through slowly and reflectively is very valuable. Learning about the geography gives an added dimension of understanding. Daily devotionals are useful. (I recommend "Our Daily Bread" and "Days of Praise"). Using a red pencil to underline insights that you gain can help fasten them in your mind. Caution: Start with some of these tips and keep adding to them. A digger doesn't usually dig fast and furiously. Dig, take a breather, dig in a bit harder, another breather and so on… Are you equal to the challenge? Selah! Limited effort, limited results! Being serious with God precludes laziness. Ron
"My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:1-5).
I've been thinking about our E-Mail activities. This technology is very useful. It affords us opportunties that we might not otherwise enjoy. Quick and easy communication comes to mind. The potential to support good legislation and oppose bad legislation is available to many who would not be able to make their convictions known nearly as easily. Good Christian materials and insights can be shared by "forwarding." A few people can be reached and many can be reached. Announcements and useful info can be shared. These are just a sampling of the uses of E-Mail. With this potential for good, there come responsibilities. It can subtly be used for things that Christians shouldn't want to happen. For example: How easy to scan something humorous and not notice things included in the E-Mail that are out of character for a Christian to forward. Some "funny" items have coarse or off color humor. Some have swearing and/or profanity in the body of the message. Things we wouldn't condone or share in a face to face contact might slip through the cracks of a forwarded E-mail. (I've made this mistake myself). Christians' testimonies can be undermined by carelessness in the use of forwarding. Let's be sure to carefully read through what we want to send to others and edit out anything that would not be wholesome. Selah! A good test is to decide if what you want to forward is something that Jesus would not want us to do. Ron
"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:9-11).
Teachers had to be taught. One of the ways that they learned to teach was to teach some other person or people. You have to know what you want to teach before you are willing to attempt it. This involves research and study. Teaching others about what we learned in our study and research is one vital way that the teacher learns to teach. These methods work with our learning God's Truth from His Word. One of the best ways is to teach others Truth from the Bible. This prompts a thorough study of Scripture and research into helps for understanding what we read. When we share it with others we cement it in our own thinking. Add to that, that if we are challenged on some area of our understanding, we can attempt a defense of our view or if we can't show that our view is correct, we can research some more to see if we got it wrong. Find a way that you can teach. It might be a Sunday School class and/or a Bible Study. It could just be a friend. It might be in a classroom, church or in one on one discussion with a friend. Find some ways to teach and you will learn. Selah! Some have the gift of teaching but all can teach. When teaching God's Word, if it's one or a group, all will learn. Caution: Research and study are very valuable but are not a substitute for the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Ron
"Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus and the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (II Timothy 2:1-2).
There is more than one way to share our faith. One way for sharing with an unsaved person is to be a friend to someone and be there for them, even if they never show any interest in Spiritual things. Pray, be a friend no matter what. When you least expect it, they may open up. If they never do, you will still have reached out. Perhaps they will at least read or listen to something you give them. If they see that you are a true friend, they may read about or listen to something that you share with them that contains gospel Truth. In the same way that you shared material with an unsaved person, you may be able to share material on Spiritual growth with a saved friend. True friendship will usually open people's hearts, although it might take a long time. Meeting genuine needs will usually motivate gratitude. Gratitude will often prompt people to do what otherwise they would never consider doing. Give it a try. Selah! True friendship is a rare commodity. Giving it without expecting something in return and not giving up on someone, even if they seem to be unmoved by what we offer them, can bring some wonderful results. Ron
"And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him" (Colossians 3:17).
Some businesses are using a sales gimmick that gives you a bag and you can fill it as full as you are able and everything in it is a flat price or discounted. When you decide to take advantage of the offer, you would probably put items in the bag that are costly. This would give you a chance to save quite a bit of money. If you think of yourself as being a vessel to be filled, wisdom dictates that you don't load yourself with worthless things. Instead, we should fill our hearts and minds with the things that have eternal value. Integrity, dependability, compassion, purity, patience, sympathy are some examples of things of value. These are things that are of great value but how do we find these items? As the Word of God permeates our inner self, the Holy Spirit will put these things into us and fill us with Himself. He will then produce His fruit in us and He will fill us with the character of the Lord Jesus. We will be filled with priceless values that will benefit others, as well. The more these virtues are filling the available space in our hearts, the less space is available for the cheap, artificial and selfish things to function in us. Selah! Christlikeness never comes by our efforts or methods. As we are filled with the written Word (and apply and obey it), the Holy Spirit fills us with the Living Word. This is the way we become Christlike and our lives become filled with things of eternal value. Ron
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).
For a genuine Christian, God reveals Himself through the Scriptures. For an unsaved person who is open to receive Truth, God will reveal Himself the same way. However, that may happen by reading a book, watching a DVD, listening to good solid preaching, etc. that explains Gospel Truth. What about the unsaved person who isn't open to any of these sources of Truth? If they are reachable or if they become reachable, it may only be by seeing Jesus lived out in the life of a believer. It may be a friend or a family member. It might be someone who is trusted and repected. We are to be lightbearers, putting the spotlight on Jesus and what He has done for us. People need to see that He has made a big difference in our lives to the extent that they want Him to change their lives. As they begin to inquire, the Word, used by the Holy Spirit, can be brought to bear on their questions. The Word should be presented, asking God to grant them understanding. Nevertheless, seeing God at work in our lives in an authentic way, may very well be the one thing that will open their minds to listen. There is much Biblical teaching that makes it clear that saving faith will change our lives, moving us more and more toward Godly living. Any faith that doesn't motivate Godly behavior, attitudes and values falls short of saving faith. Selah! Our lives should increasingly show Deity on display! Ron
"For ye are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Corinthians 6:20).
If you put a lot into it, you'll get a lot out of it. In terms of our relationship with God (assuming the right motives) this is very true. The Bible gives us a number of examples. Paul, in Philippians 3:13, includes this statement: "….This one thing I do…." Then in Verse 14, he tells us what it is: "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The Apostle is in a race and he is giving it his all, with an eye to the goal. James, in Chapter 5, Verse 16, reminds us that "….The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." I Corinthians 16:15 speaks of a devotion that is intense: "I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints …." Jesus said, "….Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself " (Luke 10:27). Even our lives may be subject to intense risk, even death. Consider this dedication on the part of disciples in Acts 15:26: "….Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." These are some ways in which we are to be willing to go "all out" for Jesus and the Gospel. Are we? Selah! Christianity is not a game or a club, it is a lifetime of intense commitment
Is it possible to experience God in a very personal way? Certainly we experience Him in His Word. We experience Him in prayer. However, in His Word, we might settle for an intellectual acquaintance with Him. We might stop short of a rich personal experience of loving Him and being thrilled to be in His Presence. In prayer, we might go before Him more out of responsibility than sheer delight for the privilege of being alone with Him. As we have pointed out in a number of articles, the Word and prayer are absolutely essential. But we have been afforded a unique way of actualizing the results of time spent in study and prayer. It is a fascinating study in God's Word to see the many times that God met with people "one on one." These times were usually not in the hustle and bustle of life. They were where all distractions were put aside and quietness reigned. The human agenda was placed on the back burner and it was God and man alone together. It was for good reason that God said in Psalm 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God…." The many things that clutter our minds and emotions militate against a meaningful experience of God through His Son. We urgently need times when our entire attention is on God and all else is shut out. When we find or make those times alone with Him, the rewards are immense! We need to behold Him. We need to think on Him. We need to listen to Him and we need to worship Him. We need to praise, thank and admire our great God. We need to consider His wonder, His holiness, His power, His wisdom and His grace to us. Listen to the words of Hebrews 11:6: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Selah! It will take discipline to major on God like this but discipline is the heartbeat of discipleship. Ron
"And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).