Overcoming Stiff Competition

In athletics, we see our competition. We study them and their methods. We learn their strategies and tricks. We train to counter their offensive. We work hard and sacrifice because we want to come out on top. We enter the court, the field, the rink or the arena with a desire and determination to win. We want to give the enemy stiff competition. Of course, the enemy wants to do the same to us. The best equipped and prepared usually come out on top. However, what if your enemy is invisible? Imagine a football contest with one team visible and the other team invisible. The visible team would be hit hard and defeated. That is exactly what the child of God is up against. Defeat is inevitable and there isn't anything that we can do about it because "…. we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (From Ephesians 6:12). All is not lost, however, since Romans 8:37 reminds us that "….in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." The only things that we can use to win against an unseen adversary are those described in Ephesians 6:13-18: "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." Selah! Now, here's the "kicker." Will we use the means for a great victory or will we be sidelined? Don't be a loser! Victory is assured if we follow His game plan.     Ron

Dual Motives?

Perhaps I have a strain of cynicism or I just know something of human nature (including my own). Perhaps it's both. I wonder about things. I recently wondered about preachers, teachers, singers, etc. Why do we engage in these activities? Doing our duty? People expecting us to do certain things in churches, conferences, parachurch ministries, etc? Recognition? Pastors often are complimented on their messages (sometimes sincerely; sometimes not). Singers are often applauded and/or raved about. Bible teachers may sell a lot of CD's and/or books. A preacher can be eloquent and feel pretty good about it, if it seems to resonate. A Bible teacher can feel good about his store of Scriptural knowledge. A singer can sometimes even generate a standing ovation. What is the real reason why people do what they do? Are we performers, professors, actors, scholars or are we ministering? With Satan ever handy to give us a pat on the back, if it will prompt pride, we need to be on guard. Consider I Corinthians 4:7. It asks, "For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" One of the basic human drives is the desire for recognition. If we are truly ministering, the only approval that matters is His "well done!" Sincere appreciation can encourage us and that is worthwhile. Nevertheless, any glory must be His! Selah! Real joy comes when our desires are the same as the one who said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). What a wonder that God uses us! Give Him the glory!!       Ron

Planning to Backslide

Imagine someone sitting down at a desk or table and writing out a plan for backsliding. Can you conceive of taking a course on how to backslide? Of course not! Backsliding usually develops slowly. A Christian is walking through life and is giving more and more thought to the Person of Jesus. (We do see Him revealed on the pages of Scripture). Taken with Who He is, what He has done for us and what He means to us, we want to please Him and honor Him. While we are concentrating on this, something diverts our attention, provokes our curiosity or ignites wrong desires. Turning our thoughts from Him to the new distraction, we are drawn to actions that are contrary to His will for us. This usually happens in small steps. We give in on something that we convince ourselves is harmless. Possibly this first step might be harmless. On the other hand, it may be harmful. Either way, having taken the first step, we find the next step easier to take. Slowly, subtly, we have changed course, turned aside or slid backwards. David didn't start the day with a plan to sin. He was distracted by a sight that he shouldn't have looked on and he kept looking and lustful desire took over and he succumbed. He paid an awful price for this. Yes, it was for correction and God has used it for a warning lesson for all who follow. Making Jesus the center of our day, prayer, the study of the Word all combine to keep us moving forward and help us to be ready to resist the devil and see him flee from us. (See James 4:7). We need to be on guard because "….your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." (From I Peter 5:8). Selah! The more we are filled with our wonderful Savior, the less room there is for sinning.      Ron


Spiritual Health Assessment

If we were to ask ourselves the following questions, what would be the assessment of our Spiritual health?

1. Do I love the Lord more than I did a year ago?
2. Do I spend more time in the Bible than I did a year ago?
3. Is my prayer time more important to me than a year ago?
4. Do I share my faith more than a year ago?
5. Do I give more time to spiritual growth than I did a year ago?
These are a few questions that should provide some insight as to our Spiritual health. If we came out on the short end of these questions, what are we prepared to do about it? In other words, what is more important: our status quo or becoming the disciples that God wants us to be and that He wants to use? Or to put it another way, how will our status quo stack up in eternity's light? Discipleship will mean much; status quo, probably little or nothing. Selah! Is it time to make some adjustments in our lives? "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen" (II Peter 3:18). Ron

Balancing Relationship and Reverence

Far too many Christians today fail to seriously consider the God with Whom we have to do. Common responses include basically ignoring Him, taking Him for granted, speaking of Him in a flip or overly familiar way, being careless in approaching Him, etc. He is not our "Buddy" or "the Man upstairs"! For sincere, genuine believers, the sense of Him as our Heavenly Father may have led us to undue carelessness in terms of rendering proper respect and reverence. Even our culture may have contributed to this state of affairs. Fathers who are respected today seem to be the exception more than the rule. This may subconsciously have carried over into our concept of God. At any rate, our attitude towards God needs to be evaluated. We are so blessed to become children of God! (If you are born again, that's what you are: a child of God). Love Him, as He deserves for being a Father Who loves us beyond measure and is there for us daily. More than that, love Him because of the infinite sacrifice that He made to be able to make us His dear children. Give our Father the highest respect and reverence and hold Him in awe. While enjoying a personal relationship with Him, through our blessed Savior, let's not lose sight of His holiness, purity and perfection. He is Almighty God! "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (Psalms 29:2). Selah! Let's be careful to give Him glory, honor and praise, as well as our overwhelming gratitude for His mercy, love and grace. Ron

Recipe for Recovery

It is very easy to become lethargic, lackadaisical and lukewarm. We are prone to lose focus on what really counts. Distractions, duties, cares, fun, family, illnesses and other things all grab our attention as eternal matters fade into the background of our lives. Certain things are absolutely essential for rekindling the fire of exciting Christianity. We must be faithful in the Word of God, above all. Prayer is a must, as is Christian fellowship. Sharing our faith is a major factor. There are other very good helps. With all of this, there is another indispensable factor needed to recover from spiritual anemia. It is something that an unsaved person,, or one who has had only a psychological or intellectual conversion experience, lacks. It is a deep love for God, a love that motivates, a love that generates a response to the One we love. If we are to escape from mediocrity, we must determine, and periodically renew our determination, to pay any price, make any effort, give whatever amount of time that's needed, willingly sacrifice (sometimes even legitimate pleasures) what we want to do to become all that He wants us to be. When our love for Him creates gratitude and praise for Who He is, what He has done for us and what He means to us, we will settle for nothing less then a disciplined dedication to pleasing, honoring and obeying Him. When this is our relentless determination, we will be well on the road to recovery. The excitement that is part and parcel of genuine Christianity will eclipse all other interests. Nothing compares with a personal relationship with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, as we walk with Him all the days of our lives in intimate fellowship. Selah! And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). How amazing is His grace!      Ron

Whatever Happened to Spiritual Commitment?

Much of today's so-called Christianity is void of, or very low on, Spiritual fervor. What has happened to a disciplined commitment to the things of God? How have we let interest in the things of this life become pathetic replacements for being engaged in holy pursuits? Let me advance some thoughts on this. If we are saved, what has killed our appetite for attending the assembly of Christians (commonly called the church), prayer, Bible study, good Christian literature, witnessing, singing the wonderful old hymns and enjoying good solid preaching and teaching? Not a few local churches and preachers have lost excitement and become discouraged? How is it that we have discontinued Sunday evening services and prayer meetings or come up with poor substitutes? It is not only the leadership that has responsibility for this. We, who claim Him as Savior and Lord, have settled for spending time at home or in some other place, instead of looking forward to being involved with holy matters. Some of the problem is probably traceable to those who haven't had a true conversion. They couldn't be expected to have a lasting interest in eternal things until they are really born of God. What about genuinely saved people who have waxed cold? Only those of us who have had enough of being "wimpish" in our Christian walk and are willing to exert ourselves, get out of our rut and get busy about becoming intensely serious in our discipleship can re-ignite a flame that has practically flickered out altogether. Will we do it while we can? Selah! Thank God for those who have stayed "on fire!" For those who have succumbed to the lure of the world and grown lukewarm, Jesus says, "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed." (From Revelation 3:18).       Ron

Our Limited Understanding

God is not accountable to any man. He does what He knows is right. When Joseph went through all those traumatic experiences, how must he have felt? When Job's world crumbled around him, how could he say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." (From Job 13:15)? How could the three Hebrew children face that blazing inferno and tell the egotistical dictator that "….our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up" (From Daniel 3:17-18)? When many have suffered as martyrs and others killed, such as those five young men in a South American jungle, where is God? He is safely in control and has a purpose. Joseph was used to save his own people. Job's trust has inspired multitudes to trust and endure. The three Hebrew children have given an example of trust, even if it meant death. Those five young men's willingness to face great danger and risk their lives prompted many to respond to a missionary call. Was it easy? Absolutely not! However, every one of them can testify to what Paul, under inspiration said in Romans 8:18 and in II Corinthians 4:17, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us," and "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Trusting is banking on the absolute Truth of God's Holy Word. We will trust and will not stop, even when there is no rational basis to trust. We will trust in the trustworthiness of the Trustworthy One! Selah! God has the right to say no, yes, wait; and whatever He allows, when we have full understanding, will prove to be worth it all.      Ron

When It’s Not Done the Way We Want It To Be Done

It is not uncommon for people to become upset with God. Some major crisis or some great desire becomes a prayer. We appeal to God for help. There is no apparent help forthcoming. What happens next? Some conclude that there is no God. Others decide that He doesn't care. Some get angry and determine not to have anymore to do with God. How little do we realize what that says about our false concept of God. He is not our servant. He doesn't exist to do whatever we want Him to do. He is going to do whatever is right, no matter what we think. It is arrogance of the highest order, if we think that we know better than God what is right. This is where trust comes in. We are willing to trust Him when He allows sorrow, pain, hardship and death. We trust Him when the only response to our prayers is silence. We trust Him when something worse (in our minds) than what we've already suffered happens to us. It is wicked pride if we decide that He is not trustworthy, because He won't do what we have decided that He should do. What kind of god would He be, if He had to come to us to find out what He should do? Prayer has qualifications. Psalm 84:11 tells us that "….no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly." There are two conditions: what we ask has to be a good thing in His sight, and we have to walk uprightly. "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:3). When what we pray for is some sinful desire, don't expect Him to grant it. I John 5:14 reminds us that "….this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us." We must ask in harmony with His will. Therefore, we have to spend time in His Word to find out what His will is. Selah! If we have a genuine experience of salvation, we will learn to spend much quaility time in the Scriptures to develop a trust in Him that is cast-iron. Nothing less will give us that kind of trust.     Ron

Rock-Solid Faith

There will be numerous attacks against our faith. There will be attempts to undermine it. It will be tested. Our faith can be feeble, flabby, faltering, flimsy or it can be rock-solid firm. Job exemplified true faith when he said, " Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." (From Job 13:15). When things are good or when things are going wrong, I will trust. In danger or safe, I will trust. Financially, having enough, or poverty, I will trust. Healthy or diseased, I will trust, Loyal friends or betrayed by those I thought were, I will trust. Complimented or slandered, I will trust. No matter what, I will trust. This is the essence of valid faith. Some might ask if this kind of trusting isn't blind faith. We'd better be sure that we have a basis for this kind of trust or it would be blind faith. Our trust is anchored in the Living Word, Jesus, and in the written Word of God, the Bible. Both are rock-solid foundations for our faith. Anyone who will carefully study His Life and the Scriptures, with an open heart and mind, will discover that both are absolutely true and reliable. We are expected to trust our body, soul and spirit to Him, as well as our eternal destiny. A careful study of the Bible and a willingness to act on its Truth will, when we turn over the control of our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him for salvation, demonstrate its Spiritual reliability and trustworthiness. Its origin, preservation, content (without error), fulfilled prophecy, changed lives, etc. all attest to its supernatural character because God moved the writers, using their personalities, to record what He wanted us to know. Selah! Good times and bad, in joy or sorrow, through ups and downs, in storms or calm, in darkness or sunshine, regardless of all circumstances, I will to trust, unconditionally! Will we? If we do trust completely, we'll have reasons to rejoice forever. Jesus never fails! Trust is a conscious cast-iron decision to trust regardless of anything that touches our lives. It is a trust that will not allow anything to change that decision.         Ron