The Road Less Traveled

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Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”  (Genesis 1:26, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Humans are distinguished from the rest of the God’s “creatures.”  We have self-awareness (conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires).  We have imagination (the ability to form ideas, images or concepts that are not observable by our senses).  We have a conscience (an inner prompting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior).  We have an independent will (the ability to make decisions and choices and to act in accordance with those choices and decisions).  We have principles (fundamental truths or propositions that serve as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior). To name just a few.  This is, in part, what it means to be made in God’s image (not to mention the fact that we are more than just a physical creature).   The animal kingdom, for example, when confronted with a stimulus, can only respond to that stimulus (based on instinct, urges, conditioning, fight or flight, etc.).

Stimulus ——-> Response

Humans are different.  Because of things such as self-awareness, imagination, conscience, will, and principles, we have the freedom to choose how we respond to the stimulus.

Stimulus ——-> Freedom to Choose ——->Response

While we may be pre-disposed to certain “determined” responses due genetic determinism (your DNA or nature), psychic determinism (your upbringing, or nurture), and environmental determinism (something or someone in your environment that influences  you one way or another), in the final analysis we still have the freedom to choose.  Our choices cannot ultimately be blamed on these factors.  Our choices, our behavior (response), is a product conscious decisions that we make and that we are responsible for.

Despite all of this, from the very beginning, and all too often, our lives are characterized by so many wrong choices.

Stimulus – When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom,

Freedom to Choose

Response – she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

(Genesis 3:6, NIV 1984)

My Advice – Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some “magic” eraser that would let us start over with a clean slate?  The truth is, that there is.  There is a choice we can all make that will make up for all of our poor choices, as if we had never made them at all.  “In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Ephesians 1:7, NIV 1984).  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12, NIV 1984).

Stimulus – “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8, NIV 1984).

Freedom to Choose

Response – “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”  (John 1:12–13, NIV 1984).

The Choice Is Yours.  Choose Wisely.

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Adapted from “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen R. Covey

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”

 

 

 

 

 

This Little Light of Mine

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Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”  (Acts 11:19–21, NIV 1984).

My Musings – The Western world has largely been spared of such persecution, but it is interesting to note that while the devil intended to obliterate the Church, his devices were thwarted by God and actually served to grow the Church.

What are some of the things we encounter in the Western world that can also serve to spread the Gospel of Christ?  Have you ever lost your job?  Did you ever consider that God might be moving you to a new one to serve such a purpose?  Has your family ever had to relocate causing you to enroll in a new school, forcing you to make new friends?  Did you ever consider that these new friends might need to hear the Gospel and God has chosen you to be His herald?  Did your first choice for college not work out and you had to “settle” for another?  Did you ever consider that there might be those there that might only be receptive to the Gospel from someone like you?

My Advice – Persecution like that experienced in the 1st century is breaking out around the world at an increasing rate.  It may soon be where you live, if it is not there already.  Light is more noticeable the darker it gets.  Don’t hide it.  But even if it is not yet quite that dark where you live (where God may have moved you), does not mean that you cannot shine for the Master.  You have the best news that anyone could possibly share with another.

Do Not Turn From It

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Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Thanks Dad, for the Godly training that you provided.  I hope I am a good reflection of you, and the Lord you served.  I’ll do my best to not turn from it.

In memory of my Dad, who would have been 88 years old today.  I miss you.

The Third Strand

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My Musings – Throughout the passage it speaks of two.  Two are better than one.  This can include marriages, business partners, or friendships. Regretfully, marriages do fail, partnerships can be dissolved and trust between friends is often broken.  But note, the passage ends with three.  Marriages, partnerships and friendships are not easily broken when God is the third strand.

My Advice – Whatever or wherever you venture, make sure that you include God.

Get Back To Where You Once Belonged

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My Musings – Elijah had just faced down 400 prophets of Baal.  Both a symbolic and a literal mountaintop experience.  Perhaps the zenith of his ministry.  An awesome display of God’s power and presence.  Yet here he was, on the far side of the desert, cowering in fear over the Queen’s threats to his life.

Sometimes, after an exhilarating mountaintop experience of boldness and ecstasy, we  find ourselves plunging deep into a valley of fear and despair.  But most of the time, when we find ourselves in a place that we should not be, it follows a period of  unguarded complacency.

Whatever the occasion, we need to listen to God’s voice saying “what are you doing here.”  It is a call to bring us to our senses and see the height from which we have fallen.  Like in the garden (Adam where are you?), He knows exactly where we are, what we are doing and how we got there.  But He want us to know it too.  Until we do, it would be fruitless to command us to go back the way we came.

My Advice – Watch the “road signs” to keep yourself on track.  If you do get off track, realize how you got there so you can know how to “go back the way you came.

I Got My Mind Set On You

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My Musings – A person’s mindset is the particular way they think, their attitude and opinions about how they view things. A person’s worldview is the overall perspective from which they see and interpret the world.

As follower’s of Christ, we should have our mind set on what the Spirit desires.  This is contrary to our mind set prior to knowing Christ, where we had on mind set on what our sinful nature desired.  A mind controlled by the Spirit of God will view things the way God does.

The mindset of sinful man can only lead to death, whereas the mindset of one born of the Spirit is not only life, but peace.  The implication being that the mind of sinful man has no lasting peace.

My Advice – Set your mind on things above.  View the world and your life through the lens of God’s Word.  This will renew your mind and transform your life, as the things we take into our mind filter down to our hearts.

“And this time I know it’s for real. The feelings that I feel. I know if I put my mind to it, I know that I really can do it. It’s gonna take time.  A whole lot of precious time.  It’s gonna take patience and time, um.  To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it. To do it right, child.”  (I Got My Mind Set on You, lyrics by Rudy Clark, sung by George Harrison).

Sheep’s Clothing

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My Musings – In banking, tellers are taught the best way to spot a counterfeit – you study the genuine article.  By being familiar with the “real deal” you can more readily spot the fake.  This similar principle can be applied to identifying false teachers.  You look to what they are saying and doing, and you place it alongside what is truth – God’s Word.

Feed Only Themselves – We’ve all seen them, enriching themselves while the flock is starving for the truth.

Clouds Without Rain – They look and sound impressive, but in reality lack the substance of the truth.

Autumn Trees Without Fruit – You expect the fruit in the Autumn, and you would expect spiritual leaders to bear real fruit.  Yet the false ones pander to big crowds in this age of “consumer Christianity.”  Give them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.

Wild Waves Foaming Up – Stirring the pot, when they should be building up the body in unity of the Spirit.

Wandering Stars – Abandoning the flock that they have been entrusted with, seeking greener pastures for themselves, while their sheep are left shepherd less.

For Whom Blackest Darkness Has Been Reserved Forever – Their just reward.

My Advice – Stay in the Word.  You’ll know who measures up and who does not.  Here are a few pointers.

1. Is the teaching from a well-known and trusted source?

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures.” (2 Timothy 3:14, 15)

2. Is the teaching consistent with what you have learned from the well-known and trusted sources?

“I urge you brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.” (Romans 16:17)

3. Is the teaching clear from the texts or is the interpretation strained?

You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:24)

4. Is the teaching exclusive or nearly exclusive?

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20)

5. Is the teaching necessary to support a questionable position or lifestyle?

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)

6. Does the teaching direct society to follow God’s moral standards or does the teaching encourage others to follow the world’s social mores?

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

7. Is the teaching’s emphasis on grace and freedom too permissive?

You my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.” (Galatians 5:13)

8. Is the teaching’s emphasis on morality and obedience too repressive?

Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools!” (Matthew 23:16, 17)

9. Does the teaching deny the power of God to enable His children to overcome sin and temptation?

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

10. Does the teaching follow Satan’s pattern of masquerading as an angel of light?

For such men are false apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (1 Corinthians11:13, 14)

11. Does the teaching follow Satan’s pattern of deceit by calling God’s Word into question?

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say….” (Genesis 3:1)

12. Does the teaching call right wrong and wrong right?

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)

Mark Twain is credited with saying that “in religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a farthing.” We must never be too lazy (or too naïve) to blindly accept every “wind of doctrine” that comes along. In the final analysis, even when the source of information seems trustworthy, like the Bereans, we must lay what is being said alongside the Word of God to see if it is true. However, in order to do this effectively we must be sufficiently familiar with the Bible to know how to use it. Possessing a tool is not much good if we do not know how to use (“rightly divide”) it properly.