Not One, Not Any

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No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “No.”  A small word with a big meaning (not any, not one).  You think the temptations you face are peculiar to you, that they are more difficult to deny yourself than what others face.  In reality they are quite common.  You might think that the temptation is unbearable, but God promises that it is. Not only that, He promises a way out.

The problem is, we often choose to ignore the way out when (not if) we are tempted.  We choose to give in.  The key word here is choice.

My Advice – As much for myself (maybe more so) as for others – choose wisely.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

 

You Can’t Move A Lighthouse

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All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”  (Isaiah 40:6–8, NIV 1984).

Musings of Others – The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities. Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “light, bearing on the starboard bow.”  “Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.  Lookout replied, “steady captain,” which meant they were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.  The captain then called to the signalman, “signal that ship.  We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees.”  Back came a signal. “advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.”  The captain said, “send, I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.”  “I’m a seaman second class,” came the reply.  “You had better change course 20 degrees.”  By that time the captain was furious.  He spat out, “send, I’m a battleship.  Change course 20 degrees.”  Back came the flashing light. “I’m a lighthouse.”  (From “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen R. Covey).

My Musings –  It seems, in many respects, we’ve lost our way morally.  But it is hard to stay on course if we keep thinking we can move true north.  Yet many would rather do that, and go their own way, than stay on the right path.

My Advice – God’s Word does not change. If we do not follow it, we will stray off course and not reach the right destination.

 

Mind Control

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My Musings – No matter how “good” we were before we accepted Christ, there were certain things about that life that we need to leave behind.  A walk that we used to walk that we must rid ourselves of.  To do that we must set our mind on things “above,” on what the Spirit desires, not on what our sin nature desired in our past.  If we do not allow the Spirit to control our minds we will not be able to live an abundant Christian life, and our lives will lack peace.

It is interesting to note that the sin nature spills over into shameful outward acts, while the “Son” nature overflows with admirable inner qualities.  The former is characterized by the things we do, the latter is characterized by who we are.  The former may satisfy for a season, but the latter will last into the next life.

My Advice – The victorious Christian life is not about balancing the sin nature against the Son nature.  It is not enough that the scales tip more on the side of the Son.  We cannot continue to serve our sinful nature and expect to bear abundant fruit.  We cannot serve two masters.  Let’s make sure we are clinging to the Son by allowing the Spirit to control our minds and our hearts.

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.

In My Time

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My Musings – Coming soon, to a location near you.  We’ve been blessed in the United States.  Up until a generation or so ago, the rule of law and Judeo-Christian values were rarely in conflict, with the glaring and shameful exception of slavery.  The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  A veritable two-way street; no imposition of a state religion and no impediment to the free exercise of a citizen’s religion of choice.

That may soon be coming to an end.  The cracks have been visible for quite some time now, and they are rapidly growing deeper and wider.  And if permitted to mix my metaphors, the handwriting is on the wall and our days may be numbered. On that day, and it may be soon, we may be joining our Christian brothers and sisters in certain third-world, communist and Muslim countries where the free exercise of our faith, or at least certain aspects of it, become illegal.  Even to the point of confiscation of property, imprisonment, or even death.  This should not surprise us. Jesus said we would be hated because of Him (Matthew 10:22).  But, “we must obey God rather than men!

My Advice – “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.  “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”   (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring).  All we have to decide is,  do we “obey God rather than men?” “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15, NIV 1984).  Who’s with me?

 

Only One Flavor

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My Musings – “I wish I had an answer to that, because I’m tired of answering that question.”  This is a quote from Yogi Berra, a baseball player of a bygone era who was famous for his nonsensical comments that, upon reflection, made a lot of sense after all.

After nearly 2,000 years, it seems that everyone should know the answer to the question, “what must I do to be saved?”  Yet many continue to believe that salvation has more than one “flavor.”

Religion – “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13, NIV 1978).  Religion is an external observance that does not lead to a transformed. But a heart that is transformed by a personal encounter with Christ, is a spiritual act of worship, a religious expression that demonstrates that our heart has been changed  (Romans 12:1 –2). Religion is not the answer to the question, but it should be a result of the answer.

Obey God’s Laws – “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10, NIV 1978).  We could not obey one simple command in the Garden, much less the ten on the tablets.  But even nine out of ten would be insufficient. But an encounter with Jesus will set us free from the bondage of sin (John 8:32-34).  Obedience to the law is not the answer to the question, but it should be a result of the answer.

Doing Good Works – “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalms 14:3, NIV 1978).  Goodness is measured by God’s unchanging standards, not relative to society’s ever-changing standards. But the light of Christ reflected in our transformed lives, can point the way for others (Matthew 5:16). Good works are not the answer to the question, but they should be a result of the answer.

Grace Through Faith In Christ Alone –  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves [religion, laws, good works], it is the gift of God – – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV 1978). When you know the real answer to the question, you never get tired of answering.

My Advice – If salvation was dependent upon religion, obeying the law, or good works, how could we ever be sure that we were religious enough, we had not broken the wrong (one) rule, or we had done enough good deeds (the good you ought to do but do not do, that is sin to you)?  It should be a relief to know that our salvation does not depend upon the depth of our desires (never deep enough) or the degree of our efforts (never high enough), but on God’s mercy (inexhaustible).  “It [salvation] does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16, NIV 1978).  Forget your desires.  Give up on your efforts. Appeal to God’s mercy.  You’ll never get tired of His answer.

This Little Light Of Mine

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My Musings – Today’s musing is inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s September 29, 2019 sermon.

As You Have Always Obeyed Me – “not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence.”  Obedience, when you are being watched, can be nothing more than compliance.  Obedience, when you think no one is watching, is called character.  Especially when it is “much more.”  Obedience, when you are being watched, demonstrates the ability to act.  Obedience, when you think no one is looking, demonstrates the will to act.

Continue To Work Out Your Salvation – “with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  At first glance a peculiar phrase, when you consider that salvation is by grace, through faith, not by works.  But that is with respect to the initial aspect of salvation – justification (born into righteous).  But just like in our physical life we work out to condition and build up our bodies, so in our spiritual  life we “work out” to condition and build up our faith.  This is the ongoing aspect of salvation – sanctification (growing in righteousness).  We are able to work out because God is working within, transforming us into the image of His Son.

Do Everything Without Complaining or Arguing – “so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.”  Complaining and arguing are characteristics of a crooked and depraved generation.  Blameless, pure and without fault (by the grace of God) are characteristics of the children of God, as they work out their salvation.

Shine Like Stars – “in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”  Just like stars stand out in the vast darkness of space, we are to stand out in the vast darkness of a crooked and depraved world.  Noticeable different by our character, conduct and contrast.  A prefiguration of that final stage of salvation – glorification (revealing the glory of God in our eternal state).

My Advice – These are all aspects of the higher passion we should have to the higher purpose we have been given.  Do not “run or labor for nothing.”  Run with a passion.  Labor for the purpose.  “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

You can check out Pastor Kevin’s fullsermon at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you too.