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.

The One You Feed

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My Musings – Two Wolves is a Cherokee Indian legend that illustrates one of the most important battles of our lives – the one between our old self and old new self.  An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.  “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”  The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”  The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

So, which wolf are we feeding? The “old corrupted deceitful desires,” or “a new attitude of righteousness and holiness?”  The sad reality is, if we do not feed the “new self“, the “old self” will prevail.  If we do not allow the Holy Spirit to feed us with “joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith,” then Satan will try to feed it with “anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

My Advice – Feed the good wolf.  For “the acts of the sinful nature [evil wolf] are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [good wolf] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:19-23, NIV 1984).

Keeping It Holy

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My Musings – The Sabbath day, according to the Old Covenant is the seventh day of the week (Saturday).  For most Christian faiths, however, the day of rest and worship is the first day of the week (Sunday), because that is the day Christ rose from the dead and ushered in the New Covenant.

It certainly is observed much differently today than when I was a kid.  Nowadays there is less rest and less worship.  We rush here and there doing this and that and at times are more exhausted by Sunday evening than we were on Friday evening.  We can sit and watch football all afternoon, but the sermon better be over by noon at the latest, so we can get on with “our” day.  Of course, that’s if we are there at Church at all.

My Advice – Jesus said that man was not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for man.  We need that day to set aside for our rest and to commune with and worship our Lord.

Breaking Chains

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My Musings – A life of keeping the law is like a chain of various size links representing little laws (though shalt not lie) and big laws (thou halt not murder).  In terms of the results, it matters little which law is not kept (little or big), the chain (our relationship with God) is still broken.

My Advice – Do not count on keeping the chain (relationship) whole by your own efforts.  Rely instead on the effort of Christ.