What is Truth?

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What is truth? Truth is sometimes defined as a fact or belief that is accepted as true. When you consider that definition, truth can actually be considered subjective. What’s true for you may not be true for me. What’s true for one country may not be true for another country. And because truth, as we define it, is so subjective, it can lead to disputes and even wars as one person or country seeks to defend its truth against that of another. So, if truth is subjective, is there an absolute truth? So again, we have the question. What is truth?

Pontius Pilate asked that same question when Jesus stood before him, having been brought to the Roman governor by the Sanhedrin to be tried and, ultimately, put to death. In John 18:37 (NLT), Pilate had asked Jesus if He was a king, to which Jesus replied, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” Pilate responded by asking, “What is truth?”

The fact that Pilate did not wait for an answer probably indicates that he did not believe it was possible to know the truth. He likely believed that truth was a matter of opinion, something that can’t be proven. He certainly did not recognize the fact that the truth was standing right in front of him. Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:14) and, since God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), all of God’s Word is true (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17). Jesus Himself tells us that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and it is only through Him that we can come to the Father (John 14:6).

Ever since the fall of man and the introduction of sin into the world, the world has had a distorted view of truth. But God sent Jesus into the world to pay the price for our sin. When we come to Jesus, when we believe in who He is, what He did for us, and we turn from our sin to follow Him, we will know that Jesus is the truth, and the truth that is Jesus is the truth that will set us free (John 8:32). Jesus was able to pay the price because He is without sin. After asking Jesus what truth is, Pilate went out and spoke to the crowd, declaring that he found no guilt in Jesus. In other words, Jesus was innocent. In declaring that, Pilate was speaking the truth.

If you are looking for the truth, look no further than the Word of God, the absolute truth.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

 

What’s Your Excuse?

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To all who read my blog: 

Today’s post is my 500th post! I can’t believe I have written that many posts, and I know that it is only because of God’s grace that I have been able to do so. I began this blog in 2016 because I believed that God was calling me to put in writing the things He inspires in me. I hope that these writings have blessed you as much as I have been blessed in writing them. I thank God for His inspiration, and I thank you for reading what I write.

Blessings!
Roy

As a toddler of only 19 months old, Helen Keller suffered from an illness which left her deaf and blind. Yet, not only did she become an author, political activist, and lecturer, but she also became the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree. Abraham Lincoln, born in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky and largely self-taught, became a lawyer in the state of Illinois and later went on to become perhaps one of the greatest, if not the greatest, presidents of the United States. In 1967, Jim Abbott was born without a right hand. Despite that handicap, he went on to become a major league pitcher who played major league baseball for ten years and is now a motivational speaker.

These are just some examples of people who overcame odds in order to accomplish great things in their lives, people who did not make excuses for their shortcomings but rather worked through them to do the things that they have become famous for. It would have been very easy for Helen Keller to say, “I can’t do these things. I am deaf and blind.” Or for Lincoln to say he wasn’t educated enough to become a lawyer, let alone an American president. Or for Jim Abbott to say, “I can’t play baseball. Look, I only have one hand!” But none of these people used their physical or educational shortcomings as an excuse.

Have you ever felt you weren’t good enough, well-educated enough, or young (or old) enough to do something? Moses did! In Exodus 3:10, God told Moses that He was sending him to Pharaoh in order to bring God’s people out of their slavery in Egypt. Moses responded with excuses: “But, God, who am I to do this? I’m not good enough (Exodus 3:11).” “I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of what to say if they ask me who you are (Exodus 3:13).” “No one will believe me (Exodus 4:1).” “I’m a terrible speaker (Exodus 4:10)!” Moses did not believe that he was the right person for the job. He didn’t believe he could pull it off. And so, he kept making excuses.

But despite the excuses, God used Moses. Despite Moses’ shortcomings, God used him to go to Pharaoh and to lead God’s people out of the land of Egypt. And Moses became one of the greatest leaders in the Bible. But it was not because Moses was qualified to do those things on his own. It was because his qualification came from God.  Moses was called by God to lead His people out of Egypt. And just as Moses was called to the mission God was giving him, we are called to be ministers of God’s covenant, the promise of salvation through His Son, Jesus. We are called to spread the Good News of Christ to others.

Now, we may believe we are not qualified to fulfill this call. Like Moses, we may make excuses. “I’m not good enough!” “I don’t have the education I need for that!” “I wouldn’t know what to say.” It’s true, on our own, we are not qualified. In the NLT, 2 Corinthians 3:5-6a says, “It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant.” None of us is truly qualified to spread the Good News on our own. As it says in 2 Corinthians 3:5, that qualification comes from God. Through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, God gives us all that we need to fulfill His calling (Philippians 4:13; Acts 1:8). So, here’s a question: what’s your excuse?

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Temptation

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Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. (James 1:13 NASB)

What is temptation? According to the dictionary, temptation is the act of tempting someone or the state of being tempted yourself. It can also mean the thing that someone is tempted by. Temptation can be the opportunity to do something that may be good, but to do it in a bad way, a way that is outside of God’s will. For example, eating is a good thing. In fact, food is necessary for life. But if I consider stealing the food that I want to eat, that is temptation.

Where does temptation come from? Is it from God? James 1:13 makes it quite clear that God is not the source of our temptation and warns that, when we face temptation, we should not point to God as its source. Temptation does not come from God. God Himself cannot be tempted and does not tempt us. God may test us, as He tested Abraham when He told him to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Hebrews 11:17). He may allow us to endure trials, to test our faith and our perseverance (James 1:12). But God does not tempt us.

So, if God does not tempt us, then who does? Who or what is the source of our temptation? Sometimes, temptation may come from Satan. He may put something in front of us that seems right, that seems like a good thing to do when, in fact, it is not. The temptation will appeal to our normal desires. Jesus Himself was tempted by Satan in the wilderness before He began His ministry on earth (Matthew 4:1). In the wilderness, Satan knew that Jesus was hungry, and he appealed to Jesus’ desire for food by telling Him to turn stones into bread. Jesus was fully divine, but He was also fully human and experienced the same normal human desires that we have. Was it wrong for Jesus to want to eat? No. But turning stones into bread was outside of God’s will.

Now here’s the thing. Temptation, in and of itself, is not sin. But, when we are tempted to do something that is outside of God’s will, that temptation can ultimately lead to sin. James points out that we are tempted when we get carried away and are enticed by our own lusts, which are normal desires that we seek to satisfy in a way that is outside of the will of God (James 1:14). But, when we let that lustful desire for something deceive us, when we let the seed of lust begin to develop in our hearts, the result is that sin is birthed within us (James 1:15). And, as James goes on to say, we must not allow ourselves to be deceived (James 1:16).

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul points out that all of us will face temptations in our lives. Temptation is common to the human race. But the good thing is, that we have a God who is faithful, and it is because of that faithfulness that He will provide a way out of temptation. As we read in James 1:13, God does not tempt us. He may allow us to be tempted, but not beyond what we are able to deal with. The way out, the way to deal with temptation, is through the Word of God. Jesus demonstrated this when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. For each temptation that Satan baited Him with, Jesus responded with the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11). When we have God’s Word planted firmly in our hearts and minds, we can detect the bait of Satan and deal with it in a way that will keep us within the will of God.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Mission: Possible

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“Good morning, Mr. Phelps. Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it…”

The 1960’s/1970’s television series, Mission: Impossible, centered around a group called the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), a team of secret government agents who took on seemingly impossible covert missions against dictators, evil organizations, and crime lords. Most episodes began with Jim Phelps, the leader of the IMF, receiving the team’s assignment via a tape recorder. The voice on the tape would explain the mission, adding that, due to the nature of the mission, any of the IMF team members could be caught or killed and, should that happen, the government would disavow any knowledge of the team’s actions. The recording would then end with the words, “This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.”

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are on a mission. Our mission, given to us by Jesus, is to make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). But, unlike the missions that the IMF faced, our mission is not impossible, but possible. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus made it clear that we would be given the power that we would need to complete our mission. That power would come from the Holy Spirit, and it would give us the ability to be witnesses for Jesus in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and countries, and around the world (Acts 1:8).

In our Mission: Possible, we are called to make disciples, to bring others into a life-changing relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, teaching them all that Jesus taught His disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). We are called to proclaim the kingdom of God, which came to earth through the incarnation of His Son, Jesus (Luke 9:2). We are called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, which we call the Gospel (Acts 20:24), bearing witness to all that we have seen or heard about Jesus (Acts 5:30-32). And we are called to bring honor to God as we show we are Jesus’ disciples by bearing fruit for His kingdom (John 15:8).

Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to become Christ’s ambassadors in every corner of the earth. And, with the power of the Holy Spirit within us, and Jesus beside us, that mission is very possible.

 

Prayer Needs to Be Wholehearted

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In 1962, before The Beatles became a phenomenal success, EMI producer George Martin was not yet convinced of the songwriting ability of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. He was committed to producing a hit single for the band so he suggested that they record a song called “How Do You Do It?” written by a songwriter by the name of Mitch Murray. The Beatles wanted to record their own songs but, reluctantly, they recorded the song that their producer had suggested. Their reluctance to do the song was quite evident in the halfhearted effort that they put into it, and the song was not released by The Beatles. The song was given to Gerry & The Pacemakers, whose wholehearted effort went on to number one on the charts.

In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus taught that we should ask, seek, and knock. He said that if we ask, we will receive. If we seek, we will find. And, if we knock, the door will be opened to us. In the original Greek, the tense used in these verses is the present tense. Jesus was saying that we need to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. We need to go to God with our prayer requests both consistently and persistently. In other words, prayer requires effort. It requires stamina because sometimes the answer to our prayers does not come right away. God’s answer to our prayers is based on His timetable, not ours.

God wants to answer our prayers. God’s answer is sometimes “yes,” sometimes “no,” and sometimes “wait.” But His answer will come. When God delays His answer to our prayers it is not a sign of reluctance on His part. The delay may be so that we learn patience. It may be to test the intensity of our desire, not just for what we are praying for, but for our relationship with God. It may be to test our expectation. Do we truly believe that God will provide an answer to our prayers? Do we wait expectantly, anticipating what God will do when He answers?

What Jesus is telling us is that we should not pray half-heartedly, we should not give a half-hearted effort to asking, seeking, and knocking. In Jeremiah 29:13, God tells us that, if we seek Him with all our heart, we will find Him. Jesus said that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6). Prayer should not be half-hearted. When we ask, when we seek, and when we knock, we need to give a wholehearted effort. God will answer our prayers and open the doors that He knows are best for us. When we ask, seek, and knock wholeheartedly, we will receive God’s perfect answer to our prayers.

No Brag, Just Fact

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In the late 1960’s, the veteran character actor Walter Brennan starred in a television western series called “The Guns of Will Sonnett.” Brennan played the title character who, along with his grandson, Jeff, was searching for his son, James, who had disappeared at the age of seventeen. Will Sonnett was a man who was quite adept when it came to shooting, something that he often made known to strangers. In the very first episode, Sonnett told someone that his missing son was an expert with a gun, that his grandson, Jeff, was even better, and that he himself, was better than both of them. And then he added what would become a catchphrase, “no brag, just fact.”

Bragging, or boasting, is speaking of our own deeds or our own abilities in such a way that indicates a spirit of pride or self-satisfaction, and it is something that Scripture instructs us to avoid. Proverbs 27:1 in the New Living Translation says, “Don’t brag about tomorrow since you don’t know what the day will bring. Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth— a stranger, not your own lips.” In this verse, it’s quite clear that we should not make presumptions about our future by boasting about it since we really don’t know what the future will bring in our lives. And we should steer clear of self-promotion.

In Jeremiah 9:23, the Lord says that, if we are wise, we should not boast about our wisdom. If we possess great strength, we should not brag about how strong we are. And, if we are blessed with riches, we should not boast about how rich we are. Boasting is a form of pride, and Scripture tells us that pride takes us down a road that leads only to destruction (Proverbs 16:18). Instead of boasting about ourselves, about how much we know, how much we can do, or how much we are worth, we should heed the words of the Lord in Jeremiah 9:24. We should boast in the Lord, in the fact that, because of His great mercy and grace, we are able to understand Him and know Him.

As it says, in 1 Corinthians 1:31 (NLT), “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” Boast about how much He loves us, boast about His faithfulness towards us, boast about the grace and the mercy He bestows on us. To these things, we can add the words of Will Sonnett: “No brag, just fact!”

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

Encouraging Words

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Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. (Proverbs 12:25, NLT)

As Solomon so wisely pointed out in the first half of Proverbs 12:25, worry, or anxiety, can weigh a person down. For some people, dealing with anxiety can be like having a weight around their necks. It threatens to pull them down into the depths of depression and drown them in a sea of despair. The ultimate antidote for the anxiety or the worry that they feel can only be found in the Lord. The antidote is the peace that comes when they bring their anxiety and worry to God and lay it at His feet in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7). But, there is something that we can do to help people around us in dealing with their worry or anxiety. That something, found in the second half of Proverbs 12:25, is a word of encouragement.

We all are called to encourage one another. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us that we are to encourage one another and to build one another up. And just a few verses later, in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, we are told to encourage those who are fainthearted, or timid. One of the ways by which we can do this is by bringing a word of encouragement when it is needed. Words are powerful. With the words that roll off our tongues we can tear a person down or we can build a person up. Proverbs 18:21 says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. With the same tongue, we can bless God and curse men; from the same mouth, we can send forth both words of blessing and words of cursing (James 3:9-10).

As followers of Christ, we must always look to His example. Jesus’ words were always intended to build people up and to encourage them. If someone you know is filled with worry or anxiety, follow the wise words of Solomon and cheer them up by offering an encouraging word.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Employee of the ___________.

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Have you ever felt unappreciated at work? Perhaps you’ve found yourself overlooked by your employer, while others who work with you are honored and recognized as employee of the week, month, or year. You’ve worked hard but have received no kudos from your boss. There’s no plaque in your place of employment with your name and picture on it. You may feel like you are working hard for nothing. You may feel overworked and overlooked. You may feel that your employer has treated you unjustly. You may have worked as hard as, or maybe harder than, others in your workplace but have not received the recognition you believe you deserved.

As followers of Christ, we are all called to partner with God in His work. We are called to do the work of God on earth, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping the poor and destitute, and showing Jesus to others as we do so. But our work for God is never unappreciated. Hebrews 6:10 tells us that God is not unjust to those who work for Him. In the NLT, this verse reads:

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.

The work that we have done for God does not go unrecognized. God never forgets how hard we have worked. He never forgets how we have shown our love for Him by loving each other, by caring for those around us. Our earthly reward for doing His work is knowing that He is pleased and knowing that we have been the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. But someday, He will reward us in heaven for the things we do for Him on earth.

In the eyes of God, the acts of kindness and caring that we do for His people are done for God Himself and, as such, they will be rewarded. On the day of judgment, God will look at those of us who have worked hard for Him, who have cared for others, and He will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:34–36, NLT). And if we ask when we did these things, He will tell us that whenever we did these things to the least of His people, we did them to Him.

When we follow Christ, when we have received the salvation that comes from faith in Jesus, our response should be to work hard for His kingdom here on earth so that, one day, we will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And that’s a recognition that far outweighs Employee of the Month!

Live, Love, Learn

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As I sat in a prayer service on Wednesday night, three words popped into my head. I wondered what these words were supposed to mean and why the three of them just came into my head. They had come out of nowhere, and I was sure that God was trying to tell me something. I felt that I should write them down so I turned to the back of my notebook and wrote them down. The words were live, love, learn. I felt that I needed to take these words and search God’s Word to see if I could determine what it was about these words that God wanted to tell me.

As I searched God’s Word, the easiest of these words to understand was love. The Bible tells us that we should love God with all our heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). God is love and, when we abide in love, not only do we abide in God, but He also abides in us (1 John 4:16). Jesus commanded us to love each other, just as He loves us. Our love for each other shows the world that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35). God’s Word says that we love because He loved us first. So love is important in the life of each of us who follow Christ.

Live was also an easy word to understand. From the beginning of creation, God’s intent was that we should live forever in His presence. But sin made eternal life impossible. Still, God wanted us to have life in Him and so He provided a way for us to receive eternal life: believing in His only Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin and to make us right in God’s eyes. When we have faith in Jesus, when we put our trust in Him and turn from our sin, we will have eternal life (Romans 1:17). In Galatians 2:20, the apostle Paul wrote that he had been crucified with Christ. He had turned from the ways and desires of the flesh, and so Christ lived in Him. Rather than living in the flesh, he lived by faith in Jesus, the Son of God, who gave His life for him. This is how we all must live: by faith in Jesus.

Learn was a harder word to understand. But as I searched the Word, I was brought to Matthew 11:29, where Jesus taught that we should take His yoke upon us and learn from Him. We need to learn from Jesus how to love and how to live. And, as it says in Colossians 3:16, we need to teach others, using the wisdom that we learn from Him so that they can also learn from Jesus. As I read that verse in Colossians, I looked at the verses before it and saw why God had put the words live, love, and learn in my head. Take a look at Colossians 3:10-17 from the NLT:

Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

God was telling me that we must live in Christ, love as He loves us, and learn from Him. Why? So that the way in which we live our lives, the way in which we present ourselves to the world will make us the best representatives of Christ that we can possibly be.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Cause and Effect

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Have you ever heard of the principle of causality? You may know it better as the principle of cause and effect, the idea that one event or one action is the direct result of another. If you were to throw a bowling ball down a lane at a bowling alley, some or all of the pins will fall (unless of course, you throw a gutter ball!). In this simple example, the action of the pins falling is the direct result of the action of your throwing the ball. Throwing the ball is the cause, the pins falling is the effect. In Acts 2:42-47, the early church gives us a wonderful example of the power of cause and effect when it comes to a group of believers doing exactly what the church is called to do, make disciples.

Acts 2:42 tells us that the believers in the early church were continually devoting themselves as a community to the teaching of the apostles (the Gospel), to being in fellowship with each other, to the breaking of bread, and to praying together. The next several verses give us a beautiful picture of what that meant, what that looked like in action. Verse 43 tells us that all of the believers felt a sense of awe, or fear, and that the apostles performed many miracles, signs, and wonders. This was not fear as we may think of it. As the people saw what God was doing through the apostles, they were filled with a deep sense of respect, of reverence for God. Verses 43 through 45 tell us that the believers in the early church experienced a great sense of community. They were a community of believers who shared all that they had, caring for those who were in need.

Acts 2:46 tells us that, as a community, they worshiped together in the Temple and they met in small groups in each others’ homes, joyfully breaking bread together and praising God together. How often did they do so? In the NASB, Acts 2:42 tells us that they did so “day by day.” Not just on Sundays. Not just once or twice a week. They did these things every day of their lives. They met on a daily basis, they cared for each other on a daily basis, and they studied God’s Word on a daily basis. Their faith was shown in the way they lived their lives every single day. They didn’t just make Sunday the day that they practiced their faith. They did so every day.

So, what was the result of the actions of the early church believers, of these communities of fellow followers of Jesus Christ? If the actions of the early church believers were the cause, what was the effect? Acts 2:47b (NASB) gives us the answer:

And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The effect of the way in which the early church did life together, the effect of the way in which they showed their faith to those in the world around them, resulted in lives being saved. People came to know Christ because of the way in which those early church believers lived their lives. And this did not happen only during an altar call on Sundays; it happened “day by day.” The early church was a community of changed lives whose example changed the lives of those around them. What an amazing example for the church today. May we, as the body of Christ today, always seek to be like the early church, to be a community of people whose faith in action is the cause of souls being saved each and every day.

My Richest Gain I Count But Loss

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My late father-in-law, Henry Plona, was a great storyteller. His life was full of adventures, mishaps, and other things that made for quite entertaining tales. In the years that I knew him, I heard many of those stories, some more than once! One of the stories that I heard many times was about a time he went clamming. On that day, Henry went into the water with a belt around his waist to which he had attached the bags in which he would collect the clams. He waded into the water and would reach down to the ocean floor, grab the clams and put them in the bags, gradually moving deeper and deeper into the water as he collected the clams. This continued for a while and soon he had quite a haul of clams. And then it happened. His belt weighed down with clams, Henry took a step and realized that the heavy clams were about to cause him to go under. Thinking quickly, he undid the belt and let the clams go to keep himself from possibly drowning. He lost the clams, but gained life! He knew that staying alive far outweighed the value of a clam dinner.

In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul outlines why he, more than most of those he was writing to, had reason to be confident in himself. In accordance with Jewish law, he had been circumcised at eight days old. He was a pure-blooded citizen of Israel, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, and a Pharisee. He lived in strict obedience to the Law of the Jews, obeying it to the letter. His zealousness for the Law led him to persecute the early church (Philippians 3:4-6 NLT). But, after coming to truly know Christ, Paul realized that the things he had considered as valuable were worthless when compared to the value of knowing the One who went to the cross to save him from his sin. And, in realizing that, Paul chose to discard all of the things he once considered valuable. Looking at those things through the lens of his new life in Christ, Paul now saw them as nothing more than garbage. And so, he willing discarded them in order to gain Christ and become one with Him (Philippians (3:7-8 NLT).

In the beloved hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts wrote:

When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

The cross of Christ represents life for all who choose to follow Him. When we choose to turn away from the ways and the desires of the flesh and turn to Christ, we, like Paul, are discarding the things of this world which, in comparison to what we gain from knowing Christ, are nothing more than garbage. Gaining the eternal life that is available through Christ is something far more valuable than anything the world has to offer.

 

Spending Time with God

Spending-Time-With-God

God created us for relationships, both with Him and with other people. For a relationship to work, we must spend time with the person with whom we want to be in relationship. When a man and a woman marry, they need to spend time with each other for that relationship to grow. When two people embark on a friendship, they need to spend time together in order to cultivate that friendship. Our most important relationship is with our Creator, with God. If spending time with a spouse or a friend is necessary for the relationship to flourish, how much more so is this true in our relationship with God? Yet, how often do we neglect to cultivate that most important of relationships by neglecting to spend time with God through personal devotions?

In order to grow as followers of Christ and to deepen our relationship with the God who created us, we need to set aside time each day for personal devotions, for that quiet time in the presence of God. We need to make time to sit with Him, to talk with Him, to listen for His voice. It doesn’t matter if that time is in the morning, in the afternoon, or in the evening. What matters is that we make that time a priority in our days, scheduling it on our calendars, if necessary, just as we would schedule appointments, time with friends and family, or dates with our spouses. God deserves nothing less than our full intentionality in making our time with Him the most important time of our day.

Jesus gave us the example to follow. In Mark 1:35, we read that Jesus woke in the early morning, before the sun had shown its face, and went off on His own to pray, to spend time with the Father. Jesus knew that He needed to spend that time in the presence of the Father. I would venture to say that, if Jesus needed that time, we need it even more. When we make time for our personal devotions, we are saying not only that God is a priority in our lives but also that we need that time to help us through each day of our lives. I can personally vouch for that! On days when I forget to spend time with God, the entire day can seem off. My mood and my attitude can even be affected. But when I make that time for personal devotions, I am strengthened throughout my day, my mood is better, and I have a more positive attitude.

Personal devotion time requires discipline. It requires intentionality. What that time looks like may vary from person to person. It may include time spent in worship (in fact, it should!). It may include time spent confessing any sin that has crept into our lives. It may include time lifting prayer requests to God. But one thing we should always include in our time with God is stillness, time spent waiting on His voice, listening to what He has to say to us. And when He speaks to us, it is a good practice to write in a journal what we hear from Him. No matter what form your personal devotions take, I guarantee you that, when you make it a priority, when you make it part of your life each day, you will treasure that time like no other.

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