So-called Brother

As followers of Jesus, we need to be aware in our relationships and in our actions/activities with friends who have not yet accepted Christ as their Saviour. It’s easy to be drawn into things that don’t honor our Lord. While this knowlege is important, we also need to hear this warning letter that was written to the Church in Corinth. I don’t think we consider this as much as we should.

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” – 1 CORINTHIANS 5:9‭-‬13 NASB

Not just in our association with non-Christians, but with other Christians, we have to watch ourselves. Are we cautious in our relationships? Do we take care in our business dealings? We all know of businesses that have the Christian ‘fish’ or the symbol of a cross in their advertising. I’ve read advertisements where they claim to be a ‘Christian’ business. I think we need to be extremely careful doing this!

Instead of advertising our Christianity, I believe we should let our actions and our ethics speak of our love of the Lord. Just because there’s a fish or a cross on the sign doesn’t make that business Christian – but it does set a precedent, especially if/when there is a problem. There are hundreds, no, thousands, of examples of a so-called Christian business person who has taken advantage of or treated their customer unethically. I imagine we’ve all seen it or experienced it.

Actions speak louder than words….. but words are still important! Today, may we all make a conscious effort to let our every action reflect the Light of our Lord. Just like the moon, which doesn’t have any light generating capacity itself, yet shines so brightly when reflecting the light of the sun, there is no light in us alone; it all comes from the Saviour, the Son.

Are You Fractious?

It’s easy to learn something new every day, but I don’t always like what I learn. Take these verses from Titus and Romans:

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” – TITUS 3:9‭-‬11 NASB

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:18‭, ‬21 ESV

Have you ever truly read these verses? I’m quite sure I’ve read them before, or at the very least, heard them read, but they sure didn’t register with my brain until today. “Reject a fractious man ….” I looked up the word ‘fractious’ and was a bit dismayed by what I found.

Factious as defined by Dictionary.com is all of this and more. Aliented, belligerent, contentious, dissident, divisive, hostile, insubordinate, insurgent, litigious, malcontent, mutinous, partisan, quarrelson, rebellious. I’ve spent a large part of my life being fractious, and I still catch myself, especially the partisan and rebellious parts. I am partisan, a strong supporter of things I believe in. I am rebellious against anyone trying to force their beliefs on me, and I confess to some belligerence when I need to be forgiving to the person(s) who wrong me.
As R. T. Kendall wrote in Total Forgiveness, “forgiveness is giving up the natural desire to see the person who wronged you ‘get what’s coming to them.‘ ” Oh, such truth! It’s hard to give up our “natural desires,” because our “natural” selves are so deeply mired in sin. I am fortunate that a few of the people who have known me didn’t follow Titus’ words and reject me for being fractious. In today’s world, I think we’d all be pretty isolated if we were rejected for that. Look at how many people actually make a living by being fractious! Newscasters, social media talkshow hosts, so-called comedians, and politicians, just to name a few. The louder we get, the more fractious we become, the more people listen. As we become more controversial, our audience continues to grow.

It’s important to remember how these things, these attitudes, affect our walk with Christ. This morning, I watched a replay of a television show that was aired 22 years ago. A very famous woman, one with a great influence, came on a controversial new show to give her support. An audience member who identified as a Christian called this famous woman out, asking how she could support this show while calling herself a Christian. This famous, influential woman, answered “my definition of Christian is different from yours.” How can that be? There is, and can only be one definition of ‘Christian’. A follower of Jesus Christ, who accepts that Jesus is the Son of GOD, and that Jesus came as the ultimate, and final, sacrifice for our sins. Believing that Jesus died on the cross for us, was buried, and rose up out of that grave on the third day. He was resurrected for us. Knowing that He will return to earth one day and take His followers to spend eternity with Him. You have to know that Jesus was not a “good man” and He was not a prophet. He was, is, and will always be the Son of the Most High God.

More Christians need to be Chrst-followers and be considered fractious in the eyes of the world, standing up for the True Gospel. We need to be living peaceably, as much as is possible. If I am seen as fractious by the world because of my testimony, I accept that as an acknowlegement that I am doing what God wants of me. If, however, the Christian community sees me as being fractious and unforgiving, then I need to get on my knees and ask God for guidance.

Once For All

17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the Right Hand of GOD, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” – 1 PETER 3:17-22 NASB

Martin Luther made a very interesting observation on this selection of scripture. In his Commentary on Peter & Jude, “A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means.” If Martin Luther has trouble understanding it, I’m not sure anyone can!

Peter continues his thought from verse 17 in the next chapter: “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” – 1 Peter 4:1‭, ‬12 ESV

He understood from experiences in his own life that we need understanding and hope. He makes the point that to suffer for being a Christian is normal. Jesus said “You will be hated because you are known by My Name.” (Matthew 10:22, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17) Be ready to suffer.

What kind of Saviour do we need? John Piper says we need a compassionate Saviour, a fellow sufferer, and we have just that in the person of Jesus Christ. He suffered first: “….. For Christ also died for sins once for all – final, complete, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; …..” (verse 18)

Christ suffered first. Anything we have suffered, everything that we might suffer – pain, abandonment, isolation, loss, grief, condemnation, torture, torment. Now we will suffer. He gets it. He has sympathy, empathy, and compassion. We do suffer consequences, but we will not have to suffer the penal punishment of an eternity in hell, because Christ bore that wrath full measure, MY iniquity, MY substitute – personal and potent – on the cross.

Noah acted on the Word of God, and built a huge boat far away from any water. Can you imagine the ridicule? Yet he did it, because GOD told him to, preparing for an event that was incomprehensible to him and the people he knew. When the rain started, it was a phenomenon that had never before occurred. It, combined with the water rising up and flooding the earth, completely covered and wiped out the old sinful world. Water that saved them from similar destruction only because they were in the ark. Baptism – the water – doesn’t save us, but if Jesus is our ark, the water washes away the sin and cleanses us. We come out of the water through Jesus like Noah came out of the water through the ark. The visual of baptism represents the death, burial, and the Resurrection, the Risen Christ. It could be viewed as the “Pledge of Allegience” of Christians. Christ went from this earth to sit at the Right Hand of GOD. The “Right Hand” signifies the preeminent, ultimate position of authority. EVERYTHING lines up under and is subject to Jesus, including Satan and all of his followers. That could be a scary thought if you aren’t on the right side…… Jesus ascended to heaven, to the Father, 40 days after Easter. That’s the reason He is not on earth with us. Remember what Peter said in 1 Peter 1:8a “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him.”

What do you do when you are discouraged and suffering? We find encouragement throughout the Gospel. When I accept Christ as my Saviour, I AM saved, and I WILL ALWAYS BE saved, from that moment forward. Amen.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38‭-‬39 ESV

We, You and Me, All of Us

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, ” The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, And His ears attend to their prayer, But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil. ” Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify CHRIST as LORD in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the Hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” – 1 PETER 3:8‭-‬17 NASB

As fellow followers of Christ, are we all thinking the same? Are we feeling the same outrage at the way the world treats each other? Do we have each others hurts in our hearts? ROMANS 6:12,15 tells us

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts ….. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!”

No, we are charged to be courteous, friendly, and brotherly to each other, having a deep sense of compassion. When we are humble and not egocentric, we think of ourselves less and are more capable of the right actions we need to do in order to follow in the will of God. The hardest thing for me to do is to bless the ones who have hurt me, or as Peter worded it, to continually bless those I want to retaliate against! He says to retaliate with blessings, to return good for evil.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ” “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the LORD, but if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. ” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – ROMANS 12:18‭-‬21 NASB

We have choices in how we can react to evil, hurts, and outrageous behavior against us and those we love. The satanic choice is to give evil for good, and the human way is to return evil for evil. Our way, the Christian way, should always be to give good for evil. That’s hard to do in our humanness; in fact, it’s impossible to do on our own. We can only do it by giving over our hurt and resentment to the LORD, knowing the He will make it right in the end. By doing this, we no longer have to go through life just enduring it, we can be enjoying life – a life in rich relationship with GOD, and with all people…. those people we like and those people we don’t like.

In R.C. Sproul’s commentary on I Peter, he says “We should enjoy a multitude of good days because we are in touch with the Author of good days.” I think he’s right on the mark with that statement! When we are in touch with our LORD, shouldn’t all of our days be good, regardless of what is happening around us? After all,

“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God.” – JOHN 3:18 NASB

That’s us! You and me, because we have believed in JESUS! We are blessed; now it’s on us to bless others – and especially to bless those people we really don’t want to bless. I have some work ahead of me!

To Sum It Up:

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” (“Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit.” – PSALMS 34:13‭) – 1 PETER 3:8-‬10 NASB

Peter uses these verses (including v. 11-12) to summarize chapters 1 and 2, and the first few verses of chapter 3. He was writing to a group of exiled Jews who were living far outside of their homeland (“foreigners, aliens, and exiles,” 1 Peter 1:1, depending on the translation), who were under pressure because of their status (1 Peter 1:6). He wants us to see that there is a good life for us here on earth, regardless of the problems we are facing. When we follow these suggestions, our hearts are able to enjoy the good in our lives rather than being focused on whatever is happening externally. The psalm Peter quotes, Psalm 34, was written by King David after he had to pretend madness in order to escape from those who were prepared to kill him (1 Samuel 21). We don’t have it so bad when we look at things in context!

We always have a choice as to how we react and resond to the events in our lives. We can choose to see the good and love life; to enjoy what we have, or we can endure it, or we can attempt to escape it. I’ve tried enduring, and it is just that – enduring. No joy. Escaping doesn’t work, either. I promise you, no matter how you try to escape, distance or mind-altering substances or food or sex or shopping or work, it is all right there, still the same! Choose joy, because it is a choice! I was recently having a conversation with a pastor about my current situation (it isn’t all that pretty….) and I ended it by saying that I am very blessed. He expressed some surprise, saying that few people say that. I choose joy, because I have lived the alternatives, and I don’t like them. I’m not a saint! I admit to being depressed and feeling sorry for myself at times, but then I look around and see others who have it so much worse than me. If you are struggling, stop looking at what you don’t have, and see what you do have. It can be eye-opening. Don’t miss the good life GOD has given you!

Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – JOHN 10:10 NASB

Choose JESUS and choose Life Abundant!

Disclaimer: I often use my notes from our pastor’s sermons (with his permission). Dr. Hitchcock brings the gospel alive for me, answering questions I have and bringing more questions to my mind. The thoughts I carry away cause me to read and research the scripture and Bible commentaries, and I always come away with something new! If you would like to hear the original sermons (without any mistakes I might bring!), go to Sermon Archives at http://faithbibleok.com/ The Good Life – we are currently in the Still Standing series by Dr. Mark Hitchcock. We are truly blessed with all of the Bible teachers and books and commentaries that are available for us.

Dumbed Down …..

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” – PROVERBS 3:7 NASB

I used to be so smart. I knew what everybody needed to do – what they should do, the right way to do it, and when it should be done. If people would’ve just listened to me, the whole world would have been so much better! That was me, perfect in every way. Do you know someone like that? Maybe, if you are honest with yourself, it’s you? If so, you are in for a rude awakening. I certainly was.

It hurts to realize you are a know-it-all. Maybe that seems like an oxymoron, but I believe that for many peoplem it’s a true statement. When I was in my ‘perfect’ life, it wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision to be that way. Instead, it was a subconscious push to be in charge of something, anything, in my life. Both men and women who feel trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship often search for an outlet. Since they aren’t in control of the emotions, they look for other things. “Knowing” how to do a thing is an easy way to exert some type of control. Excessive behavior is another, like being busy all the time. For many years, it was extremely difficult for me to sit and just enjoy company. I was too busy serving and fixing; my attempt at controlling a tiny aspect of my life. It can still be a struggle for me not to try to “fix” people and situations……

Sometimes it takes a drastic event for GOD to get our attention because our focus is so concentrated on ourselves…. or rather, on “fixing” everything and everybody around us, because there is nothing wrong with “me”. When I realized that it wasn’t possible to fix anyone else, and that I had to focus on me, it was truly an eye-opener. We are so used to focusing on others, we just can’t see anything else. Remember what Jesus said?

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:3‭-‬5 ESV

It is so easy to judge someone else’s life. I have judged, and I have been judged (“I’m that sister”). It isn’t pretty when we have to confront our very human failings, and we all have them. No one, with the exception of Jesus Christ, can claim perfection. Being “dumbed down” can be a blessing if it means we finally realize we don’t have to know everything! Maybe, today, we can just be grateful for where we are in our life journey, without trying to make ourselves feel better about our own life by trying to control someone else’s life. If the GOD of the Universe can forgive me**, then I know He can – and will – forgive anyone who asks Him! **And I am Forgiven!! Hallelujah!!

Listen to the song “Scars” by I Am They.

Have You Prayed About It?

“Have you prayed about it?”

Whenever we have a question or concern, or we are worried about something, that phrase should be the first thing that pops into our mind.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the LORD will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” – JAMES 5:13‭-‬18 NASB

Billy Graham wrote: “Faith pleases God more than anything else. The Christian life is dependent upon faith. We stand on faith; we live on faith. Faith is loved and honored by God more than any other single thing.

The Bible teaches that faith is the only approach that we have to God. No man has sins forgiven, no man goes to heaven, no man has assurance of peace and happiness, until he has faith in Jesus Christ.

You may be saying, “God, I believe you are a great person, but I do not believe your Word; I do not believe what you say.” In order to please God, you must believe Him. Perhaps your faith is small and weak.

It does not matter how big your faith is, but rather, where your faith is. Is it in Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for your sins?”

I especially appreciate the last 2 sentences, because for years my faith was small… tiny, almost nonexistent. Because my faith was so small, my constant search for peace & happiness did not yield anything. Oh, I could sense them! I knew they were within reach ….. but I couldn’t quite get there. I knew, because of my parents teaching us while we were children, that true peace only comes thru JESUS. Scripture is quite clear on that:

“Without faith it isn’t possible to please GOD. Those who come to God must believe that He exists. And they must believe that He rewards those who look to Him.” – Hebrews 11:6

Without faith, it is difficult to pray, and without prayer, it is difficult – maybe even impossible – to have faith. The thing I most hope to get across is this: No matter what is going on in your life, whether mental or physical, there is HOPE. There can be PEACE. Regardless of what anyone else says or does to us, JESUS is the answer. Claim it – claim HIM. Pray about it. Hold a conversation with God!

See that tiny flicker of faith that is hiding deep in your soul? Fan the flames. Let GOD supply the fuel!

Have you prayed about it?