Today’s Blog

Thursday, 11/29/18 – Discipleship: Freedom

Remember now, when we speak of “freedom” in the context of discipleship, we mean “the ability to do what you ought, not the right to do what you want.” We all know we ought to do certain things that we do not. A relationship with Christ makes changing all that possible.

silhouette photo of jumping person during twilight hour
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“The key to overcoming temptation is loving God. The more you love God, the less you will be tempted by sin.” says Peter – No, not that Peter, the Peter in the dialogue which prefaces each chapter of the First Steps On-on-One Discipleship handbook (see p. 24).

But how does that work? How does loving God help me to stop swearing, stop peeking at porn, or start praying more? How do I love God anyway? I can’t even see Him!

man and woman holding hands walking on seashore during sunrise
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Well let’s scale this whole thing back a bit to something we may understand more readily. How about this: boy meets girl. There’s a pretty basic plot line for any story. Boy meets girl… boy likes girl…. girl likes art museums…. boy takes an interest in art…. girl dislikes moustaches… boy shaves his off… Maybe the girl decides to shed a few pounds, do up her hair in the more alluring style, or invest in a new dress.

Things neither had motivation or desire to do previously they now tackle with gusto! Why? They want to please the one they love. Love accomplishes what willpower alone can never do.

How did they do it? They spent time together. They found out what pleased the other, they made such things their chief interest and priority also, then… they went out and did that thing, or stopped doing that other thing. The happiness of their beloved became more cherished than their own happiness. Yet, by living for the happiness of the other they found a greater joy beyond themselves.

It’s the same with God. “Find out what pleases the Lord,” writes Paul. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness…” (Eph. 5:10,11). ” Rejoice always, pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16,17)

Want more freedom to do what you ought? Develop Your Love relationship with Jesus Christ. Remember, “The key to overcoming temptation is loving God. The more you love God, the less you will be tempted by sin.”

Press on…

 

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ?
Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Wednesday, 11/28/18 – Pressing on…

Overseeing vs Overlooking

Overseeto keep watch over, survey, observe, make sure a task is done correctly.
Overlookto fail to notice or consider something or someone.

Toward the end of His earthly ministry Jesus told of a great separation of peoples of all nations that would occur “as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:32). On His right will be the blessed, on His left the cursed. A great determiner of this will be the treatment given to others in their need: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the one in need of clothing, the sick, the imprisoned. Did one oversee, or overlook?

On Sunday our pastor made reference to an experiment done by James MacDonald, senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. One Sunday Pastor MacDonald dressed himself in shabby clothing and sat down at the church entranceway to see how he would be treated. Check out the video here.

The above passage continues as our Lord explains “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40), and “…whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matt. 25:45).

What a shocker it must have been to many in his congregation as James MacDonald slowly revealed to them that the beggar they passed or paused to speak to was in fact he. What a shock it will be on that day of separation too when Jesus reveals that the one in need likewise was He, the King of all, the Almighty Himself.

What will Jesus say to you on that day – “Come, you who are blessed…” or “Depart from me, you who are cursed…”?

Those in need are all around us. Stop in at the Boyce Market on any Saturday morning, sit awhile at the east end off the food court in Kings Place mall, visit the tents set up in the laneway off Smythe Street near Woodstock Road, check out a few ATM lobbys in the middle of the night, look high in the crevices under our city bridges.

The Fredericton Homeless Shelter assists well over 400 individuals in need.

Check out Brittany Ranni’s recent blog where she writes of the needy in Los Angeles…

What is your responses when you encounter a person in need. You need not think money is all you might offer. Give them your time, your ear, your compassion and tears. “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you,” said Peter to the lame man he and John met one morning in front of their place of worship. Little did they realize that the one to whom they spoke was Our Lord.

Remember, Jesus too was a homeless man (Luke 9:58), and He may well be in disguise as the next homeless soul you meet. His greatest desire was to come as a Servant to a hurting humanity, and hurt with us. What is yours?

Press on…

Tuesday, 11/27/18 – Pressing on…

This past Sunday at Lincoln Baptist Pastor Steve asked us “What is your greatest desire?” Howard Hughes was presented as an example of a man who, by reason of his great wealth, could fulfil virtually any desire he might have, yet ended his life in emptiness. The glitter of his own glory had blinded him to the glory of God.

Bartimaeus, on the other hand, was a blind beggar who, by reason of his great need, could see he required a power outside himself to intervene. The darkness of his inner world had turned him to “the true light that gives light to everyone” (John 1:9) He cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47)

Like Hughes, Bartimaeus also is now dead. Like Hughes, naked he came, naked he left. Death is always the great equalizer.

man person people old

But Bartimaeus received something Hughes could never buy. He reported his “greatest desire” to Christ, received physical and spiritual sight, then followed in the footsteps of his Saviour.

Days earlier Jesus’ disciples had asked Him, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” (Matt. 13:10). Jesus’ answer was itself part parable. Here’s what He said,

“Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ (Matt. 13:11-15)

Jesus taught in parables In order to weed out the curious from those whose “greatest desire” was spiritual understanding – sight and insight are granted only to those who know they are blind, and whose greatest desire is not to be seen, but to see.

To such as these Jesus adds, “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (v.16,17)

What is your greatest desire?

More tomorrow…

Monday, 11/26/18 – Pressing on…

20181125_145138Multi-billionaire Howard Hughes suffered from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and frequently became fixated on the most trivial and insignificant details like sorting peas by size. He was germ-phobic to the extreme, and given to the most bizarre episodes of self-isolation. He once spent four months watching movies in a darkened screening room, naked, and consuming only milk, chocolate bars and chicken, cutting neither his hair or nails, nor bathing. A condition called allodynia where skin contact produces great pain may in part explain this.

20181125_145103Other behaviour anomalies included storing urine in bottles, stacking and restacking Kleenex boxes, and running the 1968 film Ice Station Zebra on a continuous loop in his home, watching it some 150 times.

20181125_145026Hughes is dead now. His fortunes, institutions, and aircraft have all gone to others. Naked he came, naked he left. Seven times a billionaire at his death, Hughes could have anything he desired. But though he may have gained the whole world, in the end he lost everything, even himself.

Jesus warned, “Whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:35-36) “Above all else, guard your heart,” expounds Solomon, the wisest man of past and future, “for everything you do flows from it.” (Prov. 4:23). What is your heart’s greatest desire?

Not sure? Jesus helps us to see more clearly. He warns,

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“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21)

Find the treasure; find the heart.

Howard Hughes could see, but he was blind; Bartimaeus was blind, but he could see (see Mark 10:46-52) — but more about him tomorrow.

How is your vision today? How far down the road can you see? What is your greatest desire?

More tomorrow…

Friday, 11/23/18 – Tough Question

“Where did Cain get his wife?”

Adam was made from the dust of the earth, Eve was formed from one of Adam’s ribs, but Cain was formed by the union of Adam and Eve – he was not only the firstborn child of Adam and Eve but also the firstborn child of all humanity. “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man,” Eve exclaimed (Gen. 4:1). I have to chuckle trying to imagine her surprise!

Well, perhaps you know the story… awhile later Eve gives birth to her second child, Abel… also a male. As the two brothers grow Cain becomes a farmer while Abel tends to flocks. Both boys decided to bring an offering to God. The Bible tells us what happened,

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Gen. 4:3-5)

Despite reassurances and warnings from God Cain lets his anger burn and in the end commits the first murder, killing his brother. (see Gen. 4:6-8)

photo of person walking on deserted island
Photo by Tomnnen on Pexels.com

Because of this great sin the Lord banishes Cain from the area and sentences him to become “a restless wanderer on the earth” (v.12). Cain heads east and eventually settles in a place he names Nod. He is fearful for his life though thinking others may kill him. But God marks Cain in some way to prevent this (v.13-16).

The last thing we hear about Cain is this: “Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.” (Gen. 4:17). For generations skeptics and Christians alike have asked “Where did Cain get his wife? Did God make other first couples like Adam and Eve? Did Cain marry his own sister? Where did this wife come from?”

I believe the answer to this enigma has more to do with genetics than it does with theology.

Genesis chapter 3 we read “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” (Gen. 3:20). That statement alone demonstrates that there were no other divinely created couples on the earth. All of humanity sprang from Eve or by procreation by her offspring. Cain’s wife must therefore have been a close relative. (As would have been all those Cain had feared might kill him.)

Now… a little Genetics 101…

We all have two copies of most of our genes: one from each parent. If one parent’s gene is defective in some way the copy from the other parent is usually sufficient to ensure the health of the offspring. If both offspring get one good and one bad version of the same gene pair and then have children together the likelihood of their offspring having two defective genes of the same gene pair (one from each parent) is much higher. If that happens then the child will develop the disease or genetic disorder associated with that gene pair.

man wearing white and gray striped polo shirt

This is much less likely to occur when the parents are from separate family lines. While their offspring may receive some defective genes it is far less likely that they will be of a common gene pair, so the complementary good gene will protect them.

It’s all actually somewhat more complex than this, but boils down to the same thing: defective genes of the parents.

Adam and Eve were created by God, flawless in their genetic makeup. Neither Cain nor Abel could have received any defective genes from their parents because their parrnts had none — nor could have Seth or any of the “other sons and daughters” (Gen. 5:3-4) born to the genetically unflawed Adam and Eve.

As the gene pool grew, however, the possibility of defects in some genes grew too, simply by virtue of being copies of copies of copies of… You get the idea. At this point the danger of siblings transmitting defective genes of the same pair emerged.

But at this point too our wise and loving Creator stepped in, giving the law to His people, and defining the sin of incest: “Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.” (Leviticus 18:9). Subsequent verses in this chapter apply the rule to various other family members, explaining “because [he/she] is a close relative.” Thus today we recognize the sin of incest, provided by our loving Creator for our good.

 

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Thursday, 11/22/18 – Discipleship: Assurance (Faith & Doubt)

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Every believer wrestles with this plea at times but for the new believer initial doubt can be devastating.

The new believer has no or little journey of faith behind him to look back on and see past victories of faith over doubt, or the faithfulness of the Lord through trials, or the hope and strengthening of the Word and prayers and brothers and sisters in Christ. The new believer may just have come to faith in Christ and then, awakening the next day, wonder if it was all just an emotional high.

Jesus likens the reception of the gospel into one’s heart to the reception of good seed into the earth.

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. (Luke 8:5-8)

close up photo of rice grains during daytime

When his disciples later asked Jesus about the parable, Jesus explained that the seed represents the Word of God and the various soils represent various threats to the new believer’s spiritual growth.

• the devil takes away the Word from their hearts (v.12)
• they have no root… they fall away (v.13)
• life’s worries, riches and pleasures (v.14)

dead end road sign

The believer must guard against all three of these threats by basing their assurance of salvation on the Word of God not charismatic leaders, emotional feelings or expectations, by being discipled by another mature believer and establishing daily spiritual habits in the Word of God and prayer, and by avoiding the temptations of this world. You must hear, retain, and persevere (v.15)

One of the ways the devil tries to snatch the Word from our heart is by planting doubt in our mind. He has done this from the beginning: “Did God really say….?” (Gen. 3:1). Every believer must know how to use the Word of God to fight through the lies of the devil. I like how someone once put it…

Faith is to Doubt what Courage is to Fear.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6), yet without doubt it is impossible to step forward in faith. Doubt is the backdrop which makes faith possible.

Our enemy the devil wants to paint doubt in a different light… (or perhaps ‘darkness’ would be more accurate.) The devil wants us to view doubt as an evidence of having no faith at all. That is as inaccurate as saying that fear is evidence of having no courage,. Courage is moving forward despite your fears. The fearless person cannot exhibit courage, only foolhardiness. Faith is moving forward despite your doubts. But faith must be based upon the truths and promises of God. If not, you are just acting presumptuously.

Satan’s plan for doubt…
1. Satan deceives by making you think that God can’t forgive, that God can’t give you strength, that you are unworthy of his love. (Read Romans 8:31)
2. If you believe a deception, you will act as if it is true.
3. Satan will try to get you so discouraged that you will quit.

God’s plan for doubt…
1. To point out a weakness in our walk with Jesus.
2. To develop faith.
3. To increase knowledge.

First Steps, One-on-One Discipleship, p.19

Press on in confidence, knowing this:

“…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39).

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ?
Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Wednesday, 11/21/18 – Pressing on…

“What is truth?” – Pilate (John 18:38)

The United States Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston, was adopted by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 4, 1776.

20181120_144731It begins with the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It ends referencing “…a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence…”

Truth which is “self-evident” requires no proof or reasoning. It’s assertion is obvious. If I say “The house is bigger than its bathroom,” I really don’t need to take measurements and show you mathematically that this is true. It is obviously true since the bathroom is only a part of the house the whole house must be bigger than the part of it. I don’t need to show my work!

The authors of the Declaration of Independence are stating that since God is the Creator and since God is just and true He would not show favoritism to any of His creatures and therefore His creatures also ought not show favoritism of one over another. All men are created equal — that is self-evident based on the Nature of God our Creator.

Truth by definition must be absolute and universal… consistent with itself across time and space. The belief that truth is relative (i.e. that what is true depends on the individual) cannot stand. As Sunday’s message cited Ravi Zechariah’s logic, the assertion that “all truth is relative” is in direct conflict with itself. If “all truth is relative” then so must be the statement that “all truth is relative,” otherwise that assertion would be claiming to be absolute, which is what it denies. However, if the statement “all truth is relative” is itself relative, then it admits that at times all truth is not relative, but absolute, which is illogical and impossible. Therefore the premise cannot stand. It is self-defeating.

Like it or not, there is an ultimate standard, there is Truth and a moral law. – And it is by these that we all shall be judged. We stand before a very real God with very real standards and requirements. None of us can of ourselves meet His Standard, for His Standard is Holiness (Heb. 12:14). We need His Son Christ Who stands in our place, His Holy Spirit Who leads us into all truth, and the mercy of our Heavenly Father Who embraces us and transforms us into His Likeness.

“I am… Truth…” – Jesus (John 14:6)

Press on…