Today is the first day of a new year, and I have been considering my goals for myself for this year. Who do I want to be at the end of this year? What do I want to accomplish this year? I know I need to set goals for myself, so that I can be working towards becoming more than I am now. If we do not set goals for ourselves, then nothing is what we do and nothing is what we accomplish. Many people will set out to lose weight or commit to working out on a regular basis and improving their overall physical health. In fact, this is probably the most commonly set “resolution” this time of year. The physical body is important, and we all should take better care of ourselves, but what other things should one consider?
Imagine for a moment that you set out on a journey to become a terrible husband or father this year. Does that sound strange to you? No man would choose such a goal for himself, would he? Like it or not, we all choose this goal and others like it when we are not intentional about our spiritual growth.
Whatever you feed will live, and whatever you starve will die. If you are not reading and studying God’s Word and striving to become more like Christ on a regular basis, then you are starving your soul and feeding your carnal nature. There is no middle ground, here, guys. You feed either one or the other at any given time.
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)
The concept of this verse is that you cannot serve God while you are serving yourself (or that which is in opposition to God). If you are not intentionally putting in the effort to become better than you are right now, then you are sliding down that slope of spiritual growth towards carnality. There is no standing still in spiritual growth – one moves either toward God or away from Him. Therefore, the question for you is this: “What are you doing, right now, to become more than you are?”
Maybe you need to set some goals or make some changes in your life. Whatever the case may be for you, nothing changes when you change nothing. Be careful, men, what you feed this year, whether your own desires or the will of God. One must grow and the other must diminish. Consider the words of Paul as a guide for you as you set your goals for the coming year:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
Do you know people that irritate you? Do you have some friends or family members that you find annoying? No, these are not trick questions, just honest ones. The Holy Spirit wrote the Bible to help you deal with irritating, annoying people. And, as always, God’s answers are not our answers.
The church in Philippi was having some people problems. So, Paul wrote a letter to address their concerns. There is much for us to consider in Philippians about relationships. But, I just want to focus on one point today.
God wants you to consider the irritating, annoying people in your life as being more significant, more important than you are. Now, obeying God’s command to do this will not, necessarily, make these individuals less irritating. I can hear someone saying, “Oh great! I obey God, but I am still stuck with the irritation.”
Let me put this in context. Let’s say the president of the company you work for is an irritating individual. In addition let’s say that one of the maintenance crew is also irritating. Is there a difference in the way you respond to these individuals?You might well be grumpy towards the maintenance worker, but would you also be grumpy towards the company president? The response is no, I wouldn’t be grumpy with company president. Why? “Well, isn’t obvious, he is the one who hires and fires. He may be irritating, but he is more significant.”
Now you understand the strength of Paul’s argument, “Consider others more significant than yourselves.” You wouldn’t fuss at the company president, but at the maintenance worker, why not!
You see, when you interact with other people and they are bothersome, you forget that you are a sinner. If you focus just on the irritations of others, you forget how irritating you might be to them.
Trust God and see what happens when you begin to treat that irritating, annoying person in your life as being more significant than yourself. They may or may not change, but your love for God definitely will!
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus… Philippians 2:3-5a
Jay Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is the author of Everyday Talk and other materials on parenting. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for 30 years. Jay and his wife, Ruth, live in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and Ruth have five adult children
Cool weather, the briskness of morning, a chill in the air, fall is here; and with it a change in the seasons. At the changing of every season, I am reminded of how God’s creation, even after “the fall” functions much in the same way as it did when He first created it. Each year the leaves change, the nights grow longer and all that is green fades off to sleep until Spring. What if Creation did not obey the Creator? What if the world around us rebelled in much the same way we do. Imagine the chaos we would live in If it did [not that it could].
Genesis 8:22 says: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
Creation will faithfully serve the Creator without question, without complaining, and without ceasing. Can you see the value of the obedience of Creation in the mundane, uninteresting, and common, every-day things? We depend on Creation doing “its job” without fail. We set our calendars, make our plans, plant our fields, and know when to harvest- all based on the seasons. Don’t you see just how much depends on being faithful in the “small things?” My pastor spoke recently about how important this is! Imagine what history would have been like if David had disobeyed Jesse and refused to take that bread and cheese to his brothers in the camp-the very day that God had ordained and purposed for David to slay Goliath! One small, seemingly insignificant act of obedience was the key to great victory and fulfillment of destiny in David’s life. What blessings are you forfeiting today? Who are you letting down today? What God-ordained destiny are you forsaking today, because you will not obey, in the mundane?
“And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge [Proverbs 1:7a], to obey is better than sacrifice [1 Samuel 15:22b]; therefore, to know the Lord is to love the Lord; to love the Lord is to serve the Lord; to serve the Lord is to obey the Lord; to obey the Lord is Wisdom. Wisdom is the faithful, obedient application of all we know of God to the will of God, motivated by our love for Him.
“Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
Get up! Get out there, and do those mundane, boring things God has called you to do! Today’s battles and today’s service prepare us for tomorrow’s challenges and makes us ready to receive and fulfill our God-given, God-ordained destinies!
Rise up, Men of God, and let’s be “All that we can be” for the glory of God!
In the age we live in, we are surrounded by and inundated with various types of technology. It seems as though almost everyone (under a certain age) is involved in social media, gadgets, smartphones, texting, status updates, and “tweeting” most everything that happens to them every day. Along with this unbridled dispensation of personal experiences and thoughts comes many opinions and various points of view. Everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to have something to say nowadays. My grandmother always told me that opinions are much like armpits: “everyone has them, and sometimes they stink!”
I think we, as a society, we may have lost sight of the true meaning of our “freedom of speech.” We should always stand for what is right, just and Biblically correct, and defend those things with all our might. In, and of itself, there is nothing wrong with expressing how you feel, or sharing experiences. However, just because we have the “right” to say whatever we want, doesn’t mean that we should say everything we think, or that we should always voice our opinion. The problem is that many of us have completely forgotten how to “filter” these things and choose what should and should not be said.
In the Book of James, we read that the tongue can be used for both good and evil, that it holds great power for either encouragement or destruction and that, like a spark that births the fire that consumes a great forest, our words can start a chain-reaction that can bring great devastation in the lives of others. I believe in using the internet, social media, and any format available to spread the Gospel, to encourage other brothers and sisters in Christ, and to speak life into the lives of other people. With that being said, I believe we all should think a little more before we speak, consider the weight of what we say and choose our words wisely. I fear that many Christians care more about being heard than they do about being “right.” If we are not careful, we may teach the generation behind us that “speaking your mind” is more important that “speaking the truth.”
“A GENERATION OF FOOLS DOES NOT RAISE UP SAGES…BUT EVEN GREATER FOOLS.” –Hevyn Allen
The more mindful we are of what we say, the more likely we will be to use our words to uplift, to encourage, and the benefit those around us. I challenge us all to spend more time in the Word, and in prayer, so that we will have the wisdom to “speak the truth in love” as those opportunities arise.
“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15)
Consider the words of Paul in the following quote from 1 Corinthians, chapter 10:
23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
Notice that Paul said that he did what he did so that “they might be saved.” When we speak to others, when we “tweet” our update our Facebook status, may we all be mindful of the power that our words have, but most importantly, let us strive to conduct ourselves in a manner that brings glory to God, that encourages others, and that gives those who are lost a reason and the desire to come to know the God we serve! As Christians, we have a responsibility and a calling to mingle our thoughts, our speech, and our lives with God’s Word. As the Psalmist so eloquently put it:
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
Ever wonder just how many opportunities we either squander, ignore, or just miss to share our faith or encourage others? I came across this story about John Wesley and just had to share it:
Wesley And The Robber
As John Wesley rode across Hounslow Heath late one night, singing a favorite hymn, he was startled by a fierce voice shouting, “Halt,” while a firm hand seized the horse’s bridle. Then the man demanded, “Your money or your life.”
Wesley obediently emptied his pockets of the few coins they contained and invited the robber to examine his saddlebags which were filled with books. Disappointed at the result, the robber was turning away when Mr. Wesley cried, “Stop! I have something more to give you.”
The robber, wondering at this strange call, turned back. Then Mr. Wesley, bending down toward him, said in solemn tones, “My friend, you may live to regret this sort of a life in which you are engaged. If you ever do, I beseech you to remember this, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin.””
The robber hurried silently away, and the man of God rode along, praying in his heart that the word spoken might be fixed in the robber’s conscience.
Years later, at the close of a Sunday evening service, the people streamed from the large building with many lingering around the doors to see the aged preacher, who was John Wesley.
A stranger stepped forward and earnestly begged to speak with Mr. Wesley. What a surprise to find that this was the robber of Hounslow Heath, now a well-to-do tradesman in the city, but better still, a child of God! The words spoken that night long ago had been used of God in his conversion.
Raising the hand of Mr. Wesley to his lips, he affectionately kissed it and said in tones of deep emotion, “To you, dear sir, I owe it all.”
“Nay, nay, my friend,” replied Mr. Wesley softly, “not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ which cleanseth us from all sin.”
Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc..
Often, the choices we make in our every day lives affect more than we realize. For example, what if John Wesley reacted to the robber in a different way? What if he responded in anger, or even forcibly resisted the robber [like many of us would have] ? Think of the implications for his life, and for that of the robber’s that would have had! This story reinforces that fact that God is fully in control of everything, that He endlessly orchestrates our lives such that we are used by Him to achieve His purposes [Romans 8:28], and that our actions [and our sins] do not only affect us, but those around us. In this example, we see two truths from God’s Word being lived out. The first, from the book of James:
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17)
Wesley listened to the urging of the Holy Spirit, and obeyed the will of God when he called out to the robber the second time. The second truth we see comes from the writings of the prophet Isaiah:
“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
God had a plan when He allowed Wesley and the robber to meet. He intended for this encounter to be the one thing that truly brought about change in the robber’s heart. We all have that one event, experience, etc. which brings us to the point wherein we realize that we need a Savior! May we all, each day, look for and take advantage of any and all opportunities to spread the Gospel, to encourage one another, to teach one another, and speak the truth [God’s Word] in love. PAY ATTENTION!! -your life or someone else’s may be “hanging in the balance”!
“People who live without God face five dangers. It stifles the prayer life. It makes them a friend of the world and an enemy of God. They neglect God’s will in their lives. It produces insult and slander of fellow believers. It produces people who plan their lives without seeking God.” –T.D. Lea, Holman New Testament Commentary, 1999.
James chapter 4 deals with this topic. The fact that verse 1 uses the plural “quarrels and fights” tells us that this was an ongoing problem for those to whom he was writing. But, isn’t this an ongoing problem for all of us? Do we not all struggle with our own fleshly desires and passions daily? Any personal goal that contributes to one’s own accomplishments rather than to God’s will or plan for one’s life can be listed among these “evil desires” to which James refers. Examples of this include, but are not limited to: money, reputation, success, and possessions.
At the root of the issues to which James addresses is what is today known as the philosophy of hedonism. In my reading, I have come across many definitions for “hedonism,” so I will offer a very basic one for our purposes here:
“Hedonism is the belief that the chief purpose of living is to satisfy self, above everything and everyone else.”
In James 4:1, the Greek word used for “desires” is the same that is related in the history of its meaning to the English word “hedonism.” Jesus used the same word in Luke 8:14 to describe individuals who were “choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures…and fail to mature.”
These desires are remnants of our former nature, before we were saved, but they constantly attempt to surface and take control of our lives. Romans 7:14-15 speaks to this:
14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
These desires will remain with us while we are here, on earth. As Christians, it is our duty to:
“fight the good fight of faith” [1 Timothy 6:12]
“taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” [2 Cor. 10:5]
and remember that:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” [1 Cor. 10:13]
We know from both James and Proverbs that we either bless or curse others with our tongues.
21 The tongue can bring death or life;
those who love to talk will reap the consequences. (Proverbs 18:21)
26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to be “nice” or to encourage people that we either don’t know well or are strangers to us? It’s almost effortless to smile at someone in passing, or speak a kind word to someone you’re standing in line with. However, for some reason, we have more difficulty at times (at least I do) doing those same things with the people we know well and with our family. It’s no harder to encourage our children or our spouses than it is a stranger, but we seem to be lacking when it comes to showing “kindness” on a regular basis to our family members. In fact, we may find it to be true that we encourage those who we are closest to less than total strangers! (It should not be like this).
Our family may be starving for our attention or an encouraging word from us…and they deserve our best “kind” words and “encouragement” but they too often only get our leftovers and our crumbs of “kindness.” Often it is not what we say to our families, but what we don’t say. Do we seem distant to them because we are consumed with ourselves or our priorities and responsibilities? If we, as men, become too focused on what we need or want to accomplish in life (or just on a daily basis) we may be sending the wrong message to our family that we are “too busy” for them or we have “more important” things to do than speak life and encouragement into their lives. Are we telling those we love the most that they are not important by the sheer fact that we do not routinely assure them that they are?
There is a war raging to stop us from encouraging others in our life. Encouragement is the “life’s blood” of the spiritual lives of those around us. Without encouragement, our faith may dwindle or die a slow and painful death due to the lack of others “cheering you on” in the faith. Look at what Hebrews 3:12-13 says:
12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters.[a] Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.
Notice that verse 13 says that we should warn each other every day…in other words: we need constant and routine encouragement from others in the faith.
If we are not doing this on a regular basis to those around us, then we need to do two things:
1. Figure out what is going on in your life to produce a critical, nitpicking spirit, and then allow God to heal that critical spirit in you.
**by the way…nitpicking is the opposite of encouragement!
2. Give away the same encouragement that God has given you.
Encouragement is one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal, and it has the following effects on the lives of others:
1. It can reduce pressure of stress in others’ lives when you encourage them
2. It can dampen the power of temptation in others’ lives when you encourage them
3. It has the power to produce spiritual endurance in those who we encourage.
(ie: going through a tough time, and someone comes along and tells you how God helped them through a similar situation)
Every man…..craves encouragement…but we get very little of it
Every man……needs encouragement, but not every man gets it
Make it a point this week to hold your tongue and choose to build someone up!
When we hear something on the news or over the radio about a disturbing or terrible event or breaking development, we often (if just for a moment) experience a sense of panic. While a heightened sense of awareness in times of distress or tragedy is normal and sometimes beneficial, allowing that to spiral downward into despair or worry is harmful to our well-being, and spiritually wrong.
The Word tells us to: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7), to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, anddo not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5). It also says things like, “for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7).
These are but a handful of Scriptures that teach that God is in control, and the Bible is full of other such passages that encourage us to trust God. So, why do we so quickly and so readily worry? Many would say that it is just “human nature” to worry and that it is just an extension of the “fight or flight” response of our sympathetic nervous system to a perceived attack or threat to our survival. However, I believe that there is a much deeper and spiritual context to be explored.
Our enemy, the devil, wants us to doubt God. He wants us to doubt His promises and forget about His faithfulness. When we start to wonder whether or not God can take care of us, then we begin to focus more on ourselves as the source of our help, and not our God.
“My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2)
In the world we live in, and the times as they are, we must remember…and be reminded of what we read in 1 Samuel 2:
(1 Samuel 2:6-9)
6The Lord gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up.
7The Lord makes some poor and others rich; he brings some down and lifts others up.
8He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes, placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the Lord’s, and he has set the world in order.
9“He will protect his faithful ones, but the wicked will disappear in darkness.
No one will succeed by strength alone.
In all of our lives, and in every situation we face, may we always remember and take comfort in these words from God’s Word: (1 Samuel 2:8c)
FOR ALL THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S
AND HE HAS SET THE WORLD IN ORDER
Scripture references: 1 Samuel 2:12, 17,25, 3:18… Proverbs 22:6, Galatians 6:9
Eli’s sons are living less-than-desirable lives, and they have thus far refused to heed their father’s warning to repent (2:25). Eli was warned twice that destruction would come to his household because of the sins of his sons, but what we see is not the image of a father that continually beckons his sons to change-instead, Eli seems to just “give up” on his sons. In 1Samuel 3:18, after hearing what the Lord said to Samuel about the impending doom of his household, Eli seems to “give up” because he says, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.” Instead of rising to the occasion to continue to try to “win” his sons to the Lord, Eli takes on a very passive role.
Look at 1 Samuel 3:13:
“13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.”
We see in this verse that the Lord Himself is “calling Eli on the carpet” and saying that Eli was not restraining his sons, thereby not fulfilling his Biblical role to shepherd his own.
So, what’s the point?
Do not give up! Whether it is a child, another family member, or a friend that you are trying to lead to the Lord or train in the ways of the Lord [AND WE ALL SHOULD BE DOING ONE OF THESE ON AN ON-GOING BASIS!!], do not give up! Proverbs 22:6 gives us the promise that if we do not give up on those whom we are responsible for to train in the fear and admonition of the Lord, then they will remain in His ways:
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6) [****see also Galatians 6:9]
Even when the situation looks bleak, and without hope, carry on, and trust that God will be faithful to you and to the promises He has provided to us all in His Word. God’s love, flowing CONTINUALLY through us will draw them ever closer to the family of the redeemed!
Remember when Jesus stood before Pilot to be questioned? What did He tell Pilot? I find it interesting that Jesus said very little when being questioned. You see this portrayed in movies as well. When this scene comes us, often the actor portraying Jesus just has this solemn, strong-silent look on his face while Pilot asks him what should be done, what “crimes” is He guilty of, etc…
So, as I’m reading today in 1 Peter 2 about how we are a chosen race, a royal priest hood and that we belong to God. Our purpose, 1 Peter 2 tells us, is to proclaim the “excellencies of him who called you” and verse 11 specifically calls us to “abstain from the passions of the flesh.”
The key verse, for me, was verse 12:
”Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
A few things I want to point out:
1. Our conduct is to be honorable (Jesus’ conduct always was)
2. Others WILL speak evil against you…just give it time and it will happen (people spoke evil of Christ)
3. If we have honorable behavior, others will notice and see that behavior (everyone saw Jesus behaving honorably)
Here’s the most important part:
4. WHEN others see us behave honorably EVEN when we are wrongly accused or being spoken evil of, it is a TESTIMONY to others..it will amaze them…perhaps shock them. They will then have to give God the credit for this behavior, because we all know that a person is not capable of such behavior in and of themselves. Others will realize that NO one is THAT good unless God is in them. God is glorified when we live like this.
Jesus is our model of behavior and the goal we all shoot for, right? He is our standard of excellence and our goal is to become more Christ-like, right? What did HE do before His accusers? How did HE treat those in authority? Look at what he said in Mark 12:17 when He was talking about whether or not one should pay taxes:
Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
They MARVELED at him. Why? When you are this committed to the will of God and refuse to bend, even when questioned, people notice, there are amazed and many times they are shocked at such behavior. Our human nature tell us that it’s “ok” to bend the rules and compromise what we believe in when it is convenient or profitable to us…but Jesus NEVER did. And that is why HE is our example.
IF we are truly to emulate Christ and become more like Him, we must do this in EVERY area of our lives, not just those that are convenient and easy. We must dig, deep into the depths of our souls, and bear all of ourselves to Him to be forged into His likeness…even if this means that we must suffer or feel pain. Wasn’t it Paul that said to live is Christ and to DIE is gain? (Philippians 1:21)
I leave you with this final passage from 1 Peter 2 to meditate on, and it is my hope that we all will never tire in our efforts to be more like Christ.
22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.