Posted by: gregmohr | January 4, 2011

The Power of the Tongue

Today’s reading: James 2-4, Proverbs 4

James 3:2-5
2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!

The Bible tells us that death and life are in the power of the tongue – Prov. 18:21. I have discovered this to be true. I am sure you have as well. In today’s passage it tells us our tongue has the power to turn around our body. It is compared to the rudder on a ship that can change the course of a huge vessel. It also is compared to the kindling that starts a huge forest fire.

I am sure you have observed a huge relationship fire start with the small kindling of words in the form of rumors. This passage goes on to say the only way to tame the tongue is to change the internal spring that fuels the words we speak. In other words the real problem with the tongue is a heart issue. Out of the abundance of the heart our mouth speaks.

If anyone does not stumble in word he is a perfect or mature man or woman. How we use our words – either to bless or curse, build up or tear down – is a spiritual gauge to our maturity. Today is comment day. I want to ask you to share with our blog family about how you have experienced the power of words in your life, good or bad. I look forward to reading and responding to your comments.

Posted by: gregmohr | January 3, 2011

Count it All Joy

Today’s reading: Hebrews 12-13, James 1, Proverbs 3

James 1:2-4
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Count it all joy when I am in the midst of various trials? That is a strange and impossible instruction to my flesh. You know how it is. When we are going through things that are really difficult our flesh wants some sympathy. So if we are allowing our flesh to influence our decisions in these times of difficulty we will whine, complain, and moan about our lot and all we have been going through. The goal of these complaints is to get attention and sympathy, not deliverance.

The reasoning here is if we have to go through bad stuff at least we can milk the situation for all the attention, sympathy, and “poor baby’s” we can get out of it. Yet James instructs us to do exactly the opposite. He tells us to “count it all joy.” Jesus instructed His disciples with the same principle recorded in Matthew’s gospel: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” – Mat. 5:11-12.

Rejoicing is not what I feel like doing when I am going through a tough time. Sometimes I feel like throwing a pity party and hope someone else will show up who is feeling worse than me and will take my side. Misery loves company. But that is not the answer or the way out of our troubles. That response – the world’s response – to troubles will only help us dig a deeper hole than the one we find ourselves in.

You remember the story in Acts 16 about Paul and Silas being thrown in a Philippian jail. They had tried to go to Asia and Bithynia to preach the gospel and the Spirit gave them a strong witness they were not to go there. Later they had a vision of a man in Macedonia who told them to come over to help his people. So they followed the Spirit’s direction, preached the gospel there, made some disciples, and cast out some devils.

They ended up in jail beaten with many stripes. They were there because they had obeyed the leading of the Spirit to preach the gospel in that region. No doubt they were tempted to complain, blame God, and question, “why us, Lord? We were just obeying you and look where it got us.” I am not sure how long they were in jail before they began to count it all joy. But at midnight they began to pray and sing praises to God.

They were rejoicing in a very difficult situation that had not turned out according to plans. That praise service resulted in an earthquake that opened their prison doors, freed them, gave them opportunity to share the gospel with their jailor, and he and his family were saved. The bottom line is if we will count it all joy in the midst of our own difficulties revival can break out. Other people can receive the freedom you and I have received through our faith in Jesus. Think about it the next time you are tempted to murmur and complain.

Posted by: gregmohr | December 31, 2010

Sons All Along

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 9-11, Proverbs 31

Guest Blogger:  Andy Milligan

Hebrews 9:16-17
Now when someone leaves a will, it is necessary to prove that the person who made it is dead. The will goes into effect only after the person’s death.  While the person who made it is still alive, the will cannot be put into effect. (NLT)

The majority of Hebrews 9 is spent discussing the superiority of Jesus’ ministry as well as the need for His ultimate sacrifice.  In the middle of all that are these two verses that carry an amazing impact on the underpinnings of our faith.  I’m going to do a bit of Bible study on you, but stay with me.

Think for a second at what has taken place prior to Jesus’ death and what will take place after.  First, the old covenant had long been in effect among the children of Israel.  Paul (the most likely author of Hebrews) explains fully that blood was a required part of the various sacrifices to atone for sin in the old covenant.  The problem was that no amount of ritual or blood could satisfy the judgment of sin for very long, which was why it had to be repeated annually.  But keep in mind that a promise or covenant, although we now refer to it as old, had been made.  

Paul points out in verses 16 and 17 here that the promise is like a will that cannot go into effect until the will maker dies.  In other words, not only did Christ’s death atone for sin once and for all with the shedding of His blood, it fulfilled the promise that had been made starting with Abraham on through to Moses.  Not only that, His death ushered in a new covenant, which the Word tells us was established on better promises.  The really amazing thing is that Jesus was both will maker and testator.  In other words, He established the will by making the promise and then sacrificed Himself once and for all to put the will into effect. 

People sometimes wonder why Jesus had to die to accomplish these things.  He’s God.  Why couldn’t he just decree what he wanted?  The fact is the ONLY way to fulfill what God had established, including judgment, was for Jesus to die.   There was no other option.  Any other action on His part would have been against Himself, which He cannot do. 

We know that much of the Old Testament exists as types and shadows, and this example is no different.  We were given a type of what was to come with Jesus’ death on the cross through Moses leadership of the children of Israel.  Think about it.  The “mediator” of the old covenant was Moses, and it was not until after his death that the children of Israel entered their inheritance, the Promised Land.  We often only remember that Moses was not allowed to go into the land because of his sin, but keep in mind that Moses says in Deuteronomy 3:26 that it was because of the children of Israel that the Lord was angry with him.  In other words, it was Moses’ position as the head of the children of Israel that is key here.  His responsibility for them was what, at least in part, required that he die before they could receive their inheritance.  

It is an incredible type of what was to come with Jesus.  In fact, it highlights how important it is to our faith that Jesus is considered the head of the church.  This alone was grounds for God to cast the sin of the body onto the head. (The Old Testament is full of examples of ceremonies involving or centering on the head.)  But, unlike Moses, the opposite is also true.  Christ’s obedience of the law and sacrifice on the cross has been counted to us, the body, just as if we had performed to the standard of the law ourselves.  What we deserved was charged to Him and the inheritance of the only Son has been given to us freely as if we were sons all along. 

“As the “Surety” of the covenant, Christ undertook to discharge all the debts of those who are made partakers of its benefits. As our Surety He also merited and procured from God the Holy Spirit, to communicate to His people all needful supplies of grace to make them new creatures, which enables them to yield obedience to God from a new principle of spiritual life, and that faithfully unto the end.”

The fact that God pre-ordained this to happen (Romans 8:29) should never cease to amaze us.  It should also serve as a sobering reminder that there are no works or sacrifices that we can perform that would produce any more grace or blessing than what Jesus has already provided.  So, as you wake up tomorrow at the beginning of a new year, take joy that ALL grace and favor has been provided to you and purpose to seek His presence most of all.  If we know Jesus provided all these things to us through his own death, how could we not want to be in His presence to know Him more?

Posted by: gregmohr | December 29, 2010

Use It or Lose It

Today’s Reading: Proverbs 29, Hebrews 3-5

Guest Blogger:  Dwight Trotter

Hebrews 5:14
“But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

It is a universal law. In matters of mental capacity, muscular fitness and usefulness, developed skill sets, talent, and spiritual sensitivity: Use it or lose it. The writer clearly states that those who are spiritually mature, or “of full age”, can discern between good and evil because they have practiced it.

I realize this doesn’t sound very spiritual or mystical. There are some who would rather believe that they get a spiritual “data dump” either when they get born again or receive the Holy Spirit, and that’s all there is to it. But the truth according to scripture is that these experiences are, for all of their eternal consequences, starting points for our journey.

The writer of Hebrews states in vv. 11-13 that the recipients of his letter had not progressed, although there had been plenty of time. And not only had they not made progress, they had lost at least some of their capabilities and understanding. They had become “dull of hearing” and needed to be “taught again the first principles.” Since they were not “using,” they were in danger of “losing.”

Just to be clear, let’s make the points that: 1.   The writer is not talking about losing one’s salvation, 2.  Nor is he making a case for a works-based salvation. In fact, he goes to great lengths in earlier passages to establish that the call is to enter into His rest and cease from our own works. What he is encouraging is a constant movement towards spiritual maturity based on practice – or, in his own words, “reason of use.”

Think of it this way. When we get born again, we’re like puppies. They’re full of life, bring joy anywhere they show up, and seem to have boundless energy. But they don’t yet recognize their master’s commands and will probably make messes and chew things they shouldn’t. And as they grow physically, if they are not properly disciplined, they become huge nuisances to those around them – and potentially dangerous. Who wants to be around a full-grown dog that acts like a puppy. 

On the other hand, a dog that has been raised and trained properly is not only useful to its master in a variety of ways, it is a pleasure to have around.

So how do we train the puppy in each of us? First of all, notice that in our selected scripture the writer refers to “senses.” We need to learn to use our senses to determine His will. And to do this, practice. Listen for the Master’s voice. He has already given us the capacity to hear Him, (John 10:27) but it’s up to us to hone in on it and exclude the myriad of other voices speaking to us. “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:8)  In times of stress or temptation, resolve to stand on the Word of God even when the decision to do so seems illogical or self-defeating. Then, expect to see His word bear fruit! This is not an all-inclusive list, but you get the drift.

Might we stumble, sometimes miss Him? Possibly. Part of the learning process is analyzing and correcting our mistakes. But not to worry. He knows and rewards those whose heart is toward Him. “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him…” (Ezr 8:22)

So, go ahead and grow! Step out in confidence, knowing that His hand is upon you for good, that it is His will that you know His will, and that by His grace you can!

Posted by: gregmohr | December 28, 2010

Stay in the Middle

Today’s Reading:  Philemon, Hebrews 1-2, Proverbs 28

Guest Blogger:  Connie Swain

As the year draws to a close, it is a good time to reflect – reflect on the past events, the issues that have come up, the things we have and have not done.  Most of our New Year’s resolutions and goals are a result of reflection and the desire to do it better next year. 

However, how often do you reflect on your spiritual condition and the word of God in your heart?

Hebrews 2:1
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

Many years ago, after God called me to ministry, He gave me clear instruction.  Stay in the middle.  I have an entire teaching on that and I don’t want to dig too deep into it here, but it isn’t about compromise. It is about staying in the center of Him.

My personality tends to be one of excitement and activity.  A pastor once asked my husband if he had to “rein me in,” or, in other words, keep me from going off the deep end.  We all laughed because I naturally tend to do that. 

I love all the wonderful things surrounding the gifts of God and the excitement of the different types of worship, gifting, teachings, dancing, etc., that are evident in many charismatic churches today.   I easily can get caught up in those types of environments – worshiping and celebrating the goodness of God.

I also love the beauty and formality of a Christ-centered mass and the liturgy involved in the traditional protestant church.  In an environment full of symbols of Christ and devotion to Him, while the congregation, in harmony, speaks forth the goodness of God, one can easily be moved.  

Any church, congregation, or ministry who loves the Lord with all their heart often experiences His presence, regardless of the denomination or doctrine.  But with my love for these things, it would be very easy for me to move off into one side or the other and eventually get into error.

I know a woman, who years ago began searching to know the Lord on a deeper level.  As she studied the Bible, she got a job working for man who seemed to really know a lot about scripture.  They talked about the Lord and the Word often.  The relationship stayed totally platonic. However, eventually he moved his wife and family to a remote town and, because he had such a mentoring influence on this young lady, she soon followed. 

This man had begun a cult.  He used scripture, twisted it, and taught it to a congregation of people who lived together, ate together, and even gave him all of their earnings to support the compound and his beliefs.  Truth taken to extreme becomes error.

Reflecting on our spiritual condition will keep us in that Christ-centered place.  That is what the author of Hebrews is reminding us to do.  Without it, we can easily move into a place of error that will bring devastation and hurt – not only to us – but to our families, too.

Many years ago, my dad was actually removed from a Sunday School class while he was teaching.  This happened after I had married and moved out of the house.  To this day, I’m not sure what exactly happened, but I have heard that he had gotten into heresy.  I refused to believe that for many years, yet – looking at the end of his life – I know something happened.

My dad loved the Lord, wrote a lot (long before computers were the norm, so it was all by hand or type-written) and he studied the Word constantly.  However, at that point in his life, the Holy Spirit was drawing him into something that he was uncomfortable with.  The only reason I know this is because I remember his showing me a paper he had written where he studied the gift of tongues and had concluded it was not from God.

You see, when you begin to move away from the true Word of God, or, as the writer reminds us in Hebrews, “what we have heard,” then moving into heresy is not a far leap.  It begins with a small acceptance of a half-truth, then that becomes embedded in our hearts and minds.  After that is firmly planted, the rest of the falsehood comes into play, and eventually what you are standing firm on is a lie.

Sayings such as “When you believe a lie long enough, it becomes truth,” and “For a lie to be believable, it must have some truth in it” are around simply because for us as humans, believing a lie is so easy to do.  Even Hitler wrote about “The Big Lie” in his book, Mein Kampf, in which he discusses a propaganda technique he claims was used by the Jews,  when in reality it was a technique he practically invented and used to devastate a huge portion of the world, murdering millions of innocents.

People who get into error spiritually never start off purposing error in their lives.  It starts with a small mistruth that is never corrected.  The only way to keep from getting into error is by paying close attention to what God says in His Word, through prayer, and through godly men and women.  The responsibility is on you to put everything you know or hear up against the Word of God and see how it stands. 

As you look back over the last year, examine your spiritual condition and your relationship with the Lord and ask Him to show you if you have drifted away.  Ask God to re-align you with His truth, even if it hurts.  Many times, we tie these lies we believe into our character and it affects our integrity.  It is time to do a check and let God put you back on track.  Ask Him to help you evaluate who is speaking into your life and make sure they are not leading you into error.

My husband no longer has to rein me in. God usually does a very good job of that all by Himself.  However, I have also learned to give Him an open invitation to correct these lies any time they begin to take root in my life.  I have walked with the Lord for nearly 25 years now and He has always brought me back to His truth, staying in the middle…..of Him.

Posted by: gregmohr | December 27, 2010

New Year’s Resolution or Grace?

Today’s reading: Titus 1-3, Proverbs 27

Titus 2:11-12 –
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.

This time of year is a common time for reflection and refocusing on priorities that did not receive adequate attention from us over the past twelve months. At least it has become a habit of mine. First, I celebrate all the victories of the past year. Then I begin to seek God about what He is calling me to do in the coming year.

For years I would take the things I felt God was leading me to do in the next year and make a “New Year’s Resolution” commitment regarding it. Then you know what happened next. The same thing that happened to every other “New Year’s Resolution” I had made in the past: within three months my resolution had no resolve left to it.

Can you relate? Why is this so common – even with Christians who make these types of commitments they feel the Lord led them to make? Because we cannot fulfill what began in the Spirit by the strength of the flesh. And most “New Year’s Resolutions” are made and attempted to be kept with the strength of our will rather than the power of the Spirit.

Though God may have initiated that direction or new commitment in your life, He will not help your flesh fulfill it. It is a vain thing to try to accomplish what God asked you to do in the strength of your will. That always ends in failure because we are not trusting God while depending on our flesh.

I have good news for you. Grace can do for you and me what a New Year’s Resolution cannot do! This passage of Scripture in Titus 2 tells us the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and to live soberly and righteously. It is not a New Year’s resolution that helps us live this way. It is grace! God’s enabling power He freely gives us when we trust in Him will help us overcome bad habits, sins, and carnal behavior.

God’s grace will also help us live in such a way that we manifest Jesus to those around us. It is not the power of a New Year’s resolution that will transform us. It is grace and grace alone!

Let me tell you how I respond now to something I sense the Lord is leading me to do or some change He is directing me to make. My first response is to agree with Him by simply yielding to Him and saying, “Yes, Lord.” I go on to tell Him, “I will do that by depending on You in me – by drawing on your grace in me because I cannot do it on my own – depending on my strength or will.”

Then I do just that. I walk out my commitment to Him by depending on Him daily and looking to Him. Do I ever fail? Yes, many times. Am I always successful at everything He asks me to do? No, but neither do I allow myself to get stuck on my weaknesses, shortcomings, and failures. To do that is to place my focus on myself rather than on Him.

So, no more New Year’s resolutions for me. I hope not for you either. I just say “Yes” to whatever change or direction I believe the Lord has for my life and then I yield to Him, trust in Him, and remain dependent upon Him as I walk that change or direction out in my life. This type of “grace living” and grace commitments work for me. I am confident it will work for you too!

Posted by: gregmohr | December 24, 2010

Opportunity for Faith

Today’s Reading: 2 Timothy 2-4, Proverbs 24

Guest Blogger:  Andy Milligan

2 Timothy 3:10-12
You, however, have followed my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, as well as the persecutions and sufferings that happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, and in Lystra.  I endured these persecutions and the Lord delivered me from them all.  Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (NLT)

Notice the absoluteness of Paul’s last statement in this scripture.  He doesn’t say those who want to live godly lives may be persecuted, but in fact will be persecuted.  You would be hard-pressed to make the argument that Christians in America are persecuted.  Yes, we face our share of political battles over things like displaying the Ten Commandments in certain public areas, prayer in schools, etc., but we simply don’t face the persecution the early church and ministers such as Paul did. 

What we do face is trials and difficulties in our lives.  The Word is clear that no one is exempt from tragedy or disappointment.  Jesus himself was not exempt, but suffered greatly.  Notice, in these verses Paul says that he endured suffering and persecution AND the Lord delivered him from them all.  He doesn’t say he was delivered without having to face them.  The truth is, Jesus offers no immunity, no way out of unfairness, but rather a way through it.  That is what happened time and again in the Apostle Paul’s life.  He faced suffering, tragedy, pain, disappointment, and even abandonment, but God provided a way through those things, not around them.  

The primary issue here, of course, whether we are facing a tragedy in life or full persecution, is faith.  Easy enough to say, not so easy to always put into action.  The problem is we face things in our lives that cause us to ask questions about God’s fairness, His silence, or even His presence when we need Him most.  C.S. Lewis sums it up well when writing about the tragic loss of his wife:           

“Where is God?  This is one of the most disquieting symptoms.
When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing
Him, if you turn to Him then with praise, you will be welcomed
With open arms.  But go to Him when your need is desperate,
When all other help is vain and what do you find?  A door
Slammed in your face and a sound of bolting and double bolting
On the inside.  After that, silence.  You may as well turn away.
The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.”

                                                                               C.S. Lewis
                                                                               A Grief Observed

It is when we feel this way that exercising faith is needed most.  The great thing is that God can deal with every human response except one: treating Him as if He doesn’t exist.  Anger, frustration, and questioning are not problems for God; lack of faith is. 

The Bible leaves no confusion about the fact that it is impossible to please God without faith.  We’re often tempted to think that things would be easier if God would just explain why we face certain trials or why someone doesn’t get healed, but we must remember that where there is no opportunity for doubt, there is no opportunity for faith

We have little comprehension of what our faith means to God.  Because God created us with free will, faith has an intrinsic value to God we can barely imagine.  There is no better way for us to express our love to God than to be exercising faith in Him.   Sometimes the only way to do that is to turn off the reasoning mind and simply engage the faith-filled spirit.

Posted by: gregmohr | December 23, 2010

To Know Him

Guest Blogger: Dwight Trotter

Today’s Reading: Prov. 23, I Timothy, 5-6, II Timothy 1

II Timothy 1:12
“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”

Hearing Paul encourage his son in the faith, Timothy, this way reminds me of the writings of a famous child psychologist of a generation ago. He had all the right tools, all the tricks and knowledge. He wrote books, and millions of parents followed his advice on how to raise their children. Only one little issue: he had no children of his own. Ever. And after the damage was done to millions of children raised under his indirect tutelage, he admitted that “perhaps” he was mistaken in his approach and methodology. He was a smart guy. He knew a LOT about children; their responses to stimuli, their mental and physical development, how they should be taught. But he apparently didn’t know many children. (I think one of the wisest things I ever heard a psychologist say was that “people are predictable in numbers, individuals are not.”) Paul – this Pharisee of the Pharisees, this to-the-death-Jew-first and anything else second (pre-Christ) – knew a LOT about God. He had by this time probably forgotten more about God and the law than many of us will ever know. He had studied at the feet of Gamaliel, one of only two premier teachers of the law in Paul’s day. To put it into perspective, let’s say he was, for his day, the equivalent of the summa cum laude graduate of Harvard Law, edited the Harvard Law Review, and was somebody in legal, scholarly, and priestly circles. That is, until he chucked it all in favor of a relationship. In fact, he said he considered it all “dung” in comparison to his relationship with Christ. But he doesn’t encourage Timothy to know a lot about God. He encourages his beloved son in the gospel to know God. Huge difference. You see, we can study the Word (and the world around us) and know a myriad of facts about God. When I was born again as a small boy, I studied the Word to know about God. Not a bad pursuit, but off the mark; when I was filled with the Holy Spirit as a young man, I began to study the Word to know God. Now it became personal. Now it was not knowledge, but relationship, that I sought! I believe it was much the same with Paul. After his Damascus road experience, he wanted to know the One about Whom he knew so much, but had never experienced until now! A personal encounter with our personal Savior will leave you with a desire to know Him! Along the way, we no doubt come to know a lot about Him, but this is incidental to our relationship. Our focus becomes the relationship, not a gathering and retaining of facts. To put it another way, when He becomes a He, instead of an it, we have taken a huge step toward knowing Him. We gather facts about its. I can know all there is to know about silica, but I can never know silica, because silica is an it. But that’s exactly the way some people approach God! Yes, He is all powerful (omnipotent), all knowing (omniscient), and everywhere at once (omnipresent), but those are facts! The important point is that while being all those things, He is a being! So the important thing, the Most Important Thing In The Whole Freakin’ Universe (MITITWFU) is that He is not a thing or an it, He is a being! He is not an “object of worship”; He is the Father Who is worthy to receive our Worship! He is the Son, by Whom and for Whose good pleasure were all things created (including me and you!) He is the Holy Spirit, Who has come to guide us into all truth and to be our Comforter! An “it” can’t love you like that. But a being can, and does! Ain’t God good? When you study, do so because you want to know His heart – to know Him more. You’ll pick up the stuff about Him along the way.

Posted by: gregmohr | December 22, 2010

Combatting Deception

Today’s Reading:  Proverbs 22, I Timothy 2-4

 Guest Blogger:  Dwight Trotter

 I Tim 4:1-3
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”

Kind of an odd combination of conditions and symptoms, wouldn’t you say?  Especially for Paul, who is known for his surgically precise, well-reasoned writings. Not one given to rambling. So what’s really being pointed out here?

Well, first of all, when Paul speaks of “the latter days,” he is not talking about the last seven years before Christ’s return. He’s speaking in terms of the time between Christ’s resurrection and now. However much longer these days last, we have been in the latter days since Jesus’ resurrection. So the conditions Paul was describing have been in effect since then. In other words, yes, they’re happening around us now and have been all our lives.

There seems to be a progression shown in this teaching. First, one departs from the faith. Maybe a conscious decision to look elsewhere for “truth,” maybe unresolved pain and anger at God, perhaps just a lackadaisical attitude toward one’s relationship to Christ. Whichever occurs, now there is a susceptibility to doctrines of demons and deceiving spirits. The lies that have been told by these spirits are now repeated as the recipient’s conscience is no longer functional. And how do these false doctrines manifest? Right back to a righteousness based on works. “… forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received…”

Seems like a favorite tactic of the enemy. He has been telling variations of the same lies since the Garden of Eden. If we can know truth outside of knowing The Truth, if we can be holy based on our own efforts, then can’t we “be as God”? If we can become wise without acknowledging the fountainhead of wisdom, do we need His holy Word? And do we really need a Savior? If we have in each of us a “divine spark” that only needs to be fanned in order to make us righteous and justified before a holy God, do we need to humble ourselves before His Son and plead that blood as the only way to Him?

So, in light of the knowledge that these forces are working night and day to deceive us, what do we need to do to be sure we are not among those who are led astray?

Actually, there is no need to fear if we: 

  1. Value, over all else, our relationship to Jesus Christ. What we value we give time and attention to.
  2. Commit to a lifetime of study in His Word. He will continue to enrich us with wisdom and insight, which will mature us, prosper us, and make us more capable ministers to those around us.
  3. Believe His word. He says we know His voice and another we will not follow because we are the sheep of His pasture.

Love Him, worship Him and Him alone, revere His word and presence, and relax! Nothing can take you out of His grip!

Posted by: gregmohr | December 21, 2010

Overwhelmed

Today’s Reading:  2 Thess. 2-3, I Timothy 1, & Proverbs 21

Guest Blogger:  Connie Swain

In 1st Timothy 1, scripture gives us a glimpse into the heart of Paul the Apostle.  Timothy is his protégé.  Having traveled with Paul, Timothy was now commissioned to stay in Ephesus and deal with the fledging church and all the troubles that ensued.  Paul, at this point in his life, is older and trying to encourage this young pastor in his dealings with the people, doctrine, and other issues that had arisen. 

I love to study the life of Paul.  He walked all over most of Israel, Greece, and other areas in what we now know as the Middle East, yet you hear little complaints of that.  He had to deal with false teachers, heretics, legalistic leaders in the church, and governmental authorities with their own agendas.  Yet, here, close to the end of his life, he is still overwhelmed by what Christ has done for him.

In this passage, Paul opens with a greeting and immediately addresses the issues of false teachers, the purpose of the Mosaic Law, and how to deal with those types of people -in love! (See 1 Timothy 1:5). What happens next can easily be overlooked.  Paul becomes overwhelmed because he used to be one of them: the false teachers.

Paul is talking about the purpose of the law being made for the unrighteous man, lawless, ungodly sinners who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, immoral men, and whatever else (1 Timothy 1:9-10).  Then, almost as an afterthought, he remembers that he was one of them.  And in the middle of his instruction we see a statement of thanksgiving.

1 Timothy 1:12-16
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service; even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.  And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.  And yet, for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

The more he wrote, the more overwhelmed he became by God’s goodness in his own life, and he had to express it.

1 Timothy 1:17
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.  Amen.

Even after many, many years in ministry, Paul has never lost the ability to marvel at what God has done in his life.  He understands just how far away he was. Even though he was earnest in his error, he knows that he was lawless, ungodly, a murderer, and a kidnapper – all in the name of the Law.

Modern media is an amazing thing.  It is a wonderful tool to further the gospel and it has changed many lives.  However, how many times have you seen someone on Christian TV who is giving their testimony and they are no longer moved by it?

The language has become rote, the story is pat, and the intonation in their voice no longer changes.  They almost seem removed from it.  Initially, when people are saved out of their horrific lives and/or circumstances, they can hardly speak of it because the level of grace they saw in Jesus was so overwhelming.  Now, there is almost no emotion attached.

On one level this may simply be a protective mechanism to get them through the re-telling of their tale. However, for many, it is because they have disconnected from it and are no longer overwhelmed at what Christ did for them.  I’m really not attempting to judge them or their hearts. Only God knows their heart. However, I am using this example to make a point.

May we never cease to marvel at the goodness of God in our lives, no matter how long we walk with Him.

Look at what Paul says about himself:

  • Blasphemer (which carried a death penalty in the Old Testament, and often in the New)
  • Persecutor
  • Violent Aggressor (he admits to hurting people)
  • Foremost of all sinners

These acts weren’t against bad people.  These things Paul did in the name of God as a Pharisee persecuting the people who followed and believed in Jesus.  He was legally attacking and killing the innocent.  That is why he never served jail time for what he did.  Paul was a hit man for the church to get rid of those whom the religious leaders of the day thought were heretics.

But Paul also contrasts who he was with what Jesus thought of him:

  • Faithful

You can almost hear his voice crack as we read the words.  Paul understood that the grace of His Lord is what rescued him out of his ignorance and unbelief.  God’s grace, full of faith and love in Christ Jesus, is what rescued him.  That is the message of this season – the reason Christ came into the world.

In verse 15, Paul tells us that “Christ Jesus came into the world to ‘save’ sinners, and he, Paul, was the worst.“  Jesus came to rescue him from his life of anger, murder and blasphemy and Paul, even after all the missionary journeys, all the church plants, all the teachings and writings, all the jail time, all the persecution, was still overwhelmed by just how much mercy Jesus showed him.

During this holiday season, take a moment to go back.  Go back before you knew Christ Remember who and what you were, and be overwhelmed again.  Allow God to remind you just how much mercy He demonstrated in your life.  Do not allow your testimony to ever become rote and emotionless.  Allow God to remind you again just how much He loved you, and what He rescued you from.   Then praise Him. Again.

1 Timothy 1:17

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.  Amen.

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