Beware of the False Teachings

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There are few people, Christian and non-Christian alike, who don’t recognize that the world of today is filled with wickedness, hatred and evil. We can’t even watch or read the news without being made aware of it. It seems that we could foresee that some of this would creep into the church and indeed it has. There are unfortunately far too many churches that claim to be Christian that are spewing out false doctrine and are teaching things that lack the truth of God. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to true Christians, because the bible says that it would happen and has been happening. The bible also says what will happen to those who falsely teach and those who follow them.

2 Peter 2:1-3   

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

That God despises false prophets and their teaching is very plain in the bible. The reason is easy to understand, too. False teachings, even if they are from misguided but altruistic motives, cause people to be led away from the will of God. His feelings about this are mentioned several times in several ways, including in His own words.

Jer 23:30-32   “Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes,.. I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,.. They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the Lord.

The problem isn’t that people are gullible, though certainly some of them are. The issue is that a lot of the false doctrines might sound right and seem to make sense. Because of this, a lot of people might think that they are caught in a trap, since it can be so hard to tell the truth from fiction, especially with the master deceiver in charge of the misinformation. However, God provides a way to tell what is his will and what isn’t. Putting it simply, by learning more about Jesus and coming to love him at a deeper and deeper level, we can help prevent ourselves from being taken in by the false teachers, and perhaps from becoming one, unwittingly.

And how to we learn more about Jesus and come to love him more tomorrow than we do today? We can do this by reading the bible daily, reflecting on what we’ve read and praying to God for wisdom and understanding about it. God is quite happy to give us the wisdom and understanding, though not always in our time frame and not always in ways that we expect.

John 7:16-18

16“My teaching is not,” My own Jesus replied. “It comes from Him who sent Me. 17 If anyone desires to do His will, he will know whether My teaching is from God or whether I speak on My own. 18 He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is a man of truth; in Him there is no falsehood.…

Notice that it was Jesus who spoke these words, so we know that we are being given the truth about it. If the belief, doctrine or teaching isn’t fully supported by the Bible, it isn’t from God and isn’t His will. If it isn’t His will, it is false teaching. By getting to know Jesus better and by having him as a best friend, we can get our first insights into when we need to check the bible to see what the scriptures say. We should be reading the bible anyway, but this is just one way that we can apply the knowledge in the bible to our lives.

If I was to ask you who your very best friend is, the first thing that should instantly pop out of your mouth is, “Jesus!” If it isn’t, it means that you don’t know Him well enough and don’t love Him enough yet. This is something we can all work on to a greater degree.

Who is your very best friend?


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Humility is Much More Than Just a Word

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The bible teaches us that we should be humble and there are many passages that encourage humility. Still, it isn’t surprising that many people don’t live a humble life. This world is dominated by arrogance and pride and many people may not even understand that these are exactly the opposite of humility. I’ll confess that I often act in ways that are not humble, as they should be.

We all succumb to pride occasionally, so it is something that we need to continually work on; being humble. Mind you, some kinds of pride are good if your attitude is right and if thanks is given to God. Personally, I’m proud to have such a loving, understanding and forgiving Father. That is justified pride. I’m proud to have a healthy garden, though I acknowledge and give thanks to God for making it that way. My efforts would be nothing without his blessing.

What does the word ‘humble’ mean, anyway? According to Dictionary.com, the word comes from the Latin word “humilis”, which means “lowly, insignificant, on the ground.” Thus, when we kneel in prayer to God, we are humbling ourselves before Him, although in a very minor way. Again, this is the opposite of arrogance. An arrogant person tends not to bow down, though the time will come when they will.

Humility is important enough that it is mentioned many times in the bible and the bible gives strong indications of the advantages of being humble. Here are only a few examples:

Psalms 18:27 You [God] save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

 

Psalms 25:9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

 

Psalms 147:6 The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

 

Psalms 149:4 For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.

 

Matthew 23:12 and Luke 14:11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

 

James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

This is all well and good, but many people who honestly try to be humble may not realize when they are being prideful. Here is a very common example; suppose a person tells another, “I’ll meet you there tomorrow at 10 o’clock.”

How does that person know that God doesn’t have other plans for the next day? God’s will comes first, so it is arrogant to presume that our plans will take precedent. They will not and cannot take precedence over the will of God.

Chances are good that a Christian wouldn’t mean to be arrogant. To be humble, though, the statement should be more along the lines of: “I’ll meet you there tomorrow at 10 o’clock, God willing.” Notice that the inclusion of just those two words puts the decision in the hands that it belongs in; God’s. Thus, this is a humble statement.

This is a minor example. There are many common examples of a lack of humility that are stronger and more pointed. Anytime you look at someone and think that they should be wearing something nicer or different, you are elevating yourself and are being arrogant rather than humble.

“You should learn how to drive!” is also an arrogant statement, presuming that the person making it is in a superior position that makes them qualified to judge. Bzzz…wrong! Only God is superior enough to be able to judge.

It is easy to see that many things that we say and do are not humble. This can then be considered as a work in progress. We have an excellent example of humility. The actions and words of Jesus were humble, though Jesus was the one person who would be justified in being somewhat less than humble. He taught as much by his actions as his words.

It would be very valid to put this down on our daily prayer request list; asking God to help us to be more humble than we are and to be mindful of our acts of arrogance and pride when they occur. With a greater awareness, perhaps we can walk the path of humility. I am guilty of not being humble like I should be and continually pray that my actions can show more humility. After all, everything that a Christian does is a direct reflection upon our Lord. Would we not want to be more like him, that the reflection would be an accurate one?

How often do you catch yourself lacking in humility? Do you even think about it during your day to day life?


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Gaining a Better Understanding of the Judgment

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There tends to be a great deal of confusion surrounding judgment day and the time we are judged. Even many long-time Christians are sometimes confused by it, though the bible isn’t at all unclear about the time of judgment. Part of the lack of understanding is probably due to the fact that many people don’t like to think about the day they will be judged and the world as we know it will end, to make way for something infinitely better. It is an uncomfortable topic, even though it will usher in a new, glorious time.

One point of confusion is about the judgment itself. Jesus will be the judge, which is only right since He lived a physical life as a man, with all the temptations and tribulations that all men face. He conquered death and was without sin. In fact, He was the only man who didn’t sin against God, which makes Him supremely proper for the position of judge for humanity.

A large part of the lack of understanding about judgment is because there is actually more than one judgment. Jesus will judge all people, regardless of who they are or where they live (2 Corinthians 5:9-11) and it is important to understand that the judgment will be a full evaluation of the works each person has done for God. Note that the bible is explicit in that this is a judgment of our good works, not of our bad ones.

This being the case, a person who does many good things for God and very few sinful ones may be judged favorably, even if they don’t know about God or have a personal relationship with him. This isn’t a contradiction. Every one of us was blessed by the holy spirit when we were born, and even when a person doesn’t know why they know the difference between good and evil, the spirit gives them that power. Thus, it is possible for them to do good works without ever learning about Jesus or God.

A sticking point, though, is that no person can enter the kingdom of God except through Jesus. Jesus was beaten, humiliated and died for all people, that they might be forgiven for their sins. He conquered death and arose, defeating Satan for the second time in the process, and it is only through his sacrifice that we have any hope of entering the kingdom. What about those people who don’t know Jesus?

Over-simplifying only a little, there are two groups of people and this includes those who’ve already perished, physically. One group has asked Jesus for forgiveness of their sins. They acknowledge that Jesus is their salvation and that He alone has conquered death. They have pledged their lives to Him. These are the true Christians and they are sometimes referred to as the born-again Christians, because they’ve asked for forgiveness, have truly repented and have become followers of Jesus, in their hearts, born again in his name.

The other group is comprised of everyone else. Again, remember that this doesn’t mean that only those from the first group will receive salvation, only that those of the second group have a much harder time ahead.

Their’s will be a separate judgment, though. Those in the first group must also be judged, however that judgment will be done before the Bema Seat of Christ. What is a Bema Seat?

The ancient Greeks gave awards to their athletes after athletic competitions, from a bema seat. This was also where charges were brought against people. The apostle Paul stood before a bema seat when he was charged. (Acts 18:12)

And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat

It is important to understand that in the context of being judged for the purpose of being allowed to live for eternity in the kingdom of God as heirs to the kingdom, the bema seat becomes a place where the greatest awards and rewards are given to the faithful, who’ve had works that support God.

This is why it is so important for every one of us to spread the wonderful news that is contained in the bible, that more people might have the same opportunity to be ‘awarded’ passage. The bible is extremely clear in the point that we are to love our neighbor as ourself and if that is true, we must try to explain to our neighbor, that is all people, who God and Jesus are. This gives them the opportunity we, as true Christians, have been given. If we show an honest Christ-like love for everyone, as we are instructed to do, we would want nothing less and would still feel that it is the least that we can do.

The hardest part is that we must especially focus on those people we are at odds with. This will reflect upon you when you stand before the bema seat, as an important part of your works on behalf of God. It isn’t always easy to do this with someone who rubs you the wrong way and whom you don’t especially like. You must do your best to love them and forgive them for their transgressions. Through Jesus, the Father has forgiven you despite the sins and evil you’ve done against God and now it is your turn to forgive those who have transgressed against you.

The question is, are you ready to do this? Each person must decide this for themselves.


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Church Endorsed Manifestations of Sin

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What is meant by the title: Church endorsed manifestations of sin? This is something that is happening far too often in Christian churches today. Few Christians have any doubts about the wickedness that is so profound in the world and surrounds us like a blanket, yet they often give little thought to the fact that many churches are actually condoning many sinful actions. The bible makes it plain that this is not all right.

In some churches, this is somewhat mild but never-the-less wrong. For instance, with some churches, you must dress in a certain way or display certain signs of affluence before you are even accepted into the particular church. This is quite hypocritical. That is certainly not Godly or Christ-like. Jesus ministered more to the poor than he did to the wealthy, more to the lame than the healthy and more to the common man than to those of power.

James put it in a very understandable way. In James 2:1-13, James is quite clear about how sinful this is and what the results will be:

1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 2:10 holds a key, too: For whoever keeps the whole law and stumbles at one point is guilty of breaking all of it. Thus, a church that demands a certain type of clothing or signs of affluence, which we know are of this world and are thus against God, are sinning, condoning sin and teaching their congregation to sin.

This scripture also shows that many other things that some churches embrace go directly against what Jesus taught and which the bible explains is the will of God. They often try to reinterpret the bible to support their position, but they are ignoring the fact that the bible is written in such a way that when they try to do this, it creates apparent contradictions. The bible is meant to be followed in its entirety and one biblical point supports another. A reinterpretation creates the contradictions because other scriptures are clearly in opposition to the new interpretation.

Since the entire bible is our guideline and is the word of God, this also means that it isn’t right to follow one part of it and not another. This is prevalent in many churches, but it is still wrong. Our goal is to be as much like Jesus as possible and he simply didn’t choose just certain parts of the word of God to follow. Again, He showed in His words and actions that He was in total agreement with James; a person following the law (the bible) and not following even one biblical principle, makes a person guilty of sinning and violating all. That also means that while there are some parts of the bible that might be uncomfortable for us to follow, we aren’t given the option to pick and choose.

Does that mean that we won’t occasionally stumble? Absolutely not; we were born into sin and will make mistakes. We must continually ask for forgiveness and try our best not to make the mistakes. We must also ask for guidance, that we can keep from doing those things God has told us not to do and to do the things He has commanded.

This doesn’t mean that we will always be successful in avoiding the transgressions, but one of the worst things we can do is follow the false teachings of so many churches. How can we know that they are false teachings? Prayer is only one part of it, though it is an exceptionally important part. Another is to actually spend time reading the bible.

I advocate reading a chapter or more every day. “I don’t have time,” is a lame excuse that is meaningless. God put 1440 minutes into every day and if you take 10 minutes per day to read a chapter of the bible, you will still have 1430 minutes left. This isn’t too much to ask. After all, how can you hope to follow the word of God if you don’t know what the word of God says? A funny thing about reading the bible daily is that there comes a time when you actually start looking forward to reading the word of God.

Put in another way, though, you aren’t responsible for the false teachings of some churches, nor are you responsible for church leadership that is misguided in those churches and apparently is leading people astray. You are responsible, however, for the path you walk, which means that it is your responsibility to know what the bible actually says.

In no way do you need to find yourself following the church endorsed manifestations of sin that are so common. Every one of us will be judged one day. Please make a conscious effort to follow the path of righteousness. It pays dividends that no man can fully fathom.

Thankfully, many more churches do follow the word of God and encourage both reading the bible and praying. This creates a loving atmosphere, which is to say that God is in attendance. After all, as we learn from 1 John 4:8, God is love.


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Have You Ever Felt Unneeded?

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With all that is going on in the world today, it is natural that most of us occasionally feel depressed. We see so many evils all around us and there is a sense of helplessness. At times, we might even feel unneeded. Have you ever felt that way? I know that I certainly have.

There are times when I think to myself that if something happened to me, it wouldn’t make a difference to anyone. Oh, I know that my wife and kids would miss me, but I occasionally ask myself if I make a difference.

What does the bible say about that, though? For sure, God is so big and so great, and we are so small and insignificant that there is a predisposition to feel that God doesn’t need any one of us. From a purely logical standpoint, that may be true, however in another way it isn’t.

If a mother or father questions whether they ‘need’ any of their children, the conclusion is likely to be that in the strictest sense, they don’t. However, without their kids, they lose a great deal of their own identity and who they are. Good parents know this instinctively, so if you actually asked them if they need their children, they’ll probably say, “Yes”, without hesitation. This feeling is true of everyone and not just those who have children, but the truth is that everyone we interact with has an impact on us. Those whom we care about have an even more profound impact than those we meet in day to day life.

Just from that aspect, it isn’t hard to see that we are important to other people, even when we don’t realize it. Our family, friends and even acquaintances need us in ways we will never totally fathom and it is likely that they won’t, either. However, it goes much deeper than this.

Does God need you? To answer this, another question might be, “What is the bible about?” Stay with me, because the questions are related.

Certainly the bible is about Jesus, but more expansively, it is about God’s plans for his kingdom and his children. It is devoted to telling us how to live and what is expected of us. It is also filled with the hope and promise of redemption and the fullness of life. The bible contains standards by which we should live and it holds truths and wisdom that are staggering. A large part of the bible deals with the good news or gospel.

In fact, there are about 807,000 words in the bible, in over 31,000 verses. All those words are for you and me, not for God. God is our father and we are heirs to his kingdom, so naturally we are loved by Him, we are important to Him and we are needed by Him. Otherwise, the bible wouldn’t be needed and wouldn’t have been written.

We are needed in another way, too. While the bible is about God’s plans, at best we only get snippets of those plans. We haven’t the capacity to grasp the fullness of what He has planned. There are some things we do know, though, and this is expressed over and over, throughout the bible; God has a plan for each of us and what we do brings other pieces of the picture into play.

Thinking of this, it isn’t hard to see that we are needed. Each of us is an important part of that plan, though we don’t know in what ways we are important. We each play our part. We also know that as a good Dad, God loves us all and He wants as many of us as possible to enjoy His kingdom. What we think, do, say; in other words our ‘works’, are the means to bring more of God’s kids to his kingdom. We can’t understand the ways, but understanding isn’t important as long as we accept and have faith. The staggering truth is that God needs every one of us.

Next time you begin to wonder if you are needed and if you make a difference, pray to our heavenly Dad, asking him for enlightenment. It doesn’t take much, but you are quite likely to get an answer that will show you that you are indeed needed and that you can and do make a difference.

Praises to our heavenly Abba!


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Have You Ever Questioned Faith?

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In today’s world, with wickedness and sin being so rampant and the works of the deceiver being obvious practically every time we step out our door or turn on the TV, it is natural that we often find our faith tested. We see bad things happening to good people and evil people seem to have a pass that gets them apparently ahead. However, have you ever stopped to question faith and consider what it is?

One of the best dictionary definitions I’ve seen for faith is that it is a strong, unshakable belief in something. Too often, though, people think of faith as an object or noun and not as an action or verb. People who struggle with their faith are often guilty of this and I personally have been.

When faith is an object, it becomes easy to lose faith. But notice that Jesus never told us to simply have faith. He put it in a different way.

Have faith in God, Jesus said to them [the apostles]. Mark 11:22

Look closely at this simple scripture. In the instruction of Jesus, He is clearly defining the object as God, not faith. In other words, we are not told to have faith for faith’s sake, but rather to have faith in God, from whom all good things come.

When we begin to feel our faith tested, the most common response for even devote Christians is to believe that they must somehow stir up their faith. By thinking this way, faith becomes the object!

Faith as the object cannot stand. When faith becomes the object, doubt can overpower the faith. Think about that for a moment.

In Matthew 14, with the disciples in the boat during a storm, Jesus walks to them over the water and Peter asks if he can walk to meet him. This was an act of faith. It was faith in Jesus and in God. When the waves picked up, though, Peter began to question his action. He began to sink. Jesus reached out, took his hand and prevented him from sinking. Jesus was restoring the object of Peter’s faith, he wasn’t restoring Peter’s faith in and of itself.

Jesus recognized how the object had changed in Peter’s heart and gently admonished him, too.

Matthew 14:31 – Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?

So what should you do when your faith is tested and you find yourself faltering? Put the object squarely back on God. Pray to Him, let him know the difficulties you are facing and what you are feeling. Then put it all in His hands and relax. Nothing is impossible for God and you already know that He’s never let you down, so there is no reason he will suddenly do so.

By doing this, God again becomes the object of your faith. Faith then becomes a positive action. There is a requirement, though. You must pray. Still, by doing so, you are doing exactly what Jesus told us to do, to have faith IN GOD.

Isn’t it wonderful to have a loving Dad we can go to in prayer, knowing that He will not forsake us? He loves us and wants to hear from us. Surely that is not to much to ask. The more we pray and the more we focus on God as the object of our faith, the easier it becomes to have a strong, unshakable belief.

Praise be to our holy Abba. Thanks for being there, Dad!


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Plant the Seed and God Will Make it Grow

making seeds grow

Every year, I put in a garden. I also make my own compost, because I know that it helps the fruits and vegetables to thrive by feeding them the right amount of nourishment at the right time. It lets the plants grow strong and healthy.

About a decade ago, I put in a garden and was pleased by how it was growing. Only a few plants were struggling and among those were my pumpkins. That didn’t surprise me because I lived in an area that wasn’t known for growing healthy pumpkins. I replanted the pumpkins three times, but they kept dying. In a last effort, I planted the fourth time, totally forgetting about the large compost pile I had. It shouldn’t have slipped my mind since I had to walk by the compost heap on the way to the garden. Still, it was in a very shady spot, on poor soil that had a lot of rocks in it. That ground grew plenty of weeds, but little else. That was why I put the compost pile there, since I didn’t thing the spot was good for growing anything worthwhile.

Gardeners will understand that to keep compost active, it must be kept damp. One day when I was fretting about how the last pumpkins I planted were again looking weak. While I pondered the problem, I was watering the compost pile. That’s when I saw it; a single pumpkin plant growing at the edge of the compost pile. Apparently a seed had fallen out of my pocket and was covered with the overflow of the compost. That plant wasn’t like those that kept dying, though. It was strong and very healthy, despite growing without enough sunshine and on top of rocky soil.

I didn’t expect it to grow, but kept giving it water every time I sprinkled the compost pile. It grew enormous and soon there were vines and leaves that covered an area of about 12 square feet, choking out the weeds. Only then did it occur to me that I hadn’t used any of the nutrient-rich compost on the pumpkins I’d been attempting to grow on purpose. I used some of the compost around the struggling pumpkin plants and got almost immediate results.

Of the accidental pumpkin plant, the harvest that year was astonishing. That vine grew a 98 pound, a 69 pound and two 48 pound pumpkins, despite being in about the worst spot for pumpkins that I could have come up with even if I’d planned it.

That is just the way it is with the word of God. When we plant the seed of God’s wonderful message, using our words and actions, too often we forget that our subsequent words and actions can either nourish the seed or cause it to struggle. If we proclaim the glory of God and the joy of His message, and then act in ways that are not in following with the teachings of Jesus, the seed we planted can even die.

By the grace of God, though, if we do honestly follow Jesus, sometimes a seed is planted accidentally in the most unlikely spot for it to ever bear fruit. Yet, God knows precisely how and when to nourish the seed. If we keep our actions and words in a way that continues to show the glory and joy of our heavenly Father, we are continuing to water the seed and give it a chance to grow. Even when it is on infertile soil and in a place that doesn’t get enough light, it can grow healthy and strong, at first ignoring the weeds then smothering them.

The result often exceeds expectations many fold. It is humbling, too, because we should remember that all we did was to plant the seed and continued to water it, but God is the master gardener who makes it grow. Sometimes we don’t even know that we are planting the seed, either. We need to remember to keep our words and actions in accordance with God’s will and in keeping with the example set by Jesus. We need to do this even when we don’t think that anyone else is around.

Remember that God is always around and he is always listening to our words and watching our actions. Use your words and actions to praise God regardless of who else is around. He does notice. He does make the seeds grow.


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Why You Should Spread the Good Word

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A lot of people react negatively to what they might think of as a ‘bible thumper’. Nobody wants to have information crammed down their throats, after all. Admittedly, there are many Christians who do exactly that, believing that this is what was meant when the bible instructs us to share the gospel with others. Of course it isn’t what was meant. Jesus didn’t try to force God’s word onto others, yet he helped people, regardless of their beliefs. That is in keeping with God’s word, in fact, since we are all His children. Note how many non-believers sought Jesus out during biblical times. In part, that was because he forced nothing but helped everyone.

Yet, the bible does tell us that we should spread the word and tell others about God’s wonderful plans. Jesus even said as much, on more than one occasion. Sadly, many Christians do not, for fear of being thought of as a bible thumper and a zealot. It is entirely possible to tell others about God and Jesus without forcing anything on them. It is very important for us to do so, especially now. First, it is important to understand why it is vital for us to spread the word.

It was made abundantly clear in the bible that nobody could enter the kingdom of heaven except through Jesus. That is, they must ask for forgiveness, acknowledge Jesus as our Lord, understand that he died for payment of our sins and was resurrected, defeating death. How is any of that possible if people haven’t heard about Jesus and what he did for us? If we don’t let people know about the wonderful news about the Kingdom of God, we aren’t following the instruction that we should love our neighbor as ourselves.

Did you know that there are hundreds of millions of people who have no idea of who Jesus is? There are a lot of people who have never even heard of His name. We aren’t talking about just people in remote villages, either. It is true even in major cities. For example, and I’m not picking on anyone; Tokyo, Japan, is the most densely populated region in the world and it is a major modern city. Yet, fewer than 10 percent of the people there have heard of Jesus, even in passing, and far fewer have ever seen a bible.

Okay, so it is important. How do you talk about Jesus without having people thinking that you are cramming it down their throats?

First, by your actions. If you are loving and kind, like Jesus is, people will notice. The flop side is also true. If you profess to be a Christian, yet you lie, cheat, steal and show hatred to others, you are really telling people that you aren’t Christian or are giving them reasons to turn away from Jesus before they have even heard of Him or the good word. Your actions really do speak louder than words.

As for the words, there are literally thousands of ways to praise God or to mention a scripture without forcing anyone to believe anything they aren’t ready to believe in. In your prayers, ask God for guidance in this. You might be surprised at how easy His Spirit makes it, once you’ve opened the door for His love to reside within you. Don’t think that something is so minor that it wouldn’t make any difference. All you need to do is to plant the seed.

A single example that has repeated itself in my own life many times is when someone has commented on the beauty of a sunset. An appropriate response would be, “Yes it is beautiful! God is good!” Another would be to say, “God can sure paint, can’t He?”

It sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? The best part is that there is no ‘but’. It sounds easy and it is just as easy as it sounds. At that point, if someone asks you more about God, Jesus and the fantastic news, terrific! Tell them about it. If you aren’t sure what to say, remember that there is absolutely no shame in saying, “You know, let’s see what the bible has to say about it.”

By all means, spread the gospel, as Jesus told us to do. In the end, it is part of living our lives for Jesus, which is what being a Christian is all about. You don’t have to force it, just plant the seed. Leave it up to God to water the seed and make it grow.


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What Does It Take To Enter the Kingdom of God

jesus

A lot of people, when they learn of Christianity for the first time, think that for them to become Christian, they must learn rules, laws and rituals. The truth is that this isn’t at all required, either to become a Christian or to enter the kingdom of God.

Put in another way, before the birth of Jesus, to be one of God’s children, there were 10 commandments, numerous rules and a lot of rituals that had to be followed. The people still sinned, but it was known that they would do so because of the original sin and the consequences of that sin filtering down, generation after generation.

The coming of Jesus changed all of that. Jesus became the new covenant. In His teachings, He directed his true followers (by definition, Christians) to follow the commandments. However, except for the first commandment, breaking them no longer meant that people would be ‘cast out’. In the case of the first commandment, “You shall have no other god before Me”, Christians can’t follow Jesus if they are breaking that commandment, since it would be a contradiction. They can’t be true followers of Jesus if they have any other God other than the Father, and that includes all forms of idolatry.

Jesus only gave one condition for entering the kingdom of God and having eternal life. In John 3:16, John said:

16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

There is the condition. Jesus stated it again in John 6:47:

47 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.

We are directed to pray and to ask forgiveness for our sins on a continual basis, since we are all flawed, broken beings and we all sin. That repentance is part of believing in Jesus, which is the condition. This also means that we are not to ask for forgiveness of a particular sin and then to keep on sinning in the same way. For example, if we hate another person, ask for forgiveness, then hate someone else, we aren’t truly repenting. That would be a fast track to locking ourselves out of God’s kingdom. This was put quite plainly in Romans 6:23:

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This has additional meaning. The death and blood of Jesus has paid for our sins, however if we keep repeating the sins, we are not truly repentant and there isn’t forgiveness, which we must have to enter the kingdom through Jesus.

Note, however, that this has to do with the only condition that is placed upon Christians, or anyone else. In order to enter into the kingdom of God, we must BELIEVE in Jesus. There are no other rules, dogmas or requirements. We aren’t asked to perform or learn certain rituals. Jesus was very plain about what it would take for us to return home, where we belong. We must believe in Him, which also means that we are to follow Him. We don’t even need to go to any other person to approach Jesus or God, since Jesus took care of that part and made it possible to seek the Father directly. How powerful is that! It is part of the Joy of the good news.

All of this simplifies things greatly, doesn’t it? Consider this; virtually all of the differences between the different denominations in Christianity have to do with man-made rules and laws, not differences in God’s single requirement. In fact, when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he was very specifically and in a number of ways telling the church there to stop putting restrictions upon people, making them believe that they had to do certain things before they could be blessed by God or enter His kingdom, because those were restrictions of man, not of God.

Thus, to me, when a person says that they are Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Pentecost, Lutheran or any other such denominational follower, it has totally no meaning. That only tells me what church they go to and which set of man’s laws they follow. I am a Christian, which says which law I follow. If a person tells me that they are Christians, though, that tells me that they are my brother or sister in Jesus. All people are brothers and sisters, but not all of them have yet accepted Jesus, unfortunately, so not all are brothers and sisters in Jesus.

Never-the-less, as Christians, we have only one law that can’t be broken; to honestly, truly and with our entire heart and soul believe in Jesus.


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How Do You Like Your Coffee?

hot coffee

Do you like your coffee or tea hot or cold? How about luke-warm? If you are like most people, you prefer to have your coffee hot. Some people occasionally like to drink it cold. Very few people like drinking it when it is luke-warm and will actually go so far as to dump it out and get some fresh, hot coffee. If you grasp this simple concept, you’ve just taken another step toward understanding God.

There are many Christians who only read the bible, pray or go to church once in a great while, if at all. When it comes to God and Jesus, you could say that they are cold. Another way to think of it is that they are only Christians when they feel like it. Naturally, God’s will isn’t meant to be followed just once in a while, only when and if we feel like it.

There are other Christians who are better at reading the bible, praying, going to church and who do try to live by the principles laid down by the Christ. These are often good Christians, however they are easily distracted away from the things of God. They have a Christian drive to do as our Father wants, but things sometimes get in the way. They try to live their lives righteously, but often encounter problems. Their faith at times will waiver. They are luke-warm Christians. Most will find ourselves in this group. I often find myself luke-warm and need to make a more pro-active approach in an attempt to make the coffee hotter.

The hot ones are the Christians who are hot in Jesus and God. Their faith doesn’t waiver, they are in harmony with God’s word and nothing will stop them in following Jesus. They live their lives loving God totally, or as the bible directs, with “all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”. (Luke 10:27)  This isn’t arbitrary and it is a command from Jesus.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.‘  Matthew 22:37

Does God love luke-warm coffee? Of course, He does. He loves ice cold coffee as well. In fact, he even loves the coffee from the coffee tree that hasn’t even bloomed yet (those who don’t yet know of our loving Father). However, that hot coffee is that which does his will and they have a very special place in his heart. Becoming hot in the Lord is a process, it isn’t something that can simply be turned on for most people. Still, it is the difference between a follower of Jesus and a disciple of Jesus. That is what God wants, most of all; disciples to help others to become better Christians, to reflect God’s unfailing love and to spread the wonderful news. In fact, that is the meaning of the word, “gospel”: Good News or Glad Tidings.

In other words, when Jesus told us to spread the word, we were being told to spread the gospel; to give hope to the hopeless and to help guide the lost to God. To be able to do that, we must be as hot in God as possible. Each of us is capable of it. Open your heart to the Holy Spirit and pray to God, asking Him to fill your heart with the spirit. Then just wait and see what happens. I don’t like making absolute statements, but when you open your heart to the spirit and ask God to guide you, the guidance will come. There is no ‘maybe’ about it. You mostly just need to choose your words with care and let your actions be a reflection of our Lord.

All of this comes back to the original question, though. How do you like your coffee?


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