Sunday, September 29, 2013

Goin' Places

“And he brought us out…that he might bring us in…” (Deut. 6:23)

Whatever side your spiritual understanding leans to in the age-old argument of free will versus predestination, it would seem to me that the foreknowledge of God cannot be denied (although some do). It’s one of several arguments He offers for His claim to being the one and only true God, in Isaiah forty-six. “…yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (v. 11). He is not only purposeful, He is inevitable in His purpose. I pass along this bit of doctrine because what you believe, in many cases, determines how you live. Here’s what it says to me.

If I thought God was going to be as surprised as I am by situations that arise in my life, I’d be tempted to take over the reins. After all, there’s no need in both of us being taken off guard…right? Should I submit to a god as limited as I? I think these are valid questions. However, if, on the other hand, God’s vision extends not only to where I am but also to where I am going, His foresight trumps mine every time, and I’d be a fool to trust my own short-sighted instincts. And, furthermore, if I know He not only sees ahead, but has actually mapped out my journey, with the added benefit of GPS (God’s Personal Supervision), there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to maneuver through this life without constant fear or frustration. I am only taken off guard when my plans have superseded His.

We can be sure of this: when God changes our direction, He is simply bringing us “out,” in order to bring us “in.” We’re always “goin’ places” when we follow the Lord, and His plan for us always involves exchanging good for better, no matter how it may look at the time. God says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” When God thinks about you and me, they are all peaceful thoughts, and our future, and indeed our end, will be just as He expects it to be.

If God has peace about our future, shouldn’t we?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Possessing Your Vessel

“That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour.” -1 Thess .4:4 “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” – Prov. 25:28

The two ideas are tantamount to the same thing, you know—possessing (having control of) your vessel and ruling your spirit. And they are both activities we like to assume is a job we can passively hand over to the Holy Spirit. Having Him as a permanent Resident within these vessels of clay we call our bodies is what puts muscle in our resolve; however, as these two verses attest, God insists that we make the decision to put that muscle to good use.

The verse in First Thessalonians suggests that personal sanctification involves a willful choice on the part of the believer. This is not the sanctification by the Holy Spirit that sets us apart for Heaven (“…God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation though sanctification of the Spirit…” 2 Thess. 2:13); but rather, it’s the sanctification that sets us aside for God to use (“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use...” (2 Tim. 2:13). In addition, as the verse tells us, this “vessel-possessing” is not a given in the Christian life. If it’s possible to know how to do it, as Paul says, it’s also possible not to know how to do it.

I think I hear a rumble within the ranks. “So, how do you do it?” I hear you say. Well, I could give you a list or a set of guidelines, and if I said it really well, I could probably sell lots of books! But there are two little words in the verse that stop me: “…his vessel.” You see, I don’t live in your vessel; I live in mine. I may not always possess my vessel as I should, but I’ve lived with me long enough, and experienced enough trial and error, to have a pretty good idea of what it takes to have victory over sin in my own life. I can’t plead either ignorance or inexperience! I could tell you the things that motivate me toward personal holiness—like the love of God, and the dread of bringing reproach upon His name, for example; but I’ve come to believe this:

Each of us must cultivate a relationship with God that finds its own reasons for faithfulness.

So this isn’t written so much to instruct you, as it is to inspire you—us—in the hard but important business of biblically maintaining the vessels in which God has given us to live. The verse in Proverbs gives us an idea of what’s at stake here. If a person who lacks rule over his or her spirit is like a city with crumbling walls, those of us who don’t take seriously personal sanctification will always be fair game for the enemy. And make no mistake, he may not strike immediately, but he always does eventually. Now is the time to keep the walls of separation between Satan and us in good repair. Now is the time to make sure we know how to possess our vessels “in sanctification and honour.” And it is a matter of honor.

“If you want to reach your spiritual potential, you must learn to tell your body it can’t have everything it wants.” – Pastor Perry Kallis


Monday, September 16, 2013

Are You Listening

“Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house…they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.” Ezekiel 12:2

Just because you have ears, it doesn’t always mean you’re listening.

My sister recently told me about a humorous incident she experienced once. I should point out, she has quite a few of these. She walked into one of the ladies’ restrooms in her church, she said, and noticed there were two purses sitting on the counter near the washbasins. Thinking she’d have a little fun with the two women in the stalls, she said in a loud voice, “Oh, two purses! Think I’ll have a look and see what’s inside them.” She waited to hear what kind of a response she’d get, but imagine her surprise when two of the deaf ladies of the church emerged from the stalls! Obviously, her practical joke was a waste. J

Ears have more than one function, but their main one is hearing. They may be nice for displaying beautiful earrings, but it’s no substitute for being able to hear lovely music or the sound of children’s laughter. Jesus spoke often about having “ears to hear.” It’s obvious that He wasn’t talking about the ability to hear, but the virtue of listening and heeding. And we know one can “hear” by way of fingertips (Braille) or the eyes, in reading.

It would seem to me that we’re all auditory “challenged” one way or another through life. For instance, the young child must be trained to pay attention. As we get older, we soon learn the sometimes sanity saving art of tuning someone out while looking dead at the person. And one of the most frustrating things about getting older is experiencing the growing loss of hearing.

I said all these things to drive one thing home to us: When you and I became part of the family of God, one piece of equipment we were given was “ears to hear.” By that I mean we’re supplied with an infallible Master Book of encouragement, instruction, and warning, along with a personal Interpreter (the Holy Spirit) to make sure we have everything we need for a victorious, satisfying and influential Christian life.

The true child of God has a fully operational sense of hearing, and most of us start out paying attention, fascinated by the prospect of communion with God and His Son. Later on, sadly, some of us become so distracted by the clamor and caterwauling of this world that we find artful ways to tune out Biblical principles and Holy Spirit warnings. Finally, we may just allow the Father’s sweet wooing to fellowship to become fainter and fainter, satisfied to live on memories, instead of daily encounters. But Micah 6:1 says “Hear ye now what the LORD saith…”

God warned in Amos 8:11 that there was a famine coming. Not a famine of bread and water, He said, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.” Not the words but hearing the words. I would contend that time has arrived. It’s possible to have perfect hearing but be spiritually deaf. And that, dear friend, is a life altering waste.

Are you listening?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Asking the Right Question

"And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11)

In this chapter, Moses, having fled Egypt into the desert, is confronted by God in the spectacle of a burning bush. Here, you will remember, God commissions him to deliver his brethren from the bondage of Pharaoh. But Moses, overcome with feelings of his own inadequacy, in frustration, asks, "Who am I?"

It has always been interesting to me that nowhere in the rest of the chapter will you find where God ever answered this question. Instead, He chose to tell Moses only who He, God, was. This tells me that when it comes to doing something for God, it's not really important who I am, but only who He is.

At one point in her life, Gladys Aylward (1909-1970), English missionary to China, led more than a hundred children on a month's journey over steep mountains, in order to flee the Communists. She later told of one morning of dark despair during those days, when she felt that the task was too great for her. It was then she said that one of the children reminded her of their much-loved Bible story of Moses and the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea. "But I am not Moses!" Gladys cried in desperation. "Of course you are not," replied the girl sweetly, "But Jehovah is still God!

If you’re looking for the right answer, it’s always important to ask the right question. When it comes to the Christian life, our ability to prevail in any situation is not contingent on our credentials…but His.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Temple Talk

"What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (1 Corinthians 6:19) 

And now, for a bit of "temple talk," if I may, about out bodies, which this verse refers to as "the temple of the Holy Ghost." You must admit, it's a popular subject today. If the Victorians were guilty of trying to ignore the body, we now try to immortalize it. Millions of dollars are spent yearly in a frantic attempt to beautify, strengthen, slenderize, soften, de-wrinkle, tan, and simply maintain these bodies of ours. All the while, our bodies seem to be working just as frantically for the opposite results!

As Christians, we're often taught that certain unhealthy habits are in reality sins, because they "harm the temple of God." But anyone who reads the last eight verses of this chapter will soon realize that the great defiler of the body is fornication, not things we consume. It's the one sin a man or woman can commit that is actually an affront to his or her own body (v. 18), the supreme act of dishonor to the physical home in which God has given us to live; and the one that provokes those dreaded words pronounced in Romans 1:24: "God also gave them up."

God created us sexual beings, but know this: our bodies were not made for fornication. "Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body" (v. 13). To satisfy holy, sexual desire by unholy, sensual means is to try to substitute a light bulb for the sun or a sparkler for a star. It isn't natural. It goes beyond immorality to blasphemy.

Fornication (any sexual activity outside of marriage [1 Cor. 7:2]) is never the will of God (1 Thess. 4:3), and should never be committed or condoned by anyone naming the name of Christ. For the Christian, it represents gross defilement of the chosen home of Holy Spirit of God. No other physical sin sinks to its level.