Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Fear God

What does it mean to fear God? 

The phrase “Fear God” is an interesting phrase. In modern American culture to fear something is viewed as a negative. We fear it because it is mysterious, dangerous, or a combination of both. I think this makes it hard to understand what it means to “fear God.” If God is loving and gracious, then how could we fear Him?

To avoid seriously wrestling with the issue, many people simply say to “fear God” is to respect Him and to hold Him in reverence. While this is true, I think it misses the point of what it means to fear God.

Scripture actually treats fearing God as a positive rather than a negative. In Genesis 42:12, Joseph, as he tried to win his brothers’ trust, told them that he was a God-fearing man. Exodus 1:17 tells the story of the two Hebrew midwives who defied Pharaoh, and spared the lives of the Hebrew babies. Why did they do this? Because they feared God. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus taught his followers not to fear earthly authorities, but to fear God alone.

I think this tells us that we need to move past seeing fear a negative. When we fear God we form our character, we seek to do what is right (even in the face of opposition), and we surrender our lives to Him. Fearing God is a transforming aspect in our lives. - See more at: Fear God 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Assured of Salvation

How can I have assurance of my salvation? 

This is a common question many Christians have. I think it stems from the reality that we are saved by grace through our faith. In the minds of most people (for many years this described me as well), being “saved by grace through faith” feels like salvation was out of our hands. This means salvation is a gift from God, and we receive this great and wonderful gift through our belief.

The problem with viewing salvation this way is that there is no tangible standard for us to know that we have truly received the gift of salvation. If it was based on what we did, at least we could keep a score card on our behavior so we could know if we were living up to the right standard.

Without a tangible standard, many people rely on a subjective experience to tell them that they are saved. The problem with this is that over time the feeling of the experience fades, and we are left with the same question: Am I saved?

Life is going to take us through a series of ups and downs. In one moment we feel like we are close to God and that our salvation is secure, but the next moment we wonder if God has abandoned us. If we are going to rely on a subjective experience as evidence for our salvation, then we are going to constantly doubt our salvation. What we need is an objective standard to tell us that we are saved, and thus give us confidence of our salvation. - See more at Assured of Salvation.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Spirit-Guided Sexuality

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According to the Bible there are two ways we can live our lives. We can live our lives guided by the flesh or we can be guided by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). The apostle Paul made it clear that if our flesh is in control then sexual immorality will be a part of our lives. On the other hand, when the Holy Spirit is our guide, we will keep sex scared.

When the Bible talks about flesh, it is not just talking about our physical desires, but also the corrupted world system that we are under. This is why sex seems to be everywhere, and this constant exposure to sex causes us to forget God’s intended place for sex in our lives. Sex, the way God designed it, is a wonderful blessing. When sex is brought outside of God’s design it becomes a source of complication and pain.

Followers of Jesus need to remember what the writer of Hebrews wrote: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Hebrews 13:4; ESV). If we are going to hold marriage in honor then we need to reorder our thoughts and desires. This requires that we break from the accepted cultural standards of sex and return to God’s standards. In other words we can no longer allow our flesh to guide our sexuality.

Our flesh firmly roots our lives into the things of this world. It causes us to crave things that are sensual, things that can be experienced by the five senses, and things that are selfish. Since the flesh is selfish, it will distort the cravings we have for the good things God has given, so we will develop an unhealthy desire for them. I think sex and food are two blessings God has given that our flesh selfishly consumes, with negative effects to our bodies and souls.

The problem for you and me, even though we follow Jesus, is that we live in a world that has gone wrong, and we are faced with the reality of people being lead by their flesh in pursuit of sex. Living in this reality, it is easy to get caught up in the flow of culture. Things as innocent as love songs, chick flicks, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue to culturally accepted things like 50 Shades of Grey, steamy movies, homosexuality, and pornography to disturbing things like child pornography, bestiality, and sadism declare the terrible truth that the sexuality of our culture has gone terribly wrong. When left unchecked our flesh will take us to places we never intended to go. This is why we can’t allow the flesh to lead any part of our lives, including our sexuality.

How do we break free from being led by the flesh?

The simple answer is that we allow the Spirit to guide our lives. The apostle Paul wrote; But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do (Galatians 5:16, 17; ESV). Paul is clear that if we don’t want to gratify the cravings of our flesh, then we need to let the Spirit guide our lives.

It is easy to say, “We need to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives,” but it is another thing to actually do it. Especially when you are unsure of what it takes to let the Spirit guide your life.

See more at: Spirit-Guided Sexuality

Monday, November 03, 2014

Created to Reflect God's Character

Each one of us has something about our lives that we would like to change. We would like to lose a few pounds, have a different job, make more money, have a different hair color, or have a better relationship. From the serious to the superficial, no one is entirely happy with the person they have become.

God uses this craving for change to remind us that we were created to live a different type of life. No matter how great our lives are right now, God created us for more.

Genesis 1 tells us that we were created in the image of God. To be created in the image of God primarily means that we were created to reflect God’s character into this world. Just like a statue or a painting of George Washington gives us an idea what the first president looked like, the way we live our lives is to reflect the love, generosity, compassion, creativity, and grace of God.

Sadly, sin makes it impossible for us to live in a way that allows us to accurately reflect God’s character. This is the reason why, even in the midst of great success and contentment, we fell like we are not living up to our potential. The simple reality is that it has become impossible for us to fully live the type of life that God created us to live.

What are we to do? - See more at Paul's Ponderings: Created to Reflect God's Character

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Correct Context of Pleasure

“This is the great lost truth of the Christian faith, that correction of Judaism made by Jesus and passed on to us: the goal of morality is not morality—it is ecstasy. You are intended for pleasure!” ~ John Eldredge; The Journey of Desire

One of the great lies that people have believed from the beginning is that true pleasure is found outside the boundaries of morality. Too often we believe that pleasure is found by breaking the rules and living for the moment.

The morality God has given us in the Bible and in our conscience, seems to stand in the way of our having a good time. The party mentality isn’t just something new invented by students on college campuses, but it had gone back thousands of years. So many people have given their lives away to the party in an attempt to live the “good life”.

Too many people in our culture morality is seen as God’s attempt to keep us from having a good time. Morality tells us not to get drunk or high. Morality tells us that sex should be between a man and a woman, and then only within the bounds of marriage. Morality says to be a servant to other people, even though it will mean the sacrifice of both your time and money. Morality seems dull compared to the party.

How we can experience pleasure by doing the right thing?

Ravi Zacharias talks about this issue in his book Cries of the Heart. He wrote; “For true pleasure the price is paid before it is enjoyed. For false pleasure the price is paid after it is enjoyed” (p. 142).

There is no doubt that illicit sex and pornography bring pleasure to people. After all if there was no pleasure then people wouldn’t participate in them. The high of drugs, which include alcohol, gives people pleasure, which is one reason people continue to use them even in the face of negative consequences. These are temporary pleasures that end up enslaving us. God created us to experience pleasures to add joy to our lives, not to enslave us. (Tweet this)

See more at Paul's Ponderings: The Correct Context of Pleasure

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

It Begins with Jesus

Very few people are completely satisfied with who they are. I think many people would like to make at least minor changes to their lives. When we consider our lives it is easy to find flaws that we would like fixed.

This is why we make New Years Resolutions because it means that we can start with a clean slate. We hope we can whip ourselves into shape so we can be happier with the person we have become. Yet, it seems, the older we get the more cynical we become with trying to change our lives.

We have tried many times before only be be met with failure time after time. Reality hits us right in the face. Our strength, self-discipline, and wisdom all fail us. Rather than becoming new people we discover the old person gains a stronger hold on us.

I want to encourage you. We can be transformed. It is very possible for you and I to become different people. We can become the people God created us to be. In other words we can experience life the way it was meant to be lived.

Erwin McManus wrote:
Transformation is both the miracle of God and the stewardship of man. Godliness is a result of divine activity and human action. God promises to do what we cannot do ourselves, and He commands us to do that which He will not do for us. There is both miracle and responsibility. 
Stand Against the Wind, p. 46

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

God Uses the Bad

Spiritual formation is not a pleasant walk in the park. Maturity of faith and being conformed to the image of Jesus is difficult. It doesn’t magically happen and it isn’t the result of faithful church attendance. 

 Spiritual formation is the result of surrender and discipline. We daily surrender our lives to Jesus and we discipline our lives through study, prayer, fasting, service, community, and worship. Through surrender and discipline we find ourselves on the path of spiritual formation.

Once we are on the path of spiritual formation we discover that numerous obstacles begin to block our way. This makes sense since Satan is opposed to God’s restoration project, and so he will do everything in his power to derail it. That means he will come after you and me.

Satan will throw out the net of fear to keep us from obeying Christ’s call on our lives. Satan will sit the trap of temptation to catch us in sin so we are not free to follow Jesus. Satan will dig the hole of guilt so we will fall in and be overwhelmed with shame rather than living in the grace and forgiveness God has promised in Christ Jesus.

If this is your experience I have good news for you! God uses Satan’s obstacles as opportunities to make us better people! Just as Joseph told his brothers; “As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil” (Genesis 50:20; NLT), we can be certain that God will redeem the bad in our lives to bring about good. God is so powerful that He can turn evil into good!

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