Five Vows for Spiritual power

Some of you might be familiar with the books of Alliance pastor, A.W. Tozer.  One of his lesser known books is titled, Five Vows for Spiritual Power.  I came across this information a few years ago and shared it with our church then.  I have found it to be a helpful guide in prayer and thought today.

Five Vows to Make and Keep

by A. W. Tozer

Some people object to taking vows, but in the Bible you will find many great men of God directed by covenants, promises, vows, and pledges. The psalmist was not averse to the taking of vows. He said, “Thy vows are upon me, 0 God, I will render my praises unto thee” (Psalm 56:12).

My counsel in this matter is that if you are really concerned about spiritual improvement – the gaining of new power, new life, new joy, and new personal revival within your heart -you will do well to make certain vows and proceed to keep them. If you should fail, go down in humility and repent and start over. But always keep these vows before you. They will help harmonize your heart with the vast powers that flow out and down from the throne where Christ sits at the right hand of God.

A carnal man refuses the discipline of such commitments. He says, “I want to be free. I don’t want to lay any vows upon myself; I don’t believe in it; it is legalism.” Well, let me paint a picture of two men.

One of them will not take vows. He will not accept any responsibility. He wants to be free. And he is free – in a measure – just as a tramp is free. The tramp is free to sit on a park bench by day, sleep on a newspaper by night, get chased out of town on Thursday morning, and find his way up a set of creaky stairs in some flophouse on Thursday night. Such a man is free, but he is also useless. He clutters up the world whose air he breathes.

Let’s look at another man – maybe a president or prime minister or any great man who carries upon himself the weight of government. Such men are not free. But in the sacrifice of their freedom they step up their power. If they insist upon being free, they can be free, just like the tramp. But they choose rather to be bound.

There are many religious tramps in the world who will not be bound by anything. They have turned the grace of God into personal license. But the great souls are the ones who have gone reverently to God with the understanding that in their flesh dwells no good thing. And they knew that without God’s enablement any vows taken would be broken before sundown. Nevertheless, believing in God, reverently they took certain sacred vows. This is the way to spiritual power. There are five vows I have in mind which we do well to make and to keep.

 

1. DEAL THOROUGHLY WITH SIN

Sin has been driven underground these days and has come up with a new name and face. You may be subjected to this phenomenon in the schools. Sin is being called by various fancy names – anything but what it really is. For example, men don’t get under conviction any more; they get a guilt complex.

Instead of confessing their guilt to God and getting rid of it, they sit on a couch and try and tell a man who ought to know better all about themselves. It comes out after a while that they were deeply disappointed when they were two years old or some such thing. That’s supposed to make them better.

The whole thing is ridiculous, because sin is still the ancient enemy of the soul. It has never changed. We’ve got to deal firmly with sin in our lives. Let’s remember that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Righteousness lies at the door of the kingdom of God. The soul that sins, it shall die.

This is not to preach sinless perfection. This is to say that every known sin is to be named, identified, and repudiated and that we must trust God for deliverance from it so that there is no conscious, deliberate sin anywhere in our lives. It is absolutely necessary that we deal thus, because God is a holy God and sin is on the throne of the world.

So don’t call your sins by some other name. If you’re jealous, call it jealousy. If you tend to pity yourself and feel that you are not appreciated, call it what it is – self-pity.

And then there is your temper. Don’t call it indignation. Don’t try to christen it by some other name. Call it what it is. Because if you have a bad temper you will either get rid of it, or it will get rid of much of your spirituality and most of your joy. So let’s deal with sin thoroughly. Let’s be perfectly candid. God loves candid people.

2. NEVER OWN ANYTHING

I do not mean by this that you cannot have things. I mean that you ought to get delivered from the sense of possessing them. This sense of possessing is what hinders us. All babies are born with their fists clenched, and it seems to me it means, “This is mine!” One of the first things they say when they begin to speak, is “mine” in an angry voice. That sense of “This is mine” ‘is a very injurious thing to the spirit. If you can get rid of it so that you have no feeling of possessing anything, there will come a great sense of freedom and liberty into your life.

Now don’t think that you must sell all that you have and give it to charity. No. God will let you have your car and your business, your practice and your position, whatever it may be – provided you understand that it is not yours at all, but His, and all you are doing is just working for Him. You can be restful about it then, because we never need to worry about losing anything that belongs to someone else. If it is yours, you are always looking in your hand to see if it is still there. If it is God’s, you no longer need to worry about it.

Let me point out some things you’ll have to turn over to God. Property is one thing. Some of the dear Lord’s children are being held back because there is a ball and chain on their legs. If it is a man, it’s his big car and fine home. If it is a woman, it’s her china and her Louis XIV furniture and all the rest. Take that vase for instance. There it stands. And if anybody knocked it off and broke it, the poor owner would probably lose five years from her life! It is always necessary to remember that we are only stewards of that which is usually called a possession.

3. NEVER DEFEND YOURSELF

We are all born with a desire to defend ourselves. And if you insist upon defending yourself, God will let you do it. But if on turn the defense of yourself over to God, He will defend you. He told Moses in Exodus 23: “I will be an enemy unto thine enemies and an adversary to thine adversaries.”

What do we defend? Well, we defend our talents; we defend our service; and particularly, we defend our reputation. Your reputation is what people think you are, and if a story gets out about you, the big temptation is to try to run it down.

Henry Suso was a great Christian of other days. Once he was seeking what some Christians have told me they are seeking to know God better. Let’s put it like this: You are seeking to have a religious awakening within your spirit that will thrust you farther out into the deep things of God. Well, as Henry Suso was seeking God, people started telling evil stories about the man, and it grieved him so that he wept bitter tears and had great sorrow of heart.

Then one day he looked out the window and saw a dog playing on the lawn. The dog had a mat, and kept picking the mat up, tossing it over his shoulder, running and getting it, tossing it some more, picking it up and tossing it again. God said to Henry Suso, “That mat is your reputation, and I am letting the dogs of sin tear your reputation to shreds and toss it all over the lawn for your own good, but one of these days things will change.”

And this did change. it was not very long before the people who were tearing his reputation were confounded, and Suso rose into a place that made him a power in his day and a great blessing still to those who sing his hymns and read his works.

4. GUARD YOUR WORDS ABOUT OTHERS

Never pass anything on – about anybody else that will hurt him. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The talebearer has no place in God’s favor. If you know something that would hinder or hurt the reputation of one of God’s children, bury it forever. Find a little garden out back – a little spot somewhere – and when somebody comes around with an evil story, take it out and bury it and say, “Here lies in peace the story about my brother.” God will take care of it. “With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.”

If you want God to be good to you, you are going to have to be good to His children. You say, “But that’s not grace.” Well, grace gets you into the kingdom of God. That is unmerited favor. But after you are seated at the Father’s table, He expects to teach you table manners. And He won’t let you eat unless you obey the etiquette of the table. And what is that? The etiquette of the table is that you don’t tell stories about the brother who is sitting at the table with you – no matter what his denomination, or nationality, or background.

5. NEVER ACCEPT ANY GLORY

God is jealous of His glory and He will not give His glory to another. He will not even share His glory with another. It is quite natural, I should say, for people to hope that maybe their Christian service will give them a chance to display their talents. True, they want to serve the Lord. But they also want other people to know they are serving the Lord. They want to have a reputation among the saints. That is very dangerous ground – seeking a reputation among the saints. It’s bad enough to seek a reputation in the world, but it’s worse to seek a reputation among the people of God. Our Lord gave up His reputation, and so must we.

Meister Eckhart once preached a sermon on Christ cleansing the Temple. He said, “Now there was nothing wrong with those men selling and buying there. There was nothing wrong with exchanging money there; it had to be. The sin lay in their doing it for profit. They got a percentage on serving the Lord.” And then he made the application: “Anybody that serves for a commission, for what little bit of glory he can get out of it, is a merchant, and he ought to be cast out of the temple.”

I go along with this. If you are serving the Lord, and yet slyly -perhaps scarcely known to you – you are hoping to get just a little five percent commission, then look out! It will chill the power of God in your spirit. You must determine that you will never take any glory, but see that God gets it all.

Now, it is the easiest possible thing to give a message like this. The hard thing is to make it work in one’s own life. Remember that these five vows are not something you write in the back of your Bible and forget. They have got to be written in your own blood. They have to be made final, irrevocable, if it only comes off the surface, it is no good. Much of our consecration is just that way – it comes off the surface. Many of our promises come off the surface. No, no. Let it come out of the depths of your heart, the deep depths of your spirit.

These vows cut against the old human nature. They introduce the cross into your life, and nobody ever walks back from carrying his cross. When you make these vows, remember, they strike at the heart of your self-life and there is never a place to go back to. And I say, “Woe unto the triflers!”

In America – and maybe in other places too – SO many people are saying, “Try Jesus, try God!” Triflers, experimenters, tasters they are. Like a rabbit with a half dozen holes so if one is stopped up lie can flee to another! No! From the cross there is no place to flee. You don’t “try” Jesus. He is not there to be experimented with. Christ is not on trial. You are. I am. He is not! God raised Him from the dead and forever confirmed His deity and scaled Him and set Him at His own right hand as Lord and Christ. Turn everything over to Him, and you’ll find your life begin to lift. You’ll blossom in a wonderful way.

Now, if you happen to be one of those on whom God has laid His hand for a deeper life, a more powerful life, a fuller life -then I wonder if you would be willing to pray this kind of prayer: -0 God, glorify Thyself at my expense. Send me the bill – anything, Lord. I set no price. I will not dicker or bargain. Glorify Thyself. I’ll take the consequences.

This kind of praying is simple, but it’s deep and wonderful and powerful. I believe that if you can pray a prayer like that, it will be the ramp from which you can take off into higher heights and bluer skies in the things of the Spirit.

Jarrod Scott

Have A Coke … And Then What?

Two unmistakable giants in our culture are Coca-Cola and Ford.  But giants do not become giants without making gigantically important decisions along the way.  For The Coca-Cola Company, one of theirs came in 1985, April 23rd to be exact.  On that Tuesday, Coca Cola announced that it was changing the formula for its Coke soft drink, intent on re-energizing its brand that had seen its dominance in the soft drink industry continually slip over the past 15 years.

IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT
However, the public outcry that ensued over “new Cokemanaged to convince the Coca Cola executives to bring back the original version, and July 11th ended undoubtedly the longest 79 days in the company’s history.  Even positive taste test results from nearly 200,000 consumers couldn’t prevent, and certainly didn’t predict, the fallout that followed.  Ninety-nine years of familiarity with and enjoyment of the original taste ran much deeper than the prevailing taste buds of a sample set, and 1,500 calls a day to the consumer hotline at Coca Cola Company supported that fact.

WHEW!
And so, Chairman and CEO Robert Goizueta, the man who received a letter of complaint addressed to “Chief Dodo, The Coca Cola Company,” brought back Cokeâ as the newly named, “Coca Cola Classic.”  And much to the satisfaction of so many who had been hoarding and rationing their favorite drink, the original flavor was back, and normalcy and sanity had returned to the soft drink industry.

IT’S A FORD, WHAT ELSE?
Henry Ford used to get casual credit by the uninformed for inventing the automobile, primarily because of the number of cars his company made.  But Ford’s part in the demise of the horse-drawn carriage was the mass production of vehicles by use of the moving assembly line.  In his factories, production was unheard of because of the efficiencies he was able to incorporate.  But the reason for his immeasurable success also became the cause for his greatest concern.

MORE, BUT MORE OF WHAT?
The year before he installed the assembly line, he doubled his work force and doubled his productivity.  The following year, production nearly doubled again, but he did not increase the number of laborers.  What had happened, though, was that the workers had become increasingly intolerant of the repetitive, demanding work, causing the turnover rate for employees to skyrocket, reaching levels as high as 370% annually.

BRILLIANT
So in a drastic attempt to retain his workforce, Ford took the advice of his trusted VP James Couzens and reduced the work day from nine hours to eight, added a third shift to open up new jobs, and more than doubled the pay rate to $5 a day.  Within a year, the results were staggering.  The turnover rate dropped to 16% while productivity jumped another 40%.  And before the decade had ended, car prices had been cut in half.  Ford was well on his way to filling the land with Model T’s and earning his first of several billion dollars.

FOR GOD DID NOT GIVE US THE SPIRIT OF FEAR
Decision-making is not always easy, and certainly not always simple.  But when you are basing your decision on what can be trusted, there is peace amidst the uncertainty.  One man said it’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.  And though I believe the decision can still be difficult, the strength to act does come from the foundation on which the actions are based.  Another once warned to not make permanent decisions on temporary feelings.  That is why verses like Proverbs 3:5-6 are so powerful.  They call us to trust in God completely, and that admonition comes on the heels of verses that urge us to immerse ourselves in the truth of God’s commands.  When decisions are hard, when the answer is unpopular, courage and resolve comes from God and His Word on which we rely.  If that source is of our own making, if your god has a lower case “g,” then trouble awaits.  But when the Rock is our fortress, no storms shall prevail.

Rich Holt

The Sin of the Self-Made Man

In the garden of Eden, the first temptation dealt with mankind’s desire to define good apart from God.  Our society continues to strive with God as we define what is good.  For the believer in Christ, who has surrendered the right to define good, our struggle is to do good apart from God.  To do right and to love others yet doing it in our own strength fails to be worship.  If we are disregarding God’s strength and simultaneously overestimate our capabilities to love a neighbor, we have failed to love God (the first chief commandment).  We seem to have an undying false confidence in our abilities to live life as though there is no sin to handicap our efforts.

There is one undeniable indicator to reveal this self-reliant attitude, our spirit of prayer.  This was Jesus’ warning to Peter on the night that he would be betrayed by Peter.  Peter seemed to have the loyal disposition and every experiential evidence and relationship to be loyal to his friend, Jesus.  It was not enough.  Jesus’ solution in warning to Peter was “to watch and pray.”   Earlier in that same evening, Jesus had taught his disciples that “apart from me (Jesus) you can do nothing (John 15:5). The idea is not just the routine or habit of prayer, but the disposition of our prayer.   I have a friend of mine who stresses to us that we need to be a “people of desperate prayer.”  That phrase gets to the heart of the spirit of prayer that God is seeking for His glory.

Our church has needed for a number of years, God’s life-giving work, which may come as the result of desperate prayer.  God’s prerogative to revitalize a church belongs only to Him, but whether He acts or not, we glorify God by our desperate prayer.  This past Sunday I asked us to commit with 2 or 3 others to join in 40 days of prayer.  There is a good 40-day prayer guide that you can print out and download here.

Jarrod Scott

The Significance of Love

The version of Scripture I usually use is the ESV and 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 has the heading in that version (which is not inspired), entitled “The Way of Love”. The intent of the translators in adding headings is to summarize the content of the next group of verses. It is my humble opinion that, in this case, they have sadly missed the mark. In these thirteen verses, the Bible is not merely describing a method, plan or “Way” for attaining the goal of Love. God is trying to express the importance, consequence, or “Significance” of Love.

Referred to by many as “the Love chapter”, Scripture begins by emphasizing the importance of love, from the negative….

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Without love as the basis for our speech (“tongues of men”) or even if we could speak as angels do, we would sound loud (“noisy gong”) and harsh (“clanging cymbal”) without love. Further, being able to proclaim and understand the deep truths of God’s word (1 Cor. 2:10, John 16:13), and to have wisdom and knowledge (James 1:5) means little without love. Set between chapter 12 and chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians, God is trying to impress on the reader that these spiritual gifts have little value if they are not applied through love. Even supreme “faith” (Matt. 17:20) or self-sacrifice, “gains nothing” in the absence of love.

So, if love is so important, so fundamental to our relationship with others, how does God define the concept of Love?

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Largely self-explanatory, these verses provide a scriptural commentary on how God views love in action as it relates to relationships between people. We are to be patient (Rom. 12:12), kind and forgiving (Eph. 4:32), not envious (Gal. 5:26), arrogant (Prov. 21:24), rude (Tit. 3:2), irritable (Jam. 12:20) and resentful (Col. 3:8). Love does not accept or condone someone doing something which is wrong (“does not rejoice at wrongdoing”). Truth is important, but we live in a gray world where pure, sinless truth is rare. So, Paul reminds us that to love means we need to always have faith and hope while we “bear all things” (Matt. 18:21-22) and “endure all things” (Jam. 1:2-4).

How long should Love last?

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (ESV) Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

A book entitled 10 Presents from the King, presents 10 things that God has given us while we are on this earth that will not be available to us on the other side of the grave. They include the need for spiritual discernment (“prophecies” and “knowledge”), and the insight from others (“tongues”) and faith. The reality is that we live in a sinful world which is full of shades of gray, needing the Holy Sprit’s insight to navigate. At best we, as sinful humans, blessed by the Holy Spirit’s activity in our lives, can only know “in part”. However, “when the perfect comes”, when we cross over from death to eternal life, all these “partial” things will “pass away”. However, there is one constant, one gift or blessing, one trait or action that will pass with us into Heaven, and that is love. Love existed in eternity past, is the basis for our existence today, and will cross over the grave into our future eternity as Christians.

Love is a process.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

There needs to be a recognition that Love is not a Spiritual Gift offered to a Christian by God at the point of salvation. It is something that needs to be cultivated, reinforced, and trained. It is a commandment (John 13:34-35). As we mature as Christians (from child to a man), love should become more and more a part of our lives and our actions. It is often difficult to see what our love for God and our worship of the Trinity will ultimately look like, as we view what the Lord calls us to be while looking through “a mirror dimly”. However, when we get to heaven we will, both literally and figuratively, see how we should have acted while preparing for our destiny with Him. This reality is why we will need God to “wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 7:17).

Against all other spiritual markers, how important is Love?

1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV) So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Finally, the ESV was on target when it used the heading, “The Greatest Commandment”, in Matthew 22:36 and following, which reads,

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

The best way we can move forward as the body of Christ called Green Pines is to follow  Colossians 3:14, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Jeff Hilles

Happy Father’s Day!

I like to say it, and I like having it said to me.  And no matter who you are, It’s one of those three word sentences that always sparks memories and emotions.  On the one hand, as a Dad when I hear it I am reminded of the blessing my boys are to me.  Being a Dad to my two boys is one of the greatest blessings, challenges, and joys of my life!  Hearing “Happy Fathers Day” from them or others always fills my mind with great memories of the last 19 years that I have been their Dad so I am so very thankful for them.
On the other hand, it brings back memories of our own Dad.  And If you are like me and your Dad is in his eternal home, the sentence most likely brings back a flood of memories that take you back to his lap and the joy you had in his presence.  And the older I get the more I realize just how much Dad did for us and taught us. So the memories just get sweeter in the midst of the sadness that goes with what I miss from his daily presence in mine and my boys’ lives.  My Dad was a hard working business owner so he stayed busy but he always kept family as priority in his life.  Growing up we spent every day he didn’t work with family and most every vacation or weekend camping trip I can remember was done with family and usually alongside some aunts and uncles.  So as I look back I see that he was teaching us to Love our Family and to spend all the time you can with them. What a great lesson.  And there are so many things like this that he modeled for me, like how to how to work hard and provide for my family, how to treat others, and how to help others.  He showed me how to love my wife by loving my Mom from a teen to the end of his days.  He showed me how to love my boys, and how to help them navigate this difficult world we live in, and so so much more.  So when I hear Happy Fathers Day I also think of how thankful I am that God blessed me with My earthly Father and for all he taught me to help me be a Dad today.
And lastly, Fathers Day always makes me think of my Heavenly Father and I am so very thankful for his word and example for all of us Dads.  As I was sharing with the kids this past Wednesday, God’s word has great instruction from cover to cover for Dads and kids so we need to stay in His Word daily so we can understand what God has to say about it.  A great verse that speaks to Dads and family is found in Colossians 3 starting in verse 19 as it speaks to how we are to love and encourage our families.
“19- Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” 
So to the Dads I say “Happy Fathers Day”, remember the things you have been taught, Love your Family, Love your God and stay in his word, it will bring you great joy in life.
And if by some chance you have not wished your Dad Happy Fathers Day, what are you waiting for? Put down whatever is in the way and run back to your Fathers arms – he is eagerly waiting for you.
Chris Best

Für Elise

I sometimes enjoy listening to classical music when the mood and work seem to be the right fit.  When I have an opportunity to go to a symphony then the listening takes on a multi-sensory dimension that lifts my mind and heart.  Beethoven always stands out in the classical world and of his many composing works, “Für Elise” is one of my favorites.  This is a German word meaning, “For Elise,” yet no one really knows who “Elise” could have been.  According to Wikipedia, it could have been transcribed wrong with the identity being a student of Beethoven’s named, Theresa.  This song was not published until 40 years after the composer’s death and was so deaf he could not perform the song just a year after composing the work.  In fact, he could not hear the applause of the audience after performing that someone would need to prompt him to turn around to the crowd.  If you want to watch an orchestra perform the song then listen here.

As I watch such performances played today, I am always captivated by the interactions between the director and the orchestra.  A well-directed work exhibits precise control of timing and emotion.  The fine and grueling work of practice for discipline brings out the emotion in the song.  The director has a big picture of how written notes on a page should sound like in life.  He or she translates into experience what has only been written instructions and knows how to incorporate every instrument into the piece. It may be that a specific instrument is only played for one or two notes, yet without that instrument, the song fails to be formed correctly in reality.

I would present to you that every church is to be as a symphony directed by the Holy Spirit Himself.  This director deity makes real in Knightdale what has only been written on pages.  It is through obedience to the Holy Spirit that Jesus lives today in the lives of those around us.  Each one of us has been gifted by the Holy Spirit so we can play our “instrument” in whatever role He directs.  Our gifts are meant to be employed in concert with others to produce a “symphony,” a sounding together.  At times we may experience the minor notes, but in a symphony not only do the minor notes make sense, they make the whole piece sound good together.  Each church will bring the praise of Jesus in how we relate to one another and the world and give our praise to God, the Father.  Our songs are not dedicated to an unknown person, but “Für Gott.”  In our performance, may we be deaf to the crowd and turn around to the applause of God.

Jarrod Scott

Following Him

Do you remember the last time you felt completely lost?  Maybe you were travelling out of town for the family vacation and driving with the utmost confidence that you knew exactly how to get there.  Maybe you weren’t necessarily “lost” but admittedly you “just couldn’t find your way”.  Maybe it was a time when you went on a hike through the woods in the mountains and somehow couldn’t remember exactly how to get back where you started.  Or maybe it was a time when you walked out of the shopping mall, sports stadium or concert and looked out into a large mass of vehicles in the Parking Lot and couldn’t remember exactly where you parked your car.  I can personally look back on times like these in my life with laughter.  However, during those times of being lost, it is certainly not amusing at that moment.  In fact, at times it can be very stressful, we can feel hopeless and even sometimes afraid depending on the circumstances.

We can also relate to this in day to day life can’t we?  In daily life do you ever feel lost or maybe where you just don’t feel like you could find your way?  Maybe you’re dealing with a certain situation with family, friends, your job, your health or many other things that life may bring your way.  You’re searching for the reason, the right solution or the right direction but as much as you think about it and try to work it out on your own you continue to feel helpless, tired and all the other things that can come with self-dependence.  You feel lost or maybe, your telling yourself you just can’t find your way.

It’s during those times that I am reminded that I have an Amazing Savior and Lord that wants to give me strength in my weakness, hope in my hopelessness and direction when I just can’t find my way.  One of my favorite scriptures is Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths”.  Notice the 3 commands in this passage.  “Trust in the Lord”, “Do not lean on your own understanding” and “In all your ways acknowledge Him”.  We often times put too much trust in ourselves when we are in the middle of our situations.  It’s like those times when we are lost and just keep driving because we “just can’t find our way”.  The longer we drive the more humility it will take to have to stop and ask for directions.  You see, Trusting in the Lord calls us to Humility and an admittance that His way is better than our own.  We often spend much time “thinking” but not much time “praying”.  Godly wisdom comes through seeking the Lord in His word and through prayer.  James 1:5 reminds us “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him”.  As we receive God’s guidance through seeking Him in His word and prayer we begin to obey the last command, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths”.  As we acknowledge the Lord in all our ways He begins to show us what is most important, what our priorities should be and how He can be most glorified in our life through daily Trusting Him.  So today, if you are lost or maybe you just can’t find your way, trust in the one who is able to give you direction.  Trust in the one who is able to stand firm when you lean on Him.  Trust in the one who is able to make your paths straight.

Jason Hicks

Apostle’s Creed

If you grew up attending church, then there was a pretty good chance you grew up quoting the Apostle’s Creed.  This early summary of Christian belief is utilized in many churches both of Catholic and Protestant variety as part of worship and instruction.  However, I grew up Baptist and we tend to reject much of liturgical worship for no other reason but that it is liturgical.  So consequently, I never became familiar with this statement until I listened to Rich Mullin’s song “Creed” when I was in college.  I instantly loved the song and learned to belt out the lyrics (for good or ill), not knowing the history of what I was singing.

The origin of one of the earliest creedal statements of our Christian faith dates back to the last half of the 2nd century in what is called the “Old Roman Version.”  It used to be believed that the articles were written by the twelve apostles, but there is no compelling evidence for that.  However, this would have been early enough for 3rd generation believers (the believers instructed by those who were taught by the apostles) to witness and give judgment over the statement.  The statement was used as part of the confession of faith for those to be baptized as well as a tool for instruction in belief.  By the sixth and seventh century, the creed had become part of a tool used in worship in both individual and corporate settings.  As you read below, know that “catholic” back then refers to the “universal and orthodox” church and preceded what we know as the denomination of Roman Catholic church.  As well, being in hell could have been understood as “death” and certainly separation from God, which does describe Jesus as he became our sin.

Jarrod Scott

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen

Big Just Keeps Getting Bigger

It’s a strange way to entice potential readers, but I wish I could bore you with some of the amazing scientific information that I have heard recently about our universe and God’s incomprehensible power and intelligence.

But doing that would mean primarily that I would be listing out incredibly huge numbers with dozens of zeroes, trying to explain how big something is, or how far something is.  Or, there would be a decimal and a bunch of zeroes in the opposite direction, relating how tiny something is, or how intricate something is.  Fortunately, at least for you, I did not write down nor can recall even a small portion of the litany of facts expressing God’s hand of design in the making of this vast expanse.  But having the details escape my recollection does not mean the reality of their truth has lost its impact on me.  Hearing how one scientific discovery after another further support God’s creation story in Genesis, debunking and discrediting the myth that is evolution, leaves a lasting and powerful impression.

What else could be the effect of repeatedly hearing of the unbounding wisdom and might of the Creator, coupled with His focus on redeeming the capstone of His creation to have a relationship with him?  To think that there are thousands of galaxies like this one, and that one day, and forever, I’ll be able to sit at the feet of the One who made it all, is staggering.  Or to consider that there are trillions of these little cells  that make up my body, and that each cell contains a strand of DNA that contains the program for life, almost paralyzes me in awe.

But I said I would not bore you with science, and I shall stick to that commitment.  But please hear this, that as I grow and learn and continue to mature, I am doing so only to the extent that I am realizing how much more awesome and astounding God is.  My development does not produce in me the urge to stand up and be noticed, or to voice my opinion as worthy of note.  On the contrary, I am overwhelmed by my insignificance and inabilities.  It is in this juxtaposition of God’s prodigious enormity and my infinitesimal minuteness that I am compelled further to worship Him rather than question Him.  I see a little more clearly the absurdity of trying to answer God’s questions to Job concerning creation and His counsel.

I don’t understand most of science, and much of life to be honest.  But I am comforted in this rather than confounded, and I am moved more to devotion than ever before.  “Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?” (Job 38:12)  Then join me in worshipping the One who does so each day.

Rich Holt

A very “unchristian” obedience

lucky1

What are the reasons you are obedient to the laws and commands that are given to you by God?  Of course, that question contains a major and incredible assumption that you obey God’s laws and commands.  Sometimes you and I obey and sometimes we just don’t.  My heart has manufactured multiple reasons for obedience that deviate from the gospel and actually become self-destructive.  For example, I might obey out of ensuring a good fortune.  As if I can manipulate God to create a positive environment for my personal desires to flourish.  Somewhat akin to the animistic thought that by doing the right dance I can produce rain for my crops. This may be instinctive to my desire to control, but not gospel thinking.

Another example is obedience out of fear.  This sounds good, for the Bible talks about fearing the Lord, but this misses the mark.  It’s the thought that I better obey and pray or read the Bible or else God will give me a miserable day, job, or year.  This tends to make obedience no more than a lucky rabbit foot,  or religious icon.  If we don’t obey than the angry God is just waiting to strike us down.  From what I have read from the Bible, God had just cause to strike us down a long time ago before our latest disobedient act and any future submissive act will not compensate for my past disregard of God.

Lastly for our consideration is the blind obedience.  You know the “just do what you are told because God said it.”  We get this because we were told as children to obey for no other reason except Mommy/Daddy said to obey.  This is close to Christian obedience but lacks an important component of gospel generated obedience.  After all, which one of us claim to know the mind of God and fathom why He has commanded us to obey in such manner.  Yet, when the focus is just God’s authority and sovereignty then the life is not different than Islam, which means “submit.”  The Christian perspective is not the same as Islam, Mormonism, or animism, or paganism, or any other “ism”.  The differences in what is revealed about the nature of God has an appropriate reflection in the obedience.

The Christian perspective is not the same as Islam, Mormonism, or animism, or paganism, or any other “ism”.  The differences in what is revealed about the nature of God has an appropriate reflection in the obedience.  Unique to the Christian gospel is a God who actually seeks us to know His love, His person, and enjoys this love in a reciprocating manner.  This changes obedience in that the main motive is to know God and to put ourselves in a place where we can enjoy His person more.

In John 15 Jesus explained 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Consider how Jesus responded to Satan’s temptations to Jesus, when he was focusing on obedience.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” “You shall not put the Lord thy God to the test,” and “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.”   With every response, Jesus was focused on seeking the right relationship with His father and it was the motive of his obedience. The more I read scripture and think about my life, the more I am settled on this one idea, My life motive is to seek my God in everything I do and endure, for He seeks me in all He has done for His Glory.   To obey with this motive makes obedience distinctly “Christian.”

Jarrod Scott