Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Watch out for Salad Bars!

Passed by a salad bar the other day....lots of stuff on it...looked inviting....and it made me think...

Whenever people reject the authentic, they're open to anything and everything. Today's spirituality is generic. I would call it a "salad bar" spirituality. The attitude is, "I'll have a small order of Christianity--I like that "judge not" part and the Golden Rule, but cut out all the rest--add a little Hinduism and some Buddhism, maybe some New-Age spices..." If you have that kind of mentality, a lot of people will arise to serve it up.

But does everyone who claims to speak for God actually speak for God? No! In Matthew 7:15, we're warned to beware of false prophets. When you decide to go through the narrow gate, you'll find some hanging out by the gate who want to widen it. They don't agree that there's only one way to get to the Kingdom, through that narrow gate. Who are they? They're fake sheep. They look like sheep, but inwardly, Jesus said, they're wolves.

Even under the umbrella of Christianity, the lines of truth are getting fuzzier. Some years ago, the World Council of Churches sponsored a symposium of 25 theologians who came up with a document that included this statement: "We find ourselves recognizing a need to move beyond a theology which confines salvation to the explicit personal commitment to Jesus Christ." That is helping pave the way for the compromise of truth.

You don't have to look for the wolves; they'll come to you. And they'll be beautifully disguised. They'll seem sincere and good, and they'll seem to love. But don't be swayed by someone's charm or education, or even by signs. Lift up the fleece and see the wolf underneath.

Here are some good tests for finding the wolves.

Their character: When the Holy Spirit comes into a person He starts changing that person, and it will be evident. Look for the fruit of the Spirit, found in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, etc. These will be lacking in those who are false.

Their creed: That means what they say about God. The creed of false prophets is that there is no narrow gate, that there are many ways to God. They'll deny the essentials of the historic Christian church, and they'll attack the person and work of Christ. You should follow the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11. The Bereans didn't accept even Paul's word, but they "searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." Doctrine matters!

Their converts: Watch the effect of the teaching that is being disseminated in the lives of those who are receiving it. It's not always readily apparent, but it will eventually erode their spiritual walk.

So stay in the Word, listen with discernment, don't be fooled by sheep costumes, and stay away from that spiritual salad bar!

Love God - Love People and encourage them to grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Run (Insert Your Name) Run

How hard will you try to avoid some undesirable job? Do you wait to clean the house until you can't see the furniture? Do you refuse to work on your taxes until your spouse threatens to leave you? Some people will do anything to get out of a hateful task.

That's pretty inflexible, but when it comes to stubborn, not too many people would rival the prophet Jonah. God tells Jonah to go preach to the city of Nineveh. Nineveh was about 500 miles northeast of where Jonah was in Galilee. So Jonah takes off west toward Tarshish, which was probably at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea. It's like if God told you to go to New York, and you got on a boat bound for Australia. Think about this. He's a prophet! He should know it's impossible to run from God. Psalm 139 says, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?"

So God sends a storm. And Jonah tells the crew to throw him out and God will stop the storm. Think of that: Jonah knows what's going on. He knows who is causing the storm. The heathen sailors on the ship softened their hearts, but Jonah hardened his. His reaction? "I'd rather die." Proverbs 15:10 says, "Harsh correction is for him who forsakes the way," and Jonah found this out.

So then God sends a fish to swallow him. And Jonah spends three days inside before he asks God to save him. This is one stubborn guy! Notice the two phrases "But Jonah..." and "But the Lord..." (1:3, 4; 4:1, 10). This whole story is a duel between God and Jonah. It's not a big surprise who's going to win!

In the end, stubborn Jonah says, "It is better for me to die than to live." And God chastises him for having more pity for a plant than for an entire city (chapter 4). Notice who gets the last word!

Here's the point. With some, God will simply speak and they comply. Others are more hard-headed, and need extreme measures. Samuel heard the voice of the Lord calling to him and said "Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears." On the other hand, Saul of Tarsus had to be knocked down and blinded before he would listen to God.

If the still, small voice won't work with you, you may just want to buy some storm insurance! How much easier just to listen to Him, and then obey Him! Don't be on the run. He'll always catch you.

Love God – Love People

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Out of Obligation....

I grew up going to church every Sunday. I can’t say I looked forward to it every week, sometimes for me it was like going to the dentist. The pews and chairs were hard, and a lot of strange words were used. Church attendance was, at times in my mind, the "Sunday obligation." That summed it up for me. It was something you had to do, whether you wanted to or not. Some weeks you went to get it over with.

The church at Ephesus was also cold. They did all the right things. They worked hard, and they persevered under persecution. Yet, in Revelation 2 Jesus told them, "You've left your first love." Their simple, pure devotion for Jesus Christ had eroded over time.

But how is it possible to serve God, to suffer for God, and not do it out of love? Actually, it happens all the time. You can serve the Lord out of guilt. You can do it to be noticed. You can do it because God has given you a gift and you feel fulfilled when you exercise it. The last is better than the first two, but Jesus says the highest motivation is love for Him. "First love" is the love for God that characterizes a brand-new Christian. It's fervent, fresh, bold and personal. Life is boiled down to one thing: Jesus Christ.

Look at Luke 10. Martha was busy serving Jesus, while her sister Mary was just sitting at His feet, listening and loving Him. The qualities of these two women should be in all people, the hard worker and the loving worshiper. But busy action must never eclipse loving adoration. Martha got annoyed at her sister, not because she had too much work but because she let the work distract her from the One she was serving.

Remember, what we do with Jesus Christ is more important than what we do for Jesus Christ, because what happened to the church at Ephesus can happen to us. What happened to Martha can happen to us. We can get so involved in activities that we become cold, or we get distracted from our love for Him.

When I counsel people who are experiencing problems I'll often ask, "How's your time with the Lord? Are you doing your devotions?" Many tell me that they're not consistent, and some even say they've stopped reading their Bibles. And they wonder why they have problems?

Here's my point: Action without adoration leads to aggravation. Church, or Bible study, or prayer, or whatever, shouldn't be seen as an obligation. We do them because we love Jesus Christ. Put your focus on loving Him, and everything else will fall into place.

Love God – Love People