What Are You Looking Forward To?

Many years ago, a friend asked me, “What are you looking forward to?”

Immediately I answered, “Heaven.”

“Well yeah,” he responded with a hint of impatience in his voice, “that’s a given. I meant, what are you looking forward to in the next few weeks?”

Isn’t his attitude indicative of our culture? As the movie title says, heaven can wait — we prefer to invest our thoughts and dreams in the here and now. We envision marriage, careers, children and retirement as fulfilling events that give life joy and meaning, rarely giving attention to eternal matters. Even as Christians, we get more excited about upcoming women’s conferences or our child’s baptism than about being face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps we need to stop for a moment and remind ourselves of our ultimate vision. That conference and our child’s baptism should point us to Jesus. He must remain as our vision as we submit everything in our lives to Him. Of all that we look forward to, Jesus must be first and foremost.

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When We’re Too Discerning To Love Christ

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We seldom recognize our own idols. This spiritual blindness engulfs all Christians, it seems to me, but I think people involved in discernment ministry ought to be particularly mindful that our zeal to expose false teachers can actually distract us from loving the Lord.

A couple of years ago, I read a passage in Revelation 2 that really compelled me to ask myself some uncomfortable questions. Sure, I could make the case that loving Christ leads to a desire for doctrinal purity in His church. In many instances, that’s  entirely true. But look at what the Lord commands the apostle John to write to the church at Ephesus:

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ ~~Revelation 2:2-7 (ESV)

In this letter, the Lord begins by commending the Ephesians for standing against false teachers. This point shows that discernment ministry definitely has its place. Indeed, several of the other churches in Revelation 2 and 3 receive harsh chastisement precisely because of their tolerance of false teaching. The Lord demands purity in His Church.

Yet the Ephesians focused so much on discernment that they abandoned their devotion to Christ Himself. They no longer had a zeal to serve Him in other ways. So, despite their stellar record in standing against false teachers, they had allowed their discernment abilities to eclipse their devotion to the Lord. In no uncertain terms, these discernment giants were ordered to repent.

Although this letter affirms discernment ministry, it also indicates that discernment can become an idol. How ironic is that? We can become so enamored with our skill in distinguishing truth from error that we read the Bible looking for ammunition that will help us expose whatever false teacher we happen to have in our cross-hairs at the moment. We forget Christ’s answer when asked about the greatest commandment:

37 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. 38 This is the great and first commandment. ~~Matthew 22:37-38 (ESV)

Let’s cultivate discernment, by all means! But let’s not limit discernment merely to calling out false teachers. Let’s also seek to discern from Scripture how we can best love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. The Ephesians forgot to maintain that type of discernment. We dare not.

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Christian Yoga As Idol Worship

LotusThe church John and I belong to practices the pubic reading of Scripture by going through a book of the Bible consecutively. Currently we’ve been reading 1 Corinthians. I find that, surprisingly often, the Lord deepens my understanding of a passage as I listen to my pastor read it aloud. Yesterday, in fact, the passage he read made me think about so-called Christian yoga.

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? ~~1 Corinthians 10:14-22 (ESV)

Although there are other people teaching “Christian” yoga, Holy Continue reading

Wellspring Of The Joy Of Living

Non-Christians do experience a measure of joy; the Lord graciously blesses them with the delights of family and friends.

As an example, many American mothers (regardless of their relationships with Christ) are enjoying special attention today as their children shower them with gifts or make them breakfast in bed. For many, Mother’s Day is a joyful celebration.

Christians,  however, have an even deeper joy because Jesus has paid for our sins and given us new life. We see His hand in creation, and rejoice that all His works point back to His glory. Even our ability to love each other ultimately comes from Him.

The Lord is the source of all joy, whether we acknowledge Him or not. Christians merely recognize, by His grace, that joy comes from Him. Consequently, we rejoice all the more as we praise Him for filling us with joy divine!

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All The Ransomed Church Of God

None for whom Jesus died will miss out on heaven. Isn’t that a beautiful thought? His blood covers the sins of everyone who believes in Him, and it won’t lose its effect until every last person elected for salvation receives Him.

That assurance encourages me to keep praying for family and friends who don’t know Christ, as well as to proclaim the Gospel whenever I have opportunity. The Lord won’t return until He has claimed every one of His own. Since He has ordained that the Holy Spirit bring people to faith through the preaching of His Word, we must be diligent to evangelize the world.

Additionally, knowing that the blood of Jesus won’t lose its power until He saves everyone destined for His kingdom offers comfort. No one will believe after it’s too late. The blood of Jesus is inexhaustible as far as His own are concerned, enabling us to trust that He won’t leave anything undone.

How can we fail to praise such a magnificent Savior?

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As Christ Burst From The Tomb, So Joy Bursts From Our Hearts

Generally speaking, people associate joy with Christmas, not Easter. But then, most people don’t really understand why they celebrate either holiday, do they?

Those of us who love the Lord, however, know that Christ’s resurrection brings ultimate joy! Without His resurrection, His death would have never atoned for our sins, condemning us to a dark and grim eternity.

But praise the Lord, Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, conquering death itself and securing life everlasting for everyone who believes in Him! Death couldn’t hold any more than the hearts of His followers can contain the joy of knowing He has risen. Christmas has its own wonderful joys to celebrate, but Resurrection Sunday has a greater joy.

 

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Hosanna Past And Future

As we contemplate Palm Sunday today,  let’s look  back at Mark’s account of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” ~~Mark 11:1-10 (ESV)

Hopes soared high that day. Messiah had come at last, and surely He would end Roman oppression and usher in His kingdom. Finally, they thought, all the world would see how God favored Israel, and they rejoiced to witness this fulfillment of His promise.

A week later, feeling bitterly disillusioned, those same people demanded that Rome crucify Jesus. They didn’t understand that His kingdom would arrive in stages, allowing the Gentiles to come to saving faith.

But the completed canon of Scripture reveals that more must take place before the final consummation of His kingdom. We can rest assured that the King Who humbly entered Jerusalem riding on a  donkey colt will one day return in the clouds astride a white stallion as heavenly portals ring with loud Hosannas!

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