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Angry_WomanI’ve got some scripture that’ll teach you just how wrong you are!” Is it our job to teach other Christ followers that they are so wrong? I mean about all sorts of things, not just the “big ones”. Stay with me! I agree with Scripture that we are to judge other Christ followers, (not the lost), as instructed in God’s Word. ( 2 Tim. 2:16-17, 2 Tim. 4:14-15 and 1 Tim. 1:19-20. 3 John 1:9-10, Galatians 2:11-14, 1 Tim. 5:20Matt. 18:15-17.)  But how? With other Christ followers: In love, in an attempt to bring them back to God, not to drive them away!

So many of us feel it’s our responsibility to correct everything some one says, posts on public media, believes or follows because “we know better, they’re wrong and they need to know it!” Feeling personal conviction I wanted to share my thoughts on this very subject but I ran across an excellent article where it is explained so much better than I feel qualified to write. How (Not) to Correct Another Christian – Beyond Evangelical| The Blog of Frank Viola

 

No Comparison

Posted: September 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
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This devotional from the magazine, Journey, A Woman’s Guide to Intimacy with God, Sept. 2014, says it all.

Please read, listen and apply. I had to; it’s a great, and gentle reminder!

What in the world was this Godly King thinking joining forces with another King who clearly did not follow the same God! Hmmmm, sound familiar? How we, as Christians, justify our close affiliations with lost people, not in an attempt to witness to them (as God commands) but simply hanging out, living as they do, talking as they talk, acting as they act, while all the time believing the sin we commit with them isn’t THAT bad! Back and forth we go, one stage of our life is spent living for God then there we go again, just like Jehoshaphat…tragic alliances, death, sin after sin, back & forth commitment to God, justification, compromise ending in generation after generation repeating the same spiral descent until….wait and see!

You may be asking: “What is this woman talking about?” Allow me to explain. While studying the story of Jehoshaphat again I was reminded of what compromising can cause. I had forgotten the impact of this example of compromising or lowering one’s standards.  I Cor. 15:33 ESV “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” Jehoshaphat tried to justify his alliances as we will see. God had separated them on purpose & Jehoshaphat had no business seeking to join forces, just as we Christians have no business joining forces with lost people who aren’t following God’s ways.  II Cor. 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”  There is a difference and a reason for this separation as seen in John 8:34 “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who practices sin is a slave to sin.'” Christians are followers of God so they should not be “unequally yoked” with those who live continuously in sin (I Cor. 7:22) “For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.”

Aside from the command to share the Gospel with the lost we are not to have intimate relationships with the lost. It can affect our testimony and usually leads to submitting to the flesh and the temptation to sin as they are sinning.  (II Timothy 2:24-26) 24 “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” We can still have lots of lost friends who we love but their sin is what we should hate and make sure to avoid by setting boundaries with the involvement of those friends in our lives.  (Romans 12:1-2) “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Even the world, the lost, know that we are supposed to be different so if we’re constantly trying to gain their approval or alliance, are they seeing a difference, especially if we’re doing exactly what they’re doing? That would be an emphatic “NO!” How misleading to them and unfair that we are their example of Christ and what need do they have to accept God’s precious gift based on our testimony, or lack thereof!

Ok, so King Jehoshaphat…. Let me back up a minute for a little background first – Jehoshaphat was the King of Judah. He went to see the King of Israel – Ahab. Actually I believe he went several times to see Ahab and it got easier and easier to be around him even though he knew that Ahab didn’t live for the same God. Ahab had an evil wife, Jezebel, who made it difficult to go but that didn’t stop the king. Jehoshaphat justified his friendship and formed a marriage alliance with Ahab (II Chron. 18:1) The son of Jehoshaphat,  Jehoram would marry the daughter of Ahab, Athaliah. 

He would begin to think like Ahab, the more he was around Ahab, the farther he got away from God and what God wanted.  (Prov. 12:26) “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.”  This can happen to us too – the more we are close to sin. It doesn’t look sooooo bad and we can probably get away with it, right? We may even try to adapt scripture to read in a way so as to make it comfortable for the sinner so we don’t appear to be “judging” them. Is that doing them a service or disservice by hiding the complete truth from them?

Back to the story – It had been years since Syria and Israel had battled against each other. This is where Ahab starts convincing Jehoshaphat that it wouldn’t be so bad to join forces against the Syrians. Reminder: Ahab did not follow God’s ways and God separated them from Syria on purpose. Do you also see here how flesh is trying to join up with the ways of God by Ahab trying to convince Jehoshaphat to commit this act? Now, that’s something that every Christian can relate to, right!

In his defense though, Jehoshaphat replied:

3 b “I am as you are, and my people as your people; we will join you in the war.”  4 “But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, ‘First seek the counsel of the Lord.'” II Chron. 18  So sneaky Ahab, in an attempt to get his way, brings in his false prophets. Of course, they all (about 400 of them – II Chron. 18:5) agree with Ahab and attempt to convince Jehoshaphat that it’s perfectly fine with God. Still “something” tells Jehoshaphat it’s wrong so he asks if there’s any other prophets to consult with and Ahab has to admit that there is – the one prophet that Ahab hates because he is a devout man of God who “never prophesied good unto me” (Ahab in II Chron. 18:7). Uh, duh! That right there should have sent Jehoshaphat running the opposite direction. But no! So Micaiah comes before Ahab and Jehoshaphat after having been told what he should say so that they convince Jehoshaphat that their actions are perfectly fine with God. Micaiah refuses though and only speaks the truth from God. He tells Ahab that God allowed a “lying spirit” (II Chron. 18:21) to come to him and convince him to do wrong against God. Hello, Jehoshaphat, did you hear that? It’s a lie that all those 400 false prophets told you guys and yet you’re still considering it!

Even after Micaiah warns them not to go to Syria and fight, after Jehoshaphat hears Ahab express his hatred for the man of God (II Chron. 18:7) and after an unwillingness to acknowledge the true prophet’s continuous warnings on the life of Ahab  – the two kings, as “friends”,  ignore the warnings and it’s disastrous! Jehoshaphat followed Ahab into battle. Another loud “OH NO!” He followed the wrong guy! He should’ve been following God & listened to God’s man – Micaiah, & ran away, back to Judah. He deliberately becomes exactly as Ahab and jumps into this God forbidden battle ignoring God’s warning.  Just like we do when we go ahead and sin, knowing it’s sin, but our worldly friends are doing it so we use every means possible to justify it and pretend it’s ok.   So,  as we justify our alliances with non-believers and belittle the wrong they do, Jehoshaphat did the same. So much deceit and disobedience to God’s ways.  We tend to get closer and closer to sin until we make it into something not quite so bad and then we are able to stay there with no fear of God. That’s a scary place to be friend! Let’s see what happened next…

King Ahab even went so far as to use Jehoshaphat (his “friend” and alliance) in an attempt to guarantee his own life be spared (II Chron. 18:29). What a mess! Out in the middle of battle, with Ahab disguised so he wouldn’t get killed, the life of Jehoshaphat was out there among the enemy as free bait. But God was still with Jehoshaphat and He would still see His plan played out so he spared Jehoshaphat. Ahab would not be so fortunate, even after his wicked disguise and failed attempt to orchestrate the outcome. A random spear would kill Ahab and Jehoshaphat would return to Judah (II Chron. 18:33). So, there were consequences to the actions of Ahab after all and the words of God’s prophet came true.

Wow! What a predicament for Jehoshaphat, right! Well, the story proceeds with his return to Jerusalem where he meets up with Jehu.  This is where the king will get his consequence: Jehu speaks, “Should you help the wicked and love those that hate the LORD? Because of this wrath has gone out against you from the LORD. Nevertheless, some good is found in you, for you destroyed the Asherahs out of the land, and have set your heart to seek God.”(II Chron. 19:2)

Once again Jehoshaphat puts his eyes back on God (II Chron. 20:13). Judah battles again; the victory is theirs and no one is injured. God keeps them safe. They are also able to benefit materially from this victory as they took their “spoil” from the battle. It took them three days to gather all of it. (II Chron. 20:25) But was following God, staying safe, reaping provision & being God’s favor enough to keep his eyes on God? Yes, for a while.

Here we go again, Jehoshaphat decides to join up with the wicked king of Israel, Ahaziah. (II Chron. 20:35) Guess who he was – the son of Athaliah, (the daughter of Jezebel), & Jehoram, his own son. That made Ahaziah his grandson. After a failed attempt to build ships with King Ahaziah, because God caused them all to wreck, Jehoshaphat would go to “sleep with his fathers”.

Generation after generation would follow in the steps of the previous King and father.  Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram would kill his own brothers. (II Chron. 21: 4) He would also follow the ways of the kings of Israel since he was married to the daughter of Ahab.  He would do “evil in the sight of the Lord.” (II Chron. 21:6)  The end result was God causing “a great plague” on his people, children, wives, etc. and Jehoram would suffer a “severe sickness with a disease” of his bowels. (II Chron. 21:14-15) Jehoram died in “great agony” (II Chron. 21:19) The saddest part was that no one regretted or grieved his death. (II Chron. 21:20)

Next, the son of Jehoram, Ahaziah became King. He also “walked in the ways of the house of Ahab”, doing “what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” (II Chron. 22:3-4)
Wow! Had Jehoshaphat stayed close to God and made sure to raise his children to do the same, never compromising, never joining those against God….maybe, just maybe….this story would have had a very different outcome for his children. Just realizing how our sins can also sometimes influence the thinking of our children & future generations in our families. So sad!

Do you ever think about the fact that not every sermon is a “one size fits all” type of sermon? In all fairness, how can every one of them be anyway? Think about it. Who is the preacher preaching to in the congregation? Christians-lukewarm, on fire for God, and also the lost. But we also need to realize that he’s preaching to various ages and Christians of all spiritual ages too. Some are “baby Christians”; some are “more Spiritually mature Christians”. So, how does each & every person in that sanctuary comprehend the “big words”, (even though they come from the Bible), that are being preached from today’s pulpit? Well, unless the preacher defines them, within the context of his sermons, they don’t until they ask or go home & research it on their own. By that time it may be too late and then the person may have have lost the entire message and it’s purpose to his/her life. I started thinking about some of those “big words” and thought I’d do a little research for you if you’re one of those who question the “big words” but have forgotten to go further, yourself, to find out just what they mean.

Justification:

“Justification is the work of God where the righteousness of Jesus is reckoned to the sinner so the sinner is declared by God as being righteous under the Law (Rom. 4:3; 5:1,9; Gal. 2:16; 3:11). This righteousness is not earned or retained by any effort of the saved. Justification is an instantaneous occurrence with the result being eternal life. It is based completely and solely upon Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24) and is received by faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9). No works are necessary whatsoever to obtain justification. Otherwise, it is not a gift (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1).” (http://carm.org/justification-and-sanctification) “….we do not contribute to our justification through our efforts.”

Sanctification:
“Sanctification is the process of being set apart for God’s work and being conformed to the image of Christ. This conforming to Christ involves the work of the person. But it is still God working in the believer to produce more of a godly character and life in the person who has already been justified (Phil. 2:13). Sanctification is not instantaneous because it is not the work of God alone. The justified person is actively involved in submitting to God’s will, resisting sin, seeking holiness, and working to be more godly (Gal. 5:22-23). Significantly, sanctification has no bearing on justification. That is, even if we don’t live a perfect life, we are still justified.” (http://carm.org/justification-and-sanctification) “To sanctify also means to set apart for holy use. Therefore we can have verses that talk about us being sanctified already because God has set us apart for holy use.” (go to their web site for all the verses they reference at this point in the discussion) “….we contribute to sanctification through our efforts.”
Just as people in cults “confuse the two” differences between Justification and Sanctification, others do too, as explained further on the above mentioned site (http://carm.org/justification-and-sanctification) “People in cults don’t understand the difference between justification and sanctification. Therefore, they must depend upon a cooperative effort with God to have their sins forgiven which is, essentially, combining the filthy works of man (Isaiah 64:6) with the holy work of God. They don’t mix. They can’t. Hence, salvation is by grace through faith, alone. To believe anything else is to miss salvation.”
More BIG WORDS to come…….

“Wow! Look at that sinner over there! I’m glad I’m not THAT kind of sinner!” (thots you & I may not admit we’ve thought but maybe have?) While reflecting on God’s love for us & His call to obedience as He calls us to show that same love to others, I am reminded of just how He sees us. When He looks at me He doesn’t see me as my worst sin! My sins don’t label me as that sin! He doesn’t instruct me to love only those whose sin is on a “lower scale” than mine but to love every sinner as He loves this sinner-me! See, there is no scale to God! He sees all of our sin as the same! Even as Christians in the everyday church today we still tend to measure our sins by a scale of better & worse sins. Then we attempt to point out the “worse” sins of others & totally disregard our “mediocre” sins. Just because we haven’t been outwardly caught in our sin or we haven’t had our sin paraded out in front of the whole world or even our own church family doesn’t mean that our sin is any different to God! We are all struggling with our sins, some may seem more than others only because maybe they’re being more transparent than we are. Could you imagine all your sins (mine included) being on a screen in front of your church family? How would that make us feel? I’m so thankful they aren’t but more importantly I’m thankful what God has shown me about my sins & His love for me in spite of those sins. I know it sounds like a cliche’ but ever heard “love the sinner, hate the sin?” That’s God! My identity is not based on my sins just like yours aren’t either! It’s based on who I am to God and His amazing love for me! So I hope you’re encouraged by His love for you too! There is NOTHING, absolutely nothing you could ever do that would change His love for you! The same goes for me too! As a Christian I’m expected to be holy as He is holy & to love as He loves. Then with the guidance & power of His Holy Spirit, and allowing Him to bring my sin into the light, through His grace & forgiveness I am able to receive His love and resist the temptation to act on my sins & I’m able to resist the lies of the enemy-Satan-who “seeks who he will destroy!” Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart deviseth his way: But the Lord directeth his steps.” I may not choose my sins or desires that tempt me but I do have free will to choose whether or not to act on them. Prov. 16:3 assures me that if I set out to resist a specific sin that God will establish that plan. (“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”) Galatians 5:17 says, ” For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. ” Galatians 5:16 tells us how to win: ” But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. ” The Holy Spirit gives us victory. So before we go out and mistreat or hate someone because of their sin we need to check ourselves against God’s definition of sinner and admit that we’re all in the same boat! Satan finds what we’ll believe, tells us lies about who we are and that God could never love that kind of sinner and we miss out on the amazing & powerful love of the Heavenly Father! Accept that love from God and then watch how the closer you get to Him the more resistance you’ll be able to exercise toward submitting to the specific sins you’re struggling with today. You won’t turn perfect but you’ll have the advantage over sin that you won’t be facing it alone any more in your own limited power, just like me & mine. The depth of God’s love – John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In obedience to His Word I share His love with you & pray you find the true meaning of love – His love and then allow Him to direct your paths.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Vision_of_The_Valley_of_The_Dry_Bones.jpg

Remember the old song: “The toe bone connected to the heel bone…”? While reading a section of my husband’s devotional, (Stand Firm, Jan. 2013), this morning I read about this old song and a passage of scripture in Ezekiel. It really spoke to me because of the recent resignation of our church pastor and thinking of the body of Christ. There are several verses to go to about the body of Christ, the unity of believers, the command to love others and all be of one mind but I never really considered this passage (Ezekiel 37:1-10) until now.

Allow me to refresh your memory: as this specific devotional explains it is good – “It’s based on an amazing Old Testament story of Ezekiel’s account of the Lord setting him down in the middle of a valley full of old, dry bones. God gave Ezekiel a message that brought those bones back to life. That’s right. God put dead bones back together with new tendons, new muscles, new breath, and new blood, again functioning as one body.”

That description of the body of Christ was, although maybe a bit gross to think about, a very good illustration of how God is able to breath life back into a church also. Where once people were maybe hurt, broken, “dead” – God can heal & put the pieces back together. God can bring life and unity to the body of Christ where, perhaps, discord & loss of hope now seem to exist.

Just as Ezekiel had a role to play in this restoration and was asked to obey God, we, as a body of Christ, have a role to play in the present day restoration of the body of Christ. We, too, have to obey God by (1) humbly recognizing our place in the body of Christ, (2) acknowledging God as the head of the body & not us, (3) showing love, forgiveness & grace to the rest of the body, (4) confessing, repenting & wanting what God wants – restoration of the body of Christ. Until we are willing to participate & obey then there will continue to be hypocrisy, clique’s, discord, & the body of Christ will not receive the blessings God has in store for us. The body of Christ will remain as these “dead bones” and the life that He wants to provide to this body, as a union of believers, will not be experienced. The reputation of the body will continue to diminish and the outside world won’t be interested in anything we have to say, even though from God.

We, as the body, have responsibilities to the lost. It may seem like a huge burden but people watch us-even people IN the body, along side of us. People aren’t interested in our sermons and Bible lessons if we’re not “practicing what we’re preaching.” They expect to come to us to get love, forgiveness and to see Christ in us. When the body isn’t even showing it to each other, the outside world is gradually giving up ever finding it.

I know I’ve taken this blog all different directions but the hope I received by the Stand Firm devotional is this:

Just as God breathed life & unity back to the dry & dead bones in Ezekiel’s day

Just as Ezekiel chose to participate & to obey God

God brought restoration where there seemed no hope & no life.

As a Moth to the Flame

Posted: May 5, 2012 in Uncategorized
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A Moth to the Flame picture borrowed from http://ithoughtitup.
wordpress.com/2009/12/10/my-cocoon-of-silk/

Have you ever wondered why a moth flies into the fire? You may have several good guesses but I googled it to be sure my guess what correct. This is what I found: “The answer is quite widely misunderstood. Moths are nocturnal. Their brains aren’t so big, but there is an instinct present in them used for location. When they’re flying at night, they will keep the moon in one eye, in the same spot. The purpose is to fly in a straight line. To travel back, they just put it in the other eye, in the same spot. When people happen to have a candle burning outside, the moths get quite confused. They see the moon, but also see the brighter light. They try the same trick with the candle, keep it in one spot of their eye, spiral into it, and burn….” (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=200 80722012859AAnMrUM)

My devotion today was about “Rekindling the Flame of Our Ministry.” (excerpt taken from In Touch May 2012 devotional) I wasn’t sure what that exactly meant but soon came to realize that it’s easy to let circumstances in life “lead to discouragement…where the Spirit seems absent and no fruit is visible”. My take on this was that it’s easy to get off track. Like the moth, we have to keep our focus on the “Light=Jesus”, to stay on the straight path and to avoid letting distractions steer us off the right path so we don’t “get burned.”

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NIV) “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

The other point to this devotion was how to “rekindle our flame”.

1.) “Refill: Ministry is exciting when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, but everyone springs a leak now and then. Get on your knees before the Lord and ask for a refill. Examine your life, repent of any sins, and submit to His leadership in every area.”

2.) “Refocus: Nothing dims the flame like fixing your eyes on the problem. Whenever we focus on obstacles, they grow larger. But when we shift our eyes to Christ, he becomes bigger than any problem we face.”

3.) “Reject: When we’re down, the Devil whispers his lies into our minds: You can’t do this. No one appreciates you. Why not call it quits? We need to recognize all discouraging thoughts as coming from him – and reject them.”

4.) “Retreat: Turn off Phone, electronics, and entertainment, and get away with the Lord to rekindle your intimate relationship with Him.”

“After going through all these steps, you will be able to return to ministry with new enthusiasm and commitment. Hard circumstances may remain, but you’ll be equipped to handle them because the Spirit’s flame is burning brightly within you. Rely on Him, and He will empower you for service.”