The Christian’s “Moment of Truth”

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The phrase “moment of truth” first appeared in Earnest Hemingway’s 1932 bullfighting story “Death in the Afternoon,” from Spanish el momento de la verdad.(1) In a bullfight, the “moment of truth” is when

“to end a bullfight, the matador takes his sword and must get the bull to charge straight at him, so that he can lean over the bull’s horns and kill him by stabbing just behind the back of the head. Many matadors can do very graceful and artistic moves with the cape and the maleta (the red cloth-on-a stick used to lure the bull) but lack the nerve to do the final killing properly. The ‘moment of truth’ is when he and the audience find out if he really has what it takes.”(2)

The phrase has come to mean a decisive moment of a challenge or test in which one finds if they have the strength, integrity, and courage to do the right thing. For the one who follows God, the phrase as come to mean a time in which we are tested by a temptation or a situation in which we see how strong our faith is and how much we really depend on God.

Believers Standing in the Moment of Truth

In a time of trial or temptation, our character is revealed. The Bible is filled with examples of faithful men and women who stood strong in the face of severe trial.

When David faced the giant Goliath he had great confidence in God’s ability to bring a victory, 1 Samuel 17:31-27. David knew Goliath was defying the armies of Israel, 1 Samuel 17:23-24. Even though King Saul, the brothers of David, and Goliath had no faith in David, in the moment of truth, David’s faith in God brought about a victory.

The book of Daniel begins with Daniel and friends courageously requesting a special diet that would allow them not to violate their conscience though they were new captives under a conquering government. They rose to positions of power and were challenged with a test of faith: Nebuchadnezzar built a golden image and commanded others to worship it on a given time. Daniels friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, had a chance to give up and live or obey God with a chance to die. Though cast into the fiery furnace they were protected from the fire and Nebuchadnezzar was taught a lesson.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed fervently in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was heavy with sorrow and struggled with the violent death He was about to face and the anguish His family and friends would endure. Matthew 26:36-46 tells how Jesus trusted the Father to strengthen Him in trial and take care of Him through death.

We could give many other examples: Abraham being commanded to offer Isaac, apostles being brought before the worldly powers and commanded to quit preaching Jesus, the Christians persecuted from town to town, etc. These examples demonstrate how God’s people will often find times in their lives when they face a test or a temptation, a “moment of truth”, where their faith and obedience is tested.

Our Moment of Truth

We will all face moments of truth. Our friends and family may not know we are facing the test: it may come when we are alone or around strangers away from home. Our loved ones may be going through a moment of truth and we do not realize it.

Our moment of truth may be a very public test with people we love, perhaps fellow Christians, watching to see how we will react when tested. We often do not know when these times will come. Sometimes they are disguised as small decisions about whether to do the right or wrong thing.

One against allIn high school, a friend of mine made what seemed like a small decision to hang out with some friends of poor moral character instead of the good friends that he used to hang out with. Soon they were involved in things like alcohol and drugs and, after being caught breaking into the school to steal some sound equipment, was sent away to live with his father in another state and to go down a different path.

Sometimes the test is obvious and you know that this decision will send you on a path closer to or farther away from God.

As a teenager I faced such a decision knowing that choosing one path would lead to a life of selfish and sinful living and the other path would lead to a devotion to Jesus and serving Him. I sat all afternoon on a mountain side contemplating my decision, counting the cost and examining my heart, with a determination that I would choose my path at sunset and live with it.

Many times the test will come when you are bruised, broken down, tired, abandoned, misunderstood, and feel that everyone has given up on you. At those times it is easy to give up on doing the right thing and giving into sin. It is when you are beat up and exhausted that you must dig deep and find the character to stand up, do the right thing, and prevail.

Revelation 2:10 – “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Don’t give up, don’t quit

The moment of victory is often disguised as defeat. Popular superhero movies often show the hero rejected by the public, misunderstood by his family and friends, confused about himself, and doubting his ability to achieve victory but, when it appears defeat is imminent, he finds the strength to gain a victory.

There are many real life examples of people who have been in the same position who, in the moment of truth, stood up to do the right thing amidst doubts from self and others and opposition and gained a victory for good.

We must fight diligently for if we are fighting to overcome sin, God is fighting on our side—but we must not give up the fight. If we are still fighting a long battle, it means that the enemy has not won. He may not be defeated yet, but he does not have the victory! We must not hand Satan a victory and must remember that he will not give up ground that he thinks he can win.

Preparing for the trial and temptation

How can we stand alone like young David on the plain facing the giant, courageous like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the face of the angry and powerful king, or determined like Jesus going to a violent death, or the early Christians facing persecution with great humility and resolve to do what is right?

  • Wear your spiritual armor in the time of trial and temptation, Ephesians 6:10-18
  • Study God’s word
    • Teaches you what you should do, right and wrong, and how you should act
    • Teaches you what Satan and his followers do and how they act (what not to do)
    • Provides promises of God’s strength and heavenly reward to allow you to endure whatever trial knowing you have a greater reward that awaits you.
    • Provides godly wisdom of how to act during the time of trial.
    • Gives examples of great men and women of faith who endured great trials and overcame evil.
  • Pray for God’s wisdom and strength to endure all trials
    • You need God’s power to stand up under the time of trial.
    • Consider Jesus’ example in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38)
    • Colossians 1:9-11: “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,”
  • Be courageous and stand firm in the power of God as David, Daniel and his friends, and many Bible examplesdemonstrate.
    • 1 Timothy 6:11-12: “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
    • James 4:7-8: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

If you are living as a child of God every day, studying, praying, actively doing good, forsaking evil, and devoting your life to Christ, you will be ready when you find yourself in the moment of truth.

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(1) http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=moment+of+truth

(2) http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/44/messages/814.html

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3 Life Lessons for Earthly and Spiritual Success

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Graduating seniors and newlyweds receive well-meaning, often good, sometimes wrong life advice. Older people want to help others enjoy the blessings of life and avoid unnecessary difficulty. Even at Godly Youth I share guidance from the Bible, my life, and the lives of others to help others develop a closer relationship with God and live godly on this earth. There are many important principles to follow but I want to share three lessons that every person must learn.

Law of the Harvest

The first life principle we must recognize is what Steven Covey called the “Law of the Harvest.” The Law of the Harvest recognizes that actions have inescapable consequences. Much of life’s pleasure and pain is a direct result of our choices. God will judge us based on the things we have done, Romans 2:1-11. Consider Paul’s message to the Galatians:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Galatians 6:7 (NKJV)

Organic Rice Field With Dew DropsPositive choices lead to positive consequences. Poor choices lead to negative consequences. You cannot kill someone as a drunk driver if you don’t get drunk. If your relationships are in turmoil and there is negative drama in your life consider your actions. Do you lose your temper? Do you gossip or lie? Are you doing immoral things with your friends? Are you enjoying good health and happiness because you have chosen to do things that do not harm your body or trouble your heart? Have you chosen friends who help you be more like Jesus or take you away from God?

We cannot control everything that affects the quality of our life but we can decide how we respond. Hardship can harden us or strengthen us; it’s our choice. We can dwell on the negative things cruel people say or focus on the positive things said by those who love us.

So the first life lesson is remember the Law of the Harvest and make good choices about who you are with, what you do, and how you react to the events of life. Make good choices at church, school, and work in order to grow and succeed spiritually, educationally, and professionally. Make good choices in dating relationships and marriage to strengthen your relationship. Always remember that some decisions seem small and insignificant but could have a profound change in the outcome of your life.

Mind Over Matter

The second principle is about self-control and self-direction. Some are slaves to their bodies and fleshly desires. They indulge their desires and rarely say “no” to the flesh. In order to succeed in life and grow spiritually we must control our desires.

In order to be physically fit and generate energy we must eat wisely and exercise frequently. I have to resist the urge to skip my workout in favor of sleep, an unhealthy meal, or any other activity. While exercising I often must ignore my physical desire to quit during a session and continue biking, running on the treadmill, or lifting weights while being aware of signals that I need to quit for my safety or to stay hydrated. At the restaurant, I need to order wisely and avoid junk food. The Law of the Harvest tells me that poor choices in the gym or at the restaurant will lead to poor results, Mind Over Matter reminds me that my spirit can control my flesh and my mind can overrule the body.

Dog With Leather LeashDogs are great animals but God did not give them higher reasoning. When you bring home a puppy, it is a bundle of uncontrolled desires: eat, drink, sleep, poop, and play. None of these desires are wrong but they are not always properly exercised. For example, it is good for the dog to eat and drink from his bowls but not from the garbage can and toilet bowl. After eating he will need to poop and we want him to do it outside, not on the carpet. We want the dog to sleep in a proper place and not to play by chewing our shoes. Since we cannot reason with the dog, what do we do? We train them.

By training the dog we teach it to overcome its desire to dig into the trash, drink from the toilet, soil the carpet, eat the shoes, and sleep on the pillow. We punish bad behavior by yelling “no” and making a loud noise or squirting it with water. We also reward good behavior with praise and treats. In fact, we can teach it to do tricks and perform acts, like playing fetch, through rewards.

In a similar way, we can bring our flesh under the control of the spirit. Romans 7:13-25 describes a war within our bodies between the spirit and the flesh. The flesh, like the dog, is incapable of following God. It is a collection of desires that are not wrong but can be used in a wrong way: hunger, thirst, sex, sleep, seek pleasure and avoid pain, and stay alive. Sex is not wrong in marriage but God condemns it outside of the marriage relationship. Thirst is not wrong but drunkenness is. Sleep is not wrong but laziness is sinful. It is not wrong to preserve our life but if we have to renounce Christ to save our life we will be lost eternally, Matthew 10:33. Christians must bring their body under the control of their mind, and the mind under the will of God.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.  Romans 6:12-14 (NKJV)

Finish Well

The final life lesson is that when we start worthy goals and efforts we must finish them. I am hesitant to say “finish what you started” because we sometimes start things that are a waste of time that could be put to a better use. There is no sense stubbornly finishing something just because you started it if there is a better way to use your time. Of course, this means we need to be wise about what we start so we can use our time effectively.

Man on top of mountain. Conceptual design.Assuming you have begun a worthy task, finish it. Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, “For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words.” Many people can talk a good game and babble about what they are going to do but the dream becomes reality through effort (activity). We can excited starting a new project or planning a new effort but when difficulties come we are challenged to stay focused and keep working until we reach the goal.

This principle will help us to be successful in life. Finishing school or work projects well require dedication and hard work. Success in sports requires us to work hard in practice when no one is cheering and finishing strong even if we are losing. I saw a tweet recently that said, “Commitment is staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”  We can only enjoy the sense of accomplishment when we have crossed the finished line.

Spiritually, we need to finish well. 2 Peter 2:18-22 warns us not to be entangled in sin after leaving a life of sin lest we be disgusting in his sight. Hebrews 6:1-8 warns that we can leave God and develop a hard heart that will not want to return to God, crucifying Jesus again in our lives. Colossians 1:21-23 promises reconciliation is we remain steadfast and unmoved from our commitment to God and His will. We need to maintain our commitment to Christ until death even if we must do so in the face of persecution. We must not give up when we are tired but keep going knowing that our work is not a waste of time, Galatians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:58. Consider the warning and exhortation of the Hebrew writer:

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the  just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. Hebrews 10:35-39

Final Thoughts

In order to have a successful and satisfying life on earth, usefulness in God’s kingdom, and an eternal home with God remember to make good choices for a good harvest, control your flesh with the spirit, and pursue good efforts and goals until they are completed.

Five Principles for a Focused Life

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Dart boardDanger lurks in the soil of your heart. The Parable of the Sower (or Soils) tells of hearts that will not entertain thoughts of God’s word and good hearts that bear great harvests when His word is implanted (Matthew 13).  Some hearts are shallow and bear faith that will wither when troubles arise. But there is another heart that I must vigilantly prevent being in me: the distracted heart. Jesus described a heart in which the word grew for a time but thorns also grew in the heart and choked out the word. This is the heart that “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22). Distractions are a persistent danger to God’s people and have always threatened us. How can we protect ourselves?

Five Principles for a Focused Life

1. Don’t let prosperity separate you from God

Wealth brings worries and burdens. Solomon wrote of the many hands that rise to claim the wealth of others in Ecclesiastes 5:10-20.  Many rise to get their part of the wealth: accountants, lawyers, government, friends, and family. A bigger house, multiple cars, and many possessions require insurance to protect and people to clean and maintain them. More money doesn’t guarantee relief but often more problems. Lottery winners (Tampa Bay Online) Noreene and James Gordon, a north Tampa homemaker and a retired textile worker, claimed the February 2000 Florida Lotto jackpot of $52.4 million. They chose a one-time lump sum payment of $24 million. Things have changed since then. “It’s a nightmare,” she said recently, with friends and strangers knocking and calling for a chunk of her prize. “They don’t want a piece,” she said. “They want it all.” Her husband died in 2006, and she has suffered three strokes since the windfall. “People come out of the walls to take advantage of you every day of your life,” she said before ending the short telephone interview.

Wealth and comfort can separate you from God. This was a problem with Israel: Deuteronomy 8:5-14, 17-20. God described, in great detail, the great blessing of the Promised Land but concluded with a warning that they would forget Him in the good times. They would become complacent in the daily care of their homes and land and forget to serve Him. Pride can accompany prosperity: we think we have done this on our own and that, down deep, we can do fine without God. This was the danger Jesus identified in the Parable of the Sower: maintaining our prosperity and handling the details of daily life can choke out our faith.

This is a threat for all of us. This is not addressed to the “super rich” or the vilified 1% in America—it is the average American. The average American income, and even poverty level income, is much higher than the rest of the world. The poorest of us are very wealthy compared to the world. We have garages that are bigger than the whole living space of many people. We have garages and attics full of unused possessions, clothes filling our closets, and refrigerators, freezers, and pantries full of food. Our children have luxury items and people still do not seem to be satisfied or content. There are people in the US and other wealthy countries who complain about luxuries they have when others are living in abject poverty with absolutely nothing. It is the everyday American living comfortably who has to make sure that he does not forget God.

2. Don’t let adversity separate you from God

Job 14:1 describes man’s days as few and full of troubles. Trials and adversity should produce good fruits in the Christian’s life. James encourages us to “count it joy when you fall into various trials” because of the fruits produced, James 1:2-8, 12. Joy in not our first natural reaction and we should pray for wisdom to understand how to learn and grow from our trials. It is through trials that we receive patience, trust, dependence on God, and appreciation of His care. Trials help us sever our relationship with this troublesome world and grow homesick for heaven where all will be made new and no suffering abides.

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus described a heart that withered during persecution and trial, symbolized by the sun. Yet the sun, shining over the good soil, nurtured a great crop. Trials that withered the shallow heart helped the good heart to grow and bear fruit!  Trials and adversity are a part of life, it is how we handle them that determines whether they will crush us or strengthen us.

Jim happened to meet the minister on the street one day, and during the conversation told him of all the troubles he had had during the past year. He wound up with: “I tell you right now, preacher, it’s enough to make a man lose his religion.” “Seems to me, Jim,” the minister told him quietly, “it’s enough to make a man use his religion.” Tan, P. L. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations.

Trials reveal the genuineness of our faith, 1 Peter 1:7. We must remember that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

3. Trust God with the unknown things

We must realize that God’s greatness and wisdom exceeds ours and there are so many things in His domain of operation that we can’t grasp or know but trust that He has it in control. Deuteronomy 29:29 reminds us “the secret things belong to God.”

People spend much fruitless energy trying to identify with certainty the things that operate in God’s realm. Unless God explicitly reveals His actions, it is presumptuous of me to say “God did THIS.” Give glory to God that whether by chance or His purpose, the action took place but in humility remember that “His ways are past finding out.”

I don’t have to know how God will answer my prayers, I have to trust in Him to give all things to Him. God’s word promises peace to those who give everything into His care, Philippians 4:6-7. We often do not have peace because we do not really trust God to take care of our concerns or we insist on taking the burden back from Him. Peter tells us to cast all of our anxiety on God; an act of faith in His love, care, and ability to do something about that which is causing us anxiety, 1 Peter 5:6-7. This approach allows us to embrace the next principle.

4. Trust God to make all things work out for good

God promises that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” Romans 8:28. This is a promise of God and I trust that He can do this even when I don’t know how He will do it and when I don’t see how He could make it happen. He is the master designer of a grand work of art and I am one of many artisans toiling on my very small part of the whole. If I do what I’m supposed to do God will make it part of something much larger and more beautiful.

Funny how we label things “bad” and “good” (sleep, day, events) when, in time, our labels may reverse. Some people lose a job but it opens doors to a great career. Some people get a terrible disease “bad” but attribute it to giving them a better appreciation for their loved ones and the little things in life and bringing them closer to God. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was an atheistic Russian writer who was imprisoned in a Russian forced labor camp (Gulag) but emerged with a belief in God and wrote, “Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”

Don’t try to look for God’s fingerprints in your life, just trust that He is there and He works all things in your life for the good.

5. Remember heaven is worth every sacrifice

The word pictures in places like Revelation 2:1-5; 12-15; 21:1-4 remind us that God has prepared a place of rest that exceeds our imagination and dreams and is worth any sacrifice needed to get there. Like other great men and women of faith, when we focus on living with God eternally, we lose our grip on the things of this world as we grasp heavenly treasures, Hebrews 10:32-39. Considering the glory of living with God forever, Paul says nothing should separate us from it, Romans 8:18, 31-39.

Live a life not trusting in riches but trusting God, standing strong in trial, and casting anxieties on Him looking forward to eternally living with Him.

The Church as a Spiritual Emergency Room

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Visit a busy hospital emergency roomand you will see a variety of tragic injuries:

  • Self-inflicted: damage either through intentional injury to oneself or neglect of one’s health that led to a crisis
  • Accidental: unintentional injury by family, friends, or strangers
  • Intentional: suffering because family, friends, or strangers intended to bring the person harm
  • Fatigue and Exhaustion: feel like giving up which might lead to self-inflicted harm

Doctors assess the injuries and process the injured with hopes of recovery. Some injuries are severe and the patient may be damaged for life or even die. Some injuries, with care and healthy treatment, can be healed and the patient can enjoy a full recovery. But injuries require wise intervention and care in order to have a chance for success.

Spiritual TraumaEmergency

A discerning eye will notice the hurt and drama beneath the surface of some who are suffering spiritual trauma in the local assembly. Spiritual injuries may mimic physical injuries and like the emergency room patient, these souls need treatment from the Great Physician to find healing. Jesus described Himself as a physician to the spiritual needs of humanity:

And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

It makes sense that Christians would work with The Great Physician to comfort  the spiritually sick and nurse them back to health. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul urged Christians to “comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” In this sense, the family of God can serve as a spiritual hospital providing care to the spiritually sick, injured, and dying. The injuries in the local assembly often resemble the physical injuries in an emergency room.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Intentional: Some suffer spiritual pain and damage because of poor choices. They knew the right way but chose to sin. The sinner can ask for forgiveness but may reap earthly consequences. Proverbs 5:7-14 warns the young man not to get caught up in sexual sin lest:

you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” (ESV)

Neglect: Some suffer spiritually because they neglected their spiritual health. Just as neglecting to exercise and eat right will lead to physical problems, neglecting the exercise of godliness and nourishment from God’s word will cause us spiritual injury. The Hebrew writers warned that we need to focus on our salvation lest we drift away from it, Hebrews 2:1-3.

Both spiritual wounds can be healed though there may be lasting scars. When a sinner repents, the spiritual need to nourish them back to health. Sometimes we may need to help them deal with ongoing consequences of sin. We might need to help them forgive themselves. We must provide help without belittling them and help them leave the past in the past. Most are acutely aware of the consequences of their actions and condemn themselves far more than we could. If they have sought forgiveness, we need to help them rebuild and turn their defeat into a victory for God.

When someone realizes the spiritual weakness brought on by neglect there is an opportunity for Christians to provide growth opportunities. Personal teaching and team involvement in service to God can help the person grow and become strong in their faith. We cannot undo years of wasted opportunity but we can begin today to build a better tomorrow. One of my favorite quotes to encourage me when I feel I have wasted opportunities is “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today.”

Accidental Injuries

A person could be reeling from emotional pain or spiritual discouragement because of the careless words of well meaning individuals. A friend who worked with parents who lost young children recounted the many dumb things that people will say to a grieving parent with intent to provide comfort. I was in a situation where a brother with good intentions said something to a visitor that was a great discouragement to him. These are not instances of bullying but carelessness that results in injury. Christians can help the injured get resolution with the offending person to begin healing. If the offender is unwilling to apologize or does not acknowledge the wrong, Christians should help the injured heal and put the incident behind them.

Intentional Injuries

Someone may enter you assembly who is the victim of a deliberate attack on their character, motives, or faith. Perhaps they have been assaulted by those who, like Diotrophes, run the local church like a tyrant or by a clique (which should not be present) that mistreats those out of “the” group. It may be enemies of the faith have been assailing their commitment to God and the Bible and belittling their faith. It could be any form of abuse where someone uses the faith to manipulate, use, and control another person. Paul warned Timothy of those who would have an appearance of godliness but harm others. The abusive nature of the Pharisees in the New Testament towards Jesus, His followers, and those who were healed demonstrate oppression by those who have an appearance of godliness.

Christians have a responsibility to stand against faith abusers. We must not let spiritual bullies intimidate the weak or immature and must not ignore their ungodly behavior. Sometimes these spiritual bullies can be preachers, elders, teachers, prominent members, and those who have a prominent role in the local church or the community. We must never forget that the church belongs to Christ, purchased with His blood, and no man or woman should be allowed to exercise such damaging influence. Local churches can be rendered impotent or ultimately destroyed by such people. Those who are strong should stand up for the weak, and for the Lord, against such behavior in hopes of preventing injuries and perhaps turning the heart of the bully back to God.

Christians also have a responsibility to demonstrate the true love of Christ in helping the victims of spiritual attack to heal. We have to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit in our lives and help them to understand that the abuse was not pleasing to God no matter how favorably other Christians may have viewed the abuser. Sometimes people may come from an abusive situation to be part of the local Christian family. We must remember to show hospitality and, in this case, put the “hospital” in “hospitality.” We are helping them build new friendships and rebuild Christian associations. Many are going to feel vulnerable and may hesitate to get involved with others again in order to avoid being hurt. This is an effect of spiritual shock and warm reception and acceptance will help them feel like they can love their brethren again. Hospitality allows us to demonstrate our love and acceptance and help them heal from spiritual trauma. Remember that some people have thicker skin and and can react somewhat detached and logical in the face of problems, some have thinner skin (neither good nor bad) and feel the pain of strife, struggle, and separation more acutely. Some may take time to feel comfortable blending into a new congregation and hospitality will help them feel more like family.

We must also comfort and assist those attacked by outside forces. I remember a few years ago several Christians comforting and encouraging a high school girl who stood up for her faith and the teaching of scripture and received venomous comments and vicious attacks on a web site when a class mate posted her comments on an atheism group. Those of us who have been attacked for our faith can provide comfort and guidance to those under attack.

Fatigue and Exhaustion

Look around the audience during the next assembly. That brother or sister giving you a weak smile may be holding on to a little faith, faintly resisting the urge to give up, but may feel ready to quit fighting. There may be more fatigued brethren present than you realize. Sometimes I have been surprised to discuss with someone I perceived to have strong faith and a close relationship with God about their thoughts of committing spiritual suicide; to just give up. Some are beat down by trials in life (trials that give others strength). Some are burned out by godly service, family obligations, or prolonged spiritual battles. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Paul reminds us of our responsibilities in these situations: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.”

Warn those who are out of line: perhaps the spiritual bullies, those who are disruptive, or negligent in their faith and leading others astray. Those who are not rebellious do not need warning but encouragement. “Fainthearted” is used several times in the Old Testament of those who are fearful in the presence of a great enemy. Do not belittle them or chide them for a lack of faith; give them comfort. For those who are weak, bear their burden and be a crutch to help them until they can stand again. Whether the trial is physical or spiritual, they need us to keep them from falling. Whether we think they should be stronger or should handle their situation differently is irrelevant; we need to be patient with them and encourage their faithfulness.

Receiving the Weak and Suffering

When we are aware of hurting brethren, we should then nourish, comfort, and bandage their wounds. “Inasumuch as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

Many feel unwanted when they come into our assembly. They are “congregationally homeless.” Some have endured sniping comments, unfair criticism, lost friendships, and isolation. When these brethren walk through our doors they are very vulnerable. They do not feel wanted and we cannot tell them by words or actions that we don’t want them here. Not only do we want them, we need them! The Lord wants them. We must be the expression of God’s love to them by our words and actions.

The symbol of American freedom, the Statue of Liberty, calls out

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.””

How much more should the Lord’s church.

The 5 Most Important Days in a Christian’s Life

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CalendarIf you live 80 full years, you will live 29,200 days. Some days pass by slowly and others like the blink of an eye. Some days you want to end and some days you want to last forever. Those days may include weddings and funerals, celebrations and consolation, the best and worst of times. But of all the days in your life, there are five that are the most important.

First Day: When You Were Born

You were given an eternal soul at conception and the day of your birth started your journey outside of your mother’s womb. Though you were defenseless and helpless, you would grow and become more independent. Of the billions of people who have lived on this Earth for many thousands of years you were unique and there will be no one, even a twin or your child, who will be exactly like you.

Second Day: When You Realized Why

Dr. Kevin Elko cited these first two days as being so important. At some point in life you have or will wonder why you are here or what is your purpose in life. You have unique talents and abilities and the opportunity to do good or harm with your actions. Sometimes we ask in sadness, perhaps feeling rejected and worthless, wondering why we are alive and doubting that it is for a good reason. Such is the voice of depression and we should ignore it.

But why are we here? I don’t think that God has a detailed plan for our life  that we must discover through vague feelings and events in our lives. God does have a big plan for us: Titus 2:11-14. God created us to glorify Him as He blesses us as His children. He gives us the choice of how we want to live that life, Ecclesiastes 11:8-10; 12:131-14.

So what do you want to accomplish in your life? How do you want to use your talents to live a life that makes the world a better place and glorifies God? When you find that answer, it will be the second greatest day in your life.

Third Day: When You Take Ownership of Your Life

What does it mean to take ownership? When you buy a car and have paid the full amount you are given a title of ownership which indicates you have control over it. You can choose to sell it, paint it with polka dots, modify it, beat it with a sledgehammer, or anything else that is not illegal. You are responsible for taking care of it and repairing any damage that is your fault. As owner, you have control over it.

God has given us ownership of our lives in that we are responsible for the consequences of our actions. As God, He maintains ownership of His creation but requires us to be good stewards, or caretakers, of our lives and the opportunities we are given. Ecclesiastes 11:9 and 12:14 reminds us that God wants us to enjoy life but with an eye towards judgment. Romans 2:1-11 teaches that our actions on earth will influence our eternal destiny. Hebrews 9:27 also reminds us of the individual judgment of each person. God will not  judge us by our parents or grandparents faithfulness or wickedness.

Each of us will face God to give an accounting for how we’ve lived and receive judgment from Him. The accounting should remind us of the parables of stewardship, such as the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 24:14-30, where the master gave the servants money (a talent was a measure of money) and expected them to do good things with it when he was away. He came back to judge how they used the money in his service. The master rewarded those who used the talents in a positive way . The master punished the man who did nothing with his talent. Consider how we are to give an accounting to our master on Judgment Day based on how we have used the abilities and opportunities God gave us:

  • Romans 14:11-13: Each of us will give an accounting to God
  • Hebrews 4:12-14: All things in our life will be laid open before God but his word can help us prepare for that accounting
  • Matthew 12:36: We will give account for every idle, or casual, word
  • 1 Peter 4:1-6: The wicked will give an account of their wasted life and be punished

When we take ownership of our actions and realize that when we do right or wrong there is no one responsible but ourselves, we will grow in maturity and realize the control God has given us over our eternal destiny. Some people live their lives blaming other people and events for all that is going on in their lives. We cannot control the events or what other people do, but we can choose how we will react to it and what impact it will make in our lives. Some people have been through evil at the hands of others or terrible personal problems out of their control yet became stronger and closer to God as a result. It is up to us.

Fourth Day: When You Become God’s Child

When we realize that God has given us a life to enjoy yet with an eye towards judgment and that we are responsible for our lives, the next day should come naturally: the day we become God’s child. In Acts 2:36-38, those who called for Jesus’ death realized, at Peter’s preaching, that He was the Son of God and wanted forgiveness. Peter told them to believe and be baptized, or immersed, to receive forgiveness of sins. Galatians 3:26-27 says that we become the children of God through faith and put on Christ in baptism. The day we realize that we are responsible for our relationship with God and dedicate our life to Him by becoming His child, is the greatest of the five days we are discussing.

Day Five: Day of Judgment

The song “There’s A Great Day Coming” describes the greatness in magnitude of the Day of Judgment. It describes the happy day for the children of God who go on to their reward and the sad day when those who reject God go into punishment, 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; Hebrews 10:26-31; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15. As Hebrews 9:27 points out, we all have that appointment.

God’s children must prepare now for that day. God’s word, as described earlier, can help us see ourselves as God sees us. We can see the good things that we must continue and the bad things we need to eliminate. Attention to God’s word can help us prepare for a favorable judgment, 2 Timothy 2:15. Paul further tells Timothy that God’s word is completely sufficient to equip him for all he needs to know and do to please God, 2 Timothy 3:13-17. Though God will judge our deeds, Ephesians 2:4-10 reminds us that we are saved through grace. If we rebel against God and are disobedient, we lose access to that grace (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Let us live every day to the glory of God, zealous for good works done to His honor and praise, and enjoy the life God has given us. Then every day will be a blessed day in God’s presence.

Whoever Calls on the Name of the Lord will be Saved

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For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved
Romans 10:13

We can take great comfort in the fact that Jesus died so we could have eternal life.  Paul told the Romans that “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord?

The Context of Romans 10:13

Beginning in the first part of the book, Paul argued that the Jews under the Old Law did not keep the Law completely (so as to earn justification) and failed when they tried to establish their own righteousness.  Since one cannot earn righteousness because of sin, man needed God to develop a means of removing sin and allowing man to once again live in harmony with Him.

Paul wrote that the righteousness of God is obtained through faith.  Faith is belief based on the word of God (Romans 10:9, 14) coupled with obedience to the word (James 2:14-26).  Without faith, we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).

In Romans 10, Paul says that one must believe in Jesus and confess Him before He can be saved.  If this were all that was written about salvation,  this is all one would have to do.  However, there are other passages that tell us what we must do  to  “call on the name of the Lord.”  Some passages tell us that repentance is necessary for  salvation.  Other passages tell us that we must be baptized and live godly lives in order to have salvation.  Let us look at what all of the scriptures say about our salvation. Let us begin with Acts 2.

Joel’s Prophecy

Romans 10:13 is a quote from Joel 2:32.  It is a prophecy that the apostle Peter says was fulfilled after Jesus ascended back into heaven.  In Acts 2, Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 and says that the events that took place that day were the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.  From that day, the day that the church was established, Peter and the apostles preached that whoever would call on the name of the Lord would be saved.

Peter’s Sermon

Back in Romans 10, Paul wrote that in order to call on the Lord, one had to believe; in order to believe, one had to hear the gospel.  Peter, in Acts 2, began to preach about Jesus so the
audience could believe that Jesus, whom they crucified, was the Son of God.

Many in the audience believed the words of Peter and realized that by killing Jesus, they had made themselves enemies of God.  They cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  They wanted to make peace with Jesus for they had sinned against Him.  Remember, from this time forward “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Peter did not tell them to pray and accept Jesus Christ into their heart.  I have read many tracts that encourage the reader to commit his life to Jesus then tell him to pray something like this:

“Lord Jesus, I do now by faith accept Thee as my personal Savior.  I call on Thee to reign in my heart.”

Though it is good to want Jesus to be in charge of our lives, there is no instance of anyone in the New Testament being told to pray to accept Jesus as their personal savior in order to have salvation.  Search the scriptures and you will find this to be true.

Calling on the Name of the Lord

What did Peter tell them to do?

“Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”

They were to call on the name of the Lord by repenting and being baptized in the Lord’s name.

Joel:     Call on the name of the Lord => Saved.
Peter:  Repent and be baptized => Saved

In Acts 22:16, Paul was told:

Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord

Paul was not baptized because he had called on the name of the Lord, nor was he baptized because his sins had already been washed away (according to the verse they had not been removed).  Baptism was part of the calling on the name of the Lord.  It was the culmination of his response to Jesus’ call.  Of course, this response to the gospel was commanded by Jesus in Mark 16:16:

He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned

If we want to call on the name of the Lord, we must do so like Jesus and the apostles taught.  Since we cannot find the “Sinner’s Prayer” in the New Testament nor do we find any person who was saved in the New Testament by being told to pray a similar prayer for salvation, we must acknowledge that this approach is man-made, not from God’s authority

To “call on the name of the Lord” is to call for the Lord’s help, namely, to remove our sins.  It is more than a verbal acknowledgement of Jesus’ lordship, for some will call Him “Lord” and be lost (Matthew 7:21-23).  Calling on the name of the Lord is complete obedience to the gospel for it alone has the power to save us.

For more details, look at this SlideShare presentation:

What Is Your Life?

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Guest Post by Russell Poe

I saw a commercial the other day regarding the sale of AARP Medicare Supplement plans.  An older, “well preserved” female is shown walking down a beautifully landscaped path toward the camera, smiling and looking quite alive.  After a moment she stops, looks at the camera and says “I’m only in my 60’s – I’ve got a long life ahead of me – big plans.”   And I suddenly found myself wondering if I actually, correctly heard what she said.

The last time I checked, the average American’s life expectancy was about 77 years old.  Assuming this lady was in her mid 60’s, and she lives the average life span of an American, she only has about 9 to 12 years left to live.  And that’s ASSUMING she lives the average number of years for an American – she could EASILY die sooner.

Even if she was Japanese, the race of people who currently have the highest average life expectancy in the world (80 years old), at best she would have 12 to 15 years left to live.

Sure, she may live to be 95, which would give her approximately 30 years left to live, but statistically she only has an 18% chance of doing that.  The odds are definitely not in her favor!

Now I don’t know about you, but if you told me I had another 9 to 15 years to live, I don’t think I would consider that a “long life ahead of me” -  and I’m not sure that’s even enough time to consider making “big plans” either.

Isn’t it sad how our society can so easily ignore things they don’t want to hear or that makes them feel uncomfortable?  Ignore solid facts and figures about death?  Or even make up “truth” of their own?

Most of us here know what the Bible says about the length of our life – in fact, the Bible mentions the human being’s “average” life span.  Moses wrote in the 90th Psalm “The days of our lives are SEVENTY years; and if by reason of strength they are 80 years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow, for it is soon cut off and we fly away.”  Apparently the eagerness to sell AARP products and make money overrides everything the Bible says about the matter, but that’s not unusual – so many in the world simply ignore what God’s word says.

But I did a spur of the moment test that in a way was shocking, but in a way not at all and simply shows the wisdom and the accuracy of the Bible.  The test and the parameters were as random as they could be and I actually had most of this invitation written before I even did it.

UndertakerWe had purchased a past Sunday Birmingham News and in the obituary column there were 27 people listed that had recently passed away.  I wrote down all their ages (the oldest was 98, the youngest died at 41), totaled them and then divided by 27. Guess how long their average lifespan totaled?  SEVENTY (.6) YEARS OLD!!  Almost exactly what Moses, an inspired writer, recorded as Scripture – and the world chooses to ignore the Bible, claiming it is a “fairy tale”.

So, going back to our commercial – if our mid 60’s woman lives an average American life span of 77 years – does 10-12 years REALLY sound like “a long life ahead of me?!”  Think back 10 years of your life – does it seem like ages ago, or yesterday?  If you have a 10 year old, has life just slowed down like molasses in winter since they were born???

Well, back to the obituary – what about young people, teenagers?  I mean, the youngest person in the obituary column was still 41.  If you’re a teenager, should you worry about dying?   Let’s let the numbers testify.  In America, from 1996 to 2006, over 16,000 teenagers between 12 and 19 died EACH YEAR.  Each Year!  How do you think all of these teenagers died?  Did I include all those inner city kids who shoot each other every year?  Yes, they’re in there, but only 13% of the 16,000 teenagers died from homicide.  The next lowest percentage of deaths was by suicide, at 11% – that’s a terrible statistic and so sad.  But do you know what IS the leading killer of teenagers 12-19 years old?  Unintentional Injury.  What killed almost half of the 16,000 teenagers every year for 10 years?  Unintentional or Accidental Injury.

I don’t know about you, but what I see in these figures scares me.  First, it bothers me to think of 16,000 plus teenagers dying every year in America, having one myself in that age group.  Next, I look at the percentages of those killed by suicide and homicide and it begins to make me a little sick.  But then I see that almost half of all the teenagers 12-19 years old die from something that was an ACCIDENT!  Something that wasn’t planned!  Something they may never have seen coming….  What I’m trying to tell each of us, those of you who are young, and ESPECIALLY to those of you who are young and haven’t obeyed the Gospel, is that life is uncertain.  People die from doing everyday things – something went wrong, an accident happened and someone died, just like that.  No warning, no symptoms, no clue that you’re about to die – an accident happens and death occurs.

James says in James chapter 4:13-14     “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for (how long??) a little time and then vanishes away.”

That’s true for babies, it’s true for teenagers, it’s true for grown people and it is true for EVERYBODY – we don’t have a very long time on this earth.  We’re born, we grow up, we die – most do, many don’t!  There are no guarantees – you may be in perfect health today and be gone tomorrow.

NOW – remember that half of the 16,000 teenagers 12-19 years old that died of Accidental Injury for 10 years in a row?  Do you know what killed 73% of that half?  “Motor vehicle traffic accidents”.

How many times have you heard “You could just be driving down the road and” – people usually say something a lot because it’s true.  And dedicating yourself to driving safely won’t guarantee you won’t be in an accident.  In fact, if you are young and don’t have your driver’s license, you aren’t even in control of the situation!  Someone ELSE is doing the driving!

You might be asking this – Am I saying all these things to try to scare teenagers into obeying the Gospel?  I’d have to say no – if anyone wants to be saved by hearing God’s word, believing it and in Him, repenting of all sins, confessing belief that Jesus to be the Son of God and being baptized into Christ to wash away sins, I want (or rather GOD wants) it to be because they’ve decided to give up their own will and follow God’s will, desiring whole-heartedly to live as the Bible teaches – and NOT because something scared them to do these things.

But shouldn’t these facts and figures cause a moment of serious thought?  Another statement people say often is “Numbers don’t lie” and true numbers don’t.  I’m praying that what has been said tonight will cause each one to take a minute, consider your soul’s standing before God right now, and if you haven’t obeyed the Gospel, make up your mind to do it right now.

It may be that someone reading this has obeyed the Gospel in the past but currently isn’t living the way God would want – doing something sinful on a regular basis because it’s enjoyable and counting (or rather GAMBLING) on the fact that good health and life will continue.

God wants us to give up our idols and give ourselves totally to Him – and repentance and confession of such acts are God’s method of restoring us, publicly if the sins have been committed publicly.

Don’t be like the person I noted when I was gathering these facts – on the same website showing all the ways people die, this person commented:

“Anyone with sense knows that if you get enough vitamins and a proper diet you don’t get sick!!!”

The world has so easily learned to deceive itself and believe anything that’s not true – God’s word is truth and says clearly that there is no promise of tomorrow.  This same truth also says “The wages of sin is death”.  On the other hand, God’s word also gives “exceedingly great and precious promises” of eternal life in Heaven where there is “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” and “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”.   Decide to live for Him who died for you.

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