FACING THE PROBLEM

How do we respond to the challenges in life?  I am certain that we all have a different approach to circumstances that could have a negative effect on our faith.  Christians know the Word, but to implement it in our own lives is another thing.  To many Believers, the first response against an attack on their faith is to exhibit an arsenal of resources which are based on feelings and human emotions.  Worry, fear, anxiety, and doubt play the role of pawns that block faith, trust, belief, and confidence from entering into the arena of conflict.  These emotionally unstable pawns persuade the physical body to respond with things such as high blood pressure, ulcers, and sleeplessness.  It is only when our pawns are wiped out that our spiritual weapons finally enter the conflict.  Why do we feel that we have to initiate carnal responses before we can introduce the spiritual weapons of warfare?  Why is it that the “first responders” are fleshly instead of spiritual?  Maybe we need to look at the Scriptures and see how the early Believers dealt with assaults against their faith.

The Apostle Paul realized that complete trust and faith in God was the only way to be guaranteed a victorious life.  How did he deal with tribulations and sufferings?  He gloried and rejoiced in them!  The reason he took that approach was to show God that his hope rested in Him.  Paul knew that tribulation would work patience.  Patience is one trait that Believers have a difficult time achieving.  We want God to work things out yesterday, instead of waiting for God to develop spiritual character in us.  Patience then develops experience.  Experience is the best way to understand Biblical truths.  We must come to a point where the Bible is to be experienced, rather than just read.  When we act on the Word, Hope enters the picture.  In other words, we are confident that God is in control and our “tribulations” will become a teaching tool in the hand of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 5:1-5)

Many times I have assumed a responsibility of acting on my own volition.  Needless to say, I made decisions that led me on a spiritual roller coaster.  During these periods of emotional conflicts, I would exhibit my “pawn emotions” which would only help to intensify the problem.  I have to admit there were times I failed to practice what I preached!  Some Believers have a condition known as “Biblical Gluttony.”  We can be full of the Word, but unless we act on the Word, we become lethargic and ineffective during our times of testing.  Some claim to know the Word, but fail to show the Word.

The next time we are faced with challenges to our faith, let us rejoice, knowing we are about to embark on a journey that will bring growth and spiritual development to our lives.  Let us be patient as the Holy Spirit leads us through the difficult times.  As we experience Divine intervention, let us learn through the challenges so we will be ready for the next assault on our faith.  Let us take our emotional pawns off the board and let our spiritual arsenal be displayed!

The Apostle James also stressed the importance of expressing joy when faced with challenges to our faith.  He showed how patience helps to establish the goal of spiritual maturity. (James 1:2-4)  Joy and patience (longsuffering) are two ingredients of the Fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23)  Fruit is to be eaten as well as exhibited.  As we digest the Fruit, people should see its growth displayed in us!  When the problems arrive, let us keep our fleshly responses locked away, and start rejoicing at what the Holy Spirit is going to work in us through our times of difficulties!

 

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THE MARRIAGE CONTRACT

The point of this article is not to open up the different categories of the marriage subject, but to bring awareness of how important the marriage contract is to God.

One of the difficult things in life is adjusting to life itself.  There is continual evolving of every aspect of life.  Change is everywhere.  If one does not readily adapt to the engine of change, he will become a caboose seeing only the past as it fades from his eyes.  Change is usually initiated when something does not work, or is not as effective as it used to be.  Change is looking for something that might expand ones appreciation of life.  Change influences every aspect of life: things like apparel, language, literature, entertainment, relationships, values, politics, and even religion.  Change is usually initiated by a minority of individuals that are dedicated to expanding the definition of life.  They are willing to push the envelope and, through shock and awe, will influence the masses to launch out into the realm of endless possibilities.  Change will rapidly approach the eyes and ears of the unexpecting and gullible public.  Not all change is bad, but whenever it challenges God’s plan and purpose, it becomes an instrument of division.

When we think of marriage, we immediately think of God and His desire to join man and woman together as one.  It is a lifetime contract that couples enter into with each other.  They make their promises to one another and to God.  Are the vows that are made just words or are they truly life long promises that will be honored till “death do us part?”  Today, three out of five marriage partners end up  breaking their vows and promises to each other and God.  What is so shocking is that Christians are part of these negative statistics.  Believers expect God to fulfill His promises, while some rationalize away their broken promises to Him!

One day, a group of Pharisees confronted Jesus with a question that would either bring Him into opposition to the Pentateuch or show His Scriptural ignorance.  The question was simply, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife?”  Jesus responded by asking what their take was on the subject.  They unanimously claimed that Moses supported Divorce. (Mark 10:2-13)  Jesus’ response was that because of man’s hardened heart, God had Moses put into the Law that the only cause of divorce was sexual impurity. (Deuteronomy 24:1)  It would seem that before this, it was permitted that a man could send his wife away for any reason.  So God said enough is enough and a “bill of divorcement” was instituted.  Jesus would reiterate the Law by saying, “Whosoever will put away his wife, except it be for fornication…” (Matthew 19:9)  To show how seriously God looks at marriage, Jesus stated that anyone who divorces his wife and she then remarries, causes her to be guilty of adultery, and not only that, but whoever marries her is also guilty of adultery. (Matthew 20:9)  I wonder how many newly married Christians have underlined these verses in their Bibles.

The wind of change has affected marriage to the point that the term is becoming archaic.  Unity without God’s oversight will continue to focus on the temporary.  If anyone of the contract partners chooses to cancel his covenant, it is a hop skip and jump to “freedom.”  The “I do” changes to “I don’t!”  Also, officiating at the marriage ceremony is open to anyone with a simple license to perform a secular or religious ceremony.  Pastors have even crossed the gender lines in performing unions that God does not acknowledge.   How can a Pastor, who stands as a representative of God, lead a non-Christian couple into making a sacred covenant that they don’t understand and will not think twice about breaking?  As our generation continues to pursue an ever changing agenda, let us continue to follow the One who never changes.

 

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VISIBLE CONFIRMATION

One of the easiest things for Christians to do is to use their Biblical language around other Believers.  One of the hardest things for us to do is stand on what we confess when facing difficult times.  The validity of our confession is directly related to our actions.  If we fail to exhibit what we confess, we need to remove ourselves from active duty, go back to boot camp, and relearn the basics of our faith.  Many of the skeptics of the Christian faith find their support in the action and non-action of the Believer.  Our actions will capture the eye of the unbeliever, and what they see will determine whether they will listen or not to what we have to say.   If Believers display unforgiveness against each other, who will listen to us share about the forgiveness of God?  If our love is conditional, how can we share about the unconditional love of God?  Our behavior is the doorway to our words.  When unbelievers see Christians respond victoriously in difficult situations, they will be open to hear our story.  If, on the other hand, they see the same type of responses that they would exhibit, their profanity and verbal abuse toward the Believer and Whom we represent will only accelerate.

Some Christians believe that their faith is a personal matter and, as a result, become a “secret service” agent of the Lord.  The problem with that reasoning is their lack of action and outward display gives credence to the negativity against Christians.  If Believers melt into society so that they are indistinguishable from the world, they can do unspeakable damage to the Kingdom of God.  One of the most mind boggling verses in the Bible is Romans 2:24.  Here Paul tells the Jews that because of their inconsistencies and fleshly actions many Gentiles blaspheme the name of God.  If we as Believers walk in conflict to what we proclaim, we could be responsible for reproaches leveled against God.  If our faith is real, we need to live it.  If our faith is just window dressing, we need to stop professing until we are ready to live by His Word.

Paul not only warns about the Believers negative affect on unbelievers, but also cautions being a stumbling stone to other Believers. (Romans 14:13b)  Many immature Believers are turned off to the organized Church when they see inconsistencies in the rank and file.  Jesus used the illustration of a child to show how serious it is for Believers to offend (be a stumbling block) a new Christian. (Matthew 18:6)  To be able to have a positive affect on others, we must learn, as John the Baptist did, to decrease in our own eyes so Jesus can increase in us.(John 3:30)

I am hearing more and more Christian clichés, while at the same time seeing more and more inconsistencies.  It is so easy to say, “Jesus is Lord,” but it is another thing to live like He is Lord.  We can spout off with our Christian language, but we need to sprout up with evidences of our commitments.  King Agrippa, in responding to Paul’s testimony, said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:28)  Seeing what Paul was going through, and witnessing his unfaltering faith, almost brought the King to his knees in surrender to the true King.  Words backed up by actions can move not only mountains, but countries.  Instead of having spiritual pep rallies, let us display what we believe to those who are looking for an answer to the void in their lives.

I am tired of hearing and not seeing the Kingdom of God being displayed.  If we are not willing to be an example of what we believe, maybe we should just sit at the rapture runway and wait for the Lord’s return.  At least, that way we won’t be a stumbling block to either the Believer or the unbeliever.

 

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WHO GOES TO HELL?

Is it Biblically correct to assume that everyone who does not come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ will at their demise enter the gates of Hell?  Would this include those who have never been presented the Gospel due to their global location?  Would this include those who were raised in isolated or communal surroundings, where their religion or belief has always been a shield of protection against outside influence?  What about those who have no access to organized religion of any kind?

Christianity is the largest religion in the world with over 2.2 billion followers.  The Islamic faith is second with more than 1.6 billion adherents.  Those of the Hindu faith number around 785 million.  I wonder how many of those non-Christians have never even heard of Jesus Christ.  It is estimated that there are 1.6 billion people that have never heard the Gospel. (CNN.com)  When they die, according to our understanding of the Scripture, where would they spend eternity?  Obviously they would not go to Heaven for the only way to access eternal life is through Jesus Christ.  What about Hell?  What does the Bible say about that option?  Does the Scripture convey that when an “infidel” dies and seeks entrance to God’s habitat, that he is not only turned away, but is sent to a burning Hell to suffer for eternity?

I am sure we all have our rehearsed response to this challenging situation.  I am almost certain that the high percentage of respondents have been taught their response instead of having searched out the Scripture themselves.

Does the Bible teach that no matter what man’s belief or non-belief, there are only two options: Heaven or Hell.  Do we Scripturally believe that God would allow someone to experience the torments of Hell, if they have never been given or had the opportunity to know His Grace?  We all have the “canned” response that God has a different way to deal with those who have never heard.  Is that a Biblical reaction or just a convenient way to cover up our uncertainty on the subject?

The Bible contains the abbreviated history of the Jewish people as well as the early activities of the people known as Christians.  The Bible contains the interaction of God with His chosen people.  Through the continual hardening of the hearts of His people, God sent His prophets and messengers to urge them to return to Him.  He also emphasized that there would be a consequence to their sinful actions.  God finally sent His Son, but many also rejected Him.  Jesus took the penalty for their sins and whosoever accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord would have eternal life and abide with Him forever in a place called Heaven.  Those, on the other hand, who rejected Jesus Christ would have eternal life, not in Heaven, but in a place called Hell.

The question that must be addressed is how far should the Judeo/Christian Bible be extended to include those outside the Faith?  If Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven, how can those who have never heard of Him be expected to make a decision to accept Him?  If they can’t, how can we assume they will have to spend eternity in Hell?  Is this what the Bible teaches?  If Heaven is closed to the masses of humanity because of their ignorance, does that also mean that Hell has an open door policy for them?

Would it be possible that eternity is a limited prospective?  Is the reality of eternal life dependent on the decision of accepting or rejecting the Gospel message?  Does the Biblical subject of eternal life include those who have never heard of Jesus?  If this subject pertains only to the hearers of the Gospel, would those who have never heard simply return to the dust of the earth when they die?  What does the Bible teach on this subject?  This article was meant to get us off our couches and to the table of study to see what the Bible really teaches.

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JESUS SIGHED

We all get frustrated from time to time.  Sometimes things don’t come together as we would like.  There are times when responses by others miss the mark or they fail to exhibit a positive reaction.  I am sure teachers, both secular and religious, have felt frustrated when their pupils or congregations fail to respond in the expected way.  One area in which frustration can be exhibited is through the physical manifestation of “sighing.” To sigh is to display a non-verbal attitude of disappointment.  It is a relief valve that expels air from a frustrated emotion. It is resigning to the fact that no matter how hard one has tried to explain something to someone, they simple don’t get it.

Jesus faced situations where His message was met with misunderstanding.  Many of His supernatural feats became an end in themselves.  People were more excited about the miracles than the message of forgiveness and redemption.  Modern day Christianity seems to have opened a time capsule from 30 AD.  They see the signs and wonders that Jesus performed and, realizing Jesus is the same today as He was yesterday, are eager to resurrect an atmosphere of miracles.

I believe in miracles and have been a witness to many.  The problem is our motive for wanting the supernatural.  To many, it is for a physical evidence of God’s existence and His pleasure with His people.  Instead of seeking a life of miraculous manifestations, the Believer needs to exhibit the miracle of a changed life. The world looks for the supernatural, while the Believers need to be a living example of a supernatural life.  Christians want an historical reenactment of Biblical days instead of showing the results of a changed life through Biblical knowledge.

One day, as Jesus was ministering around the Sea of Galilee, a group of people brought a deaf and dumb man to Him for healing.  The Bible says they begged and implored Him to touch him. (Mark 7:31-37)  Jesus then took the man away from the “sign seekers” and stuck His fingers into his ears, spit, and then touched his tongue.  Jesus then SIGHED and prayed.  The man was healed.  Jesus told the group not to tell anyone.  In fact, He repeated it a number of times.  But instead, they spread the news of the miracle everywhere.  Jesus knew that focusing on the physical healing would tend to overshadow His message of a changed heart.  When He sighed, it was an evidence of His frustration that they simply did not understand.  I wonder if the deaf and dumb man had anything to do with pursuing his healing or was it more a group mania that was after a miracle. In another incident, Jesus was greeted by a group of Pharisees that wanted Him to verify His authority with a sign from Heaven.  The Bible says that Jesus sighed deeply and said, “Why doth this generation seek after a sign?” (Mark 8:10-12)  Their motive was self serving and Jesus recognized it.  Miracles still happen, but under God’s initiative and not by sign-seeking Christians that have a self serving agenda or questing for an evidence of God’s favor.

There was another time near the Sea of Galilee when Jesus was confronted by a group of Pharisees that pressed Him to perform a miracle that would confirm His ministry. (Mark 8:10-13)  These were religious leaders that should have understood the teachings and prophesies of the Old Testament.  Jesus responded with a SIGH from His spirit and rebuked the Pharisees for their sign seeking challenge.  Of all the people that should have understood whom Jesus was, it was the religious leaders.  I wonder if the Church today really understands what the Bible is all about.  I wonder how many Believers understand the Old Testament.  The Old Testament was the only Scripture Jesus read and studied, yet we neglect its content.  It will be difficult to grasp Jesus’ ministry without the foundation of the Pentateuch and Prophets.  Could Jesus still be sighing as He watches the Church pursue a direction based on limited knowledge?

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MAD AT GOD

Over the last few weeks I have run into a growing number of people that are angry with God.  Questions arise as to why God lets bad things happen to good people.  How could a loving God allow unexplainable, life altering tragedies to happen to loving and caring families?  I have noticed that these types of questions usually come from those who have knowledge of God, but have never had a real exchange with Him.  They observe God through their predetermined understanding of who He is.  They have sat in the “bleachers” on Sunday mornings, hearing the leader proclaim, “God is Good,” and then in unison all respond, “All the Time.”  So naturally they believe that He will not allow pain and suffering to sweep the globe, especially to the “innocent.”   They reason that if God allows “unjustifiable” tragedies to indiscriminately sweep the globe, something is wrong with the whole religious movement.  Many of the people that do not go to church today were brought up in the church.  The main reason they give for “dropping” out of the Faith, is disappointment with God.  What this tells me, is they have not been taught correctly.  People are taught every week by selected or biased truth instead of Holy Spirit directed Truth.  God has been presented as the “puppet master” and the Christian as the controlled puppet.  It is God who pulls the strings. Just when we face a battle, God pulls us up to safety and when the crisis is over, lets us down.  Armed with these types of teachings, one is thrown for a loss when catastrophic things happen in people’s lives and God did nothing to stop it!

Our Country is a democracy, where we are free to make our own decisions.  Our soldiers continually guard that freedom and are willing to defend it whatever the cost.  Christianity is a type of democracy in that we are free to make choices.  We can decide to go to church or stay home.  We can choose to read our Bibles or let our pastor read it for us by way of a sermon.  We can decide to pray spontaneously or read prepared prayers.  We can basically be what ever type of Christian we want to be.

God has chosen to give us a free will wherein we decide the type of life we want to lead.  I kind of wish it wasn’t that way, for man has a tendency to lean on his own understanding and acknowledge God only when things go wrong.  The problem is that man’s acknowledgment of God is to blame Him!  The Bible makes it crystal clear that difficult times will fall on Believers as well as non believers. (Matthew 5:45)  No one is immune from the consequences of life, but as a Believer God will be there to see them through.  When one looses a loved one prematurely, God will be there to bring stability to the shaken survivor.  We must stop looking at God as only the “Great Preventer,” but also see Him as the “Great Sustainer.”  We put so much into this life that we fail to focus on the life to come.  We do everything we can to keep us on this earth for as long as possible and if for some reason life is interrupted, we get angry with God!  Do we feel that we will never see one another in the life to come?  Maybe that should strike a sense of urgency in making sure our loved ones have accepted God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

I do not believe it was God’s initial purpose to allow man to pursue his own way, but through Eve and Adams decision to initiate self interest, the door was open for Satan to pursue his anti God agenda.  Sin became the platform in which man jumped into the world to oppose God’s ways.  Man looks to God as the villain and not to the rightful author of destruction, Satan.  If one has to blame someone for the results of a sinful world, don’t blame God, but the one who wants to destroy goodness.  I don’t understand everything about God, but with everything I have I trust Him.  Instead of pressing charges against God for lacking intervention in man’s crisis, let us reach out in Faith knowing He truly loves us and will never leave us alone to face those difficult times.

 

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WHAT IS THEIR LOCATION?

There are alarming numbers of people that are openly opposing the Church and its Biblical foundation.  My heart aches in that the Church is not hearing what the world is saying.  The Church must understand why they are so angry with Christians.

Countless times I have had the opportunity to interrelate with people that have never made a real commitment to God.  It is always interesting to hear their observations of life in general.  I have learned that to be a good communicator one must start by being a good listener.  Christians need to “hear” where people are before they tell them where they need to be!  Listening is a lost art.  Have you ever noticed that when we have a verbal agenda, we have little patience when the other person is talking?  What we are listening for is not the contents of their words, but an opening to express what we have to say.  Listening locates where the other person is coming from, while speaking is more interested is displaying the whereabouts of the speaker.

The more I listen, the more I understand the reason behind people’s actions.  Before we can make a positive contribution in someone’s life, we need to understand the thinking behind their actions.  We might disagree with their reasoning, but we must respect their right to express their feelings.  We must never allow our spiritual commitment to minimize their status.  To display an attitude of arrogance is to shut off the opportunity for constructive dialogue.  Believers know the answer, but to trump another’s actions with a patronizing attitude will do irrevocable damage.

Much of the attitude that is displayed against the Church is based upon misinformation about God and the Christian Faith.  Sadly, the Church has played a pivotal roll in fueling the misconceptions.  When a Believer’s walk does not confirm their talk, or the structured Church displays the physical instead of the spiritual, the interest in “religion” is either scoffed at or ignored.  In many cases, God is hidden from society by the self-serving Church.  Our building facilities stand as a “golden calf” that is built with money that could have been used to bring economic stability to the needy in our community.  Christian structures tend to isolate themselves from the general populace.  If people want to find God, they are urged to take a tour of a local “shrine” and be awed by the physical plant.  Money seems to be the focal point of so many churches.  Sadly, the Church has become big business.  I am surprised the Church is not listed on the New York Stock Exchange.  We don’t need huge TV screens in our spacious “sanctuaries” just so we can see the speaker “up close and personal.”  We don’t need premium sound systems so we can hear the music thundering through our heads.  We don’t need coffee and refreshment stands outside the auditoriums to fuel our spoiled stomachs.  We need to come out of our fortresses and start up conversations with the skeptics.  Let them tell us their gripes.  Let them point out what upsets them about the Church.  What we will hear will have some legitimacy as well as misinformation.  We must be willing to acknowledge our mistakes, and at the same time show them, through love, where they may have it wrong.

The mission of the Church is to point the way to God through Jesus Christ.  People are turned off with what they see displayed by the religious community.  They want the Church to not be so judgmental.  Their list of grievances is very long and compelling.  They have legitimate concerns, as well as erroneous concepts.  It is time to hear what the world is saying and then doing something about it!

 

 

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CHASTISEMENT Part 2

When a Believer experiences Biblical chastisement, either by the written Word or verbal admonishment, there is a tendency to respond with a number of reactions.  Some assume a defensive posture which is supported by self-justification or denial.  Others will accept admonishment and are quick to level self-imposed punishment for their actions; in fact, they are harder on themselves than the situation merits.  There are also those that feel so ashamed that a mild depression surrounds them.  Finally, there is the group that rejoices in the chastisement, for they see how much God loves them and, through this encounter with Truth, they learn from their failures.

The real issue to be considered is what we do after we have been chastised.  If we respond with a quick repentance, and continue to sporadically indulge ourselves in the same behavior, our faith walk will become unstable.   If we simply reason that one strike will not throw us out of the game, we shake the chastisement off and wait for an “uplifting” message.  We look forward to the “sermon” that will highlight the blessings we have grown to expect from God’s Biblical treasure chest.  Why is it that Believers take sin so lightly?  The attitude of some is that God is not going to do anything about it, so why worry!  It is almost like a challenge to God’s authority.  Maybe they need to look at it from a different perspective.  The concern should be what is sin doing to me?  How is it affecting my spiritual walk and talk?  Every time we sin, it affects our relationship with God.  Maybe God will not reach down from Heaven and physically draw attention to sinful behavior, but it hurts Him when we willing walk away from chastisement with an unchanged attitude.  Think for a minute how Jesus was nailed to a cross because of man’s sinful behavior.  There on Calvary, He experienced the wrath of God.  How can we look at sin so casually when, because of it, Jesus paid the ultimate price?  God turned His face from Jesus as He suffered for the sinfulness of man. (Matthew 27:46)  Today, God’s face is turned toward the Believer and He sees sin being so casually addressed by His followers.  How can this be?  How can we so flagrantly turn our backs on God by failing to respond to His chastisements that are meant to correct our wayward direction?

I believe that God’s chastisements are directly related to Jesus’ intercession for the Believer. (Hebrews 7:25)  When Jesus sees our slip ups, He intercedes to God on our behalf.  God then chastises the forgiven Believer so as to correct his momentary relapse.  When we do not understand this, chastisement will not be appreciated, but resented and even ignored.

We need to thank God for His Grace and patience with us.  We need to thank Him for loving us so much.  We need to thank Him for His willingness to intercede in our lives by way of correction.  We need to thank God we are under Grace and not under the Law.  In the Old Testament, sin could cause an immediate termination of one’s life.

One of the deceptions Christians fall for is if they do not commit an outward, visible sin, they feel they have not sinned.  Satan applauds that reasoning.  There are sins of commission and sins of omission.  The Bible lists countless illustrations of tangible sins.  Those might be hard to locate, for we have not underlined them in our Bibles!  The sins of omission are simply stated as, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is a sin.” (James 4:17)  When we choose to enlist in the “secret service” and keep our faith to ourselves, we are sinning.  Let us learn to hate sin and everything it represents.  Let us learn that when we slip up, Jesus is pleading our case before God, who will then reach down and chastise us as a loving Father who wants to see us cross the finish line!!!!

 

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CHASTISEMENT Part 1

One of the subjects that many Believers ignore, either inadvertently or on purpose, is the area of Chastisement.  What exactly is Chastisement and how is it administered?  The New Testament, of which the theme is Grace, mentions this word or a form of the word 12 times.  It is discovered two times each in Luke and the Corinthian letters, once in Revelation, and seven times in Hebrews.  Hebrews 12:5-11 gives the reader an excursion into understanding the full implication of this word.

Basically, chastisement comes under three categories: 1) training; 2) correcting with words; 3) discipline enforced by physical means.  When one enters residency in the Kingdom of God, there are many things to learn and understand.  The growth process can be both a rewarding and at the same time a discouraging experience.  Some of the Believers’ early mistakes can be overlooked as basically a learning experience.  But, if no progress begins to show in their ongoing spiritual education, there will be words of chastisement that will land on the eyes and ears of the disciple.  This is experienced through the reading of the Word or spoken through those in ministerial offices.  In the Old Testament, God’s chastisement was administered by visual means, such as physical ailments, military oppressions, famines, atmospheric phenomena, as well as geographical influences.  Under the Law, God’s response to disobedience was dealt with quickly.  Under Grace, His Word plays center stage in the lives of the Believers.  So many Christians look to the Bible as a treasure chest of blessings, and it certainly does contain a wealth of Truth, but it is also meant to be for “…reproof, correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (II Timothy 3:16)  So many times God has used His Word to chastise His followers, but when the Holy Spirit, witnessing our disobedience, attempts to lead us to Scriptures of correction, our human mind ignores the prompting and the Bible remains closed, or a search for blessings ensues.  We must always remember that God chastens us because He loves us and wants us to experience the fullness of His Kingdom.

God also uses Pastors to bring correction to the body of Believers.  Sadly, some Pastors are more concerned with pleasing their “employers” rather than God.  I remember preaching chastising messages that did not exclude me, and had members of the church chastise me for being so negative.  I have always wanted to be liked and accepted by the people whom God had chosen me to lead, but because of my commitment to God, I was willing to bring His message of correction whenever it was called for.  Many times as a pastor I was chastised by God’s Word.  The Scripture came to me as a two-edged sword, cutting away errors in my life as well as clearing away obstacles that stood before me.  I have to admit that God’s chastisements were challenging and even painful, but through the acknowledging of my errors and seeking His forgiveness, I was able to experience the fullness of His joy.

One of the reasons people neglect reading their Bibles is the anxiety of what will be found, especially if it exposes sin in their lives.  Neglected Sunday worship also is framed around the potential embarrassment of sinful exposure.

When we are on the wrong road, evidenced by our unsettled peace, we need to receive His chastisement.  Thank God He cares enough about us to be interested in our lives.  Let us welcome His chastening as an evidence of His love for us.  Don’t blame your pastor for messages that expose the mistakes of the Saints, but encourage him to tell it like it is.  After all, it may save our lives!

 

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THE POWERFUL LITTLE WORD

Many of the Biblical promises rest upon the action of the reader or hearer.  The little word “if” plays a big role in experiencing the Word.  In the Bible, this two letter word contains the option to either accept or reject the Word.  The Word of God is limited to man’s response.  The Scripture lies dormant until man responds to its content.  If man chooses to ignore the Word, it becomes nothing more than a conglomeration of phrases and sentences hidden under a book cover.

If it was not for the Bible, we would have no knowledge of God and His love for mankind.  If it was not for the Bible, we would not be aware of Jesus and His earthly ministry.  If it was not for God’s Word, we would never come to the knowledge of what Calvary was all about.  Without the Scriptures, man would be like a ship without a rudder, a car without an engine, or a plane without wings.  Without His Word, man would flow with the tide of changing opinions and life styles.  Without the Bible, mans’ hope for purpose will never be achieved.  Sixteen times in the book of Hebrews, this powerful word highlights the responsibility of the individual.  In chapter three, verse six, the Believer is likened unto a house that is built by Jesus; but if, by the actions of Christians, the world sees a creation that is no different from its own life, what would draw it to seek our building Contractor?  There are a lot of “prefab” Believers that build their faith around convenience and self-fulfillment, and, as a result, turn off prospective “buyers” of the Faith.  The problem is many treat the salvation experience as an “upgrade” to their lives instead of as a total rebirth experience.

In this same chapter, verse four states that the Believer is a “partaker” (participant, sharer, associate, partner) with Christ.  This means that we are to be a walking example and extension of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  When the unbeliever sees us, they should be drawn to an individual whose actions far exceed the normality of human behavior.  The reality of these two illustrations is contingent on the powerful word “if”.  To evidence our participation as a “house” built by Jesus and in a “partnership” with Him, we are called upon to make a decision.  “If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” (vs. 6, 14)  We receive the fulfillment of the Word by making a decision to act on the Word.  To reach that place we are confronted with that little word again, “If ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”(vs.8, 15)  Hearing His Word without resistance is the first step to experiencing the reality of Scriptural Truth.  It is not just an initial step, but a journey that continues throughout our lives.  It is not a one time acceptance of a Truth, but a continuing effort to display it.  If there is no on- going exhibiting of our “house” and “partnership,” then we cannot apply those realities to our lives!

When one reads through the book of Hebrews, one is reminded again and again of the role one plays in experiencing God’s Word.  The Believer faces the decision to accept the Word personally or read it as simply Scripture that requires no response.  When there is no action by the reader, the Word will have little or no effect on him.  Believers are continually looking for God to do something in their lives, while God is continually waiting for them to do something with His Word.  Man seems to be in search of new truth by introducing “extra Biblical” revelation.  Believers need to center on what God has already said and stop looking for a new ingredient to make their interpretation more palatable.

It is all up to us.  When we are hungry for Truth, let us open the Word and feast at the banquet table. There is so much Truth in the Bible that all we have to do is open our eyes and make a decision to act on His Word.

We should also be aware of consequential “ifs.”  Hebrews chapter’s ten through twelve highlights what they are and the pending results.

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