Discerning the Truth

We all hold certain life experiences, learning and opinions that accumulate in our thinking through the years. As we grow older and hopefully wiser, we can be a resource for others to help them along if they need wisdom and understanding. And hopefully as we grow older we never cease to learn more ourselves and that we never get to the place where we think we have all the answers. Not growing and learning is so boring at any age!

There are so many opinions in the world. We are all assigned the task of discerning truth from error. As I got older I realized clearly that choosing the Word of God as a source for life issues was very important. It still is. Not only do things get clearer, they grow brighter and sparklier. Shedding light on darkness, fear and depression is a big first step to kissing these things good-bye. Darkness is not a “dear old friend”.

We all have to have to filter out the bad from the good. Many choose the consensus to evaluate things, but that does not really separate the good from the bad and certainly not the best from the good.  So much depends on the quality of the consensus. Often evil comes at us disguised as good, although lately it has shown up boldly without a mask. Humans can be deceived and deception is dangerous. We need to be able to draw back the curtains in life. We are not sheep. God has given us so much more in the New Testament. When we keep God in our conversations we learn so much more about living a life that is meaningful and not just following an ‘ism’ for the sake of following an ‘ism’ or a cause because it is popular.

I prefer the ‘clear eyed’ approach and that is what I get when I trust and go to God’s Word. I also like being around people that are humble to the creator of this beautiful universe who have matured a bit  spiritually in discerning truth from error. Discerning truth from error comes as we mature in Christ.

The Bible is not supposed to be just an aid to our worship of God. It is the path to ‘life in its fullest’ experiences. The events in the Old Testament are about life not just commandments.  If you look at the Bible merely as a rulebook, you miss out on truly understanding the love God has for us.

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Recognizing The Reality Of Grace

God’s grace is a gift and a wonderful reason to love God for his heart.  We love him because we recognize how much he really loves us (I John 4:19). But what if someone doesn’t recognize his love?

What if someone gave you a gift and it was wrapped in a beautiful package. You certainly wouldn’t ignore that person or scowl a him. What if you opened the package and there was nothing in there but a piece of paper with the word ‘grace’ written on it? You might feel let down and empty. That is sometimes how I felt when I was trying to understand what God meant by grace.  I found definitions of grace galore like ‘unearned favor, God’s unmerited divine favor, divine favor etc. I get that we don’t earn it, but oftentimes those definitions don’t really get to the heart of what grace is and grace is a very big beautiful concept.

My husband I are really enjoying a new fancy camera. We HAVE TO read the instructions!  Both of us admit to not knowing how to use it. I am so thankful every time we change the settings to take a picture a little instruction blurb pops up on the monitor to explain the why of the setting. We found complete joy when we discovered the action setting and took pictures of our grandchildren sliding into base ( a brave action for a 5 year old), pitching and batting (making my 9 year old grandson look like a pro). I can’t wait to use it on my dancing granddaughter and my toddler grandson (Mr. Personality).

Many people don’t like to read instructions so they skip doing it altogether. Often this does not work well and can cause frustration. I can’t count how many times I’ve gone back to read the instructions on something and found a new way to apply and use it. It happens the same way with God’s word.

Grace is indeed God’s unearned favor but it is so much more than just what dribbles from heaven.  It is God’s heart, his presence, his forgiveness and his power. It is just, very simply, his love. Grace comes with an instruction manual. We should want to read the instructions and utilize his gift of grace fully. “Obedience” is not a bad word and it is not contrary to grace. It is simply knowing what is available and knowing that we have the right to accept God’s unmatched blessing in our lives by receiving what he offers us. When we fully understand why we listen to God, why we read his word, why we pray, we look forward to it.  It is not a chore or something we have to do.

I used to follow a schedule for reading the Bible, but I soon found myself reading a chapter and thinking about a million other things and not remembering what I read, let alone applying it. I am reading through the Bible now but time is of no essence and sometimes something in the Old Testament brings something in the New Testament to my mind and I go there. Usually it is because I’m onto something that is right here and now in my life. It is amazing but not surprising that God can be so personable and close. Knowledge helps in recognizing God at work and having the freedom in your mind to let him expand the work of grace in your heart.

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Keeping Busy With The Work Of Love

Have you ever felt God peacefully impressing love on your heart when praying for people? The apostle Paul expressed this sort of thing in the first chapter of Philippians :

3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

The phrase ‘bowels of Jesus Christ’ refers to the innermost being of Christ that resided in Paul. We are connected to God and his son through the gift of holy spirit that we receive when we acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as God’s son who was raised from the dead and now is the head of God’s church.

What is so amazing about this type of prayer is that one can be at total juxtaposition with someone and still pray in this wonderful loving way for them without feeling any negative twinge at all. The more we mature and become more Christ-like, the more we pray with clear undiluted passion for people. We set aside hurts, negative thinking and anger to literally get that innermost heart that peacefully focus on the right and good path of being clear-eyed about love:

9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. Philippians 1:9-10

Paul was in prison at the time he wrote this. He was in a tough situation. His life was in jeopardy, he was in prison and for what? Was he charged with murder, theft or fraud, lying or libel? No, in reality he was in jail for his beliefs. His state of mind and heart under the pressure of it all is readily apparent when reading the book of Philippians.  He kept busy with the work of love. His heart’s desire for the Philippians was that they superabounded more and more in love that was guided by knowledge and judgement. He wanted the Philippians the clearly see God’s heart at work in their lives so that they could separate truth from error.

Truth brings joyous abundance, error brings darkness and misery. Truth loves, error brings on more error and bondage. God can show us how to deal truthfully in love and that may mean speaking up or not worrying about political correctness at times. There are times ‘minding your own business’ can be quite hateful and there are other times that ‘minding your own business’ can be quite loving. God’s love is the only way the way to discriminate between the two.

Life is all about ‘judgement’. Of course it is, but the  words ‘judgement’ and ‘judgmental’ have taken on a negative connotation through the years. God made our brains in a way that we must weigh, discern, think and make decisions. With God’s help love makes the best judgement. That is why prayer is so important. When we have a question or a problem, God can settle our hearts in prayer and we can live in the fullness of life and help others truthfully!

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Perfect Love From A Perfect Father

Perfect love casts out fear and gives us true freedom. Real fear is obsessive!Fear grips, presses, engulfs and controls. We are meant to be free of all things oppressive, depressive and obsessive. Jesus Christ has set us free from these things through the truth. He has been our reconciliation to God. We have been given the spirit to settle our minds and hearts. That is what the New Testament is all about. That is why there is a New Testament!

With all that said, we see fear everywhere. Is perfect love so hard to see or is it hiding? No! It is everywhere! God wants the best for our lives and we see the effects of that in nature and in his word.

Many people choose to walk around in the dark without bothering to allow light in. Part of the reason for this is that people think they can’t go to God directly, have not been taught and have had wrong teaching. There is nothing enlightening about darkness. There are sincere religious people around today that are no better than those who reject God and in some instances worse because they been fed with teaching laced with fear and all those ‘sessives’. It is sad when someone doesn’t believe there’s a God but it is even worse when someone believes the wrong things about God.

Believing that God is love is a great place to start. God has lovingly made the creation and put man in it. He is our source for all that we need to enjoy life in all of its fullness.

When people truly see themselves as God sees them, life is much easier to deal with. Humans that interact with each other with the love of God in their hearts are be very blessed by each other.  When we make people or even ourselves our only source, life fails.  If we humans mess up, God is very forgiving when we go to him and we access that wonderful ‘peace that passeth all understanding’ (Philippians 4:6-7). As a result can we have a clearer mind to see others as God sees them.

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.We love him, because he first loved us.  I John 4:16-19

 

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A Very Present Help

Oh if people just understood this! What a different world it would be! This is not a passive verse nor is it contradictory! No need to fight! Stand up, stand strong, see the victory, do not be discouraged nor be afraid.  God will be in your life if you let him. Go out and face the challenge!

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Playing Well

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a 50 year reunion for a college baseball team that my husband played on. This team won a national championship during my husband’s senior year. There were lots of activities planned to honor this team which culminated in attending the current team’s game for the Division title.

I enjoyed meeting this legendary team’s members and their wives and hearing their stories. Many of them stayed active in sports by playing in the pros, coaching, scouting and teaching. As I watched them interact, even after 50 years, there was camaraderie, laughter, respect and an ethical quality that might have been at the roots of why this team was so successful. They played the game well and still do.

Playing together is an important part of life. All sorts of books have been written about teamwork in athletics, families, business, and education.  The best book ever to speak on this subject is the Word of God. The Bible is written for its believers and it is a rich resource for those who expect to learn principles of life in its pages. God’s principles work when understood correctly and fully. Some people happen on these principles during the course of life through the ups and downs, trial and error approach because they can work for anyone. There were periods in the history of the world when people didn’t have access to the written word.  Today some people stay away from the Bible because they think it is too hard, or have heard things about what is written that is misunderstood or mistranslated. God’s principles regardless work and are worth acknowledging and making an effort to understand how they apply to our lives.

In I Corinthians 12:27-28a , there is an interesting statement:

27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church,…..1 Corinthians 12:27-28a

The body of Christ is a reference to the church. It is a called out group of people that believe in God and his son Jesus Christ. The word ‘church’ refers to the people of God, the members in particular (as individuals).

A baseball team has many members. There are pitchers, catchers, basemen and outfielders. Any given team could have as many as 14 or 15 pitchers.  The coach decides who is in or out at any given time. All players throw, field, bat and run, but in any one given inning, there is only one pitcher, first baseman or catcher or center outfielder. You never see three first base players standing on first base or 5 pitchers standing on the mound. That would be chaos. The same thing is true in the church.

In verse 27 above, Paul writes that ‘God has set some in the church’. ‘Has set’ is in the middle voice, meaning that God has set for himself, for his own use in the church. All members are members individually. Submitting (Ephesians 5:21) one to another has respect for God as its foundation and is a key for success as to how we play well among the called out people of God.

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But made himself of no reputation……

Jesus Christ is our greatest example of a leader. He walked the earth knowing God was his father and yet ‘made himself of no reputation’ (Philippians 2:7) He did things very differently from the common world-view of success and leadership.

He certainly has had an influence on the world as no other man has. True power comes from God.  When Jesus said “I and my father are one” (John 10:30), he was showing who he was aligned with. He carried and is continuing to carry the purpose of God in his heart. He respected (and still does) the wisdom of God. He depends on the wisdom of God in helping people. In everything Jesus Christ did and does for people, God gets the glory.

Jesus took on the form of a servant. The servant offers the way. As a servant of God, he offers the truth and as a result, he offers life in effulgence (John 14:6).

God set Jesus Christ at his own right hand (God doesn’t have a hand physically. This is a figure of speech representing the appointment of Jesus Christ to his position as head of God’s church) :

17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 

21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:17-23)

Jesus Christ made himself of no reputation. It is God that highly exalts him. He gets the pure joy of carrying out God’s service which involves wisdom and knowledge of God, enlightened understanding, knowledge of the hope of God’s calling, and the riches of the glory of his inheritance to us.

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