Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fearing God .vs. Fearing Hell


The fear of the Lord PROLONGS LIFE, but the years of the wicked will be short.” – Proverbs 10:27

“The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is RICHES AND HONOR AND LIFE.” – Proverbs 22:4

“The fear of the Lord is INSTRUCTION IN WISDOM, and humility comes before honor.” – Proverbs 1:7

“But THE LORD TAKES PLEASURE IN THOSE WHO FEAR HIM, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” – Psalms 147:11

“But I will warn you whom to fear: FEAR HIM WHO AFTER HE HAS KILLED, HAS AUTHORITY TO CAST INTO HELL. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” – Luke 12:5

Somewhere along the way in Christian theology and teaching, we’ve strayed that tiny little bit to the left and missed the mark.  A good friend once told me that all it takes to miss God is just to get our attention side tracked that tiny little bit.  It’s like a man with a bow aiming at a target and then becoming ever so slightly distracted.  We may hit the target, but we’ve missed the bull's-eye.

I grew up hearing lots about hell, rather than hearing of God’s love.  It was scary stuff!  Gnashing of teeth in pain!  Fire that never ceased to burn us! The separation from our loved ones! Coals of fire and ashes that envelope us forever! Living forever in pain without God - and with Satan and his demons.  While that is all true, it’s a slight distraction. 

God’s word NEVER tells us to fear hell.  But time and time again it tells us to fear God.  What’s the difference you ask?  Fear of God is reverence toward Him, honoring Him with our submission.  Fear of hell is only fear, and God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love (2 Timothy 1:7). 

If you worship God out of fear, you are a slave to God, obeying orders out of fear.  But God does not call those that believe to be His slaves, but His children.  What’s the relationship between a parent and a child?  It’s based on love - not fear.  It’s based on respect, honor, trust, loyalty, commitment.  The difference in fearing hell and fearing God is the relationship formed with Him.  He wants your LOVE (Matthew 22:37). 

While fearing hell may save you from going there, it will do nothing for you in life.  Yet time and time again, God’s word tells us that if we fear Him (respect, honor, submission, love), we will be blessed. 

Friends, fear God only.  By fearing God, you gain a relationship with Him that is heaven on earth, as well as Heaven for eternity. He loves you and wants your love in return.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Copy and Paste This

“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 10:32-33

There seems to be a lot of concern regarding denying Christ before men.  In the past week or so I’ve been asked to “copy and paste” some sort of status regarding this many times.  I’m just going to be very blunt when I tell you I will NEVER copy and paste any guilt trip to prove my love for Christ.  If you don’t see it in my life, then I’ve failed.  If my life does not prove I am his, then I have denied him.
These verses mean so much more than stating that you are believers in Christ.  It’s so much more than the act of posting a status.  People watch your life – not your Facebook status. 

In the preceding verses of Matthew 10 Jesus explains what it means to deny Him.  He tells his disciples “whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light” and “whatever you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops”.  What Jesus is telling them is to ‘be my voice’.  He taught them well, and He needed them to be bold enough to preach. 
In the days of Christ’s ministry on earth the person who explained the Hebrew laws would always have an interpreter present.  He would whisper into the ear of the interpreter his words, and then the interpreter would speak them to the crowd.  We have a spiritual ear, an ear of the soul.  God’s word tells us that He speaks in a “still small voice”, a whisper (1 Kings 9:12).  He speaks to our very heart through His Holy Spirit.  When we do not share what God has given us in those times, then we deny Christ our voice.

He has asked us to speak it on the housetops.  In those days house tops were flat with a banister around them.  If you wanted to proclaim news to the public, that was your stage.  When Sabbath was to be honored by the Jews, there would be six trumpet sounds from the housetop to instruct them when to quit work in the fields and in the cities, and when to light the Sabbath candle.  The housetops were used to convey messages to large numbers of people throughout the Bible.  I cannot think of a better place to speak what God has given you than on your social media pages where you will reach thousands.  But, your life must speak the same message.  It is with your life, your day to day actions, the words that come from your mouth (even when you are angry), that you proclaim that you belong to Christ or deny Him. 

Nobody needs a watered down weak Christian.  We are called to be BOLD in our faith (Ephesians 3:12, 2 Corinthians 3:12, 2 Timothy 1:6-7, Ephesians 6:19).  If the only time you talk about your love for God and your faith is inside your church, you need to find your boldness.  It’s the people outside church doors that crave and need a relationship with God. 
So speak what He tells you to speak.  Be Christ’s voice in this world in your words and your actions.  Otherwise, you are denying Him.  God doesn’t need secret agents.




Monday, November 9, 2015

Protecting Yourself from Church Hurt

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:1-3

Church conflicts are satan’s favorite weapon.  They break down the body of Christ into clicks.  They split churches.  They cause pastors to leave.  They create animosity within the body to where it cannot function to its full potential. They cause devoted members to just quit going to church. 
Church conflicts are going to happen as long as churches are made of people.  We all have opinions, and we all think ours are right and everyone else’s are wrong.  We all want to get our way.  We all want our ego’s stroked from time to time, and we all go through times that we’re so unhappy with ourselves that we become easy game for satan to sow seeds of discord.  He may send those to your church to begin it with little talks behind people’s backs, little nasty attitudes, and discouraging words.  He knows all too well how to get the job done.  Many of you reading this are in, or have been in, such a situation with a family of church friends.

But God did not leave us helpless when it comes to church conflicts.  He provides instruction for our response to church hurts.  In Ephesians 4:1-3 he tells us how to keep the bond of unity and peace.
First, he tells us to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called”.  If you get out of the will of God, you’re asking for trouble.  Oh how satan loves to find you doing something you’re ashamed of!  Oh how he loves to poke and prod at that favorite sin until it takes over!  Keep yourself close to God by staying in His word, with His people, and away from the evils that tempt you.  When you abide in Christ, you have an umbrella of protection (Psalms 91).

Secondly, he tells us to live in “lowliness and gentleness”.  Don’t get an ego!  When we start feeling like we are somebody then we open ourselves up to letting our pride get hurt.  Trample your own pride so that satan doesn’t get a chance to.  Do those things that you think are ‘beneath’ you.  Be the servant – love the master.  Be gentle in your words to others as well.  Remember that everyone has the capability of getting their feelings hurt.  Don’t let satan use you to do that job.  Let your words be few, and let them be harmless as doves, wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16).
Lastly, we’re told to be “longsuffering, bearing with one another in love”.  Be “longsuffering”, meaning don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve.  You WILL get your feelings hurt eventually, regardless of what you do.  Learn to be forgiving – immediately.  Guard your words about the matter because they only further sow discord.  If you can’t get over it in silence, then quietly talk to the person who offended you about it.  If they will not ask for forgiveness, forgive them anyway.  You need forgiveness in order for God to hear your prayers (Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13). 

Find something to love about even the most unlovable.  You can find it if you try.   1 Peter 4:8 says “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”  When you love someone, truly love from your heart and not your head, you will forgive the things they do that offend you.  1 Corinthians 13:7 says that “love bears ALL THINGS”.  It’s a safe zone we give to others in the body of Christ, and a zone we are offered by those that love us in return.  Even with the best intentions in the world, and a heart of gold, you are going to eventually screw up!  You need the safe zone of Christian love.  Nurture it, grow it, offer it to those you fellowship with.  Otherwise, it won’t be there for you when you need it.
You get to pick what offends you and what you will forgive.  It is a choice to be offended.  Choose wisely.  Choose what God would have you to feel.  And when you struggle with it, read Matthew 18:21-35.

You may think this sounds like you have to be a doormat for others.  Yes, you sometimes do.  BUT IT’S WORTH IT!  When the bond of love and peace surrounds you in your Christian fellowship, the Holy Spirit is present.  In His presence, you’ll enjoy the love and peace, and be easy to dismiss any distractions of hatred and strife that satan wants to offer you.