The Lens of Personal Preference…

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Jeremiah 17:5-8 (KJV)

5 Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.
6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.
8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

An acorn needs nutrients and time to grow into a tall, sturdy oak tree.

Likewise, men and women of conviction develop gradually through committed Bible study and prayer. Ready to get planted firmly in biblical truth?

Here’s how:

Make a list of issues for which you need to form a conviction.

Here are questions to help you get started: Do you consider the Bible true and trustworthy?
Do you think that believing in Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved?
What is the Holy Spirit’s role in the lives of believers and unbelievers?
Are we to forgive others in every situation?
How should Christians approach finances?
What’s your purpose in life?
What is your role in the church and at work?
How should you think and act regarding social issues like capital punishment, abortion, and racism?

It is my hope that these questions will open the eyes of those who haven’t contemplated how their personal philosophies have developed.

It’s time to change that.

Study the Bible and make God’s Word the cornerstone of your thinking. A concordance will point you to scriptures that relate to the above topics. Evaluate what the Bible says rather than looking at an issue through the lens of personal preference.

Ask, What does God say? …rather than What does this mean to me?

Once you know what God says, you have a choice to make: Believe Him and commit to living according to your conviction, or continue being tossed by waves of doubt and indecision (James 1:6).

Root yourself in God’s Word and be called one of His oaks of righteousness (Isa. 61:3).

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Know Him First, the Rest Will Follow…

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 Psalm 42:1-8 (KJV)

1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?
4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.
5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.
6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.
7 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.
8 Yet the Lord will command his loving kindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.

Do you want to know who God is and what He cares about most in your life?

You may have stored up lots of intellectual information about the Bible; that is important, but it’s not the main issue. You may serve the Lord, which is also necessary. And you may give generously to the church—another significant aspect of Christian life. But what matters most is the depth of your personal relationship with the Lord.

Knowledge, service, and tithes can never replace intimacy with God.

The psalmist-king understood this truth, and it strengthened him in times of trouble. When his son Absalom tried to take over the throne, David fled to the desert, where he wrote these words: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2). He knew that even in raging adversity, he could count on the Lord’s unfailing love being poured down on him (v. 8).

Throughout his psalms, we repeatedly see David’s hunger and thirst for the Lord.

It was that passion—not his brute strength, savvy charisma, or remarkable ability to command an army—that made him a great man. And even though he made several significant mistakes, the Bible describes him as a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14).

It’s not enough to read the Bible, volunteer your services, and give money to kingdom work. God wants to know you personally. While physical expressions of our devotion are important, they should be the result of a mature relationship with God.

When we seek to know Him first, the rest will follow.

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The Trap That Pulls Us Away…

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Matthew 9:11-13 (KJV)

11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

There is a common misconception that believers should be perfect.

Pretending to have our lives in order, many of us wear happy faces and speak words that sound acceptable. At times we’re ashamed to admit our shortcomings, as if they should not exist. Salvation through Jesus, however, doesn’t change the fact that sin is present in our life. When we’re born again, God forgives us and sees us as righteous. Yet our battle with sin continues till we arrive in heaven.

In fact, striving for perfection actually can be a trap that pulls us away from living a godly life.

Functioning in this way is a form of relying on our own capability. Jesus said that He came to heal the spiritually sick because they recognized their weakness. With an awareness of our inadequacy comes the realization of our need for Him.

The world sees successful individuals as powerful and self-sufficient, but Jesus didn’t care about these qualities. Instead, He wants people to be aware of their own brokenness.

This is the foundation for godliness.

We should accept our neediness and seek God passionately. Doing so allows the following attributes to develop: a hunger for God’s Word, faithful service, deepening trust, and decision-making based upon principle rather than preference.

Patiently and mercifully, God matures us.

Be careful not to cover up your sins in order to look like a “good Christian.” Without recognition and confession of our sinfulness, we are unable to rely fully on God.

It is only with this awareness that we can passionately seek Him, obey in His strength, and confess with repentance when we miss the mark.

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The Narrow Gate of Faith…

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Matthew 7:13-14 (KJV)

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Have you ever been accused of being a narrow-minded Christian?

Those who level such accusations against us certainly mean it as an insult. According to Jesus, however, that’s the only way to walk if we want to experience abundant life now and eternal life with Him in heaven. But it will require a deliberate choice on our part, because no one automatically drifts onto this pathway.

The broad way is easy to find.

In fact, unless you make a conscious choice to avoid it, you’ll find yourself on it. Most people like this wide path because it encompasses all philosophies and belief systems. Everything is acceptable, and everyone’s “truth” is valid. It even seems like the loving path because no one is left out. There are no restrictions, and freedom is unlimited. Or is it?

What those who travel this road fail to realize is that it’s a downward descent into destruction.

All the promises it gives of satisfaction and fulfillment end in disappointment because it’s a path without God. But those who enter by the narrow gate of faith in Christ find the peace and joy of a relationship with Him that satisfies the heart. The gate is small because truth guards the entrance.

The way is narrow because the Lord protects us with wise boundaries.

Which path are you traveling? You can’t have one foot on each, because they’re going in opposite directions. When you tolerate everything, you’re headed for destruction. But when you choose the narrow way, your life truly begins.

You’ll walk with Christ day by day until He walks you home to heaven.

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In Accordance With Our True Identity…

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Romans 12:1-3 (KJV)

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

When a person places his faith in Jesus Christ, he becomes a new believer, and he is sanctified–that is, set apart for God’s purpose.

Unlike salvation, which takes place in a single moment, sanctification is a lifelong process. We who are followers of the Savior should be letting the Holy Spirit control our lives. If that is the case, we are currently being sanctified, regardless of what we may feel or how our actions appear to others. In other words, we are progressively maturing in our faith.

And if we are progressing, we must be working our way toward something.

The apostle Paul explained the Christian’s mission: “For those whom [God] foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). A believer’s character, conduct, and conversation should be reflections of Jesus, who lives within.

On our own, we’d place too much emphasis on behavior and get caught up with following rules and rituals that look Christian without truly reflecting Christ.

But God has given each believer His Spirit as a teacher and guide. The Spirit works to transform our minds and hearts so that we are markedly different from our unsaved peers. When we allow the Spirit to control us, we speak and act in accordance with our true identity: God’s sons and daughters.

Our Father wants His children to be living examples of who He is. He doesn’t expect perfection–He knows we can’t be totally sinless in our human body.

But He shows us how to think and act so we may “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called” (Eph. 4:1).

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The Rightful Owner…

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Psalm 24:1-2 (KJV)

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.

The basic principle of real prosperity is elementary. 

In fact, it boils down to four simple words: God owns it all.

Even for mature Christians, this truth can be difficult to grasp fully and put into practice.

After all, it runs counter to the thinking of modern culture. However, Scripture repeatedly reminds us that God is the Creator and therefore the one who rightfully holds the deed to everything in creation.

According to Haggai 2:8, the Lord also lays claim to the silver and gold—in other words, all currency is His. Psalm 50:10 puts it a different way, telling us that He owns “the cattle on a thousand hills.”

Since God consistently reiterates that He is the exclusive owner of all creation, we should respond appropriately when using His resources—including money. In other words, we should have exactly the same response as when using something that belongs to our neighbors: ask permission to use it; honor the owner’s instructions and do just as he has designated; take no unnecessary risks; handle it the way we would want others to handle one of our possessions; and return it in a timely manner, preferably in better condition or more plentiful than before.

And then say “Thank You.”

First Timothy 6:10 says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

Understanding that God is the rightful owner and we are simply managers of His resources will help us have the proper attitude about wealth—namely, gratefulness rather than entitlement.

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In The Midst of Confusing Messages…

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Titus 1:1-16 (KJV)

1 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;
2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
3 But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;
4 To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.
5For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:
11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.
12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.
13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.
16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

The Founding Fathers created a governing framework based upon biblical principles.

Slowly, we have changed from “one nation under God” to a group of people who no longer want Him to be involved.

Tragically, we’ve become, in numerous ways, an ungodly nation: many are driven by materialism and power; immorality and rebellion are prevalent; empty philosophy and false doctrine are widely acceptable. Underlying it all is a vocal decision to take God out of the nation’s “official business.”

Yet even in an unbelieving society, people can, as individuals, follow Jesus.

But the world will continually disseminate faulty teachings, so believers must be discerning. Otherwise, erroneous messages can lead Christians to compromise their convictions. Then affections and priorities may change. Don’t let the world’s clamor make the Spirit’s voice less audible. Without His guidance, our minds become vulnerable to lies.

The Word of God is a compass that keeps us headed in the right direction—even in the midst of confusing messages all around.

We need to be consistently filled with truth by reading, believing, meditating upon, and applying Scripture. God also tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). If our minds are focused upon Him, unholy beliefs will not be able to take root.

The Word is our guidebook.

We will still face difficulty as we live in this imperfect world—it is a confusing, dark place that entices us but never fulfills our true longings.

Yet God’s truth will bring confidence and boldness, and His Spirit will direct and strengthen, enabling us to live victoriously.

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Prayer, Patience, and Godly Wisdom…

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 2 Samuel 11:1-5 (KJV)

1 And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.
2 And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
3 And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bath–sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?
4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.
5 And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.

We all face key moments of decision, when our actions can lead to lasting consequences.

The issue is, will you be ready when such a time comes?

David wasn’t prepared for the moment of decision that suddenly faced him.

At a time when he was restless, lonely, and preoccupied with worries, temptation and sin caught him unprepared. We can guard ourselves against these moments of weakness by remembering one simple word: H-A-L-T.

First, never allow yourself to get too hungry. When the body is weak from lack of food, poor decisions are likely to follow. Respect your body and provide the sustenance it needs.

Second, don’t permit yourself to get too angry. Anger can cloud judgment and lead to regrettable decisions.

A third caution is not to let yourself become too lonely. When you feel isolated, you may find yourself willing to do almost anything to feel accepted or loved.

Fourth, don’t allow yourself to get too tired. Sleep is essential for wise decisions. When you deprive your mind and body of its necessary “down time,” poor choices become probable.

Being wise in these four areas can prevent thoughts of “If only I hadn’t . . .” later on.

Commit now never to make important decisions when you are too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Instead, be honest at those times and admit you’re unprepared to make sound judgments.

Then delay the decision until you can approach it with prayer, patience, and godly wisdom.

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