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There is, I believe, a process the mind must go through to fully comprehend the Word of God. At some point in our lives – perhaps what we call the age of accountability – every student of God’s Word becomes responsible for navigating this process.

Buy the truth, and do not sell it,
Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.
Proverbs 23:23

Acquiring the truth is a costly proposition – time being the most obvious investment. However, merely showing up for Sunday School, Church Service, or a Bible Study is not enough. Kingdom truth has been given for us to search out (Proverbs 25:2). We are to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God (1Corinthians 4:1-2). These passages suggest activity – activity on the part of the learner.

Indeed, faithfulness to the truth is not the sole responsibility of preachers and teachers. These individuals are responsible for delivery, but learning does not happen without faithful students who will accept their responsibility to acquire what is being offered.

Furthermore, our rebirth did not include a new mind. God determined to leave us with a mind bent on conformity with the world – a mind that must be renewed. At times, I wonder why He did such a thing – our carnal minds have caused so much trouble. Still, we must trust God in His determination and commit ourselves to participating in the renewal effort.

The carnal mind – or the carnal part of our mind (I am not sure which is more accurate) – is at enmity with God (Romans 8:7). The truth that will make us free is a threat to the mind set on earthly things. Consequently, there is at least a portion of our minds that actively resists our procurement of the truth, doing so at nine critical steps in the acquisition process.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The way we think affects our reception of external stimuli, our processing of it, and our response to it. Most of us think without thinking about the way we think. In a sense, thinking comes naturally to us.

So why think about thinking?

Consider the young baseball player who wants to be a great hitter. If he is the rare “natural”, he will step in the batter’s box with little forethought and hit most anything thrown to him. The vast majority are not so gifted.

At the most elementary level, a hitter must think about the way he is standing in the batter’s box. He must think about how to hold the bat, and to rotate his wrists when swinging. He must learn the strike zone and the field of play.

Beyond the elementary, if he has a good batting instructor, he will learn and consider the repertoire of pitches he will be required to hit. He will come to recognize that the pitcher is trying to deceive him with the change-up and slider.

At a deeper level, an accomplished hitter will start to think about the way he is thinking when he steps into the batter’s box. He will have a plan. He will have mentally rehearsed the plan. The best hitters “get into the head of the pitcher” – both discerning what the next pitch will be, and affecting the choice.

In summary, those that think before they do something are more successful at the task than those that don’t. Similarly, those that think about their thinking become better thinkers (and doers).

The lies of our life

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It seems we have embarked on a series of articles about the way humans think, and what they think about. If that is the case, then this is the third article in the series. The first two are 3 Realities of Workplace Leadership and Did Jesus die, sacrifice and suffer so we wouldn’t have to?

Here is the premise of the series:

The church in America desperately needs a reformation. Where do reformations begin? Romans 12:2 encourages us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Perhaps, in this Age of Reason, we need a reformation in the way we think.

We have gotten lazy with our thinking. We trust our thinking way too much. Those of us that preach and teach trust the thinking of others more than we should.

The way we think, and what we think about, is commonly called our mindset, worldview or paradigm. Everyone has one, though many do not recognize that they receive and respond to external stimuli through a mental filter that has been developed throughout their lifetime.

We are born with a mindset that has certain predetermined settings. Other come through learning. A baby crying when its hungry is not a learned behavior. Learning to manipulate with emotion is learned and developed. Both predetermined and learned behavior can be unlearned. Our minds can be renewed. Read the rest of this entry »

The church in America desperately needs a reformation. Where do reformations begin? Romans 12:2 encourages us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Perhaps, in this Age of Reason, we need a reformation in the way we think.

We have gotten lazy with our thinking. We trust our thinking way too much. Those of us that teach trust the thinking of others more than we should.

I grew up in church hearing about “Jesus’ substitutionary death”.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

For the longest time, I assumed this meant that He died so I wouldn’t have to. Fortunately, God encouraged me to ask someone to disciple me. He introduced me to Romans 6:8:

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him…

And Luke 9:23.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

And Mark 8:35:

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Obviously, there is something more to His death than I – and many like me – were taught. Many have no clue that to live abundantly in Christ requires our own death. Tragically, there is no one discipling them. Read the rest of this entry »

  • The matter of disqualification can be both contentious and revelatory. This article attempts to leverage the latter as a means (and hope) of mitigating the former.
  • Essential to the matter of disqualification is the recognition that salvation is a process; and faith is a function of the heart.
  • In spiritual matters, separating complex things into their component parts, as a method for understanding the whole, simply does not work as we would like. It is impossible to understand the principles of grace, faith and works apart from one another.
  • Our faith does not save us any more than our works. Only God’s grace can do that. Effectual faith – also a gift of God; perfected by the grace of works – appropriates the grace that saves.
  • Eventually, judgment will come. Those caught with their talent buried in the ground, their branch without fruit, or any other of the disqualifying conditions, will be rejected.
  • “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Jesus Christ (Luke 13:24)

Introduction

A Storm is ComingAs a follow-up to The Peril of Disqualification, I would like to address a couple of objections that have been raised about our being disqualified from our salvation. In part three, I will flesh out a few of the more significant disqualifying conditions.

Recognizing salvation as a process is an essential context for understanding what follows. Therefore, I encourage you to take a moment and read the foundation article on that subject. You will discover that which comes to those that endure to the end (Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:13).

A second essential matter is the vessel and instrument, so to speak, of faith in a born again person. It is with the heart that man believes (Mark 11:23; Romans 10:10). Most in the church would agree that belief is more than mental assent to the truth of Scripture.

However, I fear many have been emotionally charmed by the notion of salvation – even wondering at the beauty of it – without appropriating its birth in their heart. A helpful analogy is that of the man that admires the painting of a wondrous landscape, without ever traveling to experience its grandeur in person. Read the rest of this entry »

A Storm is Coming

I am convinced that most every sane person would want to know that they are – if only potentially – in peril. Therefore, I am offering the following for your consideration.

I encourage you to judge this seriously; not just, “Do I believe it?” but, “What am I to do with it?”

I am afraid that many will dismiss this altogether: that “believers” are in peril of disqualification. It is much easier to accept the notion that God would not allow such a thing. However, that is not what the Scriptures tell us.

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. Romans 11:22

It is difficult to consider both the goodness and severity of God, when His severity has not been adequately explained. Church leaders are hesitant to teach the severity of God when the guy down the street has a more palatable message.

The problem, of course, is the truth doesn’t change with the lack of its teaching. There are conditions that will result in our being cut off; or, as Paul warns the Corinthians, “disqualified”.

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. 1Corinthians 9:27

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2Corinthians 13:5

Paul took the steps necessary to ensure he would not become disqualified; and he encouraged the same for those under his care. That is my heart for all that will read this article – that you would prayerfully consider the referenced passages. Allow the Holy Spirit to teach, and possibly convict, you. Read the rest of this entry »

istock_2880338large_governmentWith every passing election season, the American church reveals just how set its mind is on the things of this world. It is discouraging to watch; for we have been called to a greater mission than making America great again.

We have been called to hasten the day of the Lord’s return.

Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Hebrews 13:12-14

Every moment and every bit of energy invested in this world is wasted to the kingdom of God. Jesus came to establish an order of an entirely different kind. It appears that we have lost sight of the difference.

As followers of Jesus Christ we are to be “in the world, but not of this world” (John 17:14-19). There is no fine line in this. Those who want to be friends with the world are at enmity with God.

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4

Even the desire to be a friend with the world makes us an enemy of God. It is time for us in the church to beg God to search their hearts and minds. Who will lead us?

The problem with deception is its nature: Those who are being deceived do not know that they are deceived. Deception is such a danger, that the whole armor of God is needed to protect us from it.

 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Ephesians 6:11

This deception is the primary weapon of our enemy, Satan – particularly at the end of the age.

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 2Thessalonians 2:9-10

Our salvation from the great deceptions of our day comes to us as we receive the love of the truth that God is offering. This includes the truth about the worldly things we have come to love.

We must receive God’s truth about America. Read the rest of this entry »

Business Man with TabletFor which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  Luke 14:28-31

Counting the cost of following Jesus Christ has been lost by most of the church. If you have not been encouraged in this regard – or you have not been encouraging others – you will be blessed in reading our most recent lesson: The Lost Foundations – Counting the Cost… First.

Once you decide to count the cost (and/or encourage others to do the same), the following may help you get started.

  1. I have found that the most profitable starting point is a simple conversation with our Heavenly Father (imagine that). Here are some good conversation starters:
    1. Father God, stir up the desire you have placed in my heart – to hear your voice regarding the cost of following your Son.
    2. Father God, stir up the desire you have placed in my heart – to invest in Your kingdom.
    3. Father God, give me the opportunity to begin the investment strategy Your Spirit reveals.
  2. Keep in mind that a person’s perception of reality can be bent in one of two ways: Toward optimism, or pessimism. Both can be dangerous; pessimism, more so. Be wary of your mind’s leanings.
  3. Counting the cost may reveal areas where we are still reigning – in charge of our investment decisions. There is a fine line between what we would like to have, and what we demand, to be satisfied in life. If God and Christ are truly reigning, then everything we have been entrusted with is subject to their investment decisions. Repentance regarding ownership may be in order.
  4. Counting the cost may reveal areas where we are living in fear. Ask yourself: What do I fear losing? Remember, behind every fear is a lie, deal with the lie and the fear will fly. Ask God to identify the lie, and the truth that will overcome it. 
  5. NOTE: Beyond this point, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in determining which of these helps will best exercise your faith.
  6. One way to test your counting is to consider a past commitment. For example, you may have promised Jesus that you would follow Him anywhere. Or, you may have commitment some amount of time to serve those less fortunate. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the commitments you have already made.
  7. If you have not made a particular commitment, then allow the Holy Spirit to prompt your imagination for a particular kingdom investment opportunity. Be careful; our minds are tricky things. They have a tendency take what the Holy Spirit suggests out to something entirely farfetched; something to which we can easily say “no way”.
  8. Jesus did not hide, nor soft pedal, the investment required to follow Him. The lesson mentioned above highlights a number of specific costs. The Parable of the Sheep and Goats, the Sermon on the Mount and the Great Commission are also helpful challenges for our counting. Incorporate those in your time with the Holy Spirit (in #2).
  9. Our love of the LORD should be the primary motivator for counting the cost (and paying it). Ask yourself: Do I love Him so much that I would joyfully sacrifice my __________?

I trust and pray this will help you become a more active investor in the kingdom of our LORD. Please, let me know if I can help you further.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Bible with Cross ShadowBeware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:15-16

It is helpful for our understanding to recognize and consider the Sermon on the Mount as more than a collection of sayings. The order is important. Jesus’ warned of false prophets immediately following His saying about the narrow gate and difficult way. He did so to help us understand what would be false about them.

False prophets have traditionally encouraged the people of God to take the broad way (Jeremiah 14:13-14; Lamentations 2:14; Ezekiel 22:28; Micah 3:5). Jesus warned that they would continue to plague His church – particularly near the end of the age (Matthew 24:11). Furthermore, Peter relates them to false teachers “who will secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2Peter 2:1). Both will lead many away from the kingdom.

These false prophets and teachers will come in disguised and protected by a spirit of deception (2Thessalonians 2:9-12). They will be subtle; preying on those immature in the Lord, or isolated from the fellowship. They will create and use confusion and division to further their agendas. Thankfully, Jesus has given us instruction for knowing them: By their fruit. This brings us to two obvious conclusions.

First, prophets and teachers must be tested. This takes time. For their good, and the good of the fellowship, they should not be given prophet or teacher responsibilities until there is evidence of the Lord’s fruit in their lives. This may take years, but their patience and submission to authority will be an evidence of good fruit.

Second, we must humbly recognize the possibility of being deceived, individually and corporately. Particularly in these days, church leadership must be on their guard; and ready to take action. The aforementioned Thessalonians passage suggests that “a love of the truth” will be our greatest protection. This love is active, and it must be developed. There is a desire for it in every Christian’s heart. Ask God to stir it up; and then respond to His encouragement.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Bible with Cross ShadowEnter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14

There was a time when this saying of Jesus was well known to all Christians; now, perhaps not. Even those of us who have heard it many times have failed to grasp – or have lost – the gravity of its meaning. Entering the kingdom of God is not as easy as we would like to think; nor communicate.

First, let’s deal with the meaning of the narrow gate. The Greek word used here means: Well, it means narrow – as in not wide. Jesus intends for his disciples to visualize a gate that is difficult to pass through. Maybe not the eye of a needle (for everyone), but certainly narrower than a standard doorway.

In a later conversation, he made this abundantly clear.

Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Luke 13:23-24

Nothing short of striving will get us through the narrow gate. Whatever striving looks like for you, I am sure it is not easy. It is important that we search this out – for ourselves and for those whom we are responsible to God. These articles will help: Call to Action: Strive to Enter; and A Storm is Coming – Strive to Enter into Community. Read the rest of this entry »

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