Sunday, October 15, 2017

Don't ignore a blessing just because it isn't what You asked for...

Christmas is coming!

Okay, it's months away, but it's coming. In my home, that means I have a boatload of things to do. My tree theme, my gifts to make, my cards to get in order... There's a lot. And, if I'm honest, the days of making a wish list aren't over. Not that I make a list and give it out to people with the demand that they give me what I ask for, but I see things and think 'oh that would be nice to get'. Wish lists aren't bad, after all. Wedding showers and baby showers definitely are helped out by having them. Birthday or Christmas wish lists are great.

We have wish lists in life, too, if we think about it. We have a dream or goal, or something we want in life that we keep stored in that mental wish list. The problem is, oft times we are so set on this wish list that we ignore anything that's not on it. We set our hearts on getting exactly what we expect from off this list and don't pay attention when God is sending something different.

For example...

A person might have their heart set on a particular job. Whether or not they are qualified or able to get that job, they hold out for it, passes opportunity after opportunity. They ignore God-sent employment opportunities in hopes of getting that perfect job they've dreamed of, never getting the career they always wanted. Or maybe they do finally get it, but it isn't at all what they expected or dreamed it would be. They've wasted their life trying to achieve a dream that wasn't right for them, despite their wish list being checked off.

Perhaps it's a person waiting on their future spouse. They've got a list, a image, made up in their head. Maybe its hair or eye color, maybe it's height or fitness, maybe shoe size (silly example, I know) but they choose to ignore everyone who doesn't fit that list. They want blonde hair and green eyes, and ignore anyone who comes along with brown hair and blue eyes. They want a 5'10" slim, trim and strong, so they ignore someone who is 5'6" and average. They want someone who is quiet, so they ignore the charismatic personalities that come along. Or maybe it's a specific person. They wait their whole life waiting on one person, and ignore all other possibilities. Before you know it, the person waiting has lost the potential for a lifetime of happiness waiting for the other person, who has found happiness.

 I'm not saying you can't have dreams about what you would like to do for employment or for your future spouse, but I am saying be careful passing up blessings God may send because they aren't exactly what you decided they needed to be. Just because you may see what is on your wish list as they only things that will make you happy does not mean they are what God intends for you.

Part of abiding in God's Will is making sure we are willing to give up what isn't His Will for us, even if that means putting aside our dreams. God won't give you something that isn't better for you in one way or another, so you can be sure if He asks you to lay aside your ideals for His Will, it's for your good.

He wants you to be happy, yes. But God wants you to be happy in Him. In what He gives. How much longer happiness will last if it's found in God's Will rather than our own desires!

Will God give you that 1950s hot rod you've dreamed of owning? Maybe not, maybe He will send a good, reliable work truck instead, knowing it's substantially more useful in life.
Will God send your dream husband, ladies, who is 6'5" and has dreamy gray eyes and wears a suit and tie 24/7? Maybe not, but He will send you a man who will love you and share a lifetime with you, if you're willing to seek His Will for your life.
Will God give you that perfect job with three weeks paid vacation and a cushy corner office where you can work as you please, get paid ridiculously, and have an assistant always at hand? Maybe not, but He might give you a good job that requires hard work and sweat, blood and tears, that teaches you to appreciate home at the end of a day of hard work.

Sometimes we can be miserable if we get exactly what we want. But we're always happy when we're in God's Will, whether it's what we were expecting or not. When we're willing to give up what we want for what He wants for our lives, we find true happiness.

So, I guess in other words, be careful what you ask for. Just because you want something, doesn't mean you need it, you will get it, or it's God's Will for your life. What you ask for might be the opposite of a blessing God wants to send you, and you could ignore it for something that will hinder you rather than help you.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

You can't Always Walk the Fence

Walking that fine line between two things is a difficult task. You will either lean one way or the other, eventually. We just discussed this in my Sunday school class. It's impossible to walk left and right and have both feet moving in the same direction. It's impossible to go forward and backward at the same time. You can't walk in two directions at once.

You can't have the best of both worlds.
You can't have your cake and eat it too.
You can't serve God and the world.

I'm sure if it came down to it, we all know someone like this. Someone who tries to appear to be the holy, spiritual Christian on Sunday and lives like the devil through the other six days in the week. It's a dangerous game to play for those truly born again Christians. You're walking along a fence between serving God and serving Satan. That façade you put up for other Christians on Sunday will eventually be overshadowed by the true you that has control during the week.

What are some of the signs of a once-a-week Christian? I might not know them all, but here are a few I've picked up on.

At church, they say 'all the right things', spout spiritual words and quote Bible knowledge... You probably won't hear anyone who seems to know their Bible better. They've always got the right words and answer. Sometimes it sounds a little like a well rehearsed speech, and occasionally they use the same cliché sayings one too many times, but they sound pretty sound...
But during the week, there's nothing holy coming out of their mouth. Dirty jokes. Bitterness and hatefulness. Cussing, swearing, curse words, using the Lord's Name in vain. This person quoting Bible verses about Jesus' Name on Sunday is using that precious Name in vain on Monday, following up a filthy joke they've just told. They think nothing of using cussing or swearing. See nothing wrong with any of it.
James 3:10-12 (KJV)
10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

At church, they say they don't listen to worldly or secular music or watch trash filled shows, and admonish other Christians to not fill their mind with music about ungodly, sinful things... They constantly warn young Christians or the youth about the dangers of secular music, time and time again telling them to watch out when it comes to what music they listen to....
During the week, you'll hear nothing but trash coming from every outlet they can find. Every radio, TV channel, iPod and electronic device they own blares nasty music and shows about nasty things. They see nothing wrong with- nay, they even delight in- songs and entertainment that talk about things which should make any Christian blush and turn off. The worse the song or show- the more ungodliness, cussing, and filth- the more they like it, sing it, talk about it... the more they delight in it. 
Romans 12:2 (KJV)
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.

At church (or around people from church), they have standards and convictions over immorality and sin... You won't hear them laughing at a dirty joke. They dress modestly and how you would expect a Christian to look. You won't see them engaging in sinful activities. There's not a thing in their lives you could picture them having little to no standards in. They're the epitome of the way a Christian should live- or so it seems...
The rest of the time, they have no problem being a part of wickedness. That person who claims to have such high standards is living like the world. You couldn't tell they were a Christian by their actions- and neither can the world. 
2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

In short, they act spiritual but live carnally.
They don't obey the Spirit- they live for the flesh. They put on a good show in church and around other Christians, but when they let that façade fall... the true them is shown- the side of them that has no discernable difference from the world. Their words, actions, appearance, their whole self denies Christ in everything they do. 

I can't stress how important, not for our own sakes but for the testimony of Christ, that we do not be this kind of Christian. 

Romans 8:5-9 (KJV)
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

When we get saved, we're no longer slaves of the flesh. We're a new creature in Christ. We no longer serve self, the world or Satan. If we are truly born again, can we with a clear conscience serve the world? Can we see nothing wrong with living like the lost? Do we find no fault in doing the things that bring glory to Satan rather than Christ? These verses say the carnal mind is enmity against God. What born again believer can then live carnally without caring? 

Romans 6:1-2 (KJV)
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Can we really see no problem reveling in the sins that caused Christ to die on the cross? Can we really see no harm in the deeds of the world that cost my Savior His life? Do we really lower the consequences of the sin that had such a serious cost by living in them daily after we are born again?

Romans 13:12-14 (KJV)
12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

We should strive to never allow occasion for our flesh to have control. We should strive to prevent ourselves from having opportunities for pleasing the flesh. Whatever measures must be taken, we must take them. If you know a certain activity or outlet provides you a greater temptation to serve the flesh, then cut it off! If certain 'friends' provide you with ungodly counsel and companionship, cut them out of your life! If anything, ANYTHING, gives your flesh opportunity to come between you and God, CUT IT OFF! Make not provision for the flesh! Cast off the works of darkness! Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, put on the armour of light!

Romans 6:11-13 (KJV)
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

As Christians, we're not supposed to live to please the flesh. Those songs, those shows, those words, those activities- they should cause a instant repulsive feelings in our hearts. Our flesh will tell us to do it, and make all kinds of excuses why we can. The Holy Spirit will tell us we are no longer to live to please the flesh. 

Romans 14:12 (KJV)
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

This should cause every born again person to reconsider how they live their life. We will give an account to God for how we lived our lives since we were born again. I don't know about you, but I'd rather not have to stand before God and give account for why I walked the fence after salvation, why I flirted with sin, why I lived a holy and separated life only one day of the week.

Matthew 6:24 (KJV)
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Eventually, you will end up choosing between one of the two. It's either going to be God, or the world. You can't continue to walk the fence- eventually it's going to reach the point where you must walk one direction or the other. So, what will it be? Who are you going to serve?

.... as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Expectations and Standards

How many times have you heard someone has really high standards? How often was that said in a praising tone? Was it said in a way that lead you to believe that person was not really holding to standards but rather expectations that were unfounded and useless?

As believers, we have to have standards (or else anything would go and Christians would be no different than the world), but we can't have standards that are unrealistic. We have to hold ourselves to standards that are Biblical. God's Word is our standard.

The problem is, too often, believers begin to let their standards slip- or at least, the standards that matter. We begin to let little things creep into our lives and let our standards fall to make allowance for them. All too often, once we let our standards begin to slip in one area, they begin to fall completely in all the others. Things that we shouldn't waver in- doctrine, faithfulness, whatever it may be- we begin to compromise in, and gradually conform to the world. After all, if you take one brick from the foundation of a house, it's easier and easier to take another until the house has no foundation to stand on, because the bricks rely on each other to hold that house up.

Before we know it, our standards are completely gone, and we're out of God's Will because we aren't living in accordance to His Word.

If only we were as quick to correct our own lack of standards as we are to judge those who aren't holding to them. If only we genuinely tried holding ourselves to the expectations we hold others to.
Isn't it funny how when we begin to slip, one of the first things we do is justify our actions to those around us? 'Well, they're doing it, so it's no big deal if I do.' We repeat that phrase until we believe that we're doing no harm because others are doing it as well. Since when are those around us our ruler for measuring up to?
But when someone else slips in the same way, we immediately begin pointing out their flaw. We are all too willing to judge them, but yet we won't judge ourselves. The problem is, we are trying to measure others against ourselves and ourselves against others. As believers, we aren't the notch on the ruler to which we must meet. God is.

Having standards is important, as I said. We have to have them. But we can't have unrealistic expectations. We can't demand one thing of a friend that we wouldn't even hold ourselves to. And we can't hold ourselves or anyone else to any expectation that isn't found straight from the Word of God.

It's not wrong to have Biblical standards and expectations. But we need to remember that the only One who has the right to expect anything of anyone is God, not us.

Yes, you have to have standards. It's especially important to have standards when courting/dating. Making sure you're not unequally yoked, holding firm that the two of you should agree on doctrine and in beliefs- don't back down on those. They are important. But don't go looking for someone who is perfect because you have a list of requirements they must meet that you yourself couldn't even come close to.
Making sure they are saved? Utmost Importance.
Making sure they believe the correct doctrine? Very Important.
Making sure you agree on future decisions that would come in a relationship? Absolutely Important.
Them looking a certain way or possessing a specific trait or characteristic or skill which causes you to turn away anyone who doesn't meet that? Unrealistic.
Saying, 'My future husband must be saved, KJV only, Independent Baptist, and we must agree on doctrine.' is not unrealistic.
Saying 'My future husband must be exactly 5'11" with chestnut brown hair and green eyes, and he must have gone through at least six years of college, and love dogs and only eat vegetarian foods, and he must promise that I'll have unlimited access to the bank account, and he must smile just a certain way, and he better not ever tell me what to do, and he can never wear ties that are green, and he can't have any debt but he should have at least $4,500 in the bank at all times, and if his favorite book is anything but Tom Sawyer, then we have a problem.' Yeah, that would be pretty unrealistic.
Having Bible based standards and expectations isn't wrong. Having expectations that would be impossible to match is.

Along the same lines, we can't hold others, our friends, family or coworkers, to our expectations because we would be measuring them to ourselves. We are all still human. We all have our faults and flaws, and we all sin. Thank the Lord, He is merciful and forgives us. He gives us second chances. He hold us to His standard because He is the only one who we should be trying to please. He forgives us time and time again, even when we fail to meet His expectations.

So if you're going to hold anyone to any expectation, use God's Word as your ruler, and remember that He's holding you up to that same standard as well. Before you judge someone else for not reaching the mark, consider whether or not you are reaching it, because odds are you are failing to do so as well.