Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Living Word

The grass withers and the flowers fall, 

but the word of our God stands forever.   Isaiah 40:8

The Living Word

by Dr Harold Sala

There are some truths that are so profound and meaningful that it becomes intensely painful to really confront them.  The implications are too great, too all-inclusive, too encompassing; so, refusing to confront them, we do one of two things: we ignore them, pretending that they are not there while all of the time they lie before us like the iceberg did when the Titanic, oblivious of warnings, pushed through the dark night.  Or, recognizing that they are there, we simply trivialize them, pointing out that things are not always as they appear and that there are other options.

OK, you may be thinking. Give it to us straight. With maturity and age (which are not always synonymous) you begin to see some things that just are not obvious at age 25. Now that I'm past that milestone, I see some things far more clearly than I used to. Such is the profound implication of how you view the truth found in the Bible.  "Just a minute," you may be thinking.  "Does it really matter that much what your views are of this book!"

Aha! That's where you find yourself in the category of those who trivialize the implications of this book.  Here's why. The implications of the contents of this book are tremendous, touching every part of my life including my business, my marriage, my money, my ethics, my work, my morality, my sex-life, my views of men and women, how I treat the elderly, what I think about abortion and stem-cell research and on and on.

If you confront what this book says, understanding that what God said in the book is to be taken at face value and embraced, then neutrality about some issues is not an option. In simple terms, the truth of this book touches my life, my conduct, and my thinking.

Many, of course, never get to that point. While vast numbers of people say they are Christians-and yes, own and carry Bibles to church with them-in reality they never fully confront what this book says. They dance around it, spiritualizing it, considering it a benchmark, something nice to shoot at but impractical in the world in which we live.

But most simply ignore the Bible, thus embracing situational ethics and weaving through the minefields of life hoping that they will not be discovered and thus embarrassed when society condemns their behavior.

OK, how do you know whether or not this book should be taken at face value, whether or not it is the living Word of God and that its truth should serve as moral and spiritual guidelines for living?  Jesus made a promise.  He said, "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own" (John 7:17).  Take the challenge to find out for yourself. No other book in the entire world makes claims as does this one. Paul wrote, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). Twice-one time in the Old Testament and another in the New-it says, "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8).

The greater your knowledge of this book, the greater will be your respect for it, and when you come to understand that it is a book given by God, you gradually begin to recognize that God gave us the direction He did for our benefit, not to make us miserable, but to show us how to live.

Don't take my Word for it. Study it and find out for yourself. It will change your life.

Dr Sala was my first bible teacher over 35 years ago.

God bless you my friends, Bob

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Human Viewpoint Thinking

Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing

and the woman was very beautiful in appearance

So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"  

David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her. 
2 Samuel 11: 11-12

We all have Human Viewpoint Thinking. 

We are born with it. It’s not all bad. Without it, we would fail at the most basic daily tasks. 
We learn a lot from our experiences, logic, and feelings. 

But on the other hand ... all of our mistakes, wrong thinking, and wrong decisions are a result of false conclusions, lust, and pride that are now ingrained, and are blocking our mind from accepting God’s eternal truth which is very often contrary.

Uriah was one of David’s bravest and most loyal men. He was obviously extremely important since he lived within view of the roof of the king. What would cause King David, whom God had blessed with everything imaginable, to seek out the wife of this most loyal follower? Evil … Human Viewpoint Thinking took control of David’s heart and mind. God’s counsel in his heart and mind was blocked out by his lust.

The results for David were disastrous. First adultery, and then Uriah was murdered to try and cover up the evil. David’s newborn son died. David was disgraced before God and men. And the resulting problems continued to haunt David until the death of his beloved son Absalom. But worst of all was that David fell out of fellowship with God. Following sinful lust and pride always leads to failure, loneliness, shame, guilt, fear and more evil.

The story of David and Bathsheba demonstrates that even when a person is a faithful follower of God, he is still open to ongoing attack from the god of this world. And the evil one will attack each of us where we are most vulnerable, when we least expect it, and in three primary ways: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. A similar attack led to the fall of mankind in the garden. Genesis 3:1-6 … but when Satan tried this tactic with Jesus, the result was the opposite. The devil's absolute failure (Mat. 4:1-11) led to Jesus Christ’s victory over the evil one, and deliverance for all of those who trust in Him forever.

When compared to David; or to Adam and Eve; there is one major difference in the story of Jesus that resulted in victory over the devil. Jesus simply replied to the tempter with authoritative statements of absolute truth from God’s Word, which is the sword of the Spirit … “and the evil one fled; and angels came and ministered to Jesus.”

How could the same man that wrote Psalm 23 also send his most loyal follower out with the intent to be murdered? That is easier to understand, when we know the depth of the evil that is still alive in the hearts and minds of men.  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9 

The difference is that David was controlled by the Love of Christ when he wrote Psalm 23 and also when he defeated Goliath and Israel's other enemies; but with Uriah, David decided to follow the god of this world when tempted with pride and lust ... and then he was led by the god of this world to commit one evil act after another. 

You might say … “I do not believe that the devil is real, and that he is determined to destroy me” … then a pride problem is clearly in view. You are over-ruling God's eternal truth with your personal views. A humble mind is the way of escape. The lesson for all of us is that we need to understand the truth, and be ready to respond with the truth when tested. And we must accept that the eternal truth often has very little to do with our logic, feelings, experiences, and opinions.

To deny that the devil exists is to also to deny God’s eternal Truth and the author of our faith also … Jesus who we claim to believe. “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:11-12. 

What a difference we see between the response from Joseph when tempted by Satan in Gen. 39, and King David in 2 Sam. 11. One was controlled by the love of Christ and had Divine Viewpoint Thinking; and the other was consumed with lust and pride and fell into Human Viewpoint Thinking which rendered him unconscious spiritually and led him off the edge of a cliff.

God’s Word is filled with examples like David, Peter, and Paul at their worst, and at their best. The good news is that no matter how far we fall … Jesus is always willing to forgive us and lift us up. But we are still subject to the consequences of our actions.

The question for each of us here is: “how can we walk in the world; but not be of the world?”

First we must love God more than life itself. When we love God as He loves us, we will be seeking to know Him better, and this comes through prayer and meditating on His word, and by the leading of the Holy Spirit. We need to pray that he will reveal to us our personal weaknesses where the evil one is most likely to attack. When we humble ourselves to God he will provide victory in the areas where the enemy has established strongholds in our life, and He provides for us ways of escape.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 1 Cor.10:13

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:  (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. 2 Cor. 10:3-5

When we know the Eternal Truth, and we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind; we are then able to put off our old ways, and put on God’s new ways through the transforming and renewing of our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is how we remove Human Viewpoint Thinking and replace it with Divine Viewpoint Thinking. This is our spiritual service of worship. This is how we worship Jesus rather than ourselves. Rom. 12:1-2

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Pet. 1:2-4

God Bless you my friends, Bob

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Divine Viewpoint Thinking

And do not be conformed to this world
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,  

so that you may prove what the will of God is, 
that which is good and acceptable and perfect
Romans 12:2

What does it mean to have Divine Viewpoint Thinking?

The first step is to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 
This can only be accomplished through God's Truth by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

We must also come to grips with the fact that we all approach the actions and affairs of our life, 
either from a human viewpoint or a divine viewpoint.

This includes those who see themselves as living a Christian or spiritual life. 
The first question that we must all ask ourselves is ...
Which viewpoint best describes me?

Paul clarifies these viewpoints with his explanation of the difference between Christ-like love and the loving ways of mere men.  “but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”  1 Corinthians 13:10-11

According to the Apostle Paul, our thinking before Christ is comparable to that of a child and after we become born again and controlled by the love of Christ, we are to become mature men or women and do away with childish things. But Paul also explains earlier that many who have trusted their eternal life to Christ are still following their feelings, pride, and lust … and living not as mature men; but rather the immature children feeding on milk only, and unable to yet eat solid food. 

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.  I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 

The milk he refers to here represents those biblical teachings that are easy to receive and understand. The milk of the Word are those things that often do not test our character. They are easier to receive, like a baby drinks milk. For example, I believed "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" to be true long, before I became a Christian. Milk is often things which we have already accepted to be true. The solid food represents the eternal Truth teachings of God’s Word that in our human nature we do not want to hear, or just do not understand. God's Truth is often contrary to the teachings of the world. The Truth of God often goes against the grain of our feelings, worldly education, and human logic. 

But we are to test all things and our beliefs up against God’s eternal Truth, in order to have the Mind of Christ. Human Viewpoint Thinking does the opposite.

As Christians, Jesus is the foundation of our belief system and understanding. We are to hold our beliefs and ways of thinking accountable to His eternal truth and this results in authentic Christianity. Otherwise; the result is hypocrisy at best. The belief in creation or evolution is a prime example of divine versus human viewpoint thinking. It is not possible to have the mind of Christ and believe that men evolved from a slug. God could have done it that way, but if He did, then He lied to us ... and it is impossible for our perfect God to lie. 

Evolution is man’s atheistic explanation as to why there is no God. How can men believe in God and reject him at the same time? When one chooses evolution, he may as well trust his personal feelings or logic on all other decisions as well. Let's face it ... God's Word is filled with promises, miracles, and biblical absolutes that make NO sense to one's logic and feelings. 

This decision for evolution in actuality renders a person to be his own personal god in and of himself.  Jesus makes it clear how he views Christians who are still following human viewpoint thinking when he says:  “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16

The Apostle Peter is God's example for us of both viewpoints. Peter was walking daily with Jesus, the God of all things; and yet he continually fell back into his old ways of thinking. That's human nature. Jesus deals harshly with Peter in response to his habit of stumbling backwards into his human viewpoint thinking. When Peter contradicted Christ, while following his personal feelings and logic, Jesus would have none of it.

“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Matthew 16:21-23

We have heard that “old habits die hard” and that "we can be sincere, but sincerely wrong." Even Peter’s denial of Christ, and his forgiveness by Christ did not cure him of these old habits. That was apparent when later Paul needed to once again rebuke Peter for his false, self-centered ... human viewpoint thinking. 

“But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” Galatians 2:14-16

But by God's grace, Peter was finally transformed by the renewing of his mind and gained Divine Viewpoint Thinking … and he clearly demonstrates this fact over and over again throughout 1st and 2nd Peter. He was able to develop the blessed Divine Viewpoint Thinking that Jesus Christ has promised and provided for each one of us as well.

Here is one of many examples of Peter's Divine Viewpoint Thinking: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”  2 Peter 1:2-11

There you have it … “we may become partakers of the divine nature”

And contrary to popular opinion … God’s eternal Truth is not that difficult to understand.

God bless you my friends, Bob

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Perfect Love

Love is patient, 
love is kind and is not jealous; 

love does not brag and is not arrogant, 
does not act unbecomingly; 

it does not seek its own, is not provoked, 
does not take into account a wrong suffered, 

does not rejoice in unrighteousness, 
but rejoices with the truth; 

bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Whenever I read this chapter the first thing I do is ask myself these questions: 

Are you patient? Are you kind? Do you act unbecomingly? Do you seek your own? Do you easily get provoked? Do you take into account a wrong suffered? Do you rejoice in unrighteousness? Do you rejoice in the truth? Do you bear all things? Do you believe all things? Do you hope all things? Do you endure all things? 

And then the cause of all of my shortcomings and failures becomes clear to me.

Our pride dictates that our love for others is never perfect ... but we can experience Perfect Love in the current moment.

When God listed these qualities of Christ-like love, there is clearly a reason why patience is first on His list. 

When Jesus was asked by Peter; “How many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me … seven times? Jesus replied no, not seven times; but rather seventy times seven times.” Mathew 18:22-23. There should be no end to our forgiveness or patience with others. But in the world, most things are contrary to God’s Love. And the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God.

In other words, our patience is to be like the grace that Jesus continually shows towards each of us. We continue to fail Him day after day, but His Grace and His patience with us never ends.

Christ through His perfect love is able to separate each Christian from their actions and deeds. Jesus is able to do this because He already paid the penalty for our sins of the past, the present, and the future.

The patience that God’s love expects from each of us is a Paradox Principle. It goes against the grain of human feelings and logic. The love of Christ calls us to … from now on … recognize no man according to the flesh, or from a worldly point of view. 2 Corinthians 5:16. Our old ways of reacting when others disappoint us are to pass away. And new ways of seeing things and treating others are to come.

Can you even imagine where we would be in our relationships if everyone were to follow this call for patience that Christ has given each of us? When you meditate on this truth, you can get a glimpse of the way things will be in heaven. 

Love means never taking into an account a wrong suffered. The principle is so easy to understand when we can come to understand the mind of Christ. All of our wrongs suffered by Christ have been forgiven … so what basis do we have to be bitter and angry towards others who have wronged us or hurt our feelings?

Love is not provoked. To be provoked is the opposite of being patient. And when provoked we are likely to have outbursts of anger, or to allow for a seed of bitterness or resentment to grow within our hearts and minds. Paul explains that to stumble here is when we give the devil an opportunity to establish a stronghold in our life. Ephesians 4:26-27

It is impossible to fail if we patiently wait on Christ, and trust in the love of Christ. How do we know this? Well, the eternal truth tells us that Christ-like love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8

That’s right (never fails) … another one of those biblical absolutes that the world likes to deny. When we are resting in the love of Christ, and modeling the love of Christ, we can never ever fail. But wait a minute you say, I tried that and It didn’t work with my husband, or my wife, or my children or my friends? Did you really? Did you … rejoice with the truth, and bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things? All means all, and that’s all, all means. All and never are eternal absolutes that reach beyond the understanding and imagination of men.

Somehow most times, feelings and pride always seem to come into play and rob us of our peace and joy.  To endure all things requires for us to rise above our human feelings and logic. When we are abiding in Christ, we are no longer controlled by the things and the people of this world. Christ tells us that we are to no longer to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

I know this appears impossible and that we all fail continually, but with God all things are possible. We are able to abide above in our mind here and now; therefore it is a matter of fixing our mind on Christ, and resting in Him and His eternal Truth.

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

The child that Paul speaks of here refers to all of us before we knew Christ as our Lord and Savior. The man he speaks of is the one who has chosen to change his foolish, worldly, and self-centered ways. He has done away with those foolish, prideful, and lustful ways that result in failure, fear, hopelessness, and discouragement. Our vision is clouded by the things of the world, and we cannot see clearly the path that Christ has prepared for us. While we remain here on earth, the best we can do is to be faithful; and to rest in the hope that he has promised us; and to allow the Love of Christ to control our hearts and minds, as he accomplishes his will through the remaining days of our lives. 

His Perfect Love can be ours to enjoy.
We can live the victory Christ promises here and now.
But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Love is patient ... is the beginning of enjoying all that the Love of Christ promises each of us.

God bless you my friends, Bob