Personal Walk

Satan's Meeting.

WalkWIsely.jpg

This was passed on to me from a friend. Good food for thought as we are focused on “Walking Wisely” at HBCPN! You are loved!

Satan called a worldwide convention of demons. In his opening address he said, "We can't keep Christians from going to church." "We can't keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth." "We can't even keep them from forming an intimate relationship with their savior." "Once they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken." "So let them go to their churches; let them have their covered dish dinners, but steal their time, so they don't have time to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ." "This is what I want you to do", said the devil:

Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!" "How shall we do this?" his demons shouted. "Keep them busy in the essentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds," he answered. "Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow." "Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their pretty lifestyles."

"Keep them from spending time with their children." "As their families fragment, soon, their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work!" "Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice." "Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive." "To keep the TV, VCR, CDs and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly."

"This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ." "Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers." "Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day." "Invade their driving moments with billboards." "Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogs, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes."


"Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines and TV so their husbands will believe that outward beauty is what's important, and they'll become dissatisfied with their wives." "Keep the wives too tired to love their husbands at night." "Give them headaches too!"

"If they don't give their husbands the love they need, they will begin to look elsewhere." "That will fragment their families quickly!" "Give them Santa Claus to distract them from teaching their children the real meaning of Christmas." "Give them an Easter bunny so they won't talk about his resurrection and power over sin and death." "Even in their recreation, let them be excessive." "Have them return from their recreation exhausted." "Keep them too busy to go out in nature and reflect on God's creation."

"Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, plays, concerts, and movies instead." "Keep them busy, busy, busy!" "And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences." "Crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Jesus." "Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause."

"It will work!" "It will work!" It was quite a plan! The demons went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get more busy and more rushed, going here and there. Having little time for their God or their families. Having no time to tell others about the power of Jesus to change lives. I guess the question is, has the devil been successful at his scheme?

You be the judge! Does "busy" mean: B-eing U-nder S-atan's Y-olk?

Love the Haters

God absolutely delights in using His Word to chisel away at our hardness. It amazes me that whenever I am facing a perceived trial that the words of scripture seem to leap more boldly from pages.

I have recently been put into a position where I will be dealing with some abrasive people.    You don’t need me to tell you that some people are characterized by rudeness and even hostility.  We all encounter them from time to time.  To be around miserable and nasty personalities is not something I ever asked for, but it’s where I am right now.   The condescending treatment, the harsh attitudes, the abusive speech… who needs that kind of stress?!  Wouldn’t it be great to just coast through my days without having to encounter people like this?

So then there’s God’s impeccable timing:  in my reading and meditating time just a few days ago, I came to the section in Matthew 5:43-48… a familiar passage in the Sermon on the Mount:  

“I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

 "If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

“If you greet only your brothers what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”  

Jesus’s commands in this passage tore through my heart like a tornado in trailer court. Now it’s not like I’ve ever been persecuted to the point of having my eyes gouged out or my fingers cut off.  I have never been in fear for my life by hostile people.   But loving someone who is nasty is just not something that lands at the top of my Christian to-do list.  This group of verses, at least from my perspective, is some of the hardest of the Lord’s expectations of us.  Jesus says to love them. "Seriously?! You want me to actually ‘love’ them?"  And not some passive sort of ‘like’ or ‘tolerance’.   This love He’s talking about is a self-sacrificing, warm, caring love and concern directed toward the one that I would consider my enemy.  And it’s not a suggestion or recommendation. This is a command from Jesus Himself. A strong imperative! That is sooooo totally antithetical to every fleshly cell in my body.  With every ounce of strength in my being, I want to do the opposite.  "Can’t I just defend my honor and be snarky and sarcastic?  I have dignity, you know! Nobody is going to treat me like that!”  

But instead, in this greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus says I am to love my enemies the way God loves them.  He extends His kindness to everyone by giving sunshine and rain to the righteous and to the evil at the same time. Why? Because He loves them.  

It is the way of Jesus that His followers would be distinct… and it is our love for our enemies that makes us distinct.  Who does such a thing?  While everyone else may respond harshly to abrasiveness, true believers will be the ones who respond with love.  And not only that, but we will be the ones wearing out the knees in our favorite jeans, on the floor in serious prayer.  

As I thought through these verses in a new and fresh way, the twisted metal of my hard-heartedness toward those who need Christ lie piled up in a heap as I asked God for strength to make me a brighter light in the darkness.  May the Lord forgive my negligence in praying for these people and give me a renewed vigor to beseech Him on their behalf.   As committed believers and as a church, may these soul-and-spirit-piercing passages awaken us all from our slumber to be in fervent prayer for those in need of salvation.   Prayer changes us.  When the content of our prayers relates to how we respond to the haters, God will implant within us a capacity to love those who are difficult to love.  Genuine love has a way of building a strong platform from where we will be heard.   From an earthly standpoint, effectively sharing the gospel depends on this (speaking the truth in love).  Nobody ever said that loving difficult people was going to be easy… but God has given us His Spirit… and His Spirit gives us the strength to do hard things.

May God grant you many blessings,

Mark

Those aren’t Cade’s rules.

Our kids recently got involved with an ice hockey league. My 10-year old (Cade) has been especially loving it. Now that he learned how to skate (kind of), he has started learning stick handling and shooting the puck.

At dinner time, talking about his accomplishments to date in his short career (one month, as of this writing), Cade said, “I got a lot of goals!”

Erin explained that the puck has to go into the goal for the goal to actually count. Cade answered, “No, if it goes in the goal, or off the side, or off the post, it counts as a goal.”

I interjected, “No, buddy, it has to cross the goal line to count.” To which he objected, “No it doesn’t.”

I said, “Well it does according to the rules used by all hockey players everywhere!”

He put his head down, softly and defiantly replied, “Those aren’t Cade’s rules.

He’s 10. At this point he knows as much about hockey as I know about this "Pokemon Go" thing (next to nothing). But something about the way he said that last line sounded a familiar bell that man has been deceiving himself with since the devil lied to Eve in the Garden of Eden. In his damning sales pitch to get Adam and Eve to transgress, one of Satan’s promises (lies) was that eating from the forbidden tree will make mankind “like God” (Genesis 3:5). Your eyes will be opened. You will know good and evil. Horrible deception.

I have to wonder how much impact those 5 little words made on the minds of the First Couple. “You will be like God”.

The truth is nothing and nobody is like God – never was, never will be. Yet we find ourselves in the mess we are in because Adam and Eve took the bait. And how enticing are those words...? I will be like God, I will be like God, I will be like God.

The Sovereign Almighty of the Universe has created a world with “rules” and has already established the “rules” for us in His commands: Love God with our heart, soul, mind, strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. Forgive others. Serve sacrificially. Help the needy.

And in our moments of defiance, when we persist in self-centered sin, in our bid to be like God, we hear God’s Word clearly but want to be a god unto ourselves. We put our heads down and say, “Those aren’t MY rules.”

If you are sitting on the throne of your own life right now, it’s time to get off and allow Jesus His rightful place. You will never be like God, and living by “your rules” isn’t going to take you very far.

Just ask Adam and Eve. Or Cade, when he finally has his first real hockey game.

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. -1John 2:4-6

Pastor Jeff

-Who is on your throne?

So, Are You an Expert?

I had to do some research this week on some technology that I was struggling with as I was developing a new system at work.  I didn’t have any prior training with this particular computer language and so I attempted to teach myself through some various technology websites.  While I was out surfing on the web, I found some interesting articles on what it takes to be an expert in something.  

Some articles said that with diligence, commitment, study and practice you could be an expert in 10 years.  Other sites said it took 10,000 hours of dedication in a subject to become an expert.   So I started to do a little math (basic math, because I am not an expert!) and figured that if I spent about 2 hours and 45 minutes a day studying and practicing, I could achieve 10,000 hours in 10 years and then you could call me an ‘expert’! 

I started daydreaming about how much scripture I could digest and how much better I would know God if I spent 2 hours and 45 minutes a day learning about Him and spending quality time with Him.  I began to wonder how much more of God’s Word I would understand if I put in the effort that an ‘expert’ would put into learning his craft.  

I would love to spend almost three hours a day reading and studying my Bible, and I am sure you would too.  But the reality is, we have jobs to keep, kids to play with, grocery trips to take, bills to sort through, grass to cut, and on and on.  

But what if it doesn’t take 10 years and 10,000 hours to gain a greater understanding of scripture?  What if God honors faithfulness and commitment in our personal time with Him?  Maybe there’s a way to find a healthy balance in our lives and discipline ourselves to spend one hour... or even just a half hour... alone with God.    If the average reader would open their Bible at Genesis 1:1 and read to the end of the book of Revelation one sitting, they could finish in about 75 hours.   That means if they read a half hour each day, they could read through the entire Bible in 150 days (there’s that math again)!  In one year they could read the entire Bible twice and still have some extra days.  

One thing is for sure, attaining knowledge of the Bible takes hard work and dedicated time.  Because the Bible contains inexhaustible riches, becoming an ‘expert’ in the Bible might be nearly impossible even if you get your 10,000 hours in.  But we can be absolutely certain that if we don’t spend any time at all in it, we cannot expect to master any of it’s truths.  I fear that some Christians spend so little time in their Bible that they know just enough to misinterpret it and mishandle it.  That is a very dangerous place to be. 

So here’s the challenge:  if you’re reading your Bible regularly, great!  Keep up the good work.  With that kind of discipline, you will go far in your growth, because we know that the Word of God has great power.  If you’re Bible reading and study time is rushed or it’s kind of occasional hit and miss, then I want to challenge you to mark off at least a half hour every day.  Find a quiet place, a reading plan and keep track of what you’ve studied so you can be encouraged by your progress.  Stay focused and don’t give up.  If you miss a day, just start up the next day and keep going!

Lastly and very importantly, when we read the Scriptures, we need to pray that God would give us understanding.  Do not attempt to study God’s Word in your own strength!  We need to rely on the awesome power of the Holy Spirit to guide us and teach us in all truth.  Without the Holy Spirit’s involvement in our Bible reading and study disciplines, we will not hear all that God is trying to convey to us.  And finally, read the Bible with the intention that you’re going to obey it’s commands, no matter what.  In other words, be a doer of the Word! 

Blessings to you as you read and study!

Mark