Are You Plugged In?

That question is directed mostly toward young Christians serving our country in the military. No, I’m not asking if you have an ‘electric’ personality! I’m asking you if you are plugged in to good, Bible believing fellowship, whether it’s a local on-base Chapel, local church, Bible study or fellowship group, or maybe just a good Bible study.

I’m asking because this last weekend I spent some time thinking about the years spent as a Christian serving on active duty in the Army’s Special Forces. How that scenario developed is another story for another time. Suffice it to say that when the Shepherd found the lost sheep and brought him back into the fold, the scenario was already in place, and I knew keeping my faith personal was not an option. But that’s not today’s story either.

This is about the question “Are you plugged in?” I ask you that because not being plugged in to Christian fellowship and Bible study can really stunt spiritual growth. We live in a fallen world surrounded by all sorts of influences detrimental to growing in our shared faith. We are also saddled with what some call a ‘sin hangover’, to use a somewhat crude analogy. It would be great if God just eradicated all of the sinful tendencies we have when we come to believe in Christ, but he doesn’t.

It goes without saying that if we are plugged into ‘power sources’ that can sustain us, we’ll not only be strong, we can be used of God in the furtherance of his Kingdom on earth. It’s the ‘plugging in’ part that I want to talk about. I don’t know about you, but I learned some things that were true when I was on active duty and are true now. They were true when I was single (living in the barracks or separated from my family because of travel), and true when our family was together. They are true now, for a couple of grandparents and empty nesters. Here are a few good principles, or rules to live by, or something in between.

  • Plug in! Connect to 1) on-base Chapel, local church, 2) Bible study or fellowship group, 3) one other believer, or 4) just a good individual Bible study. I would suggest all four, if possible.
  • Don’t wait to get invited to something, take the initiative, whether you are changing duty stations, on temporary duty or on a deployment. It says a lot about you and your desire to keep growing in faith.
  • When introducing yourself to a congregation or small group you visit, keep it simple and offer to serve. Don’t talk a lot about you have served in other places, or you might be considered a divine answer to prayer. Trust me. Be willing to serve, but take it slow.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this church or small group more about serving God, or getting stuff from God.
  • Listen more than you speak. You can learn volumes.
  • Keep a Bible handy and don’t leave home without it!

Just some tips from an old soldier. Experience is a great teacher. I assure you, NOT plugging in is always hazardous to your spiritual health. I also know that there are some of you that might be a bit apprehensive about getting connected when you find yourself in new or unfamiliar territory. CMF can help with that. We maintain a worldwide directory of CMF members, military friendly churches and other military ministries on or near military bases all over the world. There are also Bible study resources available online. Visit our Web page and look around!.

That question is directed mostly toward young Christians serving our country in the military. No, I’m not asking if you have an ‘electric’ personality! I’m asking you if you are plugged in to good, Bible believing fellowship, whether it’s a local on-base Chapel, local church, Bible study or fellowship group, or maybe just a good Bible study.

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Online Source

From John Bunyan’s Conclusion to ‘Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners’

Of all tears, they are the best that are made by the blood of Christ; and of all joy, that is the sweetest that is mixed with mourning over Christ. Oh! it is a goodly thing to be on our knees, with Christ in our arms, before God. I hope I know something of these things.

I find to this day seven abominations in my heart:

(1) Inclinings to unbelief.

(2) Suddenly to forget the love and mercy that Christ manifesteth.

(3) A leaning to the works of the law.

(4) Wanderings and coldness in prayer.

(5) To forget to watch for that I pray for.

(6) Apt to murmur because I have no more, and yet ready to abuse what I have.

(7) I can do none of those things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thrust in themselves,
‘When I would do good, evil is present with me.’

These things I continually see and feel, and am afflicted and oppressed with; yet the wisdom of God doth order them for my good.

(1) They make me abhor myself.

(2) They keep me from trusting my heart.

(3) They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness.

(4) They show me the necessity of fleeing to Jesus.

(5) They press me to pray unto God.

(6) They show me the need I have to watch and be sober.

(7) And provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me, and carry me through this world. Amen.

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Grace Abounding To the Chief of Sinners is John Bunyan’s spiritual autobiography. In it he tells of his conversion and struggle with faith. He wrote it while he was imprisoned for preaching without a license. His main issue was a kind of “spiritual obsessive compulsive disorder” as one reviewer puts it. Bunyan was constantly concerned about the state of his salvation and whether God deemed him worthy enough for eternal life. This story communicates the author’s anguish over his sin, his confession, and the life-changing impact of God’s saving grace. Bunyan’s spiritual struggles will remind readers that even the great minds of faith had issues with belief, and his personal testimony will encourage anyone who is doubting the status of their salvation.

A PDF copy of Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners can be downloaded from Christian Classics Ethereal Library..

“Feed My Sheep”‘

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep”.

John 21:15-17 (ESV)

We know with the story:

7 of Jesus’ Disciples had returned to their previous occupation of fishing (for real fish instead of men), had fished all night and caught nothing. A man (Jesus) on the shore and called out to them and told them to toss their net on the right side of the boat instead of the left, which had not resulted in a single minnow, much less any fish. They obeyed and had such a haul they couldn’t get all the fish into their boat.

Once ashore, the man who had called out to them already had a good breakfast going and invited them to join him. It was then that they recognized their Lord. After a hearty breakfast Jesus took the opportunity to Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Naturally Peter answered in the affirmative all three times, and even might have wondered why Jesus asked so many times! We are not told. We are given Jesus’ direction to Peter after each answer:

“Feed my lambs.”

“Tend my sheep.”

“Feed my sheep.”

You might say that Jesus told Peter to become a sheep herder! He told him to take care of sheep, young ones and older ones. Has that ever happened to you? Read a story many times and suddenly something literally jumps out at you?

First of all Jesus said “Feed MY sheep. Those needing care and nurture belong to Christ, not to Peter, not a particular group of believers, but to Jesus himself! Pastors, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, you are to care for JESUS property! That knowledge should give you great pause, should it not?

Secondly, Jesus told Peter to “Feed my SHEEP, tending them and nurturing them to maturity. That should tell us in no uncertain terms the purpose of the church, Christ’s church, not yours. The mission of the church is the care and feeding of the sheep of God. Should ‘goats’ be invited and welcome in our churches? By all means! The main reason the church exists however, is for the ‘sheep of God’, not the’ goats of the world’.

I listened to one popular megachurch pastor tell his congregation one Sunday morning “This is the last Sunday this church is about YOU!” No kidding. While most of today’s so called ‘pastors’ won’t go quite that far, they ‘manage’ their churches with the same mindset, offering all sorts of ‘worldly’ enticements to make following Jesus a really cool/hip thing to do. But listen to what Jesus said to his disciples near the very end of his earthly ministry:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

The ‘world’ in Jesus’ time hated him and the world in our time will hate us when we stand for the true gospel that Christ came to save men from their sin, not to fulfill their wildest dreams.

Then we have the Apostle Paul who, by his own admission, preached nothing but Christ crucified for the sins of men:

“For we (gospel messengers) are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Cor: 15-16)

In other words, the aroma of Christ is sweet to the ‘sheep of God’ but that same aroma of Christ smells like death and destruction to the ‘goats of the world’.

So why do we do what we do? We try to make Christ and his gospel smell sweet to the stony hearted unbeliever to get them through the doors and then tell them that Christ died for their self-fulfillment rather than for their sin. After all, we know that if we start talking about sin the ‘bait and switch’ will be on and oh so obvious to the goats you lured through the church doors. Unless God is doing a supernatural ‘heart work’, they’re walking and they ain’t coming back any time soon!

What’s the answer to this mess? Whether it’s a church setting or personal evangelism, it’s really quite simple.

1. Pray that God open hearts to hear the true gospel.

2. Preach the true gospel.

3. Leave the ‘saving’ to God.

More, More, More?

Our 1 & 1/5-year-old grandson Michael uses those words (with the question mark) a lot at mealtimes whenever he is eating something he likes, until he is full and then exclaims “Done now!”

“What’s that got to do with Christian faith?”, you ask. Thanks for asking! First of all, it reminds me of me in the late 70’s after God drew this prodigal home. I didn’t want just a little of what God had for me, I wanted all of what he had for me. Wanting more was a genuine cry of my heart and a good thing! On the other hand, Every time someone or something (read Christian TV, radio, books, & even family members) offered ‘more’ I was all over it. After all, the offers of ‘more’ were being made by professing Christians who were older and wiser than this young Army Sergeant with his young family.

Moreover, I just knew my motives in wanting ‘more’ were pure as the driven snow. How could they NOT be? So, like most young believers I was drawn off into teachings that I now question. Well, the 3M syndrome is alive and well 40 years down the road. Young, new to the faith believers are still drawn towards the ‘more’ that offers emotional excitement, ecstatic worship, ‘new’ special revelation, and even training in the ‘supernatural’.

Know that in no way am I saying that God does not want to bless us mightily, or that He no longer operates in certain ways in his church. I am not saying that God doesn’t provide ‘more’ to us as we engage in the renewing of our minds and the Holy Spirit brings the beautiful truths of scripture home to the deepest center of our new hearts.

I’m suggesting that we need to be cautious of offers and promises of ‘more’. Some of them are found nowhere in scripture, but in its twisting. Lives, both physical and spiritual, have been devastated by chasing after some of those promises. I would add that Satan is the master counterfeiter who loves to provide fake answers to fake promises.

One might also ask, “When is ‘more’ enough? Are we as smart as little Michael?

Personally, I’ve found that in reading and studying God’s word, fellowshipping with the saints, and sharing Christ with the lost around me keeps me busy enough. Nothing extraordinary, just the ordinary activities of a blood bought sinner.

Some might say that being just an ‘ordinary’ Christian a pretty high calling!

Be blessed in your high calling this Lord’s Day!

Hearing God and Sharing With Others

When I want to hear God speak, I open the Bible and read it. If I want to hear God speak audibly, I read it out loud. B. B. Warfield, eminent Princeton theologian of the 19th and 20th centuries, is known for saying “When the Bible speaks, God speaks!” I agree.

If God’s revelation of himself in the Bible is everything we need to live a godly life and equip us for every good work, I have the best possible standard by which to order my life; ALL of my life within it’s pages. If my God spoke the universe into existence, he is more than capable of ‘breathing out’ scripture (writings) into the minds and hearts of men and ensure his infallible and inerrant truths are transmitted to us. Compared to speaking the universe into existence, transmitting his inerrant word to us is probably on the order of ‘chump change’.

And if the Bible is completely sufficient for my life, I don’t need ‘private revelations’ whispered into my ear. What I do need is the ‘illumination’ of God’s word to my heart. Isn’t that the role of the indwelling Holy Spirit? If it is, then we DO receive ‘revelation’ from God as the Holy Spirit illumines (sheds light upon) God’s word and sends it straight into our hearts.

At the same time, I need to choose my words carefully when I share what God is teaching me. We hear a lot of people say to us “God spoke to me…”, or “I had a revelation…” followed by the details. While both statements might be ‘technically’ true when the Holy Spirit teaches us, using those phrases might might not be wise. Here are a few reasons.

For one thing, most, if not all of the big name televangelists use them often and frequently to mean they have a special private communication link to The Divine – a virtual private network (VPN) to God, so to speak. And we are to receive what they say as the direct word of God, no matter how outlandish or theologically vacuous are their pronouncements.

Both phrases are also often used by ordinary, everyday believers. And because they are used so much by spurious televangelists and various false teachers peddling their snake oil, I feel the need to ask the “what do you mean” question and am suddenly hit with some version of the “why are you questioning me” demon.

Also, why would I use words that cause “issues” when I can just talk about what I believe God is teaching me? Am I trying to communicate that I am somehow special or am a more mature spiritual Christian? Maybe or maybe not, but why take a chance on there being any confusion because of how I express myself. I might not have evil intentions, but Satan sure does and he loves to pounce.

Lastly for now, claiming to have a VPN to God leads to the tendency to be declarative and assert as gospel truth what we share with others. I know some who will hardly ever say “I think”, “I believe”, or “it’s my opinion”, if they begin the conversation with “God told me” or “I had a revelation”, or if they are just convinced in their minds of same.

Am not judging (please stay off of that horse) but I’m old, sometimes tired, have listened to, read, and watched much in the last 40 years. It is was it is. And please note the frequent use of the hypothetical “if” in the above.

I pray you all have a blessed Lord’s day!

It Has Pagan Roots!

Let’s talk about decorated trees and nativity scenes for a minute. Forget the Christmas ‘culture’ wars that we sometimes make too much of, what about the Christmas ‘pagan roots’ wars? OK, maybe calling the whole ‘Christmas is based on a pagan holiday’ thing doesn’t deserve ‘war’ status, but it does surface every year about this time.

Like many children I grew up with Christmas trees, nativity scenes and traditions of gift giving. For our family everything ‘Christmas’ focused first and foremost on the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. I knew absolutely nothing about ancient pagan idolatrous practices, festivals or holidays. It was about Jesus’ birth, love and exchanging gifts.

Are Christmas trees and nativity scenes examples of ‘Christianized’ pagan idolatrous activity? I really don’t know. Was Martin Luther thinking of old Egyptian and Roman traditions associated with false gods when he thought of adding decorations to evergreen trees already used by Christians as a symbol of Christmas? I don’t know that either.

Were the painters of nativity scenes thinking about pagan idol worshippers dancing around statues in the woods, or were they thinking about the description of Jesus’ birth given to us in the Bible and wanted to use their God given talents to put on canvas a remembrance of a special moment in history? I don’t know that either.

Well Dan, what DO you know?

I know that there was an issue a long time about food offered to idols and being a stumbling block to brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s in 1 Corinthians 8:

1Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor 8:1-9, ESV)

There are ‘stronger’ and ‘weaker’ believers. Those who know that idols are really ‘nothing’ are not to get puffed up about it, and are not to cause a ‘weaker’ brother to stumble. In Romans 14, Paul said that it is better not to do anything to cause another brother to stumble. It seems that the real issue here is spiritual growth and health. That’s what I know.

If I want to get into a ‘pagan roots’ discussion that might actually matter, it might be about something like ‘glossolalia’, or the ‘speaking in tongues’ that is not the Biblical gift of speaking in unlearned real languages. There’s some really interesting history in that one!

But actually, rather than debate ‘pagan roots’, I think it might be more helpful to take a cue from Paul and stick to discussing Christ crucified for our sins.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

“What did God say to you today?”

I listened to a teaching this last Sunday morning, in which direct and personal extra-Biblical encounters with God were again spoken much of, while the God in the Bible was referred to as “the idea God” opposed to the ‘manifest presence’ and ‘relational presence’ of God that are more personal and direct encounters with God and therefore somehow more intimate than just the written Word. We heard about things like ‘divine gravity’ (Jesus being lifted up and drawing men) and ‘trans-generational anointing’ (Ezekial to John the Baptist) and how we can also experience/see both in our own lives as we ‘turn’ to see the ‘manifest presence’ and enter the ‘relational presence’ of God. Se have been told in previous sermons in the ‘Encountering God’ series that if we sit quietly with our pens journals in the morning and write what the voices we hear are saying we will eventually be able to identify ‘God’s voice’ and have wonderful encounters that will “increase our relationship with God”, something we all need to do.

After the teaching (to be continued next week) we were asked “What did God say to you today?” Here is my answer.

  • That while I dead in sin He made me Alive in Christ and I am seated with Christ in the Heavenly realm. Eph 2:1-6
  • That He has baptized me in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit lives in me. Eph 4:5
  • That I am declared righteous in Christ . Rom 8:1-4
  • That all my sins have been forgiven because I have trusted in Christ as my substitute. Eph 1:7
  • That He gave me as a love gift to his Son and I shall never perish. John 10:28
  • That since I believe in Christ I will not be condemned for unbelief. John 3:18
  • That scripture is sufficient for every good work.2 Tim 3:16-17
  • That he works in me to desire and do what pleases him. Phil 2:1

That’s how God spoke to me from His Word this last Sunday morning. These passages tell me who I am in Christ, and how I interact with God on a regular basis. The question that arose in my heart was “With all God has given me already, why would I need to have these extra-Biblical encounters?” 

A few more passages came to mind after the morning teaching:

  • God has already spoken. Heb 1:1-3
  • Don’t go beyond what is written. 1 Cor 4:6
  • Don’t add to the words of scripture. Rev 22:18

Well, those are my thoughts. Sadly (to me, anyway) many are going after extra-Biblical encounters these days, treating them as if they are some form of ‘higher’ spirituality. Subjective experiences rather than objective truth rules the day.

But like I said, these are my thoughts, not yours. They have been on my mind for quite some time now, but have become more significant and closer to home of late. If you are reading this I only ask that you consider them for a moment or two.

And have a blessed day!