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Man shall live by what?

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Most of us have a code, or creed that we live by. A set of principles, they guide us each day through this life. They can come from family, church, the military, even the streets.

What may come as a surprise to many is that God also has a set of principles. It’s called the Bible. For example:

But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”.  Matthew 4:4

The verse above comes from a very hungry and tired Jesus, who, after being tempted for 40 days, is responding to Satan’s temptation to turn stones into bread.

He is repeating something stated in the distant past of Israel’s history by Moses, who was reminding Israel of God’s providence during their trek through the wilderness.

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”     Deuteronomy 8:3

I find it interesting that the interpretation of both Jesus and Moses is the phrase” every word”. What’s so interesting about that? Well for starters, the phrase “every word” disallows the selective application of God’s Word to our lives.

In other words, every word means none may be excluded!

Lots of things today are thought of as being selective. Husbands may have been told that they have selective hearing, for example. Or those of us who tend to be forgetful at times may have been told that we have a selective memory.

For the child of God however, there can be no selective application of the Word if we are going to walk in obedience to it. In other words, we cannot selectively pick and choose those verses we wish to live by. It doesn’t work that way.

If Jesus stated that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God, are we to argue that we don’t like or accept certain parts of it?

I first became aware of this selective application of the Word many years ago when having a discussion with a neighbor about the Millennial Reign mentioned in the book of Revelation.

This neighbor, who was also a deacon in his church, told me that he didn’t believe in the thousand year reign of Christ. When I asked him how he could not believe in something that was obviously written in the Word, he simply said “I just don’t believe in that”. Not knowing how to respond to that, I just walked away.

Really? You can read it for yourself. You know it’s there. Yet you arbitrarily reject it just because? Like I said, that was my first exposure to the selective Word mindset. Unfortunately, it’s far from an isolated incident.

There is a very simple, logical reason as to why God says we are to live by every Word that comes from him. The Word of God offers us instructions for living according to His plan, not our own.

And therein lies the problem, doesn’t it?

His plan vs. our plan. His Words vs. our words. His way vs. our way. The age old battle of the human will vs. the will of God.

Paul reminds us that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”   II Tim. 3:16    emphasis mine

Could it be that part of the problem is that we think we “have arrived” and are above being taught?

Peter addressed this attitude in his first epistle. He tells us that our hearts need to be pure so that we can desire the word that will encourage growth.

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.”   1 Peter 2: 1,2      emphasis mine

It is obvious then that we are to live not just by the Word, but by every Word that comes from God if we are to be nurtured and strengthened in our faith.

None of us “have arrived” to the point of no longer needing to learn of Him. To think that we have is to be in deception.

My prayer is that every one of us will take heed to the words of Jesus, who when rebuking Satan said that we must live by every Word from God.

After all, He’s still working on each of us.

Ron

Our Identity in Him

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Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”            Jer. 1:4,5  NKJV

Much has been written about the prophet Jeremiah. About how he served his God as a Prophet to the nations and saw very little in the way of fruit for his labors.For someone called to be a prophet before he was even born he knew little except hardship,disappointment, and torment his entire life.No royal attire for him,no dinners at the king’s table,no respect of his peers.

Very different than what we see today where the name of the game is to identify ones self with God in order to gain materialistically,yet shun any part of the refiners fire.The fire that cleanses from the inside out,and shapes the very character of a man until he is fit to be called a servant of the Most High God.

Serving God can be like that when you have His call upon your life.Jeremiah understood this all too well.

Funny thing,this calling.For those unfamiliar with what this means the simplest way to describe it would be to say that it is something like a voice inside of you that there is no escape from.A voice that calls you to holiness and a right relationship with the Almighty.

It compels you onward when every fiber in your being screams “GIVE UP”! It is an unseen force that you know is there because in the worst of times it somehow sustains you.I can only imagine how many times Jeremiah wanted to quit because I have felt that way more times than I can remember.

Haven’t you?

A calling is ever present,whether in the slime pit, the pulpit or on the job.This presence,or calling is a fire shut up in the bones of the one who has an unction from the Lord to go forth and speak what must be said.

In spite of the lack of support from those who know better.

In spite of the fact that it would be so much easier to just walk away.

Except that you cannot just walk away. Not from the call. Not from something so holy.To do so would mean acknowledging that God cannot do what He said He would do.And we know better than that.

Are we to believe that God does not know every one of us just as He knew Jeremiah? Are we to believe that God did not form us in the womb and ordain our steps long before we breathed our very first breath?

Sorry…I’m too long into this journey to ever doubt that my steps are not ordained of the Lord.

I’ve been through far too much to ever doubt that only God and God alone could have taken me through the barren,dry deserts I have passed through.

No,God knew us long before we were formed. And He also KNOWS us,as in the right now.Everything about us.So much so that Jesus declared that the very hairs of our heads were numbered(Matt.10:30).

In spite of the many failures and shortcomings too numerous to recall,the calling of God drives me.It speaks to me in the early hours of the day to square my shoulders and take a stand.And I am persuaded that you sense it as well.

For you also have walked the deserts of sickness and pain.You too have felt the immense pain of abuse and abandonment.You’ve been there in that dark, lonely place where the only answer to your cries was the sound of silence.

But that still small voice,that call from the One who knows you better than you could ever hope to know yourself urges you onward.Urges you to take a stand and claim victory in Jesus name.

Our identity may be defined by the world as Mom & Dad,or Doctor,or Lawyer.But our true identity is hidden in the comfort of knowing that He has called us,and if He has called us He will sustain us through every season.

Be blessed

Ron

Jesus built this church on love

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Thinking today about the church and it’s mission.

There are about as many opinions about what the mission of the church is as there are people writing them.

See if you’ve heard some of these “missions of the church”…..

  • make disciples
  • mentor
  • evangelize
  • witness
  • preach the gospel

OK, you get it, right? The church has a great many missions,or assignments.

While all of the above are true,there is one mission that I believe supersedes them all.I believe the greatest mission of the church is also the area where she is falling far short in her assignment today.

Love

Loving one another. Like this:

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love [his] brother abides in death.

15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down [our] lives for the brethren.

17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.     1Jo 3:14-19 NKJV

You who have aligned yourself in any way with the church,do you not understand we are commanded to love?

Our assignment is not to hate. It is not our mission in this life to neglect the lonely and destitute while we surround ourselves with friends and family. It is not for us to ignore the pleading of the hungry as we gather around our table filled with good things to eat.No,it is not our calling as the church of the Living God to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the screams of the lost.

I cringe every time I hear of yet another person who has been cast aside by the church as “not good enough”,as if any of us could ever be good enough.The only good in any of us is the Christ we are supposed to represent.

I wince at the thought that some who call themselves”Christian”consider others “not worthy”,as if any one of us is actually worthy, or deserving of the love that has been shed abroad in our hearts.

Our mission,our calling,our very purpose,is to love.

Love them all.

Father,help us to understand that our righteousness is as filthy rags.Our arrogance is a stench in your nostrils.

Jesus built this church on love.

And only in His love can we find grace and help in these troubled times.

Be blessed,

Ron

Who Do I Have But You Oh Lord?

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In my work I am often in the company of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.At any given time I can hear conversations in English,Japanese,Indian,and a few others that I am unfamiliar with.Being raised in a very small Midwestern town it was quite a cultural shock to be suddenly thrust into an environment that was so different than what I had ever been exposed to.

That initial exposure was 25 years ago and in that time I have learned a lot about various cultures and traditions.One of the most important things I have learned is that none of us is really all that different from anyone else.We all have the same basic needs for food and shelter.We all want to provide for those who depend upon us.And we all have a need to be loved.

I am often in situations where people speak to me about the problems they are facing in life;divorce,abuse,betrayal,loneliness,abandonment,etc…and what always comes through the hurt and anguish is this need to be loved,to be accepted.And that’s where God comes in my friends.

The best of us doing the best we can on our very best day will never be able to accomplish what God can accomplish through the ministering work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His children.Take a look at what Asaph said when he found himself wondering about the conditions around him.He questioned why the wicked prospered so greatly.He wondered at the wickedness of the world around him and why the righteous seemed to suffer more than those who rejected God.After considering all these things he summed it up in the following verses:

Psalm 73:25-28 (NKJV)
25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.

Maybe you have wondered why life has thrown you more than its share of curve balls. Perhaps you too have questioned the logic of why some who aren’t even trying to live for the Lord  seem to have it so easy, and yet others who have been faithful for so many years seem to catch all the bad breaks.You’ve probably asked the Lord “when is it my turn”?

May I let you in on a great theological secret? We’re all just like you.We’ve all been there.We’ve all had to patiently endure one endless season of heartache after another.And still we soldier on.From one corner of this planet to the other God’s people soldier on for we know that ahead remains the ultimate prize.

I have learned through much hardship and disappointment that there is but One who is faithful.”Whom have I in heaven but you”?

I have it all in Christ.

Be blessed,

Ron