Go To Church On Sabbath, Is That A Rule?

Christians should go to church on Sabbath.

Why?

Many would say, “It is one of the Ten Commandments!” (Ex 20:8) But, that is a weak reason since many argue that Jesus fulfilled all the Laws and removed the requirements of the Law from us. (Eph 2:15 Col 2:14 Mt 5:17 Rom 3:28 6:14) (I don’t believe <ba>)


Questions to consider about this ‘should’ for Christians:

Are Christians, who go to church on Sabbath, obeying and fulfilling the 4th Commandment?

When Christians go to church does that mean they are keeping ‘His’ day holy?

Does it please God when Christians go to church?

Is the Sabbath only on a certain day?

What are the Hebrew meanings of Sabbath, remember, keep, holy?

Is the Sabbath a day of rest?

Do we rest when we go to church?

What is God’s rest?

Are certain things needed to make the Sabbath holy – rituals, programs, mind sets, trained people?

Who is the Sabbath for anyway?

Who is in charge of the Sabbath?

Dig Deeper

  • Have we been numbed and dumbed-down by our religious traditions?
  • Is there a rest that we are missing out on all because of our tradition that says – ‘Christians should go to church’?
  • Go ahead! Ask questions! It’s okay to question the norm because there is way more beyond established religious boundaries! Fullness is waiting.
  • The early Church (Acts 3) met daily in homes… We fill up an entire day doing Church activities. Is this what God taught in the 4th Commandment?

AVOIDING AN ‘US’ VERSUS ‘THEM’ MENTALITY

AVOIDING AN ‘US’ VERSUS ‘THEM’ MENTALITY

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:4-7

I heard about a little old lady who was at church for a Wednesday night prayer meeting. And when it came time for her to pray, she said, “God, bless all of us who are here in this prayer meeting. And be with all those evil people out there in the world having such a good time.”

You know, there’s a real problem among Christians today. It’s not a problem of performance or obedience necessarily. It’s a problem of attitude. There are so many men and women in the church today who have an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. They think that because they go to church, then they’re the ‘in’ crowd and everyone else is just going to Hades in a hand basket. They forget that God is not done with his story of redemption!

It’s my prayer that the people of God today will be a people of unconditional love and acceptance. I’m not saying there aren’t standards. But at the same time we must never forget that we’re to be a hospital for sinners; we’re to be a refuge for people who need to come home.

Jesus said there’s more rejoicing over one lost person who’s found than over 99 righteous people who need no repentance. So when it comes to welcoming others, keep your heart and arms open and never underestimate the work Christ wants to do among the lost!

INSTEAD OF SEEING THE WORLD AS ‘US’ VERSUS ‘THEM’, LIVE YOUR LIFE WITH YOUR ARMS OPEN AND READY TO WELCOME ANYONE TO LIFE IN CHRIST.

Those Who Fend For Themselves

Those Who Fend For Themselves

Bob Mendosa, founder of NAOMI’S VILLAGE

Whether heading north towards the Maasai Mara game preserve or west towards the three gorgeous alkaline lakes teeming with wildlife (Naivasha, Elementaita, Nakuru), countless thousands of eager tourists pass through a highway junction in the dusty truck stop town of Maai Mahiu, Kenya each year. Roughly equidistant from both highways leaving this junction, and cruelly out of sight of the passersby, is a 2-acre plot of land on which 24 families have silently suffered for six years. The din of worldwide concern over the post-election violence that forced them there has long since subsided, their own government has neglected them, and they don’t have the strength of numbers, resources, or visibility to plead their case any longer. Their tattered tents have withstood numerous storms, and along with their weathered skin they bear witness to a resolve that draws both admiration and compassion from visitors. At some point in the distant past, perhaps out of a mix of realism and a determination to be self-sufficient, they proudly named the camp Mwi’hangiri, which means “those who fend for themselves” in Kikuyu.

Just 6 months have passed since President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, and other leaders landed a few miles away and handed out checks for almost $5000 per family to two much larger IDP camps prominently located along one of those major highways. The folks living in those camps had long since had their tents replaced by stone houses built by Habitat for Humanity, and as the president finished, he said resolutely that there were no more IDP’s in Kenya. According to an article dated Sept. 9, 2013, in the Nakuru County News Online, women and children started wailing in Mwi’hangiri when they heard the president had left and all hope was gone for them. No houses had been built for them in 6 years and now the only chance at a new life financially had flown south to Nairobi in a helicopter, oblivious to their cries.

We stumbled upon this unfortunate group by chance in mid- January when Bonface, our outreach and childcare director, and Flo, our social worker, were on their way to find the home of a prospective child for Naomi’s Village. Bonface was struck with their plight immediately and saw that they needed water most of all. Our NV Board of Directors had just arrived in Kenya and funds they quickly donated paid for 2 donkeys, 2 water carts, and 4 large drums to carry water from a distant source. Within days these grateful people not only had enough water for the daily needs of their own families, but they had started providing for some other nearby needy families outside the camp. We marveled that they could be so giving when others had not done so for them before.

One miserable man had been unable to patch his tent together any longer after one too many storms, and had taken to sleeping in the community latrine building at night. This grieved our Naomi’s Village community, so we raised funds and materials to build him a small modest house. From this seed came a blessing, as we went over to see the house and fellowship with the people one weekday, only to be driven into the man’s new home by a sudden rainstorm. There we worshipped in Swahili, Kikuyu, and English while joyfully occupying the small space, a shoulder to shoulder mass of common humanity that God willed into closer communion that day. We have not forgotten each other since. Our NV children love to visit and help out on weekends. Two other small houses made of sheet metal have replaced the worst tents temporarily.

We shared in the burial service of the oldest member of the camp, Naomi, age 90, in early March. Her body is buried in a corner of the two acre plot, the headstone a reminder that injustice is worth fighting against. She should not have spent her last 6 years on a thin mattress in a tent in a field.

So here is my plea, plain and simple. These people should live in homes. Homes made of stone with a few windows and a door. Homes that do not fall over when the wind blows and leak when it rains. Make a donation and help fund a home. We want to build 24 homes for $3200 each. We want to do this by summer’s end. This will mean the end of at least one injustice I know of. Period.

(This goal has been met. But they have new missions they are working on every day…. PS. Before they would let the houses be built, they-the residents- insisted on a Church first!)

By Bob Mendonsa

Why it Matters

by
Bob Mendonsa founder of Naomi’s Village

Chris. May 2014.

Speak to me until I understand,
why our thinking and creating,
why our efforts of narrating,
about the beauty, of the beauty…
why it matters.

Like the statue in the park of this war-torn town, and its protest of the darkness and this chaos all around. With its beauty, how it matters, how it matters. – Sara Groves

Seven years after moving to  Kenya, I am handling the questions with some degree of confidence now.  They seem cynical- the pithy pushbacks to our hope-filled efforts to help orphans, those burdened by poverty, disease, hunger, or injustice.  “Are you making a difference?”, one might ask.  Or in another form, “Is your approach going to work in changing the overall equation, the big picture, one day?”  In one way or another, the questions carry a “Does it matter?” tone, which can discourage.

The queries can take on a more positive flavor at times, and to be fair, may not always reflect a jaded mindset, but instead the motive may simply be rational thinking. The Son of Compassion, Jesus himself, said, “The poor you will always have with you….” (Mark 14:7), reflecting that serving the less fortunate has a certain degree of inherent futility involved. Even he didn’t predict a win one day.

Yet some see 2.4 million Kenyan orphans, or 1 in 8 Kenyan girls pregnant by age 14 as numbers beyond solutions, and because they are problem solvers, want nothing to do with losing propositions. Others imagine reasons must exist that assign blame somewhere, to someone – a government, a race, a mindset, anything, and they take a side door out of truly engaging. I’m only mentioning a few statistics, a few arguments I read and hear, a few versions of “the question”.  Lately it has almost become the intellectual thing to write an editorial or blog telling others how naive they are to be involved in mission efforts in Africa.

So what can be said in response? Sara Groves wrestles with it rather poetically above, likening our standing against darkness and chaos to a beautiful statue in a park in a war-torn town. Please take a moment to listen to her song,especially if music is your heart language.http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zK1KkqNMunk

But we now have a right to speak, on the basis of having lived among the poor of Africa. Because we moved here and found answers first hand, not satisfied that things had to be the way they were, yet accepting that we might also fail, there are things we can now share.   We understand the concept of a cycle of poverty vividly, and can explain what approaches will and will not work to break it. And know this for sure- it can and will be broken in the Rift Valley of Kenya one day. Perhaps not in my lifetime, but the wheels are now in motion and change has begun. Thousands of children will be adults already on their way out of that cycle, never to go back, nor to raise their kids in it, by 20 years from now.

We will not be silenced or discouraged by the naysayers, the darker voices.  As Ernest Hemingway said, “Critics are men who watch a battle from a high place, then come down and shoot the survivors.”  Also Julie has commented so many times, there are many solutions to the orphan crisis, and orphan care is not a competitive venture. As we see others helping orphans differently, we try to remember that, and applaud, rather than compete. We hope for the same spirit of respect and cooperation from others.

So here are at least 3 answers to the basic question, “Why it matters?” to do redemptive work for children when the problem seems unending, without a win in sight.

1) It matters because there are too many children, with beating hearts, beautiful eyes, warm faces, crooked limbs, torn clothes, living parentless, with words to say and lives to share. They know facts you and I don’t, have singing voices that make crowds fall silent sometimes, and some can paint, draw, sculpt, act, dance, and do math in ways that we will otherwise never know. Many of them have no chance to see the inside of a school, the high side of their teen years before being a prostitute or street boy, or the joy of being truly loved.

As I write this, there are 53 million orphans whose collective gifts to humanity are slowly being  squandered, due to a lack of an opportunity for them to flourish. Slow down and imagine the value of it all, the worth to our world…

I have held kids in rural church services, been arrested by the sheer beauty of a passing slum child in Lunga Lunga, seen numerous babies left like trash by desperate mothers with no hope. This has become personal to me. I cannot see statistics, only growing children that God has shown me to love. Unless you allow Him to do that for you, I have not enough words to convey this to you. Most of you reading this are already alongside us, carrying this heart burden with us in some way.

Phillip Yancey, in his excellent book Soul Survivor, noted similarly that, “The great societies of the West have been moving away from an underlying belief in the value of a single human soul. We tend to view history in terms of groups of people: classes, political parties, races, sociological groupings. We apply labels to each other, and explain behavior and ascribe worth on the basis of those labels… I realized I had been seeing large human problems in a mathematical model: percentages of G.N.P., average annual income, mortality rate, doctors- per thousand of population. Love, however, is not mathematical; we can never precisely calculate the greatest possible good to be applied equally to the world’s poor and needy. We can only seek out one person, and then another, and then another, as objects for God’s love.”

2)  It matters because it was never about the end game to begin with! Who said it was about winning anyway? I’m focusing on today’s battles, because it is in the fighting, the struggling for victory, that life is truly lived. I once found satisfaction in taking on only  smaller manageable challenges, then moving to the next. Smaller tasks where a solution was assured seemed satisfying, until God led me here, into the center of a lifelong war on poverty that is not mine to win.

Now, in the same arduous and joyful, soul filling work, I am constantly aware of the magnitude of the task and my weakness. Thus, God can truly be made manifest as beautiful and worthy by working through me. And so if one asks me why it matters to struggle in spite of my weakness, and in view of the magnitude of the needs to be met all around us, I will say it is so that He can be seen as worthy, as the only reason for such love.

Now please don’t think the impossibility of winning the larger war will give us an excuse for laziness or lack of a plan. If you know our ministry, and us personally, we intend to win each battle, or what would be the point of fighting? Surrendering to the enemy, the corrupt, the failed system, is not in our language.

3) It matters because life is short, and there are precious few things worth living for.  We were created in love, for love, and we will be measured on how we loved one day. Your life and mine are vapors, slipping through grasping fingers, ones that cannot hold such a divine thing. So why does rational thought invade so easily when it comes to matters such as these, diverting us from what is natural and intuitive to do?

Stop. Breathe in, out. Think clearly for a moment. Get up and go find another, a weak one in need, and love them. Do so with more time and money than you did before. You don’t own either one anyway.  Give up your right to knowing the results, to winning. Just love, only that.

And when that final scratchy breath leaves your lungs one day, you will know it was right. It will have been nice to feel like a fighter does, risking loss, or perhaps to know the sound and smell of Africa, to hold a helpless child before you go.

So those are my answers. Get on your feet if you have been unsure. Let’s go. We’ll meet you there with the rest of the joyful losers. At the end, when Jesus finally wipes that last tear away, we will really see why it mattered, once and for all.

Bob Mendonsa

Jesus Is with Me to the End of the Age (and the Week’s Ironing)

Article by Gloria Furman

There is no shortage of sympathizing authenticity available to help moms absorb the impact of life in the trenches. Strangers, friends, blogs, and books freely offer their candid encouragements. I remember one occasion years ago when I was buying a package of preschooler underpants. The store clerk smiled and said, “When you start their toilet training you’re going to feel like there’s urine everywhere. But don’t worry, you’re not alone.” The woman behind me in line echoed her. “Ain’t that the truth!” There’s no doubt about the fact that we receive a special kind of encouragement knowing we’re not alone.

Believers in Christ are surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses” who walk by faith, their lives a testimony to the ultimate grace and the greatest peace. The grace and peace these men and women know keeps them going through heart-wrenching trials and even physically-threatening ordeals. God has given them eyes of faith to see our joy-pursuing, cross-enduring, shame-despising Christ who is exalted over all things and is seated at his right hand.

Having been given all authority in heaven and on earth, Jesus Christ gives us our marching orders and assures us with absolute certainty that he is always with us — even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

We’re not alone.

For the Small Stuff

My everyday life is not replete with dangers to body and soul around every corner. I’m more likely to encounter a sibling squabble or some kind of monument to my own homemaking procrastination when I round a corner in our home. It’s tempting to consider Christ’s presence as only available for “the big stuff.” Even though I understand my work in the home as facilitating disciple-making to the praise of God’s glory among the nations, my disparaging heart attitude about the repetitive work of ordinary life reveals these fear-filled questions: Does this matter to the Lord? Is he with me?

I often echo Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians and ask it for myself and for others who need encouragement. What kind of assuring joy we would know as the Lord enlightens the eyes of our hearts to know the hope to which he has called us, and the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1:18)! What kind of thrilling peace we can rest in knowing that Christ’s rock-steady presence in our lives is never, ever diminished by our foggy, shifting doubts!

Jesus is not absent from our domestic lives as we serve his disciple-making purposes. If he’s with you to the end of the age …

… then he’s with you to the end of packing the last box before a move.

… then he’s with you to the end of a dating relationship that is (finally!) culminating in a Christ-exalting marriage.

… then he’s with you to the end of the adoption paperwork when the judge declares, “Congratulations!”

… then he’s with you to the end of a difficult school year.

… then he’s with you to the end of cleaning a mess that is so profuse you’re not sure whether to laugh or cry.

… then he’s with you to the end of an awkward silence you’re not sure how to resolve.

… then he’s with you to the end of a long night awake with a colicky infant.

… then he’s with you to the end of the month when the budget isn’t working.

Supreme Treasure

Drawing comfort from Christ’s abiding presence makes all the difference in the way we live our lives in the home. Through the gospel of God, which is his very power for salvation, we have been given Christ as our supreme treasure. God’s amazing grace to us in Christ Jesus is the hope to which he has called us, and Christ himself is our glorious inheritance. Because of Jesus our lives are cups that are filled to overflowing with blessings, as John Newton so famously penned,

The Lord has promised good to me,

His word my hope secures.

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures. (Amazing Grace)

“As long as life endures” is but a short while, and then eternal life endures forever and ever. Christ will be our shield and portion to the end of the age … and to the end of this week’s ironing.

Gloria Furman (@gloriafurman) is the author of several books, including Alive in Him: How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything and Missional Motherhood. She is also editor and contributor for Joyfully Spreading the Word. She lives in Dubai with her four children and husband, Dave.

Excuses for Sin

Excuse (def.) –suggests trying to justify a mistake or failure or to make it seem less serious, in order to escape being blamed or punished… something said to explain an offense or failure.

I keep wondering why we so often attempt to make excuses for sins in our lives. How is that though we say we love God, so often it is difficult to look at ourselves head-on and see the sin that God sees? How come it is so easy to make excuses to others, who often see us for what we are, and the sins we commit? Why is it that the sins we try to hide the most, are the ones that keep coming to light, until we finally say, “No more excuses”?

Hebrews 10:26 “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,”

Also Hebrews 10:10-24

There are so many excuses that people give for remaining in sin or denying that they are sinning. Over the years I’ve heard so many. One excuse often being used, that was close to home, was “my background”. Other examples are “my home life” or “the way I was brought up” or ???

Some other “pet” excuses used by people are “it’s my personality” or “God made me that way.” Regardless of how unique God has made each of us, the Bible clearly states that all are to have evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. There are no verses that describe or let us make excuses for sin because of our personalities, backgrounds or circumstances. But there are many verses that say we are to change and put off sin. God expects that of us.

Ephesians 4:20-26 “But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil”

Ephesians 4:29-32 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away with you, with all malice: And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

The scriptures also speak of what happens to those that hang onto sin.

Romans 2 :5-9 “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; For there is no respect of persons with God.”

We can often deceive ourselves with our excuses, and justify remaining in sin and committing more sins. This type of behavior can happen over and over. It depends on how sensitive we are to the leading of the Holy Spirit. As well, justifying and deceiving ourselves can make us believe that we are absolutely right in our behavior, and that thinking often leads to further sin.

Jeremiah 17:9 ” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Proverbs 21:2 “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.”

Proverbs 28:25,26 ” He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat. He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.”

We are admonished and warned to be aware of those that are not necessarily of God.

1 Timothy 6:3-6 ” If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Ephesians 4:17-20 “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ;”

Proverbs 21:23,24 ” Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles. Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.”

Some have a perception that they are justified to sin because they feel others have hurt them or falsely accused them, whether it is true or not. Often that justification keeps a person from seeing the sin they are committing. Others feel that being a Christian and contending for the faith gives one license to use whatever words and attitudes they feel like using –all in the name of “righteousness”. But failure to exhibit the things of Christ, or being a reflection of Him, means we have fallen into sin somewhere along the way. Or perhaps it could mean a person did not, or no longer, belongs to Christ.

We are admonished and warned to be aware of those that are not necessarily of God.

Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

Colossians 3:12-17a “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another…” 

Colossians 3:5-10 “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him:”

2 Tim 3:1-7 “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts. Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Proverbs 22:10-13 “Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea strife and reproach shall cease. He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend. The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge, and he overthroweth the words of the transgressor.”

1 Timothy 6:3-6 ” If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

And finally:

Luke 6:43-48 “For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:

He is like a man which built an house, and digged it deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.” 

We need to be “fruit inspectors” and weigh carefully what is growing around us. We also need to check where we’ve built our “House” and we need to be sure that we’re on the “Rock”. 

And find out what pleases the Lord

Reposted by request

And find out what pleases the Lord.

Ephesians 5:10

Do you know what pleases God? Are you sure? Some Christians spend their lives assuming God is pleased with them simply because they are Christians. They never stop to consider that they might actually be disappointing God with their attitudes and their behavior.

Before his conversion, Paul thought he was the model of righteousness. He assumed God wanted him to rid the world of heretics, so he poured his life into persecuting Christians. Paul was mortified when Jesus opened his eyes and he saw how displeasing his life had been. He was determined never to misunderstand God’s will again. He was adamant that his friends not make his mistake, so he warned them about living under false assumptions. He advised them to find out what pleases God and then do it!

We can be like Paul and mistakenly set our own standards for what we think pleases God; that way we know we can live up to them! We might assume God will overlook our small indulgences as long as we avoid the big sins. So we don’t kill anybody, but we do gossip just a little. We don’t actually hate anyone, but we occasionally criticize others. We don’t pretend to be perfect, but by our own standards, we’re not as bad as we could be. The problem is, God is not impressed when we live up to our standards; he expects us to live up to his.

If you’ve never investigated what is pleasing to God, now is the time to do so. As you read your Bible and pray, God will make clear how he wants you to live. Let that-and nothing less-be the standard for the way you live.

Does God Answer Our Prayers?

Sermon 5/24

Have you ever known someone who really trusts God? When I was an
atheist, I had a good friend who prayed often. She would tell me every week about something she was trusting God to take care of. And every week I
would see God do something unusual to answer her prayer. Do you know
how difficult it is for an atheist to observe this week after week? After a
while, “coincidence” begins to sound like a very weak argument.
So why would God answer my friend’s prayers? The biggest reason is that she had a relationship with God. She wanted to follow God. And she
actually listened to what he said. In her mind, God had the right to direct
her in life, and she welcomed him doing just that! When she prayed for
things, it was a natural part of her relationship with God. She felt very
comfortable coming to God with her needs, her concerns, and whatever
issues were current in her life. Furthermore, she was convinced, from what she read in the Bible, that God wanted her to rely on him like that.
She pretty much exhibited what this statement from the Bible says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything
according to his will, he hears us.”1 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the
righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer…”

I once had a daughter ask why God answered my prayers and not hers.  What a tough question to answer… but I finally did.  Relationship was the answer.  I was actively cultivating a relationship with God and she was obviously not.  

So, Why Doesn’t God Answer Everyone’s Prayers?

“You should go and bear fruit and – your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16b

This is one of the 7 passages in John, that refers to having fruit and it abiding in our lives.

It may be because they don’t have a relationship with God. They may know that God exists, and they might even worship God from time to time. But those who never seem to have their prayers answered probably don’t have a relationship with him. Further, they have never received from God complete forgiveness for their sin. What does that have to do with it you ask? Here is an explanation. “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God. Your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”3

It’s pretty natural to feel that separation from God. When people begin to ask God for something, what usually takes place? They begin with, “God, I really need your help with this problem…” And then there’s a pause, followed by a restart… “I realize that I’m not a perfect person, that I actually have no right to ask you for this…” There’s an awareness of personal sin and failure. And the person knows that it’s not just them; that God is aware of it too. There’s a feeling of, “Who am I kidding?” What they may not know is how they can receive God’s forgiveness for all their sin. They might not know that they can come into a relationship with God so that God will hear them. This is the foundation for God answering your prayer.

Ezekiel 20:5,7,19,20 I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.

“You should go and bear fruit and – your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16

“Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

All believers have the fruit of Spirit available to them. You don’t have to ask God for love, joy, or peace…you already have it in you. However, you may need to ask for a greater yield of your fruit on a day to day basis. The size of the fruit is different among believers. Some people spend time cultivating their fruit so that it’s flourishing; while others tend to neglect their fruit and it becomes unproductive. Does Your Fruit of the Spirit in your life look Appetizing?

Our fruit of the spirit is one piece with many different characteristics.

Every so often believers need to make sure they are growing up spiritually. Perhaps it is time for your fruit inspection to determine the condition of your spiritual fruit. Check the fruit you need the most nourishment to grow.

Love

“Dear children let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Is your love unconditional? Or is your love most evident when everything goes your way? This type of fruit keeps on loving even when it’s difficult to show affection to others. The capacity to love grows out of the agape love from the heavenly Father.  This Love is hard to show on the job because some people just don’t deserve it.  Love anyway, unconditionally.

Joy

“For the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Can you have joy in the chaos? Or does your moodiness hover over everyone like a cloud? Not that anyone should be joyful about the hard times, but rather your joy comes from #1) God is with you through it and #2) God uses every trial to help you become stronger in the faith.

Check your “reputation”.  Are you the person people avoid during your moody times?

Peace

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-8).

Is your inner person wrecked with anxiety and worry when everything falls apart? Or can you rest in God’s peace? There is no peace for the wicked; however, for believers it is available every time you pray and leave your concerns with God.  God knows all about your job.  He knows the deadlines, and the bill due dates.

Forbearance

“Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Colossians 1:11).

Can you be still and wait on God? Or are you tempted to always move ahead so you can stay in control? Forbearance is a fruit that will grow with your experience of being stretched in faith especially in times of trial.  Forbearance is another word for patience; you don’t have to pray for patience…it’s there already!

Our Jobs, our Lives are going at such a fast pace… Can you succeed and still wait on the Lord?

Kindness

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful” (2 Timothy 2:24).

Do others sense your kindness in words and actions? Or are they more accustomed to your angry response? A gentle word, a soft answer, or a helping hand—all demonstrate the fruit of kindness in this culture of rudeness and selfishness.

Goodness

“Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).

Are your conversations marked with genuine virtue and honor? Or is your conversation tainted with worldly language, immoral tendencies, or gossip? Goodness doesn’t mean that you are perfect, but rather someone who sincerely reflects the integrity of God within. A believer who demonstrates the fruit of goodness has the tendency to look for the best about people.

Faithfulness

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Does your reputation reflect dependability and steadfastness in the faith? Or do people expect you to be late, undependable, or to drop off the map on a project? Your faithfulness represents God’s Spirit dwelling within. Those who cultivate the fruit of faithfulness are compelled to complete every good work for His glory.

Gentleness

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5).

Is your meek spirit felt around those who live or work with you? Or do they feel that you are a hard and legalistic person to deal with? A spirit of gentleness gives grace freely and consistently. Believers and unbelievers should feel at ease around you because of your presence of gentleness.

Self-Control

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12)

Do you control your appetites? Or do they control you? Believers can demonstrate a life of self-control and discipline in a world where everyday is an opportunity for gluttony. You have the power through the Spirit to control your cravings.

Forbearance

“Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Colossians 1:11).

Can you be still and wait on God? Or are you tempted to always move ahead so you can stay in control? Forbearance is a fruit that will grow with your experience of being stretched in faith especially in times of trial.  Forbearance is another word for patience; you don’t have to pray for patience…it’s there already!

Every Fruit should be seen in each one of the Believers.  Don’t make excuses why you do not exhibit a particular fruit.  If there are no fruits seen, or if they are rotten and moldy, you need to decide what is more important to you, Jesus or _________ (fill in the blank).  Start by praying about them every day.  Ask others to pray with you too.  Try to post the different “Fruits” around your office or work space as a reminder for you to start cultivating these missing fruits.

One side benefit of having the Fruits of the Spirit abiding in you seems to be Answered Prayers.  Read the 7 passages in John, that refer to having fruit and it abiding in our lives, and you will see that it seems to promise a stronger prayer life.  Wow… what a cool benefit!

When we pray, and our prayers are not answered, perhaps we need to check our fruit. Every so often believers need to make sure they are still growing up spiritually.

How Does Prayer Work?

When it comes to God then, do you really know him and does he know you? Do you have a relationship with him that warrants God answering your prayers? Or is God pretty distant, pretty much just a concept in your life? If God is distant, or you’re not sure you can begin a relationship with him right now.

“You should go and bear fruit and – your fruit should abide hat you know God,

Look at the word “abide”. This means it is consistently there, not hit and miss.

All believers have the fruit of Spirit available to them. You don’t have to ask God for love, joy, or peace…you already have it in you. However, you may need to ask for a greater yield of your fruit on a day to day basis. The size of the fruit is different among believers. Some people spend time cultivating their fruit so that it’s flourishing; while others tend to neglect their fruit and it becomes unproductive.

Will God Definitely Answer Your Prayer?

For those who do know him and rely on him, Jesus seems to be wildly generous in his offer: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”5 To “remain” in him and have his words remain in them means they conduct their lives aware of him, relying on him, listening to what he says. Then they’re able to ask him whatever they want. Here is another qualifier: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.”6God answers our prayers according to his will (and according to his wisdom, his love for us, his holiness, etc.).

Where we trip up is assuming we know God’s will, because a certain thing makes sense to us! We assume that there is only one right “answer” to a specific prayer, assuming certainly THAT would be God’s will. And this is where it gets tough. We live within the limits of time and limits of knowledge. We have only limited information about a situation and the implications of future action on that situation.

God’s understanding is unlimited. How an event plays out in the course of life or history is only something he knows. And he may have purposes far beyond what we could even imagine. So, God is not going to do something simply because we determine that it must be his will.

What about “Unanswered” Prayer?

Certainly people get sick, even die; financial problems are real, and all sorts of very difficult situations can come up. What then?

God tells us to give our concerns to him. Even as the situation remains dismal, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”12 The circumstances may look out of control, but they aren’t. When the whole world seems to be falling apart, God can keep us together. This is when a person can be very grateful that they know God. “The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”13 God may provide solutions, resolutions to the problem WAY beyond what you imagined possible. Probably any Christian could list examples like this in their own lives. But if the circumstances do not improve, God can still give us his peace in the midst of it. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”14

It is at this point (when circumstances are still tough) that God asks us to continue to trust him — to “walk by faith, not by sight” the Bible says. But it’s not blind faith. It is based on the very character of God. A car traveling on the Golden Gate Bridge is fully supported by the integrity of the bridge. It doesn’t matter what the driver may be feeling, or thinking about, or discussing with someone in the passenger seat. What gets the car safely to the other side is the integrity of the bridge, which the driver was willing to trust.

In the same way, God asks us to trust his integrity, his character…his compassion, love, wisdom, righteousness on our behalf. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”15 “Trust in him at all times, O people. Pour out your heart before him. God is a refuge for us.”16

In Summary

God has offered to answer the prayers of his children (those who have received him into their lives and seek to follow him). He asks us to take any concerns to him in prayer and he will act upon it according to his will. As we deal with difficulties we are to cast our cares on him and receive from him a peace that defies the circumstances. The basis for our hope and faith is the character of God himself. The better we know him, the more apt we are to trust him.

  1. A relationship with God.
  2. Wants to follow God.
  3. Listens to what He says.
  4. God had the right to direct your life.
  5. Prayer is a natural part of your relationship with God.
  6. Feels very comfortable coming to God with needs, concerns, and whatever issues were current in life.
  7. Convinced, from what the Bible says, that God wanted you to rely on him like that.

Pretty much exhibits what this statement from the Bible says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”1 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer…”

31 Amazing Word Studies You Should Do:

1. Meditate Psalm 119:15-16
2. Righteousness Proverbs 21:21
3. Shalom/peace I Peter 4:13
4. Submit Job 22:21
5. Endures Isaiah 40:8
6. Stronghold Psalm 62:1-2
7. Perfected II Corinthians 12:9
8. Humble I Peter 5:6
9. Authority Luke 9:1-2
10. Treasured Luke 2:19
11. Hope Psalm 42:5
12. Protect Psalm 91:11
13. Rejoice I Peter 4:13
14. Blessed Ephesians 1:3
15. Futile I Samuel 12:21
16. Fulfillment Luke 1:45
17. Delight II Corinthians 12:9-10
18. Dignity Proverbs 31:25
19. Harmony Romans 12:15
20. Might Zechariah 4:6
21. Hiding Place Psalm 32:7
22. Enriched II Corinthians 9:11
23. Power Colossians 1:29
24. Complete Colossians 2:10
25. Grace Titus 2:11
26. Give Luke 6:38
27. Consider Romans 6:11
28. Justifies Romans 4:5
29. Love John 3:16
30. Press On Philippians 3:14
31. Forgive Matthew 6:14-15

The Battle for Your Mind

By Billy Graham   •  

This issue of Decision features several articles from Christian apologists—scholars who show that Christian faith rests on solid historical evidence and that we do not need to shut down our minds in order to believe in Jesus. This classic message from Billy Graham tells how our minds can be renewed, transformed and filled with life and peace.

One of the most important things in our lives is the control of our minds. Our thoughts are powerful. They can harm us or do us good. The Bible says, “As [a person] thinks … so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Many people have troubled minds. There’s a story told in the eighth chapter of Ezekiel about priests and leaders who on the outside were worshiping the true and living God, but who on the inside, in their minds, had idols. They were worshiping other gods and acting out sexual fantasies, and God condemned them as great sinners.

Scripture has several things to say about the mind: First, the Bible says that the mind is naturally at enmity with God (Romans 8:7). A person’s mind is against God. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians that before they came to Christ, they were “alienated and enemies in [their] mind” to all things relating to the true knowledge of God. Because of sin, the mind is an enemy of God (Colossians 1:21). Such a mind will not obey the law of God. You may say you believe in God, you may say you love God, but you don’t obey God. You live like an atheist.

The works of the flesh are listed in Galatians 5. I’d like to quote them for you, because they talk about the mind. When you follow your own wrong mind, your life will produce these evil results: “impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, spiritism (that is, encouraging the activity of demons), hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, constant effort to get the best for yourself, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in your own little group–and there will be wrong doctrine, envy, murder, drunkenness, wild parties, and all that sort of thing” (Galatians 5:19-21, TLB). Paul went on to say, “I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21, NKJV).

If you continue without repentance, the Scripture says that God will eventually give you over to a “reprobate mind” (Romans 1:28, KJV) to do those things which are not right. The word reprobate carries with it the idea of having been rejected. What a terrible thing it would be to be rejected by God. There were many people who followed Christ in His day, but the Bible says He saw their hearts, He saw their minds and what they were thinking, and He rejected them. There is a point beyond which you cannot return, where your heart is so hard that you can no longer hear the Holy Spirit. Your mind is so hardened that it becomes reprobate, and the Bible warns against having this kind of mind.

Second, the Bible says that you can have a blinded mind. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). In other words, when the Gospel is presented, the devil has a veil over your mind. The devil blinds your mind to spiritual truth. You may know all kinds of disciplines and fields of knowledge. But when it comes to spiritual things, you don’t know anything that is right. You’re blinded.

Our minds don’t want to believe that. That’s why the Holy Spirit has to come and lift the veil. Many people tell me, “I cannot understand. I’ve heard this all my life; I’ve tried to believe and cannot.” I tell you, seriously and tenderly and earnestly, the reason is often because of sin in your life. Satan holds you in his control, and the reason you cannot believe is that you do not really want to believe. You don’t want to give control of your life to Jesus Christ. It would mean giving up those things in your life that the Bible condemns.

Now, when you come to a place where you desire God’s will above all other things and say, “I want to be freed from the power of sin and be forgiven for my sins,” your spiritual eyes are opened. Your mind is freed.

Third, the Bible talks about the doubtful mind. Jesus said, “And do not … have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after. … But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12:29-31). In Romans, the Bible says, “He who doubts is condemned” (Romans 14:23). The Bible warns that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). This carries with it the idea of a person who wishes to be secure in both worlds, who doesn’t want to give up the sins of this world, but who doesn’t want to give up heaven either. God says we can’t have it both ways.

Fourth, the Bible talks about the defiled mind. Paul wrote to Titus about certain people whose minds are “defiled and unbelieving” (Titus 1:15). A religious leader came to me years ago and said, “You know, my mind is filled with evil thoughts, lustful thoughts, all the time. What can I do?”

You see, people don’t fall suddenly. Before the outward fall, there is the inner rehearsal and preparation. Think about it. Shakespeare wrote that sexual passion looks not with the eyes but with the mind. And that’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

But Jesus Christ can cure the mind and the body of their craving of the things that destroy. Christ can liberate and change a person’s mind.

Fifth, there is the renewed mind: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). This means that you renounce the pride, the jealousy and the lusts of your mind, and you receive Jesus Christ into your heart. You let Christ control your mind and your heart, your conscience and your will.

How do you have your mind transformed? By repenting of sin and receiving Christ into your heart. The Scripture says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). The mind of Christ can, through the Holy Spirit, control your mind, your thoughts, your intents and your actions, if you submit to Him daily.

That doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes, but it does mean that you can have the mind of Christ. Do you have a mind controlled by Christ? Do you have a renewed mind? Do you know that all your sins are forgiven, and that if you died right now you would go to heaven? If there’s a doubt in your heart that you are totally and completely Christ’s, you must do three things: First, repent of your sin. Jesus said, “Unless you repent you will … perish” (Luke 13:3).

Second, by faith receive Jesus Christ. He died on the cross for you. When He died on that cross, He took your sin. Something terrible and glorious happened when Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). In that moment, God the Father laid upon His Son your sins and mine. Because Jesus bore our sin and death for us, God can say, “I forgive you.”

And instantaneously you can start a new life. It happens in an instant, but there is a lifetime of decisions and commitments to make that relate to the Lord Jesus Christ. Every day I make a commitment concerning thoughts in my mind, what I’m to read, the discipline of my time, my prayer, my Bible-reading, my relationship with my family. Whatever it may be, I say, “Lord Jesus, I want Your mind in this matter.”

Third, follow Christ as a disciple. It’s not easy to follow Christ. The pull of the world, the pull of evil, is tremendous. But you can follow Christ, for in Christ you become spiritually minded. Romans 8:6 says, “To be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Wouldn’t you like to have eternal life right now? You can have eternal life, life that goes on for eternity. With it comes peace–peace in a world that seems to be falling apart. Wouldn’t you like to have that peace? Deep down in the recesses of your mind you know you ought to receive Christ. Make that commitment to Him right now.

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