As Thanksgiving has once again come upon the calendar this year, this is a wonderful season to reflect on the things of life and how many blessings there are in our lives. Having a family is a blessing. Having a job is a blessing. Having a home or place to live is a blessing. Having a church to attend is a blessing. Having a pastor is a blessing. Having brothers and sisters in Christ is a blessing. Having bills that are paid is a blessing. People should remember there are things that they have that many other people do not have. If individuals are not careful they may begin to see what they are missing more than how blessed they are with what they do have within their lives. This can be a deception that begins to breed discontentment. One of the best methods to overcome this problem is to be thankful. Christians, especially, should be thankful and give thanks unto God (Ephesians 5:20). During this time of year many people use the Thanksgiving holiday as a reminder to be thankful, but there should be a constant attitude within the hearts of the people to be thankful all year long. Even with this mindset, a person does not have to be thankful “for” bad situations or bad things but be thankful “in” those situations (1 Thessalonians 5:18). What is there to be thankful for “in” those situations? If a person is a Christian, they have Jesus as their Savior (John 3:36), God as their Father (1 Corinthians 8:6), and the Holy Spirit as their Comforter (John 14:26) and Guide (Romans 8:14). The will of Jesus Christ for His people is to be thankful by rejoicing and praying every day (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). As Christians serve God and are faithful to Him they begin to remember His benefits (Psalm 103:2). This should be a motivation to serve God throughout the whole year and be thankful for Who He is as opposed to only having this attitude one day on Thanksgiving. When God’s people have the fruit of the Holy Spirit of peace (Galatians 5:22) and the peace of Christ rules their hearts there is a thankful attitude (Colossians 3:15). Thanksgiving should not only be a time of gathering with family and friends to be thankful for them but also a time for those gathered to recount or testify of what God has done within their lives that they are thankful for (Psalm 9:1). The best testimony that any person can have is to be thankful that God sent His Son Jesus to be beaten so His people could have healing in their bodies (1 Peter 2:24), gave His life as the Supreme Sacrifice for salvation (1 John 2:2), resurrected having dominion over death (Romans 6:9), and now sits at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 10:12). With a life that is not perfect by their actions, but given power to overcome sin (1 John 5:4) and spiritual enemies (James 4:7), Christians have so much to be thankful for.
The betrayal of Jesus Christ within the Garden of Gethsemane has been discussed since it’s happening. In writing the Gospels, each writer took their turn making sure that Judas Iscariot was marked as the traitor to Jesus and His teachings of enduring to the end to be saved (Matthew 24:13). Judas carried out his betrayal plan marking Jesus by kissing Him on the cheek, a symbol of a close relationship, so He would be arrested (Matthew 26:48). As Judas comes to Jesus in the garden accompanied with armed men Judas kisses Him, calls Him master and allows the army of men to take Jesus away (Matthew 26:49). When speaking to Judas, Jesus calls him friend (Matthew 26:50). Even Jesus reminding Judas of their relationship did not stop the betrayal within Judas’ heart or actions. Some Christians want to base their relationship on being a friend to Jesus. Although this sentiment is good for someone who feels they are alone and Jesus is too far away from them to be personal, many others use this “friendship” to demote Jesus as less than the Son of God and more of a sin buddy. The betrayal seen most within the Christian faith in modern times is those that declare their allegiance and love for Jesus Christ, declaring a close relationship with Him, and then selling Him for a desire that has more meaning to them than the desire to be with Jesus. How many Christians betray Jesus by choosing to live life for themselves rather than Him? How many preachers or pastors betray Jesus by allowing culture or business to guide them rather than being led by the Bible or Jesus Christ? How many Christians betray Jesus by not obeying His commands? The solution to each of these questions is truly knowing Jesus in a deeper relationship than a friend. Knowing Jesus as friend is good but knowing Him as Savior (John 1:29), Master (Philippians 2:10), Lord (John 20:28), and fellow heir (Romans 8:17) are the best ways to know Him. Knowing Jesus in these intimate roles should help any Christian keep a correct heart and relationship with Him and prevent betrayal. Christians must maintain an accurate view of Who Jesus is and what He means to them. Knowing Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) allows Christians to come to the Father. Knowing Jesus as Savior and the giver of the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23) helps Christians have a greater appreciation for Who He is. Knowing Jesus as the Bread of Life (John 6:35) reminds Christians He is the supply for anything needed within life. Knowing Jesus as the Word of God (John 1:1) keeps Him as an important authority to obey His commands. Knowing that Jesus cares for His people (1 Peter 5:7) should keep an appreciation of His love and care within the hearts of Christians. Knowing Jesus as the head of the church (Colossians 1:8) should keep the proper perspective of obeying Him as the commanding officer in the army of God. Christians should be the last people on earth to betray anyone, especially Jesus Christ. May Christians display their love and loyalty to Jesus by keeping His commandments (John 14:23, 1 John 5:3), knowing Him as their Savior (John 3:3), enduring as good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3), and following Him as their Shepherd (John 10:11, Psalm 23).
Many Christians have the habit of saying that Jesus is Lord. This is a correct statement due to Him being the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). With this being said, what do Christians mean when they say Jesus is Lord? Some of those that declare this have a heart-felt embrace of Jesus being the Lord and master of their life. This requires Jesus to be the head of that Christian’s life (Ephesians 1:22-23) without any reservations or areas that He is not allowed to command. Other Christians say this from a religious mouth that does not mean what it says from the heart (Matthew 15:8). This is a dangerous routine that many Christians fall prey to. All Christians should serve God, be led by the Holy Spirit, and have Jesus as not only their Savior but the Lord of their life. Every Christian is purchased with a price and does not belong to themselves to do as they please (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). To even become a Christian a person must confess with their mouth and believe in their heart that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9). Why does His Lordship stop within the lives of so many Christians? Why do some Christians believe it is okay to take so much control of their own lives that they essentially push Jesus out of any authority and turn Him into a hippie feel-good friend? The answer is compromise. Compromising the Word of God, the holiness of God, and the authority Jesus is supposed to have within the life of each Christian. All authority was given to Jesus in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), there is no salvation in anyone else (Acts 4:12), and He became the intercessor for Christians before God the Father (1 Timothy 2:5). This is only a small percentage of the power, dominion, and authority given unto Jesus yet some Christians still feel they make a better lord of their life than He would. Jesus is the teacher, leader, and guide in helping those that believe in Him in the way they should go (Isaiah 48:17). Jesus should have enough authority in the life of each believer that they obey His commandments to reflect the love they have for Him all the days of their life (John 14:15). Every Christian first has a connection with Jesus Christ as the true vine (John 15:1-2). Sadly, some disconnect themselves thinking they can live life without being submitted to the true vine, the provider of life. This brings withering and death (John 15:2, 4-6). It is vital to remain submitted to Jesus as not only Savior but also Lord so He can direct His people to serve and live for God. Living a life that is away from the authority of Jesus being Lord leads to an eternity away from Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Jesus even rebuked those that called Him Lord but did not follow through with living what He said to do (Luke 6:46). This is the definition of being Lord is to have authority and rule over someone or something. Christians must receive Jesus as their Savior, submit to Him to be their Lord, and stay submitted to His Lordship all the days of their lives to be saved (Matthew 24:13). The real question is, is Jesus the Lord of your life?
Many churches this month are honoring their pastor and pastor’s wife by showering gifts, giving cards, and other ideas that are a wonderful blessing to each pastor and his family. Honoring pastors, their wives, and their children is biblical and correct to display appreciation for those that serve within the kingdom of God. The word honor is defined as having a good opinion about, revering, fixing a value upon, to esteem. Although October is the month that churches dedicate this time each year, a much better gift that can be given throughout the year is hearing the Word of God being preached by the pastor and living out the Word. Knowing that a pastor, including his family, is a gift from Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:11) helps Christians to understand the blessing it is to have a pastor within their lives. Even as a pastor, I have a pastor to perfect, mature, and equip me as a Christian for everything God has called me to do. While some Christians will honor their pastor with only lip service this is not the honor God desires to be displayed toward the gifts Jesus has given to His people (Matthew 15:8, Mark 7:6). God desires His people to hear the messages, see the lifestyles, and submit to the discipleship of the pastors He has established within each church that He has built. One of the best methods of honoring a pastor is to walk with God by applying the teachings they teach (James 1:21), imitate their holy lifestyle (1 Corinthians 11:1), and allow them to disciple biblical principles within that person’s life (Matthew 28:19-20). Having biblical pastors is an extreme rarity in these days. There may be many pastors, none perfect by any means, but only some will stand on the Word of God and not bow to the people’s emotions, money, or desires. Pastors are to mature the people of God (Ephesians 4:12) and not be their best friend. That leads to the next point of pastors being holy and worthy of honor. Pastors that look no different from the world or are controlled by the people are not maturing the body of Christ but giving in to the anti-Christ spirit of flesh being god as opposed to God being the One who is obeyed. King Saul was stripped of his kingship due to disobeying God and obeying the people (1 Samuel 15). If a pastor is holy, sanctified, and preaches the whole truth of God then he is worthy of honor because he is used by the Master (2 Timothy 2:21). It is vital that pastors are messengers of the entirety of the Word of God because even the Bible discusses a famine of the Word (Amos 8:11). This does not include a famine of preachers, churches, or the Bible, but a famine of ministers preaching the fullness of the Word of God creating a lack of equipping Christians as believers to be soldiers of the Living God. If your pastor preaches the full truth, he is worthy of not only honor but double honor (1 Timothy 5:17). May pastors throughout our region preach, teach, and live the entirety of the Word of God. May Christians everywhere truly appreciate and honor the gifts of Jesus Christ found within their pastors.
In recent years, many churches have focused on the aspect of inclusion to the degree of taking out everything that might offend anyone in attendance. No church or Christian should ever purposefully offend another person (2 Corinthians 6:3) or be a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 8:9) to other people. Even with the best intentions of not wanting to offend, every church and Christian must not compromise the truth of God or God’s Word. The truth of God draws a line in the sand (so to speak) and separates the people who submit to God’s Word and those who rebel against His truth by not living it. Submitting to God requires studying the Bible AND living the Word of God out through character by doing what it says. Living out the Word of God will create a separation between those that apply God’s truth to be holy people of God while those that choose to oppose His truth will desire the separation out of conviction. Many people view Jesus as the Messiah to bring everyone from everywhere together but even He describes Himself as a divider (Matthew 10:34-36). Jesus goes a step further to say that anyone who loves family more than Him is not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37). It is not hatred within a family that Jesus wants or encourages, but Jesus is reflecting on the separation of those who reject Jesus in their lives as opposed to those of the same family that has given their lives to serve Him. This reality should be a motivation to encourage Christians to witness to people within their lives of the salvation that can be found in Jesus Christ. Separation is not an easy situation no matter the origin. To have the truth of God bring this separation displays the heart of each person. Serving God is to be conducted with the very best effort or also known as heartily (Colossians 3:23). Once a Christian realizes the blessings that come from being faithful to God they should be immovable from the truth of God no matter the cost (1 Corinthians 15:58). The truth of God forces people to look at their lifestyle and compare it to how the Bible says to live. Those that desire God and His presence within their lives will submit and obey. During this submission and obedience, others that have chosen to not obey or submit to the truth of God may be convicted of their own sin and mock God or at the very least attempt to plant the idea of having a lower standard of Christianity within the person that is dedicating their life to God’s truth. It takes a strong Christian to stand and not compromise the truth of God and the things of God. A great motivation for not compromising the things of God is remembering that one day Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:32-34). This is an analogy of sheep that reflects the submitted and obedient people of God while goats are a reflection of those who do what they desire and do not submit to the truth of God. Again, this separation comes as Jesus is doing the separating although it is by choice of each individual that determines if a person is a sheep or goat. Where do you stand regarding the truth of God? Do you stand in submission and obedience to the truth of God? Or are you standing in opposition living life how you desire and neglecting the truth of God? Which side do you choose?
In the field of the world, many different seeds are sown both good and bad. Jesus described this scenario within the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30). Jesus speaks about a man sowing good seed, which is wheat in his field. Just as wheat is the good seed that is planted some tares are also planted but from a different source. Tares are dangerous weeds that can cause issues for the wheat’s growth and health. These tares are also known as bearded darnels. Bearded darnels are poisonous grass that is almost indistinguishable from wheat from the outside. The darnels are also known as “false wheat”. On the inside, the tares have black grains. These darnels can only be distinguished from the wheat as both begin to mature. Applying this parable to today one could notice that wheat represents the true Christians that seek to be harvested for God and have Godly character. The wheat is produced from good seed planted by the man who owns the field. While the servants of the good man slept the enemy sowed tares with the wheat. While Christians have slept and not been on guard throughout time, spiritual enemies have sown tares among them to be distractions and even hindrances to the growth and health of true Christians. The lack of responsibility to maintain the field gave the enemy enough opportunity to plant the tares. Christians must awaken and shine the light of Christ (Ephesians 5:14). Being spiritually awake is vital to enduring these last days as a Christian. As the days get darker spiritually, Christians cannot afford to sleep but be people of the day (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8). God’s people must be on guard against the wiles or schemes of the enemy (Ephesians 6:11). As discussed regarding the difference between wheat and tares there is much more to be said. As wheat grows it begins to bow as if bowing to the good man, a reflection of Jesus Christ. In stark comparison, the tares are a stiff-necked people that refuse to bow. The black within the tares represents the sin and death that is present in the heart of those that serve themselves or the enemy of God. Wheat grows higher than tares, which makes the harvest easier for the reaper. Christians can rise in favor and bow in honor. The enemies of God cannot arise as tall as Christians but do not bow because of pride. In their botanical make-up, darnels have only a single glume, or leaf, that covers the darnel which represents the desire to be independent with no help or guidance. Wheat has two glumes, or leaves, that cover the wheat representing not only themselves as cover but the coverage from the Holy Spirit in guidance and protection. God is a believer’s rear guard (Isaiah 52:12). This only happens with wheat as a believer. The tare does not have the extra protection. May Christians allow the things of God to be sown into their lives. God is not mocked and whatever is sown is the harvest to be reaped (Galatians 6:7-9). Christians must sow righteousness and break up the uncultivated ground of their heart (Hosea 10:12). Standing for the things of God and being the wheat is the harvest that God is looking for when He sends Jesus to gather His people. Be the wheat that is ready to harvest and not the tare of the world.
There is a routine in our region regarding church hopping. It is such a familiar spirit that people have a circuit of churches they travel to and repeat it often. Probably the most common occurrence, as the root of this issue, is religious Christians will attend a church for a while until the pastor of the church they are attending discusses a sin or even a topic that is dear to that religious person’s heart and offense arises. Due to the religious heart, that person is unwilling to conform to the Word of God or God’s standard but chooses instead to leave to find another church. The first issue with this situation is the person getting offended, especially when the Word of God is preached. Psalm 119:165 states, “Great peace have they which love thy law (the Word of God), and nothing shall offend them”. This type of behavior is not honored by God. He looks for faithful people to serve within the local church where He plants them as He desires (1 Corinthians 12:18). When a Christian is faithful and planted within the local church that God has called that person to, they can flourish in the things of God (Psalm 92:13). The Bible also describes older saints producing fruit for God in their old age when they are planted within the local church (Psalm 92:14). Every Christian that plants themselves in the things of God and especially the local church should be planted like a tree to receive the water of the Word to produce fruit of their relationship with God (Psalm 1:3). This only comes through being faithful to the kingdom of God, the Word of God, and the local church God has assigned each Christian to. Even as Jesus preached the Word of God He faced the people allowing offense to arise in their hearts and quit following Him (John 6:59-61, 66). As Jesus spoke the truth some believers began to talk about Jesus and His message. This should let pastors know that even when they preach the Word of God correctly there will still be selfish Christians who would rather have their sin than have Jesus Christ as their Savior (1 John 3:4). This should also let believers know that when offense arises it should be cast down within their thoughts and seek the Word of God to change that area of life to be more accurate in walking with God. Many people even after leaving a church unbiblically for selfish reasons will go to the pastor of the new church they are attending and brag on themselves and how spiritual they are but these are unfaithful people (Proverbs 20:6). Another root for this issue within the local church is the whispers of demons in the ears of some of the people to get them to become unfaithful to where God has called them to be planted. This is why it is important to test the spirits that are speaking to each believer to see if they are speaking from God or as a spiritual enemy (1 John 4:1). No matter the root of the issue, Christians are to serve at the local church by being planted and rooted where God says to be planted. All servants of God are required to be faithful and trustworthy (1 Corinthians 4:2). After all, the goal for every Christian is to hear “Well done thou good and faithful servant” as they reach Heaven (Matthew 25:21, 23). May all Christians be determined to know where God has called them to be planted and be faithful in serving Him there.
Being a Christian in any period of time, especially today, requires stability and an element of being sold out to God in every capacity. Any person that bounces back and forth between two opposing sides is unstable in all of their ways (James 1:8). The word unstable is defined as unsettled, disorderly, unruly, or cannot be restrained. To be double-minded is defined as being two-souled. If Christians bounce back and forth between the things of God and the things of the world there is a lack of endurance or loyalty to either side. No one technically has two souls but the picture painted by this example is playing each side for the benefit of one's self. This would more accurately be described as being two-faced. One face smiles at God while having another face that smiles at the sinful nature of the world. God’s side is the only one that brings blessings of peace, joy, love, and stability. Some people find temporary pleasantries in things of the world or sinful things but this pleasure is very short-lived and the next pleasure requires an increase to top the last experienced pleasure. There is coming a day when God the Father will send Jesus to gather His people but the days that this event will take place are described as having sin abound with people living for themselves or for the things of the world and not for God (Matthew 24:36-38). This event will catch some people off guard in not being ready to meet God hence leaving them behind (Matthew 24:39) although it has been discussed and warned about for a very long time. As Jesus also describes this event He reflects the same scenario that took place with Noah. Noah was a righteous man who lived habitually in fellowship with God (Genesis 6:9). Just as Noah preached for years about the coming flood other believers have preached about the coming of Jesus. Noah lived his life not distracted or double-minded in his relationship with God producing the ark of safety that saved not only himself but his family (Genesis 6:8-22; Genesis 7:1). One note, worthy of mentioning here, is the ark was built to God’s guidelines and not Noah’s. If Noah had completed the ark the way he desired would it have been big enough to accomplish what God desired? Would it have even floated? Since Noah was obedient, stable, and sold out to God he was able to reap the fruit of his obedience to God. Christians must be sold out to live for God no matter the cost. They should live each day to give God the glory, honor, and praise that He deserves. Christians must believe, trust, and rely on God (Hebrews 3:12-13). His people must be steadfast until the end (Hebrews 3:14). Those that allow themselves to be double-minded actually harden their hearts or grow numb to the things of God. This creates a separation between God and those individuals to not enter into the blessings God has promised those that believe and obey (Hebrews 3:17-19). May the people of God not be deceived, double-minded, or practice sin (1 John 3:7-8) but may they be holy (1 John 3:9), stable, and endure to the end (Matthew 24:13). Christians should be stable and sold out to God.
Within the Bible belt region of the United States, it is easy to become religious as opposed to obeying God. To go to church once a week, only open the Bible when the preacher is reading from scripture, only pray over meals, or only live like a Christian while at church is not the Christian life that God desires for His people, it is religiosity. Being religious does not constitute a relationship with God. It only proves that a person can have the form of God but deny His power within their life (2 Timothy 3:5; Luke 6:46). Some people may even profess to know God but deny Him by being disobedient (Titus 1:16), which is still religiosity. Christians should live as obedient children of God, not going back to the sinful nature of living, and be holy in everything they do because being holy is the plan God has for His people (1 Peter 1:14-15). Even Jesus expressed the importance of obedience as He stated, “If you love Me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15,23; John 15:10). God loves everyone but He cannot fellowship with everyone. Those that are living in disobedience and sin habitually cannot fellowship with God due to God’s separation from sin (Isaiah 59:2; 1 John 1:6; Romans 3:23). Repenting of committed sins is also obedience to the Word of God through salvation which brings forgiveness and a relationship with God through Jesus Christ (Luke 13:3; 1 John 1:9; Romans 6:23; 1 John 2:1; Acts 17:30). After repenting of sin and making Jesus Christ one’s Savior, obedience is still required by living life according to God’s Word (1 John 2:3; John 15:10; Deuteronomy 30:16; James 1:22). Obeying God produces the Fruit of the Spirit within the life of that person (Galatians 5:22-23). Joy is produced in obedience (Psalm 119:1-2). Provision is supplied through obedience (Isaiah 1:19; Deuteronomy 28:2; John 15:7). One of the ways that Christians can prove they love God is through obedience (1 John 5:3; 1 John 2:5; Psalm 119:7). Obedience to the Word of God makes and keeps a person pure (Psalm 119:9). With even these amounts of scripture to display the blessings of obeying God rather than having a religious life that may look good to other people, Christians should see and obey the heart of God. Jesus confronted this very thing in His day but sadly it is still the attitude some Christians have today (Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16; Matthew 23:13-15; Mark 7:6). Those that love God will want to obey Him in efforts to express their love to Him. Many people understand this when expressing love for family or friends by obeying their requests for gifts, help, or other needs, yet some Christians do not apply this same concept to their love and obedience to God. Out of any relationship, a relationship with God should be the most important in every aspect, especially in obedience. May all Christians see the importance of their relationship with God and obey Him and His Word. Seek God, walk with Him, know Him, obey Him, and serve Him all the days of your life. God does not want religiosity He wants obedience.
For many years there has been a decline in the morals and standard of living spiritually and in the natural. The answer has been and still is the lack of Christian men of valor. Valor is defined as the strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness or personal bravery. Now a person could say, “Encounter danger?” Yes, danger to family (spiritually or physically), danger to religion (threat of not being able to worship publicly or privately), danger to the standard of morals that are the foundation of living with one another no matter the location, etc. Fathers are to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Nurture is the training of the body, emotions, and spirit. Admonition is training the mind. As Christian men of valor have begun to disappear for various reasons in the past the decline in each of these areas began. This world needs Christian men of valor to rise up and raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord again. As Christian men or even leaders, part of the responsibilities of this role is teaching the Word of God to keep the standard of living in the manner God desires (Deuteronomy 4:9). Someone may say, “I don’t agree with the Bible.” Does that person desire their possessions to be stolen, their family harmed, or to be done wrong in any manner? Of course not. The Bible teaches people not only how to live for God but how to live at peace with those around them. Not only are our children in need of this training but also spiritual children, also known as disciples, need this training. If Christian men of valor do not arise to fill this role, the decline of morals and especially the decline of the Christian faith will continue. When the proper leaders do not arise to the occasion, leaders of some sort will arise that may not be what is needed or even what is desired by the people. When light is absent, darkness will fill the void. As men, especially men of God, we should be innocent and blameless (not perfect but having our wrongs forgiven through Jesus) children of God even in the middle of a perverted nation or generation to be a light of God to all the people around us (Philippians 2:15). As mentioned above, Christian men should be training others how to care for their bodies, care for their families, care for their homes, and how to walk with God by studying the Bible, praying, and being involved in the local church God has ordained them to be part of. Many men understand the training of how to change the oil in a vehicle, how to shower, and which sports team to root for, but many lack how to train for spiritual growth. It may be due to not having a proper walk with God themselves, but until a generation chooses to arise as Christian men of valor nothing will change. This world needs true Christian men of valor to arise and stand against the perversion and darkness of sin and its minions to bring change as well as victory to generations now and for the future. There cannot be a lack of church attendance (Hebrews 10:25), prayer (Ephesians 6:18), Bible study (2 Timothy 3:16-17), or discipleship (Matthew 28:19). Each of these elements creates Christian men of valor. May Christian men of valor arise everywhere to help generations to live brighter and better for God.