Feb 27, 2013
Feb 27, 2013
For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness. Acts 8:23
Tired of bitter coffee? Coffee faddists have rediscovered an old method for providing a smooth and velvety taste to your morning brew. Here’s the secret: Mix a beaten egg into the grounds, boil the mixture, and let it steep for about ten minutes before pouring in a cup of cold water. The egg and grounds settle on the bottom, and the resulting coffee is smooth as silk—or so they say.
What’s the secret ingredient to removing a bitter taste from our personalities? We’re living in an age of abuse, in which we never know when we’ll be ridiculed, criticized, robbed, cheated, betrayed, offended, or in some way harmed by others. Some injuries are slight, others are severe, but they can all leave real bitterness.
Left untreated, bitterness poisons us. The secret ingredient for removing bitterness is the love of God, and there’s an effective recipe for us in Ephesians 4:32. If you’re struggling with an angry or bitter spirit, memorize this verse, think about it day and night, and pray it into your life: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Love alone makes heavy burdens light … love makes bitter things tasteful and sweet. Thomas a Kempis
When you hear the word church, do you picture a little white building full of smiling people in fancy clothes? As lovely as that image may be, God’s design for church is unrelated to it. He created the church to be a unified fellowship of believers who encourage each other and carry out His ministry to the world.
The Bible clearly defines the following as ministries of the church: worshipping the living God, instructing and edifying believers, making disciples of all nations, and serving the needy. Unless the leadership is careful, however, these purposes can all too easily get out of balance, with the unfortunate result that the body ends up malnourished. For example, a church with too heavy an emphasis on praise could become introverted. Congregations that overemphasize teaching might lose their joy, and those that evangelize to the neglect of the other areas could miss out on great faith.
Because of sin and human imperfection, we do not experience church as it was originally intended. Instead, there’s a tendency to overemphasize certain ministry areas. What’s more, divisive arguments—many of which concern minor issues, such as music preferences or clothing choices—too often destroy church unity. Greed, pride, selfishness, and gossip can also tear a congregation apart.
Since they’re composed of imperfect people, churches will be imperfect too, and expecting anything else will lead to disappointment. Nonetheless, we should strive for God’s original design, continually measuring ourselves against Scripture and correcting course to realign with His purpose.
“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5)
There are three important aspects to this instruction. First, we are to be “moderate,” the core meaning of which is to be equitable or fair, with further associations of mild and gentle.
The Greek word rarely appears in the New Testament. Twice the qualifications of church leaders include this characteristic (1 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 3:2), both times stressing the “gentle” aspect of the term. Once, and importantly, the term is used in a broad sweep of adjectives outlining the “wisdom that is from above” (James 3:17)—all aspects, incidentally, fleshing out the idea of “fair” or “equitable.”
Secondly, today’s verse tells us to make our moderation “known unto all men.” That is demanding, since it is more difficult to apply equity to all people rather than just attempt to be fair and gentle in our dealings. Surely the Holy Spirit is insisting that our inner character be “moderate” so that the resulting actions will flow from a person’s character rather than his circumstance. As noted of those of the Corinthian church, they were “manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:3). Everybody “reads” us, and what others decide about us must include the reputation of fair and gentle behavior to all.
Finally, the reason that this requirement is so significant is because “the Lord is at hand.” Although a quick application might lead one to think “the Lord is coming back soon,” the time element is not at all implied in the sentence. A better translation may be “the Lord is alongside,” “He is close,” or even “the Lord is with you.” It is easy, sometimes, to forget that God indwells us through the Holy Spirit and that our every action and thought are known by our Creator (Psalm 139:3-4). HMM III
We shall now read some verses of Moses’ dying song. Like the fabled swan, he sang himself away—Deuteronomy 32.
Deuteronomy 32:1, 2
Though the law is as a tempest, yet Moses as the mediator was as the soft, refreshing, insinuating dew; and far more so is the Lord Jesus as the dew unto Israel.
Deuteronomy 32:5, 6
They have not the marks of saints, the secret, sacred marks of inward grace by which the heavenly Father distinguishes his own children.
God is their portion, and they are his portion.
This is where the Lord finds us all by nature, but mark his wise and tender dealings with us;
Deuteronomy 32:11, 12
The eagle, when its young are fit to leave the nest, will not let them remain idle, but disturbs them, entices them to try their pinions, and even carries them up to teach them to fly; thus graciously does the Lord train his people.
A sad picture of many professors. They are like lean horses, which at last come under the care of a kind master, they grow fat and then they kick, and leap away from the pasturage. Men increase in riches, and forget the God who gave them all they have.
Never let us forget our God from whom we derive our being, as the stream finds its fountain in the rock.
The sins of God’s own children are peculiarly provoking to him. He might endure from strangers what he cannot tolerate in his own beloved.
Or no steadfastness. The hiding of God’s face is never sent arbitrarily, but is ever meant to shew us that there is some evil thing in us which grieves the Lord. How can he, as our Father, continue to smile upon us if we do the things which he hates. May we all of us be very careful to please God in all things.
Maybe you’ve been muttering to yourself, “Come on! I’ve waited and waited for my dream to come to pass. God hasn’t done anything I thought He was going to do. I’ve seen others blessed; I’ve seen others healed; but I’m still sitting here with the same old unanswered prayers. I’m sick of it all! I’m not going to believe and wait any longer. Forget it—I’m letting it all go!”
If this sounds like you, I want to encourage you to take a look at Hebrews 10:23. It says, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering….”
We already looked at the words “hold fast” (see March 20) and “profession” (see May 7), but today I want to take you one step further and draw your attention to the word “waver” in this powerful verse of Scripture. The word “waver” is taken from the Greek aklines, which conveys the picture of something that does not bend or something that is fixed and unmoving and is therefore stable and enduring.
Interestingly, if you remove the a from the word aklines, you are left with the word klines, which pictures a person who is bowed down. With shoulders sloped and body bent over, this person is so tired that he can barely stand. Ultimately, he becomes so exhausted that he throws in the towel and gives up. In fact, the word klines is the same root in Greek for a couch or a bed. So when a person is klines, his “give-up” attitude causes him to head for the couch or bed where he lays down, stagnates, and vegetates.
But as noted above, when the a is added to the front of the word, it forms the word aklines, which is just the opposite of a lazy person! Instead, this portrays an attitude that is unbending, unchanging, fixed, stable, and unmoving. In other words, this person has too much invested to go to bed on his faith. He therefore refuses to budge an inch on what he is believing to see or to receive!
Hebrews 10:23 could be interpreted to mean:
(refer to March 20 and May 7)
“Let us come into agreement with God and begin to speak what He says, tightly wrapping our arms around the promise we are confessing—embracing it with all our might, holding tightly to it, rejecting all attempts of anyone who tries to steal it from us, not allowing ourselves to be fickle in our commitment, but determined to be inflexible and unmoving from that which we believe and confess….”
Many people give up hope and quit believing because they get tired of waiting. The devil whispers in their ears and tells them, “This thing you’re believing for isn’t ever going to happen! If it was going to happen, it would have already happened by now! This is just a fantasy. You are wasting your time and throwing away precious years of your life. Why don’t you forget it, let it go, and move on with your life?”
As long as you are energized by faith, you’ll keep moving in a forward direction. But the day you let loose of your faith and back off your position, it won’t be too long until a spiritual sadness will come over your life. Spiritually speaking, your shoulders will slope; your head will drop; and you’ll feel like someone pulled the plug on your energy level. Your eyes will drift toward the couch or bed, and soon you’ll end up completely going to bed on your faith!
Don’t let that happen to you! What God promises, He will perform. It may take awhile for that promise to come into manifestation, but eventually it will come. In the meantime, you must choose to believe that He will do what He has promised. That is the key! You must set your heart and commit your will, making an irrevocable decision to believe His Word regardless of how you feel, what you think in your natural mind, what others say, or how circumstances look.
It is time for you to make the decision that you have too much invested to turn back now! Dig in your heels; drive down your stake; and tell the devil that you are not going to move from your position of faith! Aggressively choose to believe that what God has promised, He will always do. Once you’ve made that kind of life-changing decision, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be rejoicing!
When you finally put your foot down, the devil will stop uttering his lying accusations and he will flee from you. You will be mightily blessed and very thankful that you didn’t give up when you see the confession of your faith finally begin to come into manifestation!
Lord, I’ve tolerated the devil’s lies long enough. Today I am making the decision to put my foot down. I’m going to tell the enemy to shut his mouth and flee from me! I have made my choice that I will stand by Your promise and will never retreat from what You have told me to believe and confess. You are not a man that You should lie, and I believe Your Word to be true for my life. Holy Spirit, give me the strength I need to stay fixed, immovable, and steadfast until I finally see the manifestation of those things that I believe!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that I don’t waver or bend and that I am fixed and unmoving as I stand on the promises of God. What God promises, He will perform. It may take awhile for that promise to come into manifestation, but I know it is on the way right now! I dig in my heels; I drive down my stake; and I tell the devil that I am NOT going to move from my position of faith!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
For the past year I have been personally meeting one-on-one with a man who has a reputation in the Christian community as a “SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIAN BUSINESSMAN.”
I can remember on many occasions leaving our times together feeling God was wonderfully changing our lives, only to learn recently from outside sources that his marriage is in crisis, and his business practices are notoriously unethical and exploitive of others.
I have also become aware that sincere Christian friends have attempted to approach him over these issues only to be rebuffed by acrimonious, self-justification.
Yet in certain Christian circles this “SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIAN BUSINESSMAN” is known to be generous with his time and resources for the cause of Christ.
What is going on here? Why the contradictions?
The issue is “IMAGE”: Here is a man who desperately wants to be viewed around town as a “SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIAN BUSINESSMAN”. Therefore:
Maintaining a certain public image is more important than any serious quest for holiness.
By his actions, it has become obvious that he loves the “praise of man more than the praise of God.” (John 12:43)
In retrospect, what was lacking in our times together was:
The fact is that God despises our efforts to impress others in order to garner their approval, since “that which is highly valued among men is detestable in God‘s sight.” (Luke 16:15b)
So, what motivates you: The pursuit of holiness or maintaining your public image?