Archive | February 2018

Running in Fear, Proverbs 28:1

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There were many times, when I was walking Buddy, that he’d suddenly stop, plant his feet and refuse to move forward. Sometimes I can force him to relent and keep walking, but at other times, he simply refuses to walk and we have to return home. I couldn’t figure out why.

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Then one day I realized he planted his feet when I heard a crow cawing. I hadn’t made the connection before. I don’t know why. Maybe because my mind was elsewhere or it was too noisy till that time to register that it was the crow. Well, tonight Buddy planted his feet when we heard a crow cawing. I managed to prompt him to resume walking, but it was a bit of a struggle.

The oddest thing was, the crow wasn’t nearby. And if I’d listened to Buddy and returned the way we’d come, we would’ve been getting nearer, not farther from, the crow.

There’s a proverb that took some meditation before I finally got it, Proverbs 28:1:

“The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” (NASB)

I’ve been blessed by God with a creative and vivid imagination, which suits me well when I want to write or draw a cartoon. But it’s not so great when I start imaging things that aren’t real and, therefore, intimidate myself into not starting a project or trying something new because of fear. I’m imagining it’s going to be really difficult and that I cannot meet the challenge. I’m denying myself the ability to excel or create something new.

But it’s really bad when I am imagining conversations that may never take place or situations that have never occurred. What I’m doing is slandering someone or lying to myself because it’s false. In Psalm 51:6, King David states that God desires “truth in the innermost being.” In other words, God wants our imaginative thoughts/self talk to be truthful.

I have a tendency to fear confrontation or that I may not be able to defend a particular opinion, so I set up imaginary debates in my mind. However, that’s not good because the conversations are not real and are very unlikely to take place in the real world. I’m putting words in a person’s mouth, which is a lie and slander. Or I imagine what a situation might be and then make myself afraid by imagining something that may never take place.

Yes, we probably all do it to some extent, but I want my self talk to be truthful and not frighten myself unnecessarily.

How much evil comes to pass because a person is speculating what someone might be thinking (and likely aren’t) or an action that person might take (and likely won’t) or imagining a person has a particular attitude (and they really don’t). I recently had someone assume I had a particular opinion about a public figure that was totally off.

So when I think about this verse, Proverbs 28:1, I ponder whether I’m taking a wrong direction or making a wrong decision because my thoughts are just wrong. So where to begin?

Am I thinking something that’s true or is it speculation? Do I really have the facts?

I have a friend who believes it’s always sinful to make things up, like doing caricatures–because it’s an exaggeration of reality–or to escape reality by reading fiction. I think this is going to the other extreme. Creativity is a gift from God. We couldn’t build bridges, for instance, or wonderful new buildings, if we didn’t imagine it firstly. We couldn’t be inspired to write beautiful songs or poems, if we lacked the ability to weave it in our minds firstly.

But I really need to test my thoughts frequently: Is this true? Because God is a God of truth and not lies.

But He’s also amazingly creative.

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You really cannot live a life based upon truth without a relationship with Jesus Christ Who proclaimed: “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”–John 14:6 (emphasis mine) If you want to stop feeling afraid of the future and have confidence that a loving God has you held in His hand, please pray the following: Dear Lord, I admit that I do wrong and fall short of your perfect standards. I can do nothing to earn Your favor, but just receive it in faith as a gift from You. I believe that Jesus died for my sins–past, present and future. I ask that You forgive my sin and give me the gift of the Holy Spirit. I believe Jesus was raised bodily from the dead. I ask You to teach Me and lead me into all truth. Thank you for hearing my prayer and giving me the gift of eternal life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, congratulations. You’ve joined the family of God. Please get a copy of the Bible, if you don’t have one, and start with the book of Matthew and read through to the end of the book of John, which tell about the life and ministry of Jesus and are easier to understand and interesting. And please find a Bible-based church where you can grow as a believer and find strength in the company of like-minded people. God bless you.

Dawn and Buddy

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Our Sabbath Rest, Hebrews 4:9

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One reason I have so many photos of Buddy sleeping is because it’s one of the few times he’s not trying to run from the camera. But my point tonight is, that Buddy doesn’t have to do anything to earn our love. He can sleep peacefully and get his needed rest because he knows he is safe in our home and will be taken care of and watched over. He doesn’t need to keep alert out of fear.

Although “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (Hebrews 9:4)” most people don’t enter into God’s rest, including many of his people. It’s not because Christians don’t love the Lord or desire to follow Him with all their hearts; rather, it’s because of bad teaching and a misunderstanding of the difference between the Old and New Covenants (Old and New Testaments) between humanity and God.

All of God’s way are for our good. To take time to rest from our labors is not a bad idea. Too much overwork and stress is very damaging to our bodies and souls; we all need time to rest and refresh.

But some Christians, in their zeal to follow the Lord, tell others that they MUST take Sunday or Saturday off as a Sabbath Day or they are being disobedient to God. This isn’t correct. This must’ve been a misunderstanding in the early Church because Apostle Paul clearly addressed this issue twice in his letters to the Colossians and Romans.

“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”–Colossians 2:16-17

“One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced I’m his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord,…”–Romans 14:5-6

Apostle Paul clearly teaches that what is important is not to judge your brother and sister, but rather, to follow his own conscience in such matters:

“The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself is what he approves…whatever is not from faith is sin.”–Romans 14:22-23

Apostle Paul was very concerned about people bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) and the Apostle John in loving our fellow Christians (1 John). Not in Sabbath observances.

If you believe it’s important to take regular time to rest and refresh and reflect on God, that’s fine. But there has been a new push from some quarters to force Christians to formerly observe the Sabbath and to declare those who don’t as unfaithful or heretics.

Nonsense!

Because the book of Hebrews is so little studied, outside of the first and eleventh chapters, the Church has been missing a lot of essential teaching on the difference between the Old and New Covenants.

The Law serves its purpose in our lives by showing our sinfulness and inability to live up to God’s righteous standards and please Him. Not that the Law isn’t good–we benefit by following God’s ways (Proverbs 4:20-23). But it’s impossible to please God by living up to the Law, because He’s perfect and we aren’t.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him…”–Hebrews 11:6

The Old Covenant was a foreshadowing of the New Covenant, pointing us to Christ. “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come…”–Hebrews 10:1  It was vitally important for the Jewish people to abstain from working on the Sabbath Day, as it was a foreshadow of the New Covenant rest for God’s people in Christ, Our Sabbath rest.

The Jewish nation wandered in the wilderness for 40 years because they disobeyed God. They didn’t believe in His goodness and trustworthiness, so they didn’t enter the Promised Land when He commanded them to. “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19)” They didn’t have faith in God to obey His commands.

“So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.”–Hebrews 4:9-10

‘When the crowd asked Jesus, “What shall we do, so that we may work the words of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”‘–John 6:28-29

The Old Covenant was a covenant of salvation by works: If we did “X”, then God promised to respond with “Y”. The New Covenant, however, is one based upon a covenant of faith, not works.”For when the priesthood is changed of necessity there takes place a change of law, also. (Hebrews 7:12)”

It was vitally important for the Jewish people under the Old Covenant not to work on the Sabbath as it was a foreshadowing of our total reliance on resting from our works righteousness in order to totally embrace the righteousness of Christ for our salvation. No one can go to Heaven by being good but only in having faith in Christ’s work on our behalf.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with with He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ…For by grace you have been said through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 4:4-5, 8-9

Under the New Covenant, we’re supposed to want to obey God out of trust and love for Him:

“If you love me, you will keep My commandments (Jesus, John 14:15) 

and not fear of punishment:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfect in love. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19).

James puts things into perspective by warning that, if we have true faith in Christ, we’ll obey God (James 2:14-17). Or, as Christ pointed out that when the Word is planted in our hearts, we’ll bear fruit for His kingdom (Mark 4:20) to the extent that we abide in Christ, the vine:

“I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING.”–John 15:5 (emphasis mine)

So, if you want to observe a particular day as your Sabbath rest, that’s fine, if that’s your conviction. I’m not supposed to judge you for that. But if you choose to do so and I don’t, you’re not supposed to judge me, either, for observing the Sabbath doesn’t make you ANY MORE HOLY or MORE RIGHTEOUS before God than someone who chooses to consider Christ alone our Sabbath rest. Because, whether we celebrate the Sabbath on a particular day or not, CHRIST ALONE is our righteousness. There is no other way to be in right standing before a perfectly holy God than the shed blood of Christ:

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, and one their mind I will write them,” And then He says, “And their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.'”–Hebrews 10:10,14-17

We’re supposed to rest in Christ’s works, not ours.

But do get some regular rest.

And please consider reading the entire book of Hebrews, if you haven’t recently.

*** If you’d like to enter into Christ’s Sabbath rest, please pray: Dear Father, I realize that I’m a sinner and can never be good enough to earn my way into Heaven. Your standards are too perfect for me to live up to. I accept that Jesus died for my sins, having lived the holy life I could never live. Please forgive my sin. May the Holy Spirit enter my heart and make me a new creation in Christ. Please exchange my filthy rags with the holiness of Christ. Thank you for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.

PS. I’d like to acknowledge that the above is not my own. I have benefitted from almost 19 years of strong Christian teaching from Pastors Dr. Charles Stanley, Chuck Smith, Chuck Swindoll, Max Lucado, Bob George, Bob Christopher, Blaine Smith, Michael Youssef and Kay Arthur. I give no credit to myself but only that God has enabled me to assimilate their teaching and convey it to others in a way, I hope, is easily understood.