Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Strong-holds in Your LIfe - Are Yours Good or Evil?

Strong-holds in life

The toe-hold is connected to the foot hold.
The foot-hold is connected to strong hold.
The strong-hold is connected to how you live your life.

This can be good or bad.

Let me explain. When you entertain thoughts that are good, honest, and true, then you have given a toe-hold to good.  When you entertain thoughts that are even slightly evil, then you have given a toe-hold to evil.  It is that simple.

Take it a step farther.  When you have a toe-hold in the truth and you give it more time and attention you have given the truth a foot-hold.  And when you begin to desire more of the truth of the Bible you are on your way to a strong-hold.  That is wonderful.

ON THE OTHER HAND – that is the same way strong-hold for evil works.  You take an evil impulse or thought and decide to take it under consideration.  Maybe you are trying to determine if there is any way possible that you might indulge in something without compromising your core values.  You have given evil a foot-hold.  Something that cannot be over stated is the use of alcohol.  Is it a sin to drink?  I don’t think you can take the Bible and prove a sip of alcohol is a sin.  You CAN read a lot into Proverbs 23:31-32 which says, ‘Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. (32) At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.’  How do you think drunkards become drunkards?  They aren’t born that way.  They may be born with more of a weakness in that area than someone else.  Alcoholism seems to run in families.  However, I challenge you to find a family that doesn’t have at least one severe alcoholic as a fairly close relative.  The point is no one knows who is going to wind up a drunkard.  You can be positive that the person who NEVER gives alcohol a toe-hold will not wind up as a slobbering drunk.  It is quite simple.  Don’t drink and you will never be a drunk.  Of course that goes for drugs as well. 

Gossip?  This evil practice is harmful beyond what can be clearly stated.  When you hear something that doesn’t need repeating then do be careful that you don’t repeat it.  It doesn’t matter if it is true, or probably true.  If there is not something that can actually be helpful then there is no reason to repeat it.  Actually, you can tell someone to stop talking if they are gossiping.  Tell them you refuse to hear something unless you have a specific way to be helpful.  If is not fair to burden yourself with a lot of ‘secrets’.  Just don’t listen to them.  Don’t even give gossip a toe hold in your life.  And don’t be an enabler for the gossip-addict.

Materialism?  Don’t sit around and think about all the things you don’t have!

Social standing?  Don’t entertain thoughts about moving up in society.  If you are doing the things that keep you close to God your social standing won't be of concern to you.  If God moves you up or down in society then continue to do what a Christian is supposed to do.  Be content.

Power?  Don’t spend your time thinking about ways to make other people do what you want them to do.  Do what God expects you to do.  If He gives you power over someone else then always do what is right.  Remember that you also have a Master.

Faithfulness?  Faithful to God, spouse, family, church, and work are either good strong-holds brought about by consistently being faithful; OR, they are strong-holds of evil brought about by consistently being unfaithful in these matters.

Strong-holds division myths:

Skin color divides the people – in reality sin divides people.  The more people put their own lives under the authority of the God who ‘in the beginning created the heaven and the earth’ the more people won’t even care about skin color.  God made everyone so no one is ‘superior’ based on any human attribute or lack of. 

Economic station divides people – in reality sin divides people. The more people take heed to be obedient to God in their own lives the more people will be like-minded in their thoughts and actions.

Thoughts – people get an idea regarding something or someone that simply is not based on reality.  That is the devil throwing his fiery darts into the minds of the individual or a group. 

Insecurity – the idea that if someone does something differently than you do that means they are criticizing you. This isn’t talking about the way to heaven.  It is talking about things like – you put your kid in one kind of school so you are criticizing me for the school I send my kid to.  Or, you are a stay-at-home instead of a working mom – so you are criticizing me for being at working-mom instead of a stay at home mom.  It can be as simple as one person uses only real butter and the someone else uses ‘smart-balance margarine’ – and one takes it as personal criticism.  I know that sounds ridiculous – but just observe a little of what is going on.

All this is wrong!  Let yourself live the life God has given you.  Let other people live the life God has given to them.  We are free to speak out regarding the way to heaven through Jesus Christ.  We are not free to become angry with those who have chosen a different way.  I think our hearts are supposed to be broken because of the consequence that will be suffered eternally by those who reject Jesus’ offer, but getting angry at their wrong choice is not going to help anything or anyone.  We are also free to oppose with all our might the legislators who are currently working to legalize and legitimize what God calls sin.  The danger of which every Christian needs to be aware when attempting to push or stop a particular political or social agenda is the danger of putting a social gospel ahead of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.  (Is that a run-on sentence?  I’m pretty sure it is.)  In other words, you can’t legislate morality according to the Bible.  Vote: speak out: do what you can: but always keep in mind that the first duty of a Christian is to tell people Jesus saves and to live his/her life according to the teachings of the Bible. 

Indulging in these types of things gives ‘toe holds’ to evils that will become a foot-hold and then a strong-hold in your life.  This spreads out to strongholds in society as a whole.

Let’s take some tests to see what good strongholds are in your life.

Test number one

Do you believe the Bible starting with Genesis 1:1

Everyone has the free will to accept the Bible or reject.  No one has the power or authority to change the truth.  Remember – the Bible does not need an editor.

 You will often hear those who call themselves Christians question the Biblical account of creation.  They will consider any ‘evidence’ regarding that illusive ‘missing link’.  Did man evolve from apes is not even a coherent question.  Checking to see if man evolved from apes is like looking at a mansion the size of New York City and asking, ‘How did that toilet paper hanger get in bathroom number 66?’  It is focusing on a tiny part of the big picture. 

The real question is not ‘did man evolve’ – but from where did creation come?  In other words – dirt – how did it get here?  Galaxies, universes, planets, comets, and everything else came from somewhere.  The answer is God created all things out of nothing.  Putting plants, animals, and people onto this planet was not too hard for him.  Remember God created the first creatures and the first humans with the appearance of age.

We have the BIG answer in Genesis 1:1.  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  When you accept the truth and reality of this verse life in the entire Bible becomes much simpler. 

Test number two:
Do you actually know what the Bible says?  Have you read it with the intention of understanding it?

Test number three:
Do you attempt to apply Bible teaching to personal actions?

Test number four:
Do you have a Bible world view?  This would be observing the world from a Biblical viewpoint.  Decisions are based on what the Bible has to say.

When the word of God as given to us in the Bible is our guide, we have the way of building up good strong-holds and tearing down evil strong-holds.

Strong-holds for good begin with:
Believing the Bible from the first verse to the last verse
Learning what the Bible says (They word have I hid in my hear that I might not sin against thee)
Applying Bible teaching to personal actions.
Continuing in obedience to God’s teachings.

Strong-holds for evil begin by not rejecting an evil thought immediately. 

Here is part of an article I wrote several years ago titled ‘The blessed man versus the ungodly man’.  The Bible text is Psalms chapter 1.  Obviously the ‘blessed man’ has his strong-hold(s) in the Lord, and the ungodly man has his strong-hold(s) in evil.  Here is the article.


Psalm 1 gives us a contrast between the way of the blessed man and the ungodly.  It says;

(1) Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

(2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

(3) And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, That bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 

(4) The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

(5)  Therefore the ungldly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 

(6) For the LORD knoweth of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

 Today is a good day to choose if you are willing to walk the path of the believer who is blessed by the Lord, of if you will walk the path of the ungodly. 

The first step onto the path of the godly is through salvation by grace.  You must believe on Jesus Christ to be saved.  (Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved.  Acts 16:31)

The next step is to decide if you will live a life that ends like Lot’s or like the blessed man in Psalm chapter 1.

Verse one tells us that the blessed man separates himself from evil.  He is like the man in Psalm 119:115 who says, ‘Depart from me, ye evil doers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.’

The entire congregation of believers should separate themselves from evil according to the example of Nehemiah 9:2 which says, ‘And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.’  But, for an entire Christian congregation to separate themselves, the individual believer must first be willing to separate his or her self from evil.

The man who is blessed delights in the law of the Lord.   Jeremiah 15:6 says, ‘Thy words were found, and I did eat them: and thy word was unto me the joy and the rejoicing of mine heart:’.

Every true believer wants to blessed of the Lord.  The problem preventing blessings comes by at least two avenues. 

First, the believer may have some serious problems in his own life.  He may not want to be ‘blessed of the Lord’ enough to surrender sins in his own life.  He may find it easier (at least for the moment) to fight his own battles than to surrender to the Lord.

The second avenue is more subtle.  It is given to us in detail in verse one.  The blessed man:

DOES NOT - walk in the counsel of the ungodly, The blessed man doesn’t even walk near the counsel of the ungodly.

DOES NOT -  stand in the way of sinners, The blessed man doesn’t stand still long enough to listen to what the ungodly have to say.  He doesn’t go down the road with them ‘just a little way’ in order to be sociable.  He cannot be beguiled with their fancy words if he refuses to listen to them in the first place.  (Think Eve here.)

DOES NOT – sit in the seat of the scornful.  The blessed man does not join in with the ungodly for any reason.

ON the other hand, the ungodly:

DOES –listen to the counsel of the ungodly.  He is willing to listen to whatever is ‘new’ or ‘exciting’.  Honestly, there is nothing new in the realm of religion, or anywhere else for that matter.  Everyone faces the same lie today that Eve faced in the garden.  You will either listen to the liars who say things like, ‘you can be a god,’ or this path other than the Jesus Christ leads to heaven’, or you will just keep on walking like the blessed man. 

DOES – quit walking and stop to listen to what the ungodly have to say. This man walks with the world a ways down the road.  He sees the success of the worldly.  He notices that he might apply their methods of success to his own life, to his church, to his business, to his family.

DOES - sit down and join the ungodly.  Pretty soon, the ungodly have joined in with the world.  If they were Christians to begin with, you cannot tell them from those who belong to the god of this world.  An example is of course Lot – who was a saved man by the way.  He looked at the prosperity of Sodom.  He walked down and considered their way of life and ‘principles’ of prosperity.  He joined them.  He became just like them.

(end quote) - - - - - -

The blessed man does not give sin a toe-hold – he doesn’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly.

The blessed man does not give sin a foot-hold – he doesn’t stand around listening to garbage.

The blessed man does not give sin a strong-hold - he doesn’t sit down and join in the company of the ungodly.

On the other hand:

The ungodly does give sin a toe-hold.  He walks by the ungodly.

The ungodly man does give sin a foot-hold.  He stands around and listens to what evil speakers have to say.

The ungodly man does give sin a strong-hold.  He actually joins in the ungodliness.

The easiest place to stop an evil strong-hold is when is just an evil thought – a wanna-be toe-hold.  Reject the thought.

A strong-hold for good also begins with a toe-hold. 

One type of strong-hold will pull you down into despair and destruction.  An evil strong-hold will basically anchor you in the midst of a storm.

The other type of strong-hold is anchored firmly in Jesus Christ and what He teaches.  Strong-holds built on Jesus will take you through whatever storms life may throw at you. 

I guess we could add another verse to the children’s song ‘Oh be Careful Little Eyes’.  The new verse would be ‘Oh be Careful Little Toes’.

A wonderful hymn is
'We Have an Anchor'

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.
It is safely moored, ’twill the storm withstand,
For ’tis well secured by the Savior’s hand;
And the cables, passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy that blast, thro’ strength divine.
It will surely hold in the Straits of Fear—
When the breakers have told that the reef is near;
Though the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o’erflow.
It will firmly hold in the Floods of Death—-
When the waters cold chill our latest breath,
On the rising tide it can never fail,
While our hopes abide within the Veil.
When our eyes behold through the gath’ring night
The city of gold, our harbor bright,
We shall anchor fast by the heav’nly shore,
With the storms all past forevermore.

Barbara Henderson

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Moral Courage - What is it and have you got any?

What is Moral Courage and Have you Got Any?

Did you see what happened at the Democrat National Convention? (I know this is old news – please bear with me.) The DNC had taken the word ‘God’ out of their party platform. Some people realized that would not go over well with some of the voters so they decided to put the word ‘God’ back in.  They took a vote THREE times and the people screamed NO each time.  They didn’t want God’s name back in their party platform.  Now, just putting the name back in would not have put God back in the hearts of anyone.  Still, I wasn’t expecting the attendees to scream so violently and vehemently NO to even having the name of God mentioned.  It was a scene I will remember forever.  I covered my head and prayed for God’s mercy.  These people were so angry that I wondered if they would actually ‘gnash with their teeth’ anyone who happened to stand up to them. 

 In Acts chapter 7:54 we have a thought provoking verse that says, ‘When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.’  This is of course the account of Stephen’s death.  He told the truth regarding Jesus Christ.  The crowd couldn’t take the truth, so the bit him and crushed him with rocks until he was dead.  Now how awful and unbelievable is that?  He was just telling the truth and it got him murdered.  Now that was Moral Courage at its finest.  Stephen did what he knew he was supposed to do even though people hated him enough to kill him for it. 

At the Democratic Convention I was expecting some democrats to have the moral courage to come forward, apologize to the American people, and firmly state that they personally did want God’s name in their party platform.  That didn’t happen.  If anyone left the democrat party because of this very telling incident I did not hear about it.  I think some of the democrats were appalled at what happened, but not one had the moral courage to stand up and clearly state his or her own position. All I heard was several people making light of what happened and calling omitting God’s name a simple oversight.  If there are any real Christians in that political party they are surely lacking in moral courage. 

I am very concerned that with such passionate hatred of God Almighty becoming publically acceptable that those who truly love God will be pushed into silence, or persecuted for having the moral courage to speak out.

It is apparent that even the name of the Most High God of the Bible can bring out fearsome anger and potential violence in the world today.  People who hate God Almighty have rejected their own salvation.  God is number one on their enemy list.  They hate God, and they hate God’s representatives.  The only way for those who hate God to be changed is through the transformation that comes directly from God.  And the way they learn about God Almighty is through messengers of God and God’s Word as recorded in the Bible.  That makes YOU – practicing Christian – Y-O-U – a messenger from God.  You are an important person!

 So, HOW are you presenting the Gospel Message to a lost world?  I can guess that you are NOT carrying a pig’s head around on a pole like one so-called Christian outreach to Moslems.  But, you are presenting the message in one way or another.  Your moral courage is an indicator of how well you are doing.

 The good news is that moral courage is like faith.  If you are a child of God you have it, but you may not have had to use it much.  You have probably used it more than you think though.  For instance when you simply do what is right even if it is easy you are exercising your moral courage muscle.  Did that disgusting add pop up on your computer?  What did you do?  If you clicked it off immediately you exercised moral courage.  After all – who would know if you indulged yourself a few minutes.  You could say moral courage is at least in part doing what is right when no one is looking.  You know that God is ALWAYS looking, and His good opinion is the reward you are seeking.  I personally pray that I NEVER have to use great moral courage that will get me thrown into jail or stoned.  Plus, there is a time and a place for everything.  You don’t want to provoke an incident that would get you stoned on a day that God isn’t requiring that of you.  I think the people carrying the hog’s head on a pole in front of Moslems were just looking for a fight.  God isn’t interested in that.  So, you will need to draw the line somewhere.  You have to go where the situation takes you, and you have to do what is right at the time.  Don’t feel too bad if you don’t get it right the first time.  God may give you a second chance to be ‘burned at the stake’.  Consider Thomas Cranmer.  He rejected Catholicism, but on peril of being burned at the stake, he recanted his decision several times.  However, in the end he had the moral courage to denounce popery as false and he was burned at the stake.  That is the way our hearts often work.  We don’t have the moral courage to do what is right today, but we may be given a chance to do it tomorrow. Don’t count on having a second chance as a reason to avoid your duty today; however, don’t count yourself as useless to God because of past failures. 

 People who claim to be Christians, and maybe some of them actually are Christians, often allow their lives to be run by:
 love of possessions,
the good will of men,
social standing. 
That’s it. Exercising moral courage often requires setting these things aside and simply doing what is right according to God Almighty as revealed to us in His Word.  A Christian should love God more than they love their possessions, the good will of men, and social standing.  Actually we shouldn’t love those things at all, but I do acknowledge that is difficult to avoid some attachment to the things of this world.

It is in the heart of every true believer that the lost would hear the truth about how to get to heaven.   The Bible tells is in Romans 10:13-14, ‘For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (14) How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

This clearly tells us that they have to call on the name of the Lord to be saved.

AND – they can’t call on whom they haven’t believed, and they can’t believe unless they hear about Jesus, and they can hear about Jesus unless someone tells them.  How clear is that?

SOMEONE has to tell them about Jesus.  Is that someone you? 

No one will be effective as a servant of the Lord by simply preaching the Gospel.  The moral courage to live a life in obedience to God is required. 

Honestly, your moral courage tells the world who you really are.  It provides a clear picture of your core values.  The life of a Christian with moral courage is not controlled by his/her environment.  The Holy Spirit is in control. 

Ephesians 5:18 says, ‘And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;’.

 A drunkard has given control of their actions to alcohol.  Nobody likes a drunk except another drunk.  Instead of that, a Christian is supposed to give control of their life to the Holy Spirit.  That DOES NOT mean some sort of imitation of drunkenness.  It means choosing to live according to the teachings of Jesus no matter what the circumstances.  Galatians 5: 22-23 says, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, (23) Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.’

A Christian should be looking for these things in his/her own life as a way of measuring progress as a Christian.  It isn’t to pat one’s self on the back; it is a way provided by God for believers to keep a watch on how they are progressing as a Christian.

It takes personal moral courage to:

choose to love those who are not loveable,

to accept the continual joy of Christ’s presence when you are in the middle of a trying situation, to cling to the peace that passes understanding when your world has been turned up side down, to continue praying for someone or something,

to return gentleness for harshness,

to do good in return for evil,

to meekly acknowledge that your help is coming from the Lord,

and to face volatile and unfair situations with temperance and patience.

We are born with a sin nature, so it is not natural for us to live a life led by the Holy Spirit.  The goal of Christians is to be more like Christ, more conformed to His image, and to do the things the Bible says to do.  Believers can gain courage by encouraging ourselves in the Lord.  This is done through Bible reading, study.  When King David was in a situation so dire the people were considering stoning him, the Bible says ‘he encouraged himself in the Lord’. (1Samuel chapter 30)  We can do the same thing in whatever situation we may find ourselves.  When we have encouraged ourselves by ‘consuming’ the word of the Lord we have courage to go ahead with the task before us. 
God bless you
'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth'.  Genesis 1:1