Counterfeit


My devotion reading today from Bro. Ed Matthews was from Titus 1:16 which says, “They profess to know God but with their deeds they deny him, since they are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good deed.” Those who profess to know God but in deeds deny him are counterfeit.

Counterfeiters do not usually work with dollar bills. There’s no value in it. No, they like $100 bills. They take their phony bills into a popular store, wait in a long line to buy $10 worth of merchandise and pocket $90.

Satan loves to counterfeit God’s children. Why? Because they are worth ten times what it takes to make them. Turn one of God’s children to evil and you’ve got the picture of a Christian with Satan living inside. The effect is devastating. Now, the person looks like a real Christian, but there’s something rotten there.

Sometimes, though, people don’t understand they are a part of Satan’s counterfeiting scheme. They don’t realize they have been won over to the enemy because they have deceived themselves. There lies the real danger.

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Position


My devotional journal for today contained a lesson on Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his brothers and rose to rule all of Egypt as the king’s second-in-command. From that position, he could show his brothers his wonderful attitude and grace.

I have been thinking about this quite frequently lately. Position, like many other things, can enable a person to greater heights, or it can cause disastrous effects. Human beings often allow position to define them. They sometimes believe their successes and position define them as human beings. Such is dangerous.

There has been no shortage of politicians, national leaders, etc., who believed their high position guarantees an estimable place. For some, all of life has been a struggle to attain respectability. Some even believe that from a vaulted position they would be able to make the world better.

Joseph saw his position as a way to serve God, the people of Egypt and his family. He didn’t hate his brothers for selling him into slavery. Instead, he realized God had worked to save them all (Genesis 45:5).

I asked a question earlier today. It was the same question God asked Elijah: “What are you doing here?” Is my position keeping me from eternal life, or can I use my position to honor and serve God and help bring people to eternal life?

There are many brothers in preaching who may have forgotten that their primary responsibility is to glorify and serve God. Some continue in an exalted place because they make a comfortable living and wish to continue that. That’s all well and good as long as they can honestly answer the question, “What am I doing here?”

What are you doing here?


From 1988 to 2008, 20 years, my preaching income was supplemented by working as a reporter, editor or news director for local newspapers and radio stations. Having never received formal journalistic training, my education came from editors and publishers.

One of my most valuable lessons was how to question politicians and police officers. The best method, by far, was asking six very simple questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. I learned those easy questions cut through the pretense and arrived at the heart of a story.

God asked people simple questions. In Eden, God asked Adam, “Where are you?” This is such an unassuming, simple question it doesn’t appear to do what it does. It cut through the layers of Adam’s pretense and allowed him to say, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

God asked Cain a similar question: “Where is Abel, your brother? What have you done?” God knew. The questions cut Cain’s heart to pieces so that he said, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.”

King Saul was commanded to destroy the Amalekites and all they had but did not. God’s prophet didn’t even get a chance to start the conversation before Saul said he had obeyed God. He didn’t. Samuel asked him this penetrating question, “What, then, is bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of oxen which I hear?”

The great prophet Elijah, who had established the one true God of Israel against Baal in 1 Kings 18, left Mt. Carmel and went to hide in a cave because Jezebel made a death threat. One would think that in this moment of triumph, Elijah would have been in Samaria trying to get Ahab and his wife to see the truth. Instead, he fled.

God came to Elijah in the cave and asked a simple, yet penetrating question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” The prophet freaked. Can you hear him shouting through the centuries? “I HAVE BEEN VERY ZEALOUS FOR THE LORD GOD OF HOSTS!”

Nope. That’ was not an answer to the question, was it? That’s a defense mechanism. What was the answer? Elijah admitted he was afraid of the threat Jezebel made.  Elijah told God how afraid and alone he felt.

So, God repeated the question (1 Kings 19:9, 13). “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

That was a more penetrating question than many may think. Elijah should have been in Samaria doing his job. He wasn’t. His fear had made him do something illogical. His brave stand before the 450 prophets of Baal had been eclipsed by his fear of Jezebel.

All of us have low points in our lives and have done things we are not proud. But, it was God’s question that brought out the truth in Elijah’s heart: I’m afraid.

If God asked you and me the same question, how would we answer? “John, what are you doing here?” Frankly, the question might cut into my heart as it must have Elijah’s, but I must still answer.

What are you doing here? What is your life about? For many, life is about doing what “matters,” “making a difference.” A difference in what? What matters? Ah, there’s the rub. For many, success is what matters. For others, it may involve the accumulation of money or possessions. For some, self-respect and the respect of others is important.

But we’re not talking about what a testimonial dinner might show about your life. We’re talking about what we would tell God if he asked, “What are you doing here?”

What are you doing here for the Lord God? That penetrating question is one many people would rather not answer because it is a very direct and honest question. It is pertinent, though, isn’t it? God has given us our lives and everything we have. Shouldn’t he be given an honest answer?

What are you doing here?

Wasting time


 

The easiest thing to do is to waste time. Time is wasted in so many ways. Scanning Facebook and Twitter can be a waste of time. Laboring over the news of the day (most of it negative and bad) can be a waste of time. Worrying about what might happen tomorrow is a tremendous waste of time and energy.

How can we use time more effectively as Christians? A very smart man suggested the following New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. PRAY MORE. 2. READ AND STUDY THE BIBLE MORE. 3. FOCUS ON GOD MORE. 4. LOVE OTHERS MORE.

Those who obeyed the gospel at Peter’s preaching at Pentecost did these things and they became sharpened tools the Master could use to grow disciples at an amazing rate. If we could do the same, we could improve ourselves AT LEAST in devotion to God.

Remember: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers,” (Acts 2:42). They CONTINUED STEADFASTLY, they were continually devoted to these important things. Shouldn’t we?

What is zeal and how can it be obtained?


Why was zeal in the church after the gospel was preached on Pentecost? How can we know there was zeal for Christ and God in the early church?

We know because the Bible tells us. Those who obeyed the gospel at the preaching of Peter were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer,” (Acts 2:42 NASB). They were continually devoting themselves. That’s zeal. 

How did they become so zealous? The answer is in the same verse and the reasons appear as participles or action words that end in “ing.” They had devoted themselves to teaching, fellowshipping and breaking of bread and prayer. These three actions impart zeal for Christ and God in Christianity.

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles. The apostles shared with them the truth Christ taught them. Christianity is a taught religion. Jews were born and then educated. Christians are educated and then born again. The more we learn about Christ, God, and the gospel, the more we want to learn. The more we understand, the more secure in faith we grow! Faith comes from the preaching and teaching of God’s word (Romans 10:17).

Fellowshipping means sharing. The disciples of Pentecost had come together for a temporary celebration of Passover. Now, things were different. They had found Christ and each other and didn’t want to leave. They shared their money and possessions as the apostles shared the teaching of Christ to them. They shared their love of God with the people they now loved. This sharing creates zeal in people’s hearts.

The breaking of bread has to do with the observance of the remembrance of Jesus as instituted by him in the gospels in the Lord’s Supper. Sharing the bread and fruit of the vine is more than just eating and drinking. It is eating and drinking in the love of Christ as he died for sin and gave the gift of his love for Christians. It is also a special means of sharing something dear that builds zeal for Christ and the church.

This zeal developed after they obeyed the gospel is why these first-century Christians were willing to die for their Lord.

Why is there so little zeal now? If this is the case, it is so because the teaching, sharing and breaking of bread have been abandoned by many. It just makes sense that if God’s people increased these wonderful things today, we could be filled with zeal as much as they were in the first century, doesn’t it?

Problem allower


Since the rise of William James and John Dewey’s philosophy of pragmatism, Americans have become problem solvers.

Children are no longer taught to memorize in school. My sisters and I struggled long and hard to memorize the multiplication tables and geometric theorems in school. Now, students focus on practical solutions to problems

as a means-to-an-end. From that, they learn the ends justifies the means, and that’s not good thinking.

Some people call God “the great problem-solver.” While God’s word does solve problems in our lives if its truth is applied, God is not just a “problem-solver.” He is also a “problem-allower.”

Remember Job? Satan was the reason why Job suffered, but God allowed this good man to be tried. Why? There are two very good reasons.

God tests the faith of those who trust and obey him. Tried faith becomes stronger just as gold placed in a fire hot enough becomes purer (1 Peter 1:7). The other reason God tries the faithful is that we need to know the strength of our faith for the trials that are coming later. If we’re never tested, how can we know what we need to improve? God shows us how to improve by testing us, just as teachers help students learn more from administering tests.

So, God allows trials to everyone who trusts and obeys him. James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:2-4 ESV).

This is why we need God to be a “problem-allower.”

Not in man


There is a bad habit I have had for a long time. I often believe I am the solution to my problems.

So many times, I have thought that if anything in my life needed to be corrected, fixed, or made better I am the man for the job. Afterward, I usually find I am not the one who can do anything right. Ask my wife. She knows.

The prophet wrote, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps,” (Jeremiah 10:23 NKJV). How true this is! How often have people believed they were the answer to every problem!

It is not in man to direct his steps. The apostle Paul wrote, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20).

Preparing the Wednesday evening Bible study today, I was impressed with this thought from 1 Samuel chapter four. Israel had decided to battle Philistia but had been beaten instead. It seemed they assumed the failure was God’s, not theirs. It was God who had failed to overcome the Philistines, they thought. Israel presumed God would do his part. They thought God owed them. That was their “wisdom.” Israel assumed God would serve them. It should have served God.

Then, Israel decided to go get the Ark of the Covenant. It was almost as if they thought, “Well, maybe we can get the Ark to do what we want.” More worldly wisdom? Instead of victory, Israel lost 30,000 more men and the Ark.

It is not in man to direct his steps. Mankind believes it can solve any problem, cure any disease, right any perceived wrong. The truth is mankind can’t. 

Shouldn’t we try to solve our problems in a different way? Shouldn’t we start solving our problems by doing things God’s way? Has it ever occurred to any of us that if we obeyed God’s word in the Bible, we might avoid the self-inflicted wounds of our own reasoning? The problem mankind has with this solution is that it actually makes sense. Of course, the first thing that needs to be done is admit that it is not in man to direct his steps.

It is, however, within God’s purview. In fact, he’s the only one who can direct our steps.