Sunday, August 11, 2019

Hell in a Hand Basket?

Hell In A Hand Basket?

(This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, August 11, 2019.)

Do you ever feel like the world is going to hell in a hand-basket? It sure seems like there is a lot of messed up thinking in society today. But it shouldn’t surprise us since that’s the natural condition of the fallen world.

Paul wrote about this condition in his letter to the Roman Christians when he said, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind…” (Rom 1:28a NASB)

So by default, the world’s mindset is the opposite of what God intended. And due to sin, God allowed mankind to take their folly as far as they could. That’s how we ended up with a worldview that is completely upside down, that calls good evil and evil good.

This is just what the prophet Isaiah warned about when he wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20 NASB) I don’t want to be “that guy!”

Thankfully, this is what God sent His Son, Jesus, to save us from, a world of messed up thinking! In fact, in the Greek, the word for “repentance” literally means “a change of mind.” It was that kind of changed thinking that John the Baptist called people to, and Jesus as well, when they both preached saying, “Repent, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mat 3:2, 4:17)

Jesus called on people to change their thinking about how they lived. Like a Great Physician He called to those who were sick, to those who recognized they needed help. And it’s only when you realize you’ve got messed up thinking that Jesus can help you get your head on straight and you get saved!

But even after we become Christians we can still struggle with messed up thinking. Mainly because we live in an unrenewed world, and it rubs off! That’s why Paul called on Christians to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom 12:2b NASB)

Even as believers our mind must be constantly refreshed. In Eph 5:18 he taught that we were to live constantly being filled with the Spirit. It’s not simply a one-time experience but rather the daily infilling of the Holy Spirit that empowers us to live the renewed life that we’re called to live in order to be His witnesses.

How do we do that? First of all by “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5b NASB) We need to learn to “change the channel” whenever harmful or negative thoughts come into our minds. This is why it’s important memorize and internalize Scripture. If you don’t know God’s Word, you won’t have a channel to change to!

Another way is to guard what goes in! A great way to take thoughts captive is to not let them get a foothold in the first place. That’s why Paul wrote that we should think on things that are “true…honorable…right…pure…lovely…of good repute” (Phil 4:8 NASB) We need to be careful what we allow into our minds because we are what we think. In times of pressure and stress whatever is on the inside is what’s going to come out! So guard what goes in!

Finally we must learn to praise God in every situation. We praise Him best when we thank Him for what we do not want, knowing that He has a plan, even for that! Paul wrote that we should “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:18 NASB) That doesn’t mean that everything that happens is God’s will, but we can still learn to give God thanks in the midst of whatever is happening.

As Christians we must learn to renew our minds daily, because everything around us is in a constant state of decay. But we can be renewed every day to God’s fresh mercies by presenting ourselves to God as living sacrifices and being transformed by His indwelling Holy Spirit. So let’s choose to get rid of the “stinking thinking” and renew our minds every day in Christ!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

New Year, New You

(This column originally appeared in the Town Talk on Sunday, January 6, 2019.)
I love the new year! It ushers in a wonderful time of reflection on the past with the promise of new opportunities for the future. It signifies a clean slate, a chance to start over, to begin again!

God is all about fresh starts and new beginnings! In one of the saddest books of the Bible, Lamentations, the weeping prophet Jeremiah wrote these amazing words of consolation: “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam 3:21-23 NASB)

The King James Version translates the word “compassions” as “mercies” but either way we find the goodness of God is refreshed to us every day. What a magnificent promise, and how much more so in the new year!

Paul carries forth this theme when he declares the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor 5:17 KJV)

This is another way of describing what it means to be born again. When you believe in Jesus, that is that you believe that God raised Him from the dead, and you confess Him as Lord of your life, committing to live according to His instructions, He causes you to be born spiritually, no matter how old you are. And that’s when new life begins!

But even those who’ve been walking with the Lord for some time need to be occasionally reminded that each day is a new gift from God. No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, you get to walk in the newness of His mercies every day!

It’s easy to look back on our missteps and mistakes and feel like we’ve failed God so much that we’ve disqualified ourselves from experiencing His presence again. But we never qualified ourselves in the first place! Remember that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8b NASB) He extended His mercy to you before you knew Him, and He continues to give you new mercies every morning!

So now that we’re in a new year, perhaps we should all take to heart Paul’s words to the Philippian believers. From a Roman jail he wrote, “…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Phlp 3:13b-14 NASB)

Some people are held back by their past. But Paul encourages us to forget the past, to not limit ourselves by our past failures OR successes! It’s time to press forward into the “new” that God has for you in this new year.

Many people start the year with resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, start a new hobby, learn a new language, etc. These are noble goals and I don’t knock any of them! And we know that to achieve any of these goals will require discipline and work. So I commend you and encourage you as you begin your new year.

But I also want to urge you to consider one more, slightly different, resolution for your new year. In the midst of all your work on yourself consider Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “…discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Tim 4:7b-8 NASB)

If you truly want a new you in the new year, consider making the spiritual disciplines a priority in your life! Sure, losing weight will make you feel better, and getting in shape will bring you some compliments from others. But spiritual discipline has eternal value! So commit yourself to regular Bible reading and memorization, prayer, worship, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines. And you will truly find a new you in the new year!