Shaped Through Adversity

What is it that God is doing in your life right now?  I think we all know the general answer to this – He is growing us!  He is building holy righteous character within us!  He is making us like His Son who came and lived a perfect sinless life.

“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  (Romans 8:28-29)

Of course this is what any Christian wants – to be like Christ.  In fact, when we call ourselves a “Christian” we are identifying ourselves as a follower of Christ.  We are saying that we want to live as He lived and be as He was on earth.

The problem is that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  (Romans 3:23)  Our nature is an enemy to God (Romans 8:7) and if we are left to our own devices we will go the wrong way – away from Christ.

“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.”  (Jeremiah 10:23)

“There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25)

How is it then that God shapes and molds us into what we should be? It is through the adversity of trials and tribulation.  “He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap.” (Malachi 3:2).  Peter writes knowing how we will view testing, but nonetheless it brings about the intended fruit.

“… though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)

It is God’s fervent desire that we be ready spiritually; that we are His express image and character; the same as His Son that we are to be pursuing.  He accomplishes this in us by and through trials.

Christ set the precedent in this also:  “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:  Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:  Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judges righteously.”  (1 Peter 2:21-23)

We, if we are true Christians, will have to follow His example of suffering AND we should undergo the trials with the correct frame of mind and right attitude.

“For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.” (1 Peter 2:20)

Jesus did not transgress the law of God and still suffered unjustly.  How much more then should we accept justly and properly the testing that God deems necessary for us to endure?

Listen to: Shaped Through Adversity or watch: Why Does God Allow Christians to Suffer?

I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up

One of the defining hallmarks of a Christian has to be his willingness to rise again after falling. As we walk the path of righteousness, there will be obstacles along the way. There is a good chance that, no matter how diligent we are, we will fall. This is not the end of the world. As much as we try to steady ourselves, we eventually will go down. The key is to get back up.

Proverbs 24:16 states, “For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again….” The Christian has a duty to get back up. We are not allowed to wallow in pity or any other self deprecating behavior, but rather pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and move on.

This is made all the easier by the fact that we have a loving Father who will rescue us in our time of need. In Job 5:19 we find a complementary Scripture, “He shall deliver you in six troubles, Yes, in seven no evil shall touch you.” So, for all seven times that we fall into trouble, God will be there for us. All we need to do is avail ourselves of this option.

David explained: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all” (Psalms 34:19). Brethren and co-workers in Christ, let us continue to seek God while He may be found–in the good times and the bad; when we are up and when we are down. The biggest mistake that we can make may not be the one that caused us to fall, but the one that kept us from getting back up.

Loss of Innocents

It is difficult for us to fully comprehend the loss of one life and the effects it has on the lives of those who are close to it, much less the loss of over 30 people in a wholly senseless act.

The tragedy at Virginia Tech this past week has garnered much of the attention of the American people. Many vigils have been organized, countless press conferences have been given, and the news was saturated with every possible detail.

But where is the mourning for the nearly 3,700 that were unjustifiably killed today… yesterday… the day before, and will be killed tomorrow and each and every day in America? There have been 48,000,000+ innocents in the US alone that have been murdered since the abominable judgment rendered in Roe v. Wade (1973).

Can we grasp the magnitude of these numbers? If all of these children had been allowed to live, their numbers would be larger than the entire population of over 200 countries in the world today. On average, there are considerably more unborn babies killed every day in the US than died in the World Trade Center on 9/11! Yet, there is no war on abortion!

We were devastated when we watched the buildings come down. We shake our heads in disbelief every time there is a school shooting. But the world goes on day to day without mentioning in the news that approximately 126,000 babies are being executed daily in the world. Are we as upset about this as we are about 9/11 and Virginia Tech.

As a country, we condemn others for their human rights violations, and rightly so. But have we looked at the beam in our own eye? Ours is a barbarity that may be unequaled throughout the history of man, and we are supposed to be a civilized nation.

When Christ returns, He will be looking for those that have His mark upon their forehead. It will be upon those that sigh and cry for the abominations committed around them (Ezekiel 9:4). The rest, God has prophesied will be killed without pity and unsparingly (Ezekiel 9:5). The only way to avoid the coming Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord is through repentance… a turning from the wrong way, our ways, and going God’s way.

Rachel is once again weeping for her children… are we? (compare Matthew 2:16-18).

The Inconvenient Truth

In spite of what people think…
in spite of what people say…
in spite of what people do…
the following truths comprise a part of THE Truth which is God’s Word (John 17:17):

The 7th day Sabbath is still in effect;
We are to keep God’s Holy Days, not pagan holidays;
We do not go to heaven when we die;
Satan does exist;
We are not yet born again;
God is a Family — not a Trinity;
The Law is not done away;
Abortion and war are murder.

Though some or even all of these may appear inconvenient, in actuality the Truth is not nearly as difficult or burdensome as it may first seem. In fact, the real inconvenience is in NOT keeping the Word of God. As we look around the world today and honestly assess it; we see poverty, sickness, perversion, unfairness, atheism, hatred and murder. The reason for this is that most have a belief system grounded in either personal scruples, politics, false religion, and/or science. There is a direct causal relationship between obeying the Scriptures and contrary behavior (Galatians 5:17-23).

Our foundation needs to be the Bible, and we need to commit to living “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). If we do this, we will no longer be a slave to sin and its horrible consequences, but rather we will be truly free (John 8:32).

The Truth is the Truth; no amount of protesting is going to change that; and ignoring it, surely, will not make it go away. Go ahead and put God’s Word to the test! You will be better off for it, and you will find that it is not inconvenient after all.

Devolution

As we grow up, we like to think of ourselves as becoming smarter and brighter with each passing year. As a race or a country we like to think the same thing, that we are better than those that preceded us 200 years ago. Surely this must be the case; we have all the latest high tech to prove it!

But is this the true measure of whether we are actually wiser? When we realize where people actually surf on the Internet and what they listen to on their iPods and what is watched on the high definition plasma TV, we might have to come to a completely different conclusion in many cases.

As we look at the world around us today, we see that we have legalized abortion, accepted homosexuality, glorified promiscuity, condoned murder and worshipped materials. The list goes on, just fill in the blanks….

The reality is that most are currently taking part in a degenerative movement. The reason for this is simple — we no longer retain God in our knowledge! God is being removed from the institutions of learning and therefore, children and young adults are without the right foundation. God has been all but squeezed out of the lawmaking and judicial process, so much so that a right way of life and true justice is becoming hard to find. Because of this, God has allowed the carnal, reprobate mind within mankind to prevail (Romans 1:28). It is a corrupt mind that resists God and any part of the Truth (2 Timothy 3:8).

As we move further and further from God, the condition of our collective minds will become worse and worse. This is an immutable law. It is imperative that we seek out and find God while He may be found and call upon Him while He is near (compare Isaiah 55:6). Psalms 14:2 states, “The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.” This understanding and knowledge comes from following God’s way (compare Psalms 111:10).

Are we living by every Word of God; are we growing in the knowledge of God, OR are we opting to be a part of the devolutionary process? The choice is up to us!

Don’t Worry

You name it – I am sure that someone out there is fretting about it. We live in a world plagued with phobias. We may look at some of these issues that others are overly concerned about, and these are not issues that trouble us.

We may look at issues that vexed us when we were young, and they no longer present a problem to us now, and we think how silly it was to have made a mountain out of a mole hill.

This begs the question, “Why do we worry about what we do now, and should we really be worrying about it?”

In Philippians 4:6 it states, “Be anxious for nothing….” Matthew 6:25 says, “…do not worry about your life…” That pretty much covers EVERYTHING. We are not to worry about anything because God has said that He would look after us.

This, of course, does not preclude us from doing what we are supposed to do, as God has commanded throughout the Scriptures. But, we do what we can and place the rest of the burden upon the shoulders of God.

Knowing what we know, worrying demonstrates a LACK OF FAITH. That’s right… to worry is to not trust God. It is not believing that He will do what He says that He will do. When God says that He will not let time and chance happen to us and that He will provide for our needs — we can rest assured that God CAN and WILL do this.

If we trust in God, we will find a relief from the stresses that once weighed heavily upon us. To not do this, is to remove our focus from the Kingdom of God and succumb to a device of Satan.

Until the End

I have often thought about what it took to be a part of the early church in the days when your life could have been required of you just for being a Christian. What kind of person did it take to say that they were a Christian, as well as continue to act that way in light of all that hung over their head?

I used to be really glad that I did not live at that time. I was not sure whether I would have been able to keep the faith while so many around me were being martyred. Would I have had the moral quality to continue doing what I was supposed to be doing?

But I then realized that God is going to accomplish His purpose in us no matter when we live. God has His ways of testing us in order to build holy righteous character, and He will continue to do so, until we learn what we need to. Living in this era has its unique set of challenges, each probative in its own way, that can test every fiber of our being.

In retrospect, not to minimize any of those that went before us, staying alive and persevering day after day until the end, may very well be the more difficult task to accomplish. But, we can take comfort in the fact that God, our Father, Who is orchestrating and overseeing our growth, will continue to do so until the end (compare Philippians 1:6). Knowing this also, that if we endure, we will receive the gift with its rewards (compare Matthew 24:13).

The Desires of Our Heart

I remember going to my first Feast of Tabernacles as a child of 12. I did not have a clue what we were getting ourselves into, especially since we had only been attending church services for a few months. We went to our assigned feast site which was Big Sandy at the time, and camped in Piney Woods.

As a child, with no money, one of the first Scriptures that caught my eye and had great personal meaning for me was Deuteronomy 14:26 where it speaks of the Feast of Tabernacles, saying, “And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.”

You may have to constantly tell your child to clean up his room, brush his hair before he goes to school, take a bath after playing in the mud, BUT you will not have to tell him twice that when he goes to the Feast, he can have WHATEVER his heart desires.

For me that year, breakfast consisted of chocolate milk and a six-pack of chocolate Donettes… every day! This was not because we were poor or that there were no other choices, but simply this was what my heart desired. Since I am older, my eating habits have changed. Now, during the feast, my heart desires a thick juicy premium cut of steak (and only one Krispy Kreme every morning).

Most of us have found that as we have matured, what we digest has changed. We started out with milk and moved on to heartier meats. In the same way, our spiritual lives should parallel this. We start with the milk of the Word and move on to the meat of God’s Word. We start with the simple principles, the ones a child can understand, and grow in grace and knowledge of the deeper understanding of the Ways of Righteousness, even being able to teach others as situations may permit.

We cannot afford to be as those Paul addressed in Hebrews 5:12-13: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.”

At the Feast of Tabernacles this year, we can and should take our second tithe and spend it on the desires of our heart as is commanded. But far more importantly, at this precursor to the Kingdom of God, we should desire and seek to be fed and nourished by the rich and plentiful spiritual banquet that will be available and be filled with righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

Imagine

Have you ever seen professional athletes, at the top of their game, train for an upcoming event? They work long and hard, put their bodies through a nightmare of rigor and pain, and deny themselves even the smallest pleasures in life. They do this all in the name of a sport and in the pursuit of play. It is done to accomplish something that will not last, but rather will fade away and come to naught. Yet, they put their blood, sweat and tears into it.

Now what if they put all that energy and effort into something that is infinitely more important, beneficial and lasting… like the spiritual race set forth in the Bible? The fruits that such an effort would produce, would be colossal. If they were to be as conscientious about their spiritual life as they had been about their physical life, can you imagine the growth that would result?

Can you imagine if a person were to study, pray and fast like their livelihood depended on it? Now, can you imagine that person being you?