Sunday, June 24, 2012

Marks of a Christian: Patience

James 1:4

The apostle Paul declared that he bore in his own body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was referring to the physical scars of persecution that he suffered because of his testimony of Christ. As Christians we also should bear certain identifying marks. Spiritual marks of being a born again child of God. One such mark should be the mark of "patience". What does it mean to be patient? Webster's definition is 1) bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint 2) steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity 3) not hasty or impetuous. Literally it means to be willing to suffer. It means self-control, it means the ability to wait and not rush into things.
We need to be manifesting patience in our lives today. In today's lifestyle everything seems to be "rush-rush". That even comes into people's ideas about worship services. "Make it quick and painless." "Let's get it over with!" Listen to the Word of God. "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him..." cf Ps. 37:7a
I. Examples of Patience.
    A. Moses.
      1. God had given him the responsibility of leading over two million people.
      2. They were unfaithful and ungrateful!
      3. They murmured and complained against Moses to the point that God was ready to kill them and start all over again with Moses. cf Ex. 32:7-10
      4. But Moses was patient through the years and never quit!
    B. Job.
      1. God allowed greater trials in his life than any of us have ever had to face.
      2. His wife and friends forsook him!
      3. Job at time wondered why all of the things that had happened...had to happen to him.
      4. Note: Job 1:21 & Jas. 5:11
    C. Paul.
      1. We know that he had some physical infirmity...a thorn in the flesh.
      2. A lot speculation as to what it may have been, but regardless it pictures Paul's patience and endurance.
      3. At the close of Paul's ministry he writes to Timothy and declares the marks of distinction that were apparent. 1Ti. 3:10
    D. New Testament Congregations.
      1. The Thessalonian Church. cf 2Thess. 1:4
      2. The Church at Ephesus. cf Re. 2:2
      3. The Church at Thyatira. cf Re. 2:19
II. Qualities of Patience.
    A. The ability to wait.
      1. The most difficult part of a battle is the waiting.
      2. Soldiers ready and prepared to do battle with the enemy, but must wait until the order is given to charge!
      3. We must not rush ahead, but we must learn to wait.
      4. Isaiah 40:31, "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
    B. Patience means resignation.
      1. We must resign ourselves to the will of God.
      2. A story is told of man who visited an institution for children who were deaf and unable to speak. He wrote a cruel question on the blackboard, "If God loves you, then why did He make you as you are?" A little girl walked to the board and wrote Matthew 11:26, "Even so, Father: for it seemed good in thy sight."
      3. Patience is understanding that we have a Sovereign God who has a plan and purpose in everything that He does!
      4. Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him..." cf Job 13:15
      5. Jesus said, "...Not my will, but thine, be done." cf Luke 22:42
      6. Have you resigned yourself to God's will in your life? That is patience.
    C. Patience also means endurance.
      1. This means over the long-haul.
      2. The race that Paul talks about is not a sprint it is a long distance marathon.
      3. The finish line is when we meet Jesus!
      4. Only around 5% of new businesses ever last long enough to become a success.
      5. Many people will join the church, but only a few will stick it out! We couldn't hold all the people who have been saved and joined this church! (864 who have joined)
      6. People make many promises and make commitments, but only a few will see them fulfilled.
      7. Preachers are giving up the ministry and Missionaries are dropping from the field. Example of Dennis Mays: 3 1/2 years of deputation and after only 2 months on the field, they give it up and come home!
      8. We need patience for the long run...Jesus never promised that it would be easy! But He did say that He would never forsake us or leave us!
Are our lives characterized by patience? It is a spiritual mark of Christ. We need it in every area of our lives, but especially as we serve the Lord. How do we get it? Pray for patience! Some say, "Oh no! Tribulation worketh patience!" Yes, but patience matures us in Christ. And we all need to grow more like Him. Trust Him tonight, rest calmly in Him, and wait upon Him.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A letter from Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani to all Believers (From Jail)

07 May 2012
Greetings from your servant and younger brother in Christ, Youcef Nadarkhani.
To: All those who are concerned and worried about my current situation.

First, I would like to inform all of my beloved brothers and sisters that I am in perfect health in the  flesh and spirit. And I try to have a little different approach from others to these days, and consider it as the day of exam and trial of my faith. And during these days which are hard in order to prove your loyalty and sincerity to God, I am trying to do the best in my power to stay right with what I have learned from God's commandments.

I need to remind my beloveds, though my trial due has been so long, and as in the flesh I wish these days to end, yet I have surrendered myself to God's will.

I am neither a political person nor do I know about political complicity, but I know that while there are many things in common between different cultures, there are also differences between these cultures around the world which can result in criticism, which most of the times response to this criticisms will be harsh and as a result will lengthen our problems.

From time to time I am  informed about the news which is spreading in the media about my current situation, for instance being supported by various churches and famous politicians who have asked for my release, or campaigns and human rights activities which are going on against the charges which are applied to me. I do believe that these kind of activities can be very helpful in order to reach freedom, and respecting human rights in a right way can bring forth positive results.

I want to appreciate all those are trying to reach this goal. But at the other hand, I'd like to announce my disagreement with the insulting activities which cause stress and trouble, which unfortunately are done with the justification (excuse) of defending human rights and freedom, for the results are so clear and obvious for me. 

I try to be humble and obedient to those who are in power, obedience to those in authority which God has granted to the officials of my country, and pray for them to rule the country according to the will of God and be successful in doing this. For I know in this way I have obeyed God's word.  I try to obey along with those whom I see in a common situation with me. They never had any complaint, but just let the power of God be manifested in their lives, and though sometimes we read that they have used this right to defend themselves, for they had this right, I am not an exception as well and have used all possibilities and so forth and am waiting for the final result.

So I ask all the beloved ones to pray for me as the holy word has said. At the end I hope my freedom will be prepared as soon as possible, as the authorities of my country will do with free will according to their law and commandments which are answerable to.  

May God's Grace and Mercy be upon you now and forever. Amen.

Youcef Nadarkhani

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Your Personal GPS

Scripture: "Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, 'This is the way you should go,' whether to the right or to the left." Isaiah 30:21

Going Somewhere?

What if you could hear advice in your heart when you went to make a difficult decision? Or what if you had a "life map" that helped you navigate where to go and how to get there...for your most meaningful life? Life is difficult to navigate, but God has a personal navigation tool you. He wants to give you both a life map and a "voice" to guide you at each turn.

Get There

For me, I am not very good with directions. So when GPS (Global Positioning System) came out, I was thrilled. If you're unfamiliar, a GPS is a tool that takes a map of the world, narrows it down to streets and landmarks, and tells you exactly where you are and how to get where you want to go. You click a button and it shows you all the landmarks around you. And then you enter in your final destination, and a voice tells you just how to get there. This is what I need in life, and you probably feel the same.

Your Own GPS

Did you know that God has given you your own GPS for life? It's God's Personal Support, through the Bible and His Holy Spirit. The Bible is the map and God's Spirit is the voice. He wants to lead you at every life turn, every unknown situation, right into His Promised Land. This is His promise to you: "The LORD says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you." Psalm 32:8 So let's learn about the tools He has given you and just how to use them!

Start with the Map

The Bible describes itself as a map, written for you, from God's perfect bird's eye view. God said,
"'My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,' says the Lord. 'And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.'" (Isaiah 55:8-9)
The landscape you see around you may look one way, but God sees it from up above. He sees where every road leads, and the curves you can't see from your perspective. He wants to guide you around the turns and lead you into the land He has for you.

Listen to the Voice

And going even beyond a road map, God wants to tell you personalized directions to help you navigate through the issues you are facing. The Bible says, "Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, 'This is the way you should go,' whether to the right or to the left." Isaiah 30:21 Imagine you are in a meeting with your boss and don't know what to say. The Holy Spirit wants to give you secret wisdom to succeed. Or say you are unsure about how to relate with your children. The Holy Spirit wants to whisper to you: "Do this. This will open up their heart to you."

The Secret Key

But let me tell you a little secret about hearing the voice. Jesus said, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26 Now, how can you remember something you never heard in the first place? That's why taking the time to read the Bible is so amazing. It's like building out the map of your "Life GPS", bit by bit. Let me give you an example. One day, I was really on edge, and someone said something to me that really bothered me. My temptation was to snap at them, but the Holy Spirit reminded me of a verse I had read earlier: "A gracious woman retains honor." Proverbs 11:16 That was Him saying, "Veer Right." So I purposefully was extra gracious and avoided a little pothole. That is just one small example of a million ways the Holy Spirit wants to give you daily guidance for your life—and get you to the great destination God has for you.

Begin Today

If you have never experienced that inner counsel—or maybe you have gotten out of the habit of using God's GPS—He is offering it to you today! He wants you to hear His voice—every day—and walk in the great path He has for you. The first step is to build out your life map by reading His word daily. The Bible says,
"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a treeplanted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leafdoes not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1:1-3)
This tool from YouVersion will help you establish a daily plan of reading God's Word, sending it straight to your e-mail if you want. I personally promise that if you read God's Word daily, you will begin to hear His voice more. If you want to hear God helping you every step of the way, tell Him in the Comments today! Just say, "God, I want Your GPS! Thank you for guiding me, every step of the way!" Let's use God's GPS together.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What is true worship

The Apostle Paul described true worship perfectly in Romans 12:1-2: “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.”

This passage contains all the elements of true worship. First, there is the motivation to worship: “the mercies of God.” God’s mercies are everything He has given us that we don’t deserve: eternal love, eternal grace, the Holy Spirit, everlasting peace, eternal joy, saving faith, comfort, strength, wisdom, hope, patience, kindness, honor, glory, righteousness, security, eternal life, forgiveness, reconciliation, justification, sanctification, freedom, intercession and much more. The knowledge and understanding of these incredible gifts motivate us to pour forth praise and thanksgiving—in other words, worship!

Also in the passage is a description of the manner of our worship: “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.” Presenting our bodies means giving to God all of ourselves. The reference to our bodies here means all our human faculties, all of our humanness—our hearts, minds, hands, thoughts, attitudes—are to be presented to God. In other words, we are to give up control of these things and turn them over to Him, just as a literal sacrifice was given totally to God on the altar. But how? Again, the passage is clear: “by the renewing of your mind.” We renew our minds daily by cleansing them of the world’s “wisdom” and replacing it with true wisdom that comes from God. We worship Him with our renewed and cleansed minds, not with our emotions. Emotions are wonderful things, but unless they are shaped by a mind saturated in Truth, they can be destructive, out-of-control forces. Where the mind goes, the will follows and so do the emotions. First Corinthians 2:16 tells us we have “the mind of Christ,” not the emotions of Christ. 

There is only one way to renew our minds, and that is by the Word of God. It is the truth, the knowledge of the Word of God, which is to say the knowledge of the mercies of God, and we’re back where we began. To know the truth, to believe the truth, to hold convictions about the truth, and to love the truth will naturally result in true spiritual worship. It is conviction followed by affection, affection that is a response to truth, not to any external stimuli, including music. Music as such has nothing to do with worship. Music can’t produce worship, although it certainly can produce emotion. Music is not the origin of worship, but it can be the expression of it. Do not look to music to induce your worship; look to music as simply an expression of that which is induced by a heart that is rapt by the mercies of God, obedient to His commands.

True worship is God-centered worship. People tend to get caught up in where they should worship, what music they should sing in worship, and how the worship looks to other people. Focusing on these things completely misses the point. Jesus tells us that true worshipers will worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). This means we worship from the heart and the way God has designed. Worship can include praying, reading God's Word with an open heart, singing, participating in communion, and serving others. It is not limited to one act, but is done properly when the heart and attitude of the person are in the right place.

It’s also important to know that worship is reserved only for God. Only He is worthy and not any of His servants (Revelation 19:10). We are not to worship saints, prophets, statues, angels, any false gods, or Mary, the mother of Jesus. We also should not be worshiping for the expectation of something in return, such as a miraculous healing. Worship is done for God—because He deserves it—and for His pleasure alone. Worship can be public praise to God (Psalm 22:22, 35:18) in a congregational setting, where we can proclaim through prayer and praise our adoration and thankfulness to Him and what He has done for us. True worship is felt inwardly, and then comes out through our actions. "Going through the motions" out of obligation is displeasing to God and is done completely in vain. He can see through all the hypocrisy, and He hates it. He demonstrates this in Amos 5:21-24 as He talks about coming judgment. Another example is the story of Cain and Abel, the first sons of Adam and Eve. They both brought gift offerings to the Lord, but He was only pleased with Abel's. Cain brought the gift out of obligation; Abel brought his finest lambs from his flock. He brought out of faith and admiration for God.

True worship is not confined to what we do in church or open praise (although these things are both good and we are told in the Bible to do them). It is the acknowledgment of God and all His power and glory in everything we do. The highest form of praise and worship is obedience to Him and His Word. To do this, we must know God; we cannot be ignorant of Him (Acts 17:23). Worship is to glorify and exalt God—to show our loyalty and admiration to our Father.