Month: December 2015

Walk in Courage

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I wish to encourage you to walk in courage. It can seem in life, as if courage only belongs to those who are arrogant, proud, egotistical, and domineering. While courage tends to be a quality that we typically think of in relation to the big challenges in life, it is in fact at the heart of genuine faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. New Testament courage speaks of out-spokenness, frankness, boldness, confidence, and openness, which typically is a characteristic that God calls His redeemed people to exemplify.

It’s remarkably easy to allow our environment and friends to sway us, to influence us away from a pure devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ and His written Word. Compromise is a seductress that preys upon the weak, luring them away from singleness of mind, from undivided devotion to Christ, and from loyalty to Scripture.

The apostle Paul explains with uncommon insight …that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, (19) for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, (20) as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death. (21) For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:18-21). Here, Paul writes a rare nugget of truth that explains how our Lord works within us believers, mostly without us even being aware of it. Following are a few observations:

  • Paul’s ability to verbally rejoice grew out of seeing and hearing Christ proclaimed in a multitude of ways.
  • Prayer and the working of the Holy Spirit are intrinsically intertwined. As Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3:8, The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. While we are often unaware of the Holy Spirit’s working, He is in reality, working to first of all bring spiritual rebirth, and secondly, to help us. He helps us in whatever way necessary to proclaim Christ in and through us (Sanctification).
  • Paul’s expectation was that the working of the Holy Spirit, in conjunction with prayer, would produce full courage.
  • Full courage is provided for the singular purpose of honouring Christ! The Holy Spirit strives to get all believers to the maturity of living Christ and not self. Holy Spirit motivated and enabled courage is never for personal gain, health, or popularity. Jesus explained this to His disciples in John 16:14, He (The Holy Spirit) will glorify me…

As we enter another Christmas, I wish to encourage you to be people of prayer, humbly seeking and allowing the Holy Spirit to cause you to be courageous at celebrating the miraculous incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, Immanuel (God with us). Courage enables faith to give expression, it empowers non-compromise, it loosens the tongue to speak well of the Saviour, and it fulfils the purpose of our Lord for His children. Jesus focused courage is not proud or arrogant, rather, it gets on with peacefully promoting whatever the task is at hand with tenacious perseverance. Courage never lets go, it doesn’t allow us to be side-tract, and it never permits mediocrity to dilute our devotion to the cause of Christ’s glory.

Together For Christ:  Lincoln Forlong

Walk in Humility

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I wish to encourage you to walk in humility. We live in a world obsessed with self-image, self-importance, and self-promotion. But not so the children of God! Our deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) can so quickly mislead us into an unrighteous overestimation of self. It’s alarming that pride can so easily go undetected by self; however, others often see it, not to mention our Heavenly Father.

Most of us know the youthful failings of pride, and many of us have suffered at the hand of pride from those older, who should have been wiser. Likewise, we all enjoy being in the presence of humility, yet the opposite so easily rises from within our hearts. Being well acquainted with failure, the apostle Peter instructed younger believers to clothe yourselves …with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). What a wonderful affirmation from our heavenly Father, His grace is more abundantly and specifically gifted to those who are humble (cf. James 4:6).

Even though we may fail often, and look at ourselves with disgust because of some proud or selfish action, or vain words spoken, genuine self-correction begins by humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you (1 Peter 5:6). Turning from proud attitudes and actions starts with God, because others are often quick to remind us of failure, and awfully slow to encourage us to persevere in godliness. Therefore we entrust ourselves to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).

Obviously, Christ is our supreme example, who being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). Ironically, we sometimes become discouraged by the enormous gap between Christ’s character and ours. After all, He’s God. And we, well, we seem to struggle so much with our many inconsistencies. However, our encouragement is found in Christ, our comfort comes from His love, and our perseverance comes from participation in the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:1). He not only motivates, but equips us to exclude selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Our response to being God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, is to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).

The apostle Paul, writing from prison, exhorted the Ephesian believers to walk in a manner worthy of the calling …with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. Paul’s progressive point is this; humility is amongst the first manifestations of a regenerated child of God. Humility expresses itself through gentleness, patience, forbearance, and love, because that is the new nature implanted in us by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. Humility is eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3), refreshing qualities that everyone appreciates being in the presence of.

Humility replicates the sweetness of Christ’s humility, it promotes the infectious love of God, and it proclaims the Lordship of the Saviour. Humility rescues relationships, it wins the respect of those previously disappointed people you value, and it earns the listening ear of the unsaved that surround you. It enriches marriage immeasurably, and leads in ever increasing hope and certainty rising from the Word of God. Humility puts others first, it listens even when shutting off would be easier, it accepts the person even while simultaneously rejecting the sin in the other life, it welcomes, it embraces, it’s grateful for every morsel. Humility refuses to fight for position or authority, it knows when to bow down or step backwards in order to express and promote the character of Christ, regardless of how unjust it may seem, or how much you may want to dig your toes in by demanding your rights. Humility is a giver, it’s a pacifier, it strives to unit in truth. Humility is gracious even when showing spite would come more naturally. It’s patient because it trusts in the sovereignty of God even when that’s not easy to understand.

Today, remember the humility of Christ. Think upon the privilege we enjoy in replicating His character in our lives. Be encouraged that humility has eternal glory.

Matthew 5:3-9 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (4) Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (5) Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (7) Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (8) Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (9) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Together in Christ:  Lincoln Forlong

Web:  www.bbf.net.nz

Email: lf@bbf.net.nz

Value Fellowship

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I wish to encourage you to value fellowship as our Lord values it. We live in a time when, people who call themselves Christian, increasingly live in wilful isolation from the Body of Christ, the Church. While in their minds, there may be circumstances and reasons that justify this condition, however, here’s the question begging an answer, “Is isolation the best God has for His redeemed people”?

Immunization against this vulnerability is found through raising our understanding of God’s design and intention for fellowship within the Body of Christ. In the Greek New Testament, fellowship (koinōnia), speaks of relationship with partnership, of mutual participation and communion, it expresses the very best of intimacy in a relationship.

It all started in the beginning, with mankind being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), having the capacity to experience fellowship, as did God. The apostle John summarised the nature of this fellowship in 1 John 1:7, But if we walk in the light, as he (Christ) is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. The richness of authentic fellowship with fellow believers is made possible, firstly, because of the substitutionary blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. Faith in Christ taking our place on the cross activates God’s forgiveness for our sin. Secondly, genuine fellowship only occurs when we mutually walk in the light of understanding obedience to Christ as Lord, this is the expected result of Jesus cleansing us of our sin.

The apostle Paul further explains to the Corinthian believers, that it is Christ who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ’s persevering, securing work in us is because God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:8-9). God’s intention is to fellowship with mankind, through Christ’s fellowship with those who have Him as Lord of their lives. This fellowship is eternal by design, purchased by Christ’s death on the cross, is activated by our gifted faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), is maintained by Christ, is interceded for by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26), and looks forward to when Christ will present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy (Jude 1:24). Simply put, fellowship is primarily about God, through Christ, energised by the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are simply the participants in this wonderfully divine relationship fellowship.

We should look at our fellow believers, who are no more imperfect than we are, and view them differently from every other relationship, because we recognize the uniqueness of the fellowship relationship that God has placed us in. Our fellowship with God is found in Christ, our fellowship with one another is equally found in Christ, and together, our eternally secure hope of Heaven is found  in Christ with one another. Fellowship is not optional, it is a sovereign working out of the mind, will, and mercy of God Almighty (Ephesians 1:1-14). This is a spiritual working of the triune God within us, as the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14) is manifest in the Body of Christ.

Understanding fellowship enables us to accept why we should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14). Our privileged position of mutual fellowship in Christ should motivate purity, inspire united worship, spur us to look for opportunities to encourage faithfulness, and grow hope for the ultimate expression of fellowship in Heaven. Indeed, fellowship is a wonderful and exhilarating component of being together in Christ, but only when viewed as God sees it. When self is excluded, fellowship has unimaginable and glorifying potential. Likewise, Christian marriage holds earths’ highest potential for the richest of fellowship.

Being spiritually and physically together in the Body of Christ, the local church, is the only place we can worship together, encourage, build up, train, grow in the knowledge of the Word of God, grow toward maturity in Christ, prepare for evangelism, serve and meet the needs of one other. The church is to be the expressive body and life of Christ on earth, and we make it what it is together in Christ. The local congregation is where we lose ourselves in God’s love; we accept one another, forgive one another, are reconciled to one another, carry and support one another, place no earthly and unreasonable expectations on one another, give time and grace for change to one another, and pray for one another, etc.

A desire to be isolated from the church is sadly a desire to diminish and ultimately extinguish God’s design for fellowship in Christ. It’s a direct attack against the sovereignty, grace and Lordship of Christ as the Holy Spirit strives to exalt Christ within us. The great enemy of God loves it this way, to fragment, to weaken, and to make the Body of Christ impotent. The way to defeat that roaring enemy of ours, is to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Today, praise God for the privilege of fellowship. Walk as a Spirit filled child of God, in the family of God, ruled by the Word of God. Be encouraged in this sometimes challenging part of Christian life. Encourage others who are outside of God’s will, to get back into fellowship so that God can bring glory to Himself through our fellowship in Christ.

Together in Christ:  Lincoln Forlong

Recognising the Workings of God’s Word

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I wish to encourage you in recognising the workings of God’s Word. In this sensation driven world, where spectacular is wrongly portrayed as normal, and there is constant pressure to outperform others, we believers in Jesus Christ rest in the unshakeable and unchangeable written word of God.

Recognising the Workings of God's WordIn the mercy of God, His Holy Spirit has gifted mankind with the inspired, living and active… word, which is …sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The apostle Paul writing to the church at Thessalonica, encouraged the believers to recognise how God was working in their lives while they waited patiently for Christ’s return. Paul thanked God constantly… because they received… and accepted the Word of God …not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The written word of the Almighty is timelessly authoritative and relevant. It’s never lazy, nor is it ever out of sync with the sovereign will of its author. Likewise, as Jesus prayed for His disciples, and for us by implication, Scripture is able to sanctify them in the truth; your (God’s) word is truth (John 17:17).

David presents possibly the most detailed and condensed catalogue of titles, characteristics, and benefits of God’s word in Psalm 19:7-9; The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
God’s Word uniquely deposits divine absolutes into the human heart and mind. Truth trains the conscience, transforms the mind, and purifies the heart.  Once landed, that truth cannot be erased, nor can it exist without producing a result of some sort. Scripture does a spiritual work, a convicting work, and, when submitted to, a regenerating work. Truth is never inactive, in spite of our frequent inability to perceive it. We do however, get to witness it’s fruit, the response of its hearers, whether positive or negative.

The Psalmist rightly declares that God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalms 119:105). Scripture alone provides present truth for the day before us, it also sheds truth upon the intermediate future that’s awaiting us, and it instils hope and certainty for the eternal future that is guaranteed us by the Holy Spirit’s presence. Not surprizing then, that David valued God’s Word, more to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb (Psalms 19:10).

If we want God to do His work in us, we must feed on His Word. As Jesus told His arch enemy in Matthew 4:4,“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  God’s truth sets us free from self, sin and the worldly thinking that constantly tries to influence our Christian thinking and values away from God’s absolutes. Scripture never lays dormant, it’s never incapacitated, and it is never without purpose. It’s author never tires or sleeps, He never wastes words, and never speaks without predetermining the outcome that best gives expression to His will.

Be encouraged beloved, don’t settle for cheap imitations, never accept anything other than the genuine written Word of God. Consume it daily, surrender to its sanctifying truths, place it into the lives of others, and praise God for it.

Remember, God’s Word:

  • Revives, regenerates the soul to eternal life
  • Makes spiritually simple people wise, enlightening our spiritual eyes with understanding
  • Generates assurance and security, while raising appreciation, then speaking out praise
  • Causes the heart to rejoice, expressing faith and  hope

Together For Christ:  Lincoln Forlong

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