Month: February 2016

Walk in Wisdom

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I wish to encourage you to walk in wisdom. The word “wisdom” occurs some 200 times in Scripture, obviously it’s significant to God. Most of us realise that this world’s idea of wisdom is very different to God’s wisdom and that it’s far too easy for us to make the same mistake that Israel did, where everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6).

Consider how that God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure… so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east… For he was wiser than all other men… (1 Kings 4:29-31). Solomon possessed an unnatural wisdom, an out of this world wisdom, it was gifted to him from Yahweh. Now, Solomon tells us that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (Proverbs 9:10).

Often, we think of wisdom as doing that which is most expedient for ourselves, resulting in the greatest pleasure. However, God looks for a wisdom that expresses our fear, our reverence for Him. Godly wisdom seeks to duplicate the Lord’s reasoning, seeking outcomes that express God’s glory, God’s character, God’s satisfied justice in Jesus Christ, God’s mercy, and God’s love. This reverential fear of God is the constant starting point for God-like wisdom, and it invariably turns away from sin. This is why Solomon instructed, be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil (Proverbs 3:7).

James, Jesus brother, assures us that If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:5-6). James is not giving a magic formula that guarantees the outcome we want. Rather, he appeals for humble self-examination that leads to the obvious conclusion, we lack God-like wisdom. Upon this realisation, we turn to the ultimate and unchangeable source of divine wisdom, God. And He gives wisdom generously to the one seeking it.

Make no mistake; James is not promoting a formula for health, wealth and popularity. Rather, the humble person of reverent dependence (faith), seeks God’s mercy to change the way they think (repentance), so they ask for God’s wisdom to be implanted in them. Two things are inherent in this request; 1) They’ve had enough of being tossed around by half-hearted, pretend faith, that is self-dependant. 2) They obey the wisdom they receive from God. Consequently, having already humbled themselves, they would hardly go out and do the opposite of what God says. Resulting from their surrendered faith, they will have a heightened sense that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick… (Jeremiah 17:9). They would endeavour to trust in the LORD with all (their) heart, and lean not on (their) own understanding. In all (their) ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight (their) paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I leave you with Solomon’s reassuring exhortation, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:1-5).

Together for Christ as Lord:   Lincoln Forlong

Persevere in Christ’s Clarity

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I wish to encourage you to persevere in Christ’s clarity. The arch enemy of the Lord seems quite effective at clouding mankind’s thinking, even blinding the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Even the Beloved in Christ can easily become foggy in their understanding of God, leading to grey beliefs, and undistinguished living. On the other hand, the wonder of Scripture is the clarity with which Christ and His gospel are portrayed. The simplicity of language used to set forth the truth in the Holy Spirit’s authored Word (2 Peter 1:21) exposes us to immutable spiritual realities.

Make no mistake, Satan is a well experienced craftsman, messing up our lives in ways that are uniquely designed to capitalise on our weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and fears. This highlights our need to unceasingly be looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Clearly, God concurred His enemies in Jesus Christ at Calvary, He (God) disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Christ), Colossians 2:15. Likewise, clear thinking that shatters the enemies’ attacks should always start with giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:12). PRAISE GOD!

That devious old serpent understands that the supernal beauties of Christ can only be seen and appreciated by those who have apprehended the gospel. The father of all lies knows that he needs to water down, to make cloudy, and to popularise the gospel message in order to achieve his dark plans. However, we believe that which is …of first importance… that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

While darkness delights in spiritual experiences and masquerades, deceiving light shows of all things grey, we who believe in Christ will not be distracted from the unparalleled, life-giving Word of the Lord. Why, because 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 (Psalms 19:7-8).

Now, on the faith side of life, Paul tells us that in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39). The apostle John emphatically affirms that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (7) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:5, 7). Such clear truth of belief in Christ heightens our sense of security in Him. Our assurance of salvation is validated as we walk in obedience with the Lord, while our earthly fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord is sweetened as we live the sanctifying power of Christ’s blood which was shed for us. Our growing realisation that God is light is deepened and made more resolute as we walk in ever increasing purity and Christ likeness. Don’t allow yourself to become stagnant in the apathy of grey, wishy washy belief. Live Christ!

Today, be encouraged to keep in the forefront of your thinking the beautiful truths of Christ our Saviour. Cling to the certainty that we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. …rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2). The apostle Peter wroteexhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it (1 Peter 5:12). Hold tenaciously to Christ as Lord. Find someone to share these clear truths of Christ with today. Be uncompromising in Christ’s grace, be generous in living Christ’s mercy, be eager to speak well of the Saviour, and rejoice as you live expecting the soon return of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.

Together for Christ: Lincoln Forlong

www.bbf.net.nz

Because of What God Did

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I’ve been convicted in recent times as to how to answer the question “Why are you a Christian?” It’s common to hear answers in which people appeal to their decisions, praying a prayer, being in a Christian home or the fact that they’re baptised.

With that in mind let us look at Judges Chapter two. Long story longer, the nation of Israel had entered into a land which had been promised several generations beforehand to the Patriarch (someone God used to establish the nation of Israel) Abraham. But things took a turn for the worse (again) when Israel turned from God, forgot what He had done for them (Judges 2:10; Psalm 106:34-46) and served the false god’s of the Canaanites (Judges 2:11-13). In His anger (yes, God gets angry) “…he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies so that they could no longer withstand them … and they were in great distress (Judges 2:14-15 – Emphasis added).

Here is where I want to focus. The nation of Israel was rebelling against God and was in great distress. What happens next is fascinating and has the heart of the Gospel plastered all over it. Judges 2:16: “Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them.” (Emphasis added). God did this because “[He] was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.” (Judges 2:18). Let’s note that Israel did not apply any formula or ritual in order for God to act. They didn’t give their hearts to God or pray a simple prayer.  They had not even yet repented!  God was merely moved to pity and out of his grace he saved them. The only thing Israel contributed was their sinful rebellion that made their salvation necessary.

It’s the same with us. Look at Ephesians 2:1-3: “And you were dead in the trespasses of your sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedienceamong whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying our the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Emphasis added). So, just as Israel was actively rebelling against God and unable to save themselves, so were we. We were disobedient, dead to God, actively seeking out our sinful desires. This kind of person cannot choose God – they don’t want to choose God. Let’s read on, “BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved…” (Ephesians 2:4-5 – Emphasis added). And as to drive the point home Paul writes again three verses later, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Just as God unexpectedly and without invitation saved Israel from their desired enslavement he has saved us from our desired enslavement to sin. He saved us. We’re not Christians because we  decided to be by opening our hearts to Jesus, praying a prayer or raising a hand during an alter call. No. We’re Christians because God, in his loving mercy invaded our lives and saved us from our sinful rebellion towards him and made us righteous which led us to repentance. To claim we had any part in being united with Christ is to declare that we fulfilled a requirement or law that God then rewarded. That’s legalism. And nobody likes a Pharisee 😉

So, next time someone asks me why I’m a Christian I think a good answer will be: “Because of what God did”.

Live for the excellence of Christ

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I wish to encourage you to live for the excellence of Christ. It’s an immutable fact that Yahweh is an excellent God, and the God of all excellence. For those who have put repentant faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, His (God’s) divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3). As Christians, we’ve not responded to some second grade or wishy washy calling. Ours is not a general invitation with multi-choice options as to the degree to which we may or may not respond. Ours is not some half-hearted, vague request that accidentally fell from the heavens, or that we dreamed up. No, we are called to the highest of Heaven’s divine aspirations, to live the very glory and excellence of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

The zenith of our Lord’s excellence is seen at the cross and in the gospel, bringing salvation into unbelieving sinners lives. At the very least, mankind was created for the purpose of manifesting the Image of God (Genesis 1:27), of which humanity has failed miserably at every level. God didn’t simply send an invitation to us, then sit back and wait for a response. No, He called (Like 5:32) us sinners, He implanted faith (Ephesians 2:8) within us so that we could believe in Christ’s substitutional death (1 Peter 2:24), He generated the necessary repentance within us (2 Timothy 2:25) so that we could turn from sin to Christ as Lord. Paul and Barnabas record that …as many as were appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48). Our Saviours sovereign excellence is seen and experienced by we believers, who are the evidence that what God determines comes into being and for the primary purpose of us becoming the living manifestation and mouthpieces of His praise and glory. Salvation is all about God, not us. We are simply the blessed recipients of His gracious mercy. Surely, this is the greatest, the highest; the most excellent of reasons any human being could have for living in surrendered obedience to their creator.

Now, here’s the implication. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9). The redeemed have been translated out of spiritual darkness to specifically become proclaimers of the infinite, multi-faceted (Ephesians 3:10) excellencies of God’s character and deeds. Paul, explains, …whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8). We are to replace frivolous, juvenile, and foolish thinking (Romans 12:1), worldly thinking that is selfish and tends to revolve around fleshly pleasures and pursuits, with thinking that is directed by the values learned from God’s Word. We think of the activities of life with Christ centred values, looking for opportunities to live out His love, His truth with His grace in the strength of His Holy Spirit. We correct ourselves by exchanging habitual thoughts of self, sinful motives and desires, memories of sinful activities, sinful responses to others, with thoughts that arise from our reading of Scripture, thoughts of God, of Christ, of Heaven, of Calvary, of ambitious opportunities to serve our Saviour.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). Beloved, to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21). We worship purely for His pleasure, not ours. We grow through the metamorphosis of our beliefs for His glorification in the truth of His Word as it permeates our beliefs. We serve for the betterment of others. We fellowship for the encouragement and edification of fellow Saints. We evangelise the lost to witness God’s will being worked out in unsaved sinners, for His glory. We disciple the young in Christ to see Christ mature them in developing His holy character in them. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Our experience during this walk is of little significance, but our Lord must be glorified with excellence!

Be encouraged today, to surrender every molecule of yourself to beholding the glory of the Lord, (to) being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). Find ways today, of sharing this wonderful privilege with others. And always speak well of the Saviour.

Together for Christ:   Lincoln Forlong

www.bbf.net.nz

Look at your world through Jesus’ eyes

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I wish to encourage you to look at your world through Jesus’ eyes. It’s understandably easy for us believers to become so accustomed to the way the world thinks, that we begin observing, reasoning, and responding to life the way the world does, but in Jesus name of course.

Worldly preconditioning sways believers all too easily into evaluating life through the lens of worldly thinking, worldly values, and worldly perspectives of who God and His Holy Word are. Unfortunately, this often comes naturally and comfortably to us. This unwittingly results in confusing, then conflicting biblical with personal convictions, which invariably gravitates the believer away from a pure, undivided devotion to the Lordship of Christ and the authoritative sufficiency of Scripture.

Moses serves as a good example of one who counted the cost and concluded that Christ’s way had nothing in common with the world’s ways. Moses acting in faith refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:24-27).

Consider these brief observations:

  • Moses looked at his life through the lens of eternity, he evaluated his circumstances with the scales of divine justice and holiness, he then determined his course of action based upon the intangible integrity and courage found in God.
  • Egypt simply was not in the same race as Moses. Moses’ priorities leaned NOT toward earthly pleasures offered by Egypt, but toward the eternal wealth found through considering the supremacy of Christ.
  • Moses was enabled by God to endure the struggles and reproaches he suffered because he was compelled by an unworldly way of thinking. He was driven by a clear vision of who His God was and the infinite value of His heavenly Saviour.
  • There was to be no compromise, no blending of philosophies, no accommodating of Egyptian values. It was God’s way for Moses!

Mark 8:33-34 records Jesus, having just been rebuked by Peter, turning and seeing his disciples, he (Jesus) rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (34) And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Peter most likely thought that he was reacting to Jesus news of the upcoming trials and crucifixion in an appropriate manner. However, Jesus wasn’t interested in hiding from the painful realities about to unfold. Peter had only just declared to Jesus that “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29), now Jesus needed Peter to apply that same courage in acknowledging His identity, to dealing with reality, as ugly as that may have been. Peter, like us, needed to deny his natural way of thinking about Christ and life, in preference to denial of self and a willingness to take up his own personal cross of crucifixion if needed in following Jesus as Lord. There simply was no room for simplistic marsh-mellow philosophy with Jesus who was heading for Calvary.

As Jesus rightly pointed out, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (37) For what can a man give in return for his soul? (Mark 8:36-37). Jesus mission on earth 2000 years ago is precisely the same as it is now, through the reconciling ministry (2 Corinthians 5:18) of the church, to turn lost sinners from living for self to living for the glory of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. This is Jesus’ rescue mission of mankind. Worldly thinking says that the pleasures of sin are worth sacrificing your soul.

It’s far too easy to compromise clear-cut biblical, Christ centred gospel truth, in an attempt to blend worldly ideals with God centred truth. Taking up our cross and following Jesus begins with looking at your life through His eyes, exchanging earthly priorities with heavenly ones, replacing man-centred thought processes with Jesus defined and determined ones.

Be encouraged to invite Christ to make you content with being different for His sake, not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewal of your minds… (Romans 12:2). Daily seeking to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).

See your life as Christ sees it, and enjoy the privilege for His glory!

Together for Christ:  Lincoln

www.bbf.net.nz

  • Sundays @ 309 Welcome Bay Rd, Tauranga (Welcome Bay School Hall)