Speak truth each one of you with his neighbor

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another (Ephesians 4:25).

How would you define a “lie”? On the other side of that coin, how would you define the “truth”? How do I know when I have told the truth?

There is no such thing as a “little white lie.”

Minimizing dishonesty is never good. We have to appreciate the fact, men, that God hates lying. God loves truth. In our hearts and in our conversations, we must begin with those assumptions.

Omitting details that make you look better is a lie.

You may have heard the phrase, “A half-truth is a whole lie.” We can manipulate how someone responds by only giving them certain details. For example, a car dealer can tell you all the great things about the car, but he may not tell you that it was in a flood last year. I may want to tell you my sob story about how someone mistreated me, but in telling you I leave out how I misbehaved in that situation and provoked that person to say hurtful things (Proverbs 18:17). Another example is how I may try to minimize my behavior by leaving out some of the more sordid details.

When we exaggerate and inflate details we are being dishonest.

This is the “big fish story” kind of talk. I caught a 7-inch bluegill but make it sound like it was a great white shark! We can exaggerate how someone treated us to set ourselves up to be victims and martyrs. In business, we are tempted to make things sound much better than they are in order to make that deal happen.

A trustworthy witness will not lie, but a false witness utters lies (Proverbs 14:5).

Continually promising to do things and not following up on them is a form of dishonesty.

“Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble” (Proverbs 25:19). Jesus told us to let our “yes be yes and our no be no” (Matthew 5:37). Keep your word. Folks should be able to trust your word when you commit to doing something. Timothy was that kind of man for the apostle Paul; he was trustworthy (Philippians 2:19-22). David wrote that the person who will dwell with God is the one who “swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Psalm 15:1,4).

Tell the truth, and live the truth, even if it hurts.

By faith we understand

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible (Hebrews 11:1-3).

Hebrews 11 – The Hall of Fame for Faith chapter as I often heard it described when I was growing up. We see faith both defined and demonstrated in this great chapter as we walk through the history of God’s people.

I’ve often looked at Hebrews 11 to see that action came through faith. When I see “by faith…” there is a verb attached to it. Those who believed in God and saw the unseen were moved to action. Abraham offered up Isaac. Noah built an ark. The Israelites encircled Jericho’s walls.

What I noticed recently in reading the chapter again is that it was not only their behavior that was inspired by their faith. Their beliefs, view of God, emotions, desires and their whole value systems were all formed and founded upon seeing the unseen.

My understanding is shaped by faith.

By faith we understand that the worlds are framed by the word of God (vs. 3). Sarah “considered” Him faithful who promised (vs. 11). Abraham, because of his faith in God’s promises, concluded that if he offered up Isaac, then God would raise him from the dead. Their faith was the basis for their reasoning and conclusions (vs. 17-19).

My desires are shaped by faith.

They “desire” a better, that is, a heavenly country (vs. 16). For most people their desires are shaped by looking at the visible things. For the Christian, our desires should be founded upon looking at the unseen.

My emotions are founded on faith.

Moses’ parents, because of faith, were “not afraid of the king’s command” (vs. 23). We all have emotions, that is normal. God even has emotions. If Moses’ mom and dad were walking by sight, they would most certainly have been afraid. But they walked by faith, and it shaped even their emotions.

My view of God is developed through faith.

Noah was moved with godly fear (reverence) because of his faith (vs. 7). His faith formed a reverence for the Almighty Creator within him.

My entire value system is shaped by faith.

Moses “esteemed” (considered) the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. What he valued and counted as important rested squarely on his faith in the unseen…he looked to the reward (vs. 26).

There are many other examples in this chapter so look for them today in your study and meditation.

By faith we understand…

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones (Proverbs 3:5-8).

Narrow Way

By Jason Starr

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

When we normally quote this verse, it’s to remind us that most of the world will follow the broad way because it’s easier. We also tell ourselves that the narrow way is difficult.

But is the narrow way really difficult?

It’s often difficult when I want, what I want, when I want it. There are “few who find it” because their desire is not for God’s ways, but their own.

When I “set my mind on things above” (Rom 12:16; Col 3:2), and when I tell God “not my will, but Your will be done”, our attitude changes. We allow ourselves to be molded by the master instead of trying to mold the world, our lives, or other people to what we want.

Jesus himself said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11:30). The only way to marry Matt 11:30 and Matt 7:13-14 together is to realize that it’s a question of my attitude toward following God’s will. It’s all about attitude! What is my attitude toward God and His word? Am I willing to bend myself to His will? If so, then the narrow way is easier to take.

In 1 John 5:3, it says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” So if there are commandments that are burdensome to me at the moment, why is that? The only reason is that I haven’t bent my will to my Father.

One way to bend your will the God’s is to make it the only choice. In Daniel 6:10, we see Daniel prayed three times the day the decree was signed making it illegal to pray. Was his spirit, “You’re not going to tell ME what to do”? Nope. That was always his custom since early days and there wasn’t another choice in his mind. That decision made it easy for him. It might seem a little stubborn to those who don’t understand, but maybe we need more of that nowadays.

Joshua also in Joshua 24:15 made the declaration, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  He didn’t say “we might serve the Lord”. He made it so he only had one option. That left no room for any other thought, so it would be easier to follow it.

Have you bent your will to the Father today? It’s the only way to make the narrow road an easy one.

Poisoned

“For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:23).

Poisoned. That is the climate around us today in so many circles. So many are poisoned by bitterness, or hatred, or racism, or a dangerous religious ideology.

A quick definition from Merriam-Webster: (1) a substance that can cause people or animals to die or to become very sick if it gets into their bodies especially by being swallowed. (2) something (such as an idea, emotion, or situation) that is very harmful or unpleasant.

This poison is being spread on social media, by political and religious leaders, and by news media outlets with an agenda. It is not one-sided; this poison is coming from all directions of the political spectrum.

This poisonous rhetoric is stirring up great violence and even more animosity and distrust. Please consider the following passages to see the effect that influential leaders can have on the people.

Words can be poisonous

But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren (Acts 14:2).

But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people (Acts 17:5).

But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds (Acts 17:13).

The whole city of Ephesus was filled with confusion and a riotous mob assembled (Acts 19:29). This happened because certain influential people came and stirred them up against Paul and the other teachers of the gospel. When the crowds heard the words of those influential business leaders, “they were full of wrath…” (Acts 19:28).

Search your hearts for Poison, men.

  1. Am I poisoned by this bitterness, hatred, and distrust? Ask for God to search your heart and to draw out any of this poison from your soul (Psalm 139:23-24).
  2. Am I someone who is fueling the fires by spreading more of this poison? Am I spreading it on social media? Am I spreading it to my co-workers and fellow students? Am I a person who is stoking the fires? Am I spreading it to my kids? Your words have incredible power, they can bring life or spread poison (Proverbs 18:21).
  3. Am I feasting my mind on this poison by continuing to listen to the people who are spreading this poison? Upon what are we meditating, my friends (Philippians 4:8).

May we all come to the Great Physician for real healing and real peace. May we be the kind of men that spread truth and love, not poison.

Devote yourselves to prayer

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2).

Men, are you devoting yourselves to prayer? If we haven’t seen the urgency before, can we see the urgency of prayer now? God’s men must all get on their knees and storm the gates of heaven.

1 Peter 4:7 – But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. Whatever “end” Peter was talking about, the response of God’s people to that “end” is to be serious. Be watchful in prayers. That “end” for them may have been the destruction of Jerusalem. That “end” for us may be the Lord’s second coming. It may be the downfall of America. It may be that our lives or others’ lives are about to end. Regardless, be serious…be watchful in prayers.

Pray always

Pray like Epaphras, who always wrestled in prayer for his Colossian brethren (Colossians 4:12). Pray like Samuel, the aged prophet, who considered it a “sin against the Lord” to cease praying for his brethren and his nation (1 Samuel 12:23). Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Pray always and do not lose heart (Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18). Pray at “evening, morning and at noon” (Psalm 55:17).

Pray like Daniel, who had a custom since his youth to pray on his knees 3 times a day (Daniel 6:10). He prayed openly and publicly even when it was illegal to do so. Pray like the early Christians who devoted themselves continually to prayer (Acts 2:42). Pray like the apostles who considered it part of their obligation and ministry to devote themselves to prayer (Acts 6:4). Of course, pray like Jesus (Luke 5:16; 6:12).

1 Timothy 2:8 – I desire that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and without doubting.

Men, today, not tomorrow…invite a fellow Christian man to meet with you this week to pray.

Romans 12:12 – continuing steadfastly in prayer

Freedom to Serve

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).

Today we celebrate as a nation our independence. We celebrate freedom.

Please consider the above passage from the apostle Paul. In reference to our freedom in Christ, he instructs us that Jesus did not shed His blood for my freedom to live however “my flesh” pleased. Jesus gave us freedom so that we can serve. Serve God. Serve others.

Freedom to serve.

It seems that our culture around us celebrates American freedom by claiming the rights and liberties to be as perverse as possible. There were also those in Paul’s day who interpreted Christian freedom as the liberty to live however they pleased, regardless of how it affected others. Did Christ shed His blood so that I can fulfill any desire my flesh has? Is that why I am free?

Read the next verse in Galatians 5, verse 14:

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14).

Freedom to love my neighbor. Paul regarded himself as free, but he became a “slave” to all, in order to win more souls for Christ (1 Cor. 9:19).

Jesus came into this world to “proclaim liberty” to the captives and “set free” those who are oppressed (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19). But again, that freedom is to become a servant to all, just like He did for us.

Calling the disciples to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

Thank you Lord, for our freedoms, both in Christ, and in America. May we glorify You through these freedoms and use our liberties to become servants to You and to others.

What Controls Us?

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

This word “controls” is a fascinating word in how it is used in the New Testament. It means to hold together, or to press. Look at how this word is used:

  • When the multitudes were “crowding” and pressing in on Jesus (Luke 8:45).
  • As Jesus was under arrest and being “held” in custody (Luke 22:63).
  • The Jews who stoned Stephen ran at him as they “pressed” their hands to their ears (Acts 7:57).
  • Jesus was “distressed” about His coming crucifixion, and He used this word to describe His state of mind (Luke 12:5).
  • Paul was “hard pressed” between two points, using this word (Philippians 1:23).
  • The Roman armies, according to Jesus, were going to surround Jerusalem and “hem” them in on every side to destroy them (Luke 19:43).
What controls us?

What if anger, worry, lust or greed holds us in custody? I believe all reading this know what that looks like, because we have all lived it.

What if Christ’s love is that which controls us? What if we allow Christ’s love to press upon us and hold us together?

You see, the apostle Paul experienced both ways of living. He as a young man was in that crowd that “pressed” their hands to their ears, stopping themselves from hearing the truth of Stephen from the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:57). But now, Paul’s motivation is fully arrested and compelled by the love of Christ demonstrated at the cross.

Take a look at the very first verse in the article, 2 Cor. 5:14-15. Paul made a conclusion that since Christ died for all, we who died with Him are to no longer live for ourselves. We are compelled and it is pressed upon us to live for Him who died and rose again for us.

Today, please meditate and pray about this concept. May the love of Christ at the cross be the true driving force and motivation in all that we say and do.

Beatitudes, Part 9

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

No one was more loving and compassionate than Jesus. No person was more careful about the words he said than Jesus. You will never find a human being who sacrificed more of himself for the good of others, including his enemies, than Jesus.

If there was any person that could preach, talk, and live in a way that should have not offended anyone, it was Jesus. But as I heard in a sermon recently by Kevin Clark, “Not even Jesus could pull that off!” In fact, Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way” (Luke 6:26). They slaughtered Jesus, the most pure and loving person in history.

We will suffer persecution.

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). If people spoke against Jesus, then those around you will speak against you when you follow Jesus (John 15:18-19). I may want a pain-free walk with Jesus, but Jesus calls me to deny myself, take up my cross and follow Him.

Persecution comes in various forms.
  • The liberal, godless media will make fun of your values.
  • Professors, fellow students and teammates will mock you publicly because you believe in God and His word.
  • Politicians and elected officials may mock the very morals and beliefs you hold dear, and they do so to thunderous applause.
  • Your spouse may decide to turn against you because of your convictions.
  • Close friends may abandon you because you desired to live for Jesus.
  • Your boss may fire you.
  • Your co-workers may deliberately do things to make you look bad in front of the boss.
  • Sometimes even Christians, who are holding hands with the world, will tease you and put down your beliefs. They do this for self-justification to assuage their own guilt.
Jesus says to “rejoice” because we are “blessed!”

We have God’s favor; God is smiling upon us. We are blessed for several reasons:

  • “Yours is the kingdom of heaven.” We are citizens, sons and heirs of His kingdom now! He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6)!
  • For so persecuted the prophets before you…” We also are blessed because we are in great company…the prophets of old (Elijah, Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah). That’s pretty good company!
  • “Great is your reward in heaven.” One day we all will be in heaven with God, and this temporary suffering will be swallowed up in God’s eternal glory.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

Beatitudes, Part 8

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

We are reeling as a nation once again from a deadly mass shooting, the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history. Hate is real; evil is real; Satan is real.

If there was ever a time that we need to be peacemakers as God’s men, it is now.

What does it mean to be a peacemaker?

The word literally means to make peace. As citizens of God’s kingdom, we must seek to produce an environment of peace both in our lives and in the lives of those around us. But what kind of peace? Jesus’ peace is not what the world offers (John 14:27). Jesus’ peace is not freedom from conflict. Jesus’ peace is not accepting the evil choices of others. Jesus’ peace is not about being silent on truth (Matthew 10:34).

  1. Jesus’ peace is about reconciling people to God. “In the world we have tribulation,” Jesus said, “but in Me you have peace” (John 16:33). Through the blood of Jesus which He offered for us on the cross, we can have peace with God and be reconciled to Him (Colossians 1:20-22). There is no better way that we can be “peacemakers” than to bring people to the blood of Jesus so that they can be at peace with God. Only when we are at peace with God can we truly be at peace with each other. Are you at peace with God through Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:7)?
  2. Jesus’ peace is about having a heart for healthy resolutions to conflicts and disagreements. Peace in relationships is something we have to pursue. It takes all the strength we can muster sometimes. This concept is repeated often in Scripture. “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (Romans 14:19; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 3:11). Jesus gave us advice on how to handle conflicts with each other. Read the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. Read Matthew 18, the whole chapter. We must seek to have a soft answer that will hopefully turn away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). At our congregation recently, we heard a great sermon from Kevin Clark where he reminded us to be the kind of people that turn down the temperature. We must not be the kind of people who ratchet up the rhetoric, push people’s buttons, and retaliate for every insult and jab thrown our way. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18).

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:17-18).

Beatitudes, Part 7

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

The pure in heart shall “see God.” How do we “see” God?

God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. In order to be accepted into His holy presence and to have the King’s favor, we must be purified and cleansed. We are cleansed by the Holy Spirit working through the word of G0d (1 Peter 1:22) and our consciences are cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:14; 10:22). It is then that we begin to “see” things in a different way. We are looking through spiritual eyes, through heavenly glasses, if you will.

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart… (Psalms 24:3-4).

Men with pure hearts see the world through God’s eyes and are aware of His presence in every aspect of their lives. The wisdom that is “from above is first pure…” (James 3:17). Wisdom first requires purity of heart. We can’t see things the way God sees them if our minds and souls are filthy.

Men with dirty minds cannot see God in anything. When we have dirty minds and corrupt hearts, everything becomes dirty.

To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled (Titus 1:15).

I’m sure you know guys in your life at work or school who take anything good and turn it into something filthy. Maybe you find yourself right now in that state of filthiness. Pornography and Hollywood have had a significant and destructive impact on the minds of many, including Christian men. If we want to “see God,” both in this life and the next, we need to clean up our minds. We may appear outwardly righteous to men, but if inwardly we are corrupted, then God knows (Matthew 23:25-28). If you are struggling with keeping your mind pure, go to God in prayer (Psalm 51:10), and then go to your Christian brothers and beg for prayers and help (James 5:16).

There is another sense of “seeing God,” and that is when we will see Him at His return when He takes us home to heaven. In order to see God in heaven, we must be pure and holy here on earth.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure (1 John 3:2-3).

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).