Friday, November 1, 2013

Challenged to Search the Word

Fall in FL
     If life were easy, would we ever depend on God?  Sometimes it takes someone to stimulate our thinking, push us to make a move or confront us with Scripture before we are ready to make some changes.   In my own life, God used various people to challenge my thinking that ultimately worked for the good of my husband and I as well as for God's glory.
     When we went to a friend's house 42 years ago to run an errand, we heard a fellow talking about the return of Jesus Christ to our friends.  He had come to talk to them, but we heard what he was saying and wanted to know more.  We made an appointment with him, and he shared the Gospel with us.  God opened our hearts to the Word and we responded in repentance to the message of Christ.  It changed our thinking and our lives.
     Then, in 1986, I began to homeschool our children because a friend challenged me to think about this important avenue for educating them.  She had planned to do this for her children and told me to think outside the box.  My husband and I prayed earnestly, looked into the Word and talked with others before making a commitment to this.  Many, at the time, thought I was crazy and I would not last, but God had changed my heart.  We lasted 21 years and saw all our children through high school.  It took a friend to challenge me so we went to the Word and sought God's wisdom.  I have no regrets for the time I devoted to them, and I am ever grateful for the messenger (my life long friend) who  brought me fresh insights that drove me to the Bible to see what God would do.
     In recent days, there has been a good deal of controversy in the Body of Christ over "The Strange Fire" conference held at John MacArthur's church in California.  Some have taken offense at his teaching and what the other speakers shared.  I listened to this conference but did not take away some of the perceptions that others had.  However, I can understand how easy it is to be concerned when ideas are challenged that we accept and believe.  Yet, how can we grow unless at times we are challenged in our thinking.  Let me suggest two responses we can glean from all the turmoil that has been swirling around on the internet.
     First, Jesus told us to love others even if they persecute or despitefully use us.  In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:43-48), Jesus said:  "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  (vs. 43-46).    There will always be people in this world with whom we disagree and quite often they belong to our family.  The Christian family is made up of many parts and not all see eye to eye on issues.  If we are to be like our heavenly Father, we are to love even those who say things that may upset us.
     Secondly, all of us must remember that it is God's Word that changes hearts and minds.  His Word was preached at the conference, and God promises that His Word will not return void but will accomplish His purpose (Isaiah 55:11).    We do not know how many people needed to hear those messages that were given.  We cannot know all of God's will and His plan.  Therefore, we have to trust in His sovereignty over all things.  If any of those messages offended us, then, we must dig into the Word and find out why.  Is God trying to tell us something?  If not, can we not trust Him to apply His Word as He sees fit?  Our confidence and our foundation must be His Word - Sola Scriptura.  Apart from His Word, we can drift into dangerous territory so we all need to learn to be Bereans when we hear anything preached.  This is how the Bereans behaved after hearing Paul deliver his message of the Gospel to them.  They were mentioned in the Bible because of their faithfulness to look into the Word to see if what he said was so.
     Finally, we have to remember the original premise of this piece.   When I was challenged by hearing that Christ might return, I was intrigued.  However, I wasn't
Yellow flowers blooming in Fall
searching for God that night.  He was searching for me to open my heart to receive Him.  Likewise, I had no intention of homeschooling our four children, but it was the challenge of a friend who encouraged me to look into the Word and seek God's wisdom that ultimately led my husband and I to teach our children.  We do not know because we cannot see all that God is doing or has planned.  This is why it is so important to take a deep breath, get into God's Word, and take time to respond in love rather than react in anger when someone presents a perspective for us that is different than ours.
     I close with this thought.  Right after the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, discusses the gifts and how we are one body (especially since this church was very divided over this), he follows with I Corinthians 13 verses 8-13:  "Love never ends.  As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."   Let us live in the love of Christ and accept the challenges that come our way for God is in control,  Selah!

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