Contending For Faith


Caitlin Clark has been making history as she contends on the basketball court. Although she did not make the women's Olympic team this year, she continues to contend for a spot there 4 years from now. She contends for wins for her team and contends for rankings and records within women's basketball. She is definitely a competitive contender.

The Oxford Language Dictionary tells us that the word contend can mean to engage in a competition or campaign in order to win or achieve.” That definition definitely describes Clark. But there is another definition for “contend” found in that same dictionary: “to assert something as a position in an argument.

In the Bible we find this statement: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

When we as Christians contend for the faith, we are not shooting baskets, but we are asserting our position. We are arguing for our faith. In the very next verse, Jude points out that ungodly people pervert God's grace and instead promote sensuality. In other words, they are using God's grace as an excuse to sin. He then points out that as they are doing this, they are denying that our Lord Jesus Christ is their master.

As Christians, our faith is based on Jesus Christ. We understand that he is God and that he is our authority. We recognize that Jesus is our master. This understanding is key whenever someone tries to convince us that we should just accept sin.

Imagine if someone were encouraging you to steal ice cream. They argue that the ice cream would taste so good. They also argue that although stealing is technically wrong, Jesus is very forgiving. Thus they are distorting his grace to encourage sin.

They might also argue that they took a vote and all their friends think that stealing ice cream is no big deal. Or perhaps they might argue that in some places sealing ice cream is socially acceptable. They might even argue that as long as the strongest or most influential people encourage the stealing of ice cream, then it is okay. They are thus arguing that there should be a different master for right and wrong other than God.

When we contend for the faith we are saying that Jesus is God and Jesus is the master. Therefore we look to him and the Bible for determining what is right or wrong. We are asserting our position and making our argument that God is the authority. We are contending for the faith.

We need more people with the courage to say that God is right and that God has the authority to tell us what to do. If we have really believed in Jesus Christ and we really view him as our master, why wouldn't we say that he has the right to tell us what to do? Of course those who reject Jesus will not care what he tells them. That is understandable, but when someone claims to be a Christian they should welcome God's authority in their life. Sadly too many Christians are not even willing to contend for what God says, let alone listen to it. I have to ask, “are they contenders or pretenders?”

If you have really believed in Jesus, then start to take him seriously. Argue for his position as you live it out in your life. Realize that stealing ice cream is wrong and be bold to say so.

Contending for the faith means that as a Christian you recognize that morality is based on God's authority. If you are a Christian, contend for the faith, and live like you are contending for it. 


Free Photo | Portrait boy eating ice cream (freepik.com)

Prayer Should be Easy 6-24-24

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Free Photo | Boy standing with closed eyes and praying (freepik.com)

Have you ever wondered how to pray? Jesus gave us a simple prayer to give us a framework for how to pray and what to pray about. “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13)

Notice that the first thing we are taught is that God's will will happen. Prayer should be about obeying God, not about getting God to obey us. Still prayer should express our understanding that God provides for our needs as we ask for our daily food. Next, prayer should recognize our sinfulness and the importance of grace in forgiveness. That then leads to our desire to avoid sin which should also be expressed in our prayers. Finally, prayer declares that God is king and God is powerful. God is in charge as we pray- not us.

Jesus' lesson on prayer is pretty straight forward and gives us a framework, but it does not give us the exact words to pray. In fact, just before giving us the words to the Lord's prayer, Jesus said, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8).

We do not have to repeat the same words over and over as we pray (vain repetition). Further we do not have to say a lot of words. We can keep our words few and to the point because God already knows what are needs are. Comedian Ray Stevens had a silly song about haircuts and in that song he made a point about how wordy some prayers can become when he said,Barber walked in, started saying grace, "Oh Lord, for these haircuts we are about to receive, may we be truly thankful. Dominus possum pax probiscus, post mortem, et tu Brute, puella carborundum.”

Sadly too many people have been taught that they need to have long prayers with flashy words. Jesus did not teach that and Jesus is God. The rest of the Bible doesn't teach that either. In fact, Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, “Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.” You do not have to rush through your prayers, but you do not need many words either. Remember he already knows what you need.

I am comforted knowing I can pray to God- knowing he is all powerful and that he will do what he deems best. I am also comforted knowing that he already knows what I need and that I do not have to come up with a lot of words.

The scripture says to pray without ceasing, but we do not have to use many words. As we pray we should listen by thinking about the word of God more than we talk. “Guard your steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1)

The longest prayer recorded in the Bible is found in Nehemiah 9 and it takes less than 7 minutes to read it out loud. Much of the prayer in Nehemiah 9 is a review of Bible history. Before you pray, make sure you have been listening to God through his holy Bible and then think of that while you pray. Then as you pray, be more concerned about avoiding sin in your life than you are about how long you pray or about what words you use. Just talk to God about his greatness, your sin, and your needs- then trust whatever his will is for your situation in life



Why Did You Doubt? 6-10-24

Free Vector | A man need help in the sea (freepik.com)

A childhood friend of mine was recently killed in a grain bin accident. Grain bins can be quite dangerous. Many people have lost their lives as they were quickly engulfed by the grain. Such events are a reminder of how fragile life is.

The Apostle Peter had a similar close call. Instead of being engulfed in grain, he nearly drowned in a stormy sea. As I think of both my childhood friend and of Peter, I cannot imagine the terror that they must have faced. Regardless, I have had nightmares about such events.

Peter survived his ordeal and Matthew wrote about it. As the wind was blowing the disciples of Jesus were in a boat and Jesus walked on water to come to them. Once Jesus identified himself, Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “come,” so Peter did. Peter was actually able to walk on the water for a time, but then he saw the waves, got scared, and began to sink.

Peter must have felt completely helpless. He was already afraid while he was still walking on the water and now he finds himself sinking. He cried out, “Lord save me.” Thankfully for Peter, Jesus did save him.

If Peter ever wrote about his experience walking on the water and then sinking, those words never made it into the pages of the Bible. Peter did however write two letters that are part of the New Testament scriptures. In both of those letters he writes about Noah and the flood where people drowned. I cannot help but wonder if what happened to Peter on the sea that night caused him to think a lot more about drowning.

Regardless, Peter learned an important lesson that night that he wanted others to understand. In order to be saved we need Jesus. In his first letter Peter talks about how Noah and his family were brought safely through the water. In his second letter he talks about how God brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly.

Both Peter and Noah had found grace from God. Genesis 6:8-9 says, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” Notice as well that both Noah and Peter walked with God. Peter literally walked on water with Jesus. Jesus is God.

Thankfully God has promised not to ever send another worldwide flood. That does not mean that drowning is not still a danger though. It also does not mean that sin will not still be judged. Romans 6:23a says, “For the wages of sin is death,”. Then the last part of that verse says, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Before your life comes to an end, use the words of Peter and cry out, “Lord save me.” Jesus promised in John 6:37, "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” That means that if you believe on him as your Lord and savior, he will save you.

Being saved from sin and hell does not mean that you will never drown or have an accident. What it does mean is that if tragedy strikes you- like it did with my friend- then you will be with Jesus when your life ends.

Look at what happened as Peter cried out to Jesus as he was sinking, “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:31) As our lives come to an end, we might have some doubts about where we will go, but if we have trusted Christ, then once we breath our last breath, we will be able to look forward to hearing the same answer from the Lord that Peter heard. “Why did you doubt?” www.southtownchurch.com.

 

God Gets The Vengeance  5-27-24

Free Vector | Car crash concept illustration (freepik.com)


Not all road rage incidents make the news, but occasionally someone's behavior is so egregious that it actually becomes criminal. Regardless, such incidents go against God's command to love your neighbor as yourself even if they have not broken any other law.

I have heard reports of- and even watched videos of- people who were involved of car accidents and they exited their vehicles screaming and shouting and ready to start a fight.

Recently a friend was involved in a 3 car accident. She was in the vehicle that was damaged the worst. The man in the vehicle ahead of her immediately got out of his car and came to her car. He saw the damage to her car and told her not to move until the ambulance arrived. Instead of yelling at her, he was showing concern for her safety. Then the driver of the third vehicle came and prayed with her as they waited for the ambulance.

Hearing what happened after her accident was so very refreshing after the worst examples of humanity often make the headlines. The first and greatest command is to love God with all your heart, soul, and strength. The second greatest command is to love your neighbor as yourself.

The people involved in the accident with my friend were strangers before the accident, but they treated each other the way Christ would want them to.

Too often people feel wronged and want to take vengeance. There is a reason why accidents are called “accidents.” That does not change the fact that cars are damaged, people are hurt, and schedules are disrupted. Such events can cause frustration. We already have laws that require drivers to have insurance. Thus our laws already provide a way for a level of compensation. That means that any anger and lashing out at the accident scene is not a call for justice but rather a call for vengeance.

In the scriptures, God gives us clear instruction about avoiding vengeance. Romans 12:19 tells us, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord.” This does not negate the need for criminal prosecution and Romans 13 shows us that human governments should hold people accountable for criminal behavior.

If we try to bring vengeance ourselves, we might make a mistake. Of course someone who intentionally causes a car collision with the intent of hurting others should be brought to justice. On the other hand, we have all accidentally caused hurt and damage to others. If our courts do not find the person guilty, God knows what true justice would be, therefore it is up to him to bring vengeance, not us. Deuteronomy 32:4 says, "The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.”

Knowing God is faithful and without injustice helps us to understand the reality of sending people to hell. He will not send anyone there who does not deserve it. Jonah was sent to Nineveh and they repented and God did not destroy them even though they were evil. God does however bring vengeance upon evil when there is no repentance. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Therefore, we all deserve his vengeance. But God is a merciful judge and he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins so that we do not have to face the punishment. Therefore, to escape God's vengeance, we must place our faith in Jesus as we believe in him. John 3:16 tells us, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Once we see how merciful God is to us, we should be loving towards others- even when our initial reaction may be to seek vengeance.

 

God's Will Be Done 5-13-24

Free Photo | Drought (freepik.com) 


A few years ago, my mom passed away. Leading up to her death I was a bit conflicted. She had quit eating a few days before and my brother and I coaxed her into eating because we wanted her to get her strength back. She had however been resisting our coaxing.

We found out later that she had told one of her friends weeks earlier that she was ready to go. That comment was actually made before she even got sick. I have wondered if she had some sort of inclination about her demise. She had trusted Jesus Christ as her savior so she knew that when she left this world, he would be waiting for her. She was looking forward to that.

Thus as my brother and I were trying to get her to eat, she was just content to let the infection overtake her body so that she could go home to heaven. After receiving the medical report, we found out that the extra food would not have made any difference anyway. Mom was ready to die, she knew it, and she was okay with it. Mom was totally at peace as she left this world.

As others prayed for Mom, they prayed for her recovery. Mom's prayer was to be with Jesus. So whose prayer is God supposed to answer?

When Jesus taught us to pray, he told us to say, “thy will be done.” Whenever we pray, we must realize that God's will is what will ultimately be done, not our desires. We cannot expect to get our desires simply by drumming up more faith or by living more godly lives. On the other hand, we must recognize that by living more godly lives, we can know that God will listen to our prayers instead of ignoring them. 1 Peter 3:12 says "FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE UPON THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL."

Do what is right so that God listens to your prayers. Jesus gave the illustration of a widow and a judge and explained that the judge finally granted the request because the widow kept asking. He was explaining prayer. Thus we should live righteously and pray consistently. But the judge/widow passage in Luke 18 was an illustration about praying for God to bring about justice. God is righteously just in all he does, so we should always want his will to be done, even if we do not understand his justice. In hind site, it was more just for God to allow my elderly and sick mother to be with him. Often we do not totally understand God's justice and we must then him trust by faith.

In the book of James we are given the example of Elijah's prayer being answered. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” (James 5:17-18)

So how was Elijah able to get such amazing results in prayer? It was because he already knew the will of God in that situation because God had told him. “Then it came about at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word.” (I Kings 18:36)

The reason those amazing things happened as Elijah prayed was because he was doing what he did according to God's word. In other words, God had told Elijah what his will was so Elijah knew how to pray. If we knew God wanted a mountain moved we could pray and see it moved, but we must not think our prayers are more powerful than his word. We must know his word, do right, and trust his will to be done. www.southtownchurch.com


John Deere to 1st John 4-29-24

Daddy let me drive a John Deere

before my feet could reach the clutch

The two cylinders a poppin

I'd give the throttle just a touch

A fat lip on the steering wheel

cause I stopped a bit too fast

Hoping Mom wouldn't make me quit

I wanted it all to last

I figured I'd be farming

Until I became just dust

Then I realized it wasn't John Deere

But Jesus I must trust

From my first John Deere to 1st John

has been an awesome ride

I'm not going down the road I'd planned

but I got Jesus' Spirit by my side

Now I plant the seeds of God's word

praying they might grow

Helping others water them

so that many just might know

The love of God from John 3

is better than a Deere

But love it ain't the only thing

cause God we need to fear

Sin grows like the weeds of life

and it breaks a father's heart

Jesus paid the whole price

works are not a part

Still I must strive to love him

as I look to do what's right

Loving others and falling short

and trusting in his might

I know that I'm not perfect

but 1st John makes it clear

If we confess he forgives

and that is why I fear

He shows such love and graciousness

why should I neglect?

To return my love and faithfulness

and let him do the rest.



The Fine Glass Bowl  4-8-24