June 11, 2009
by Paul Ruzinsky
Resurrection Life Church, Newaygo
Doubt despairs, complains, and is sad. Faith rejoices, gives thanks, and is glad. During a trial, which one sounds more like you? To deal with a trial successfully, you need to walk in faith, not in doubt. And to walk in faith, you need to make yourself meditate on the Word of God. In the middle of a trial, meditating on the Word and making yourself pray doesn’t come naturally. However, meditating on God’s Word is the way to keep in faith, and not in doubt. It also helps you to keep taking your thoughts captive, to keep from reeling your cares back in once you’ve cast them onto the Lord and to cut the line.
I love the Old Testament story of Joshua. Talk about an opportunity to get into doubt! Joshua was about to take the place of Moses, the greatest leader who ever lived. Moses experienced the burning bush, faced down Pharaoh, and led the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses raised his staff and the Red Sea parted. Moses met God on Mount Sinai. Moses received the Ten Commandments. Then, Joshua was supposed to step into his shoes (sandals) and carry on, leading the Israelites into the Promised Land.
Joshua must have been under some pressure to figure out how to follow an act like Moses, but the Lord ministered to him and helped him out. First the Lord told him, “Be strong and very courageous,” (Joshua 1:7). That’s great advice for anyone facing a trial. Keep up your strength and courage, because the Lord is with you! Then the Lord instructed Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
In other words, the Lord told Joshua to meet the challenges ahead by doing a couple of vitally important things. One thing was to make sure the Book of the Law-God’s Word-did not depart from his mouth. He needed to speak God’s Word continuously. You and I need to do the same when we’re challenged…speak the Word all the time. You don’t speak the trial, you don’t speak what you’re facing, you speak the Word of God.
The other thing was to meditate on the Word day and night, so that he and the people could be careful to observe it and do all that was written there. Again, you and I need to do the same. If you base your thoughts and actions on what the Word of God says, you’ll know how to deal successfully with whatever challenges come your way. That’s exactly what the Lord promised in Joshua 1:8: “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
The word prosperity here doesn’t mean money; the word prosperity means, success in all things. Going through life’s challenges with prosperity and success in all things sounds good to me! The Lord gave Joshua detailed instructions on how to be prosperous while facing huge challenges. But notice, the Lord didn’t tell Joshua, “I will make your way prosperous.” The Lord said, “This is how you will make your way prosperous-you meditate in the Book of the Law day and night . . .” It’s what Joshua chose to meditate on-and what we choose to meditate on-that could mean the difference between success and failure, between faith and doubt, in a trial.
Check out at what times the Lord told Joshua to meditate on His Word: day and night. When you’re dealing with a challenging situation, what two key times does Satan use to attack us? When does he try the hardest to fill our minds with fear, doubt, and unbelief? You guessed it-the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night!
As soon as you wake up in the morning, Satan tries to put dread in your heart so that your whole day starts off wrong. He tries to put despair in your heart, right from the start, so that no matter what God tries to bring you for the day, you won’t be willing to receive it. He doesn’t want you to receive any of God’s encouragement and instruction, because he doesn’t want you to come through your trial successfully!
So in times of trial, I like to wake up in the morning and start the day worshiping the Lord. I speak out the Scriptures that I confess on a daily basis. I pray for other people and make myself think about others instead of about my trial. I keep up my daily routine of praying for others, praying for the church, praying for those who are dealing with sickness, and praying for those who are dealing with poverty. Then I start confessing God’s Word over other people. Why? Because when I petition heaven for others, I quit focusing on me. They say if you’ve got problems, one of the best ways to fight depression is to reach out and help somebody else. That’s true! So first I pray for others, then I meditate on Scriptures dealing with the promises I need for the trial I’m going through.
I’m not about to let Satan dictate the course of my day right from the start (or at any other time), and I’m not about to let a trial dictate the course of my day either. I let God’s Word and God’s promises dictate the course of my day, trial or no trial! If I’m in faith, no matter what the trial is bringing, I’m looking to the answer. That way, Satan can’t get to my emotions or my joy or any other part of me, because I’m meditating in God’s Word right from the start, and all day long.
The other time Satan attacks is when you lie down to sleep at night. Where does your mind go? It will try to picture a disaster coming, especially if you’re in a trial. Whatever your trial might be, Satan tries to make you plant a seed in your mind so that at night you’re dreaming about your trial. If you’re in financial trouble, Satan wants you to fall sleep with a picture of complete poverty in your mind. He’ll show you a snapshot of yourself dressed in filthy rags, begging on a street corner. If it’s a trial in your relationships, he wants you to picture yourself growing old all alone, without a friend in the world. If it’s a trial in your health, he wants you to picture yourself emaciated in a hospital bed with tubes running everywhere, and then in a casket. If you allow your mind to run away with negative thoughts at night, Satan will run you a slide show full of all kinds of sorry mental pictures of yourself. You’ll go to sleep despairing about where your trial is taking you, and it won’t be anywhere good!
At night, meditate in the Word of God instead. This is great habit even when you’re not going through trials. Take in the Word before you go to sleep so that your mind is set on thinking and dreaming about the things of God. This will build your faith and make you doubt-proof in a trial. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” right? (See Rom. 10:17.) So tell yourself the Word of God at night, and picture yourself coming through your trial successfully. Picture the ways God could move to make your trial work out for your good. Picture God’s promises coming to pass in your life so that you have prosperity and good success. Joshua 1:8 says that that’s the result of meditating in the Word day and night and doing what it says. Some people think, Man, I don’t know if I need to be that radical, meditating in the Word day and night, all the time! If that’s their mindset, they’re a lukewarm or casual Christian-and probably not very successful at dealing with trials. God says that lukewarm believers make Him puke. That’s not my translation, that’s the literal Greek translation. I don’t want to make God vomit when he thinks about me! I don’t want to be a casual Christian in any way!
Casual Christianity isn’t much help in a trial anyway, and lukewarm Christians are a hindrance to the Body of Christ. That’s why God says, “You’re not cold, you’re not hot-far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit” (Rev. 3:15-16, nlt). A lot of unbelievers aren’t Christians today because they’ve seen lukewarm Christians in action (or inaction). They don’t see the victory in lukewarm Christians’ lives, and they don’t see them getting a handle on their troubles. It makes unbelievers think, Why would I want to be a Christian like that? It’s not doing anything for them, and being like them isn’t going to do anything for me! Meditating in God’s Word transforms your life from the inside out and that will attract unbelievers as they see you dealing with trials, and getting victory.
As Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The only way you’ll be transformed is by the renewing of your mind. The only way you’ll know the perfect will of God is by renewing your mind. You have to make the effort to renew your mind in the Word so that you think like heaven thinks. Renewing your mind is a key to learning how to deal with trials. Also, you don’t want to go into culture shock when you get to heaven, because they do things so differently than we do here on earth. You’re better off learning to think like heaven now. It’ll do you good now and later.
Excerpt from Pastor Paul’s book titled “Deal With It, When Life Deals You a bad Hand – Play to Win!”
April 30, 2009
by Pastor David Ferranti
Senior Pastor, Bay Valley Christian Church
There are times when out of nowhere, we get blindsided with trouble. The source of this trouble can be our flesh, the world, or even the devil himself. When the enemy comes in like a flood, God wants us to raise up a standard against him. Many times, we respond to this pressure in our normal, usual way that doesn’t avail much. But God has provided us instructions to overcome in these trials. As Ephesians 6:10-18 says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
In order to stand up and fight, we need to discern the source of the attack. An attack could be from our flesh, the world, or the devil. We must recognize enemy involvement, reject the world system, repent of known sin, and submit to Christ’s lordship.
Discerning the Source:
I. The Flesh
Mark 7:20-23 “He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”
Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
II. The World
1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
James 4:4 “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
III. The Devil
John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
As Christians, we need to understand and learn to recognize the tactics of the tempter “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Ask the Lord to sharpen your discernment. Hebrews 5:14 says, “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Build authoritative prayer into your lifestyle. Prayer should not be a last-minute combative move against the enemy.
A good swimmer will tell you when the waves get rough, dive into the waves because you can’t outrun them. This is true in our walk with the Lord. The attacks will come. We cannot outrun them. But we don’t have to let the waves of life push us down and drown us. Dive in. Stand up and fight! Put on the amour of God!
In closing, I want to encourage you to “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). Stand up to your flesh! Stand up to the influence of the world! And stand up to the devil! Tell him to get behind you. He is defeated by the blood of Jesus Christ. In the end, we win!
April 16, 2009
by Pastor Duane G. Vander Klok
Senior Pastor, RLC Grandville
Learning is fantastic. Along with reading the Bible every day, I always read some other book from which I can learn something new. My wife, Jeanie, and I are often in the middle of several books at once, and we like to read them aloud to each other and discuss them. We want to be lifelong learners who keep growing all the time.
Do you know the difference between a lifelong learner and a lifelong student, though? A lifelong student is always signing up for another class, another semester, but he or she never graduates. Lifelong students can wind up being long on academics but short on application. They seldom get around to applying what they’ve learned to a real job in the real world.
Some Christians get the two learning styles mixed up and wind up short on application, too. You’ve probably heard the phrase “so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good.” That describes Christians who have become lifelong students-always reading and talking about spiritual things, always listening to new audio teachings and watching Christian television for hours every day-but never applying the sound spiritual principles they learn about to daily life. Often what they talk about and say they believe doesn’t line up with what you see them doing.
That’s called talking the talk. Anyone can learn how to talk the talk. It’s easy to speak “Christianese” and sound super spiritual. But what Jesus really wants us to do is walk the walk. He did not come simply to give us academic information. He is not impressed at all if you and I know all the right answers on a theology test. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day knew all the right answers-they just weren’t doing the right things.
Jesus doesn’t just want you to know something. Jesus said His teaching would not benefit you at all if you knew it but didn’t do it! Jesus wants you to do something with what you hear, and by doing that to become something, an effective witness and worker for the Kingdom of God.
The Christian life is not about knowing some facts, although knowing the facts is good. It is important to have your facts straight about God and His ways. That’s what orthodoxy is. The Greek word ortho means correct or straight (for example, an orthopedic surgeon corrects problems with your bones). Dox comes from the Greek word for thinking. To have sound orthodoxy, we need to think correctly about God.
Studying God’s Word, the Bible, helps us know God better and develop sound thinking about Him. In fact, Joshua 1:8 says to meditate on God’s Word “day and night,” but that’s not just so you’ll know the facts. It’s so that “you may observe to do according to all that is written in it” (nkjv).
That’s what the Christian life is truly about-doing what God said. In other words, you need to put some orthopraxy behind your orthodoxy. The Greek word praxis means action, or more specifically putting your beliefs into practice. So orthopraxy is correct living-having your lifestyle line up with your words. It’s putting your money where your mouth is spiritually, so to speak, and practicing what you preach.
Jesus was an expert at orthopraxy. When He walked the earth, He was a Man of action. Yes, He taught about the Kingdom of God. Everywhere He went, “people were amazed at his teaching, for he spoke with authority” (Luke 4:32, nlt). He was often called Teacher or Master in the Gospels, yet He was not a sort of ancient religion professor. He didn’t teach on the subject of religion; He taught on the subject of life.
Jesus went far beyond teaching, though. He was long on application-He applied Kingdom principles to everything He did, and He showed us how to live productive, fulfilled lives that make a difference in this world and the next. John wrote in his Gospel, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25, nkjv).
Imagine, Jesus was such a Man of action that there wouldn’t be enough room in the whole world to contain a written account of all the things He did! Think about how He saved you. You were not saved by a philosophy or a religious idea or a teaching; you were saved by Jesus’ actions. He came as a real baby born in a real manger to a real woman. He suffered a real crucifixion with real nails driven through His flesh into a real cross. He really was buried, and on the third day He really rose again. It took real action on His part to save you-that’s what He came to do, not just preach about.
Walking out our Christianity in the real world takes real action on our part, too. We cannot confine it to the few hours a week we might spend in church or the few minutes a day we might spend reading the Bible. That’s not how it works, yet all kinds of people compartmentalize their spiritual lives. They say, “I have a religious side. I believe in God! I pray, I go to church (never miss a Christmas or Easter), I sing, and I even write checks to the church! I keep up on my religion, but it doesn’t take over my whole life.”
People who say that usually mean they keep up on their duties or obligations to a denomination they’re part of, and that’s as far as their spiritual life reaches. I think that’s the attitude Jesus was talking about when He said, “Why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” (Luke 6:46, nlt). He meant for you and me to reach the world, not confine our Christianity within the walls of a church. He wants to be Lord of your whole life, not just the “church” part!
The Christian life is about totally surrendering with all abandon to Jesus in every single area of your life. That’s how it will make a difference in your life, and how you will make a difference in the lives of others. Remember the story of Jonah and the big fish? Jonah learned the hard way to surrender in every area.
God is the best communicator in the universe, and He gave Jonah very clear instructions about what to do. The first words in the first chapter of Jonah say, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me’ (Jonah1:1-2, nkjv). But instead, Jonah decided to flee from the presence of the Lord.
You already know that’s not going to work well, right? God tells Jonah to go one direction, and he goes the exact opposite. Running from God didn’t work for Jonah, and it won’t work for us either. You cannot get away from God, but Jonah still tried. He headed to Joppa, found a ship bound for Tarsus, and got on board. Jonah went down into the lowest parts of the ship, laid down, and went to sleep.
Whenever you or I run from what God is telling us, we wind up going the same direction as Jonah-down, down, down! That’s the only direction you can go when you’re not living the spiritual life God wants you to live or doing what God told you to.
God didn’t say anything else to Jonah right away. He sent a terrible storm, though, that threatened to sink the ship. That got everyone’s attention. The sailors cast lots to see who was responsible for the storm, and the lot fell to Jonah. When they questioned him, he admitted he booked passage to flee from the presence of the Lord. As soon as he said that, his shipmates were “exceedingly afraid” (Jonah 1:10). Even hardened sailors knew running from God sounded like a bad plan! So they threw Jonah overboard to calm the sea.
Throwing Jonah overboard worked for them, but not for him. God had a big fish swimming alongside to swallow Jonah whole. And again Jonah went down-down into the belly of the fish, then down into the depths of the sea. He finally hit bottom and cried out to God, and that’s when things started looking up again. The fish spit him out alive on dry land, and God started speaking to him again.
If Jonah hoped God would say something new or different the second time around, though, he was mistaken. God didn’t open a huge theological discussion about Jonah’s sin and repentance or rehearse the important reasons someone needed to take His message to Nineveh. Look what God told Jonah: “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:1-2).
God gave Jonah the exact same instructions the second time around, and Jonah found out that it’s not about picking and choosing what you want to do for God. Walking with God means unconditional surrender and obedience to Him-24/7.
The same goes for you and me. If God put something on your heart and you’re not doing it, then you’re running the opposite direction. There’s nowhere to go from there but down, down, down like Jonah into a deep, dark, and no doubt awful place. That’s why when someone seems spiritually in the dark and says things like, “I just can’t hear from God” or “I don’t know what the Holy Spirit is telling me to do,” I ask them if they did the last thing God told them. God won’t give you or me a new or different set of instructions if we haven’t obeyed the last thing He told us.
The Christian life is not about selective hearing, and it’s not about feelings, either. Many Christians make that mistake by making Jesus their “drug of choice.” They want to go from spiritual high to spiritual high, always seeking a newer, bigger experience with God in prayer or worship. And afterward, they ask, “Wow, did you feel the Holy Spirit moving? It felt like we’d be raptured any minute!”
Experiencing God is awesome, and while such times are special, they’re not what Christianity is all about. I think our Western culture has been more influenced by the drug culture of the sixties than we realize. In some Christian circles you’re considered spiritual only if you go from high to high in prayer or worship, yet what you’re doing with your life and time to advance the Gospel outside those highs is a poor second. Nobody who lives on the mountaintop all the time will get much work done in the valley. Accomplishing anything eternal for the Kingdom takes work. Jesus just isn’t a drug of choice you use for a boost whenever you need Him, and you can’t inject some Scripture verses into your life in a crisis or when you want a blessing, and then forget to obey God’s Word the rest of the time.
Living for the Kingdom means laying down your life. You forgive when you’re wronged, you love your spouse (lovable or not), work hard for your employer, serve your church, fast, pray, give, and have compassion for the poor, the lost, and the broken . . . You don’t live by feelings or experiences. You walk out your Christianity 24/7 and build your life on the Rock, not the sand.
Sounds like hard work, doesn’t it? Think about laying your towel on the sand at the beach. The sand is nice and comfortable; it conforms to your shape. When you get up, your imprint remains. If you lay your towel on a rock, though, when you get up, you’re dented. You conform to the shape of the rock, not the other way around. Rock is solid and immoveable, so wise builders build their house upon the rock, not the sand.
Jesus talked about that in Luke 6:47-49: “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great” (nkjv, italics added).
Jesus was saying that to build a solid Christian walk, we need to both hear and do what He says. We need to add some orthopraxy to our orthodoxy and combine some right living with our right-sounding words. As I said earlier, orthodoxy certainly has its place. Psalm 119:15 says, “I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways” (nlt). Continually understanding more about God’s ways is vital-yet we don’t stop there.
Moving from orthodoxy to orthopraxy is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where the walk lines up with the talk. As Psalm 119:34 goes on to say, “Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions, I will put them into practice with all my heart.”
March 5, 2009
by Pastor David Ferranti
Senior Pastor, Bay Valley Christian Church
In the world we live today, the standards that Christians have set in place for their lives are becoming bleaker and bleaker. Slowly, the difference between believer and unbeliever is becoming unnoticeable.
Take a look at a few of these observations:
What Is the Difference . . .
- Between the atheist who would not dream of financially supporting the church and the Christian who will not financially support the Lord’s church?
- Between the skeptic who does not believe the Bible and the negligent Christian who never reads it?
- Between those who do not believe in Bible classes and those who choose never to attend a class?
- Between the atheist who does nothing to build up the Lord’s church and the Christian who finds fault with others but does nothing himself?
- Between a man of the world and a person in the church who lives like a man of the world?
These are tough questions for Christians who live in a tough world. The fact is that Christians make no difference until they are different.
The word “Christian” actually means “little Christ or Christ-like.” So if we are calling ourselves followers of Christ, shouldn’t we model our lives after His and not after the world? If we’ve truly surrendered our life to Him, then there should be evidence of that through the change in us. Christians are meant to be different. Our character, our actions, our words, and our attitudes should be different.
Ephesians 5:8-9 says, “For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.”
In addition, the Lord tells us that even though we are in the world, we are not to be of the world. John 15:18-19 reads, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”
I want to encourage you to live your life after the One who truly stood out from the rest. Jesus dared to be different. I encourage you today to follow His example.